AoC Market Report: The Current State of U.S. Quarter Types – Part 1: Early U.S. Quarters

This is the first of three articles addressing the current state of U. S. Quarter Types. We’ll look at early quarters today: Draped Bust Quarters, made from 1796 to 1807, and Capped Bust Quarters, minted from 1807 to 1838.

Draped Bust Quarters

Minted from 1796 to 1807
Key Dates: 1796, 1804
Great Years for Type Coins: 1806, 1807

1796 Capped Bust Quarter, Obverse
1796 Capped Bust Quarter, Obverse

Key Date Draped Bust Quarters

First up, the key date for the set. If you want a Quarter Dollar from when George Washington was President, rather than a Quarter Dollar that commemorates George Washington as President, you’ll have to secure one of just some 6000 pieces made.

If you’re thinking, ‘hmmm, that can’t be cheap’, yes, you’re right.

Even at the lowest grades, your going to have to spend over four thousand dollars to add one to your collection right now.

Back in the late 1950s or early 1960s, a low grade example may have only cost you about $250. A nice uncirculated piece would run you over $1,000.

In the late 1960s, low end coins had doubled in price and high end pieces were going for five times as much. By the ’70s, discernment for finer coins was going up. Low end coins largely stuck in the $500 to thousand dollar range, but nicer coins were going up in value, with Uncirculated pieces selling over $20,000.

In the late 1980s, with certification and authentication more easily available, Poor to About Good pieces regularly sold for over $1,000. Uncirculated 1796 Draped Bust Quarters were selling for over $30,000 when they came up. By the end of the ’90s and the end of a major coin boom, things had settled back down to 1970s prices.

1796 Capped Bust Quarter, Reverse
1796 Capped Bust Quarter, Reverse

Then, by a decade ago, 1796s had picked right back up again. Low end coins were valued a little higher than they are now, and Uncirculated Pieces, depending on grade of course, were selling regularly for over $100,000.

For the nice coins, that remains true today, which choice uncirculated pieces selling for $130 – $150,000. The finest 1796 Draped Bust Quarters have been certified at Mint State 67, and though none have come up for public auction recently, we know they’re privately trading for $1 Million dollars or more.

Not far behind the 1796 is another iconic date for silver U.S. coinage: 1804. Philadelphia didn’t mint any quarters dated 1797 to 1803, making the “Small Eagle” 1796 a single-year type.

1804 Capped Bust Quarter, Obverse
1804 Capped Bust Quarter, Obverse

By 1804, coinage designs had transitioned to the Heraldic Eagle. 1804 was another low-mintage year, with only 6,738 pieces created (only 600-ish more than 1796). In low grades, collectors covet the 1796 is more, but around the AU level 1804s get tougher. The highest-certified 1804 is only a Mint State 65 piece, so it will never reach the stratospheric price levels of the gorgeous 1796 67s. Nonetheless, at the same grade, 1804s will cost you more.

1804 Capped Bust Quarter, Reverse
1804 Capped Bust Quarter, Reverse

Draped Bust Quarters for your Type Set

Luckily, not all Draped Bust Quarters are quite so expensive. Then again, there are none I would consider cheap. If you want bang for your buck, look to the years 1806 and 1807, as mintage was over 200,000 for those pieces. (Yes, that’s correct: less than half the mintage of a 1909-S VDB.)

Today, you can get a low-end type coin for under $200. If you want a “nice” coin though, that is, one with a fair amount of detail remaining, you’re looking at over $1,000. $10,000 or less will get you a nice AU piece, and luckily, Choice Uncirculated pieces can be had for under $25,000. A bit under if eye appeal isn’t all that important to you. (Note: eye appeal should be important to you.) And if you’re a six-figure buyer, you can get yourself one of the pieces certified Mint State 67.

Capped Bust Quarters

Minted from 1815 to 1838
Key Dates: 1822, (1827), (if you like varieties 1823/2)
Great Years for Type Coins: 1818, 1821, 1825, 1831 – 1838

1818 Capped Bust Quarter, Obverse
1818 Capped Bust Quarter, Obverse

There are two types of Capped Bust Quarters, large diameter and small diameter. The coins have notably different styles, so decide which type you like before laying out. Or, if you can, just buy both.

Key Date Large Diameter Capped Bust Quarters

1822 is the Key Date for the earlier of the two types. Some people consider the 1827 the key, but it’s really a proof-only issue (mintage 4000). Since we’re not discussing proofs in this article, I’ll leave that one out. Similarly sought after is the 1823/2, but as it’s an overdate variety, I’ll leave that one for the error collectors.

There were but 64,080 Quarters minted in 1822. That’s still plenty compared to the number of Capped Bust Quarter collectors in the Universe, but the key date effect makes it a little more expensive in all grades. Unlike the 1827 or 1823/2, you should be able to pick up a low grade piece for under $100.

1818 Capped Bust Quarter, Reverse
1818 Capped Bust Quarter, Reverse

If you want a choice uncirculated piece on the other hand, be ready to pony up in the range of $10,000. In between, VF comes in under $800, XF under $2,000, and choice AU for around $5 or $6,000. Keep in mind that these are hand-made coin dies with lots of strike issues and a choice VF or XF may look better than a low-grade Unc. So buy carefully!

To get the top of the line, you’re looking at $150k+ for a Mint State 67 piece. They’re outrageously gorgeous, but as you can see, Mint State pieces get expensive fast because there are not many that are nice.

Large Diameter Capped Bust Quarters for your Type Set

Because the Key Date (1822) isn’t really a key compared to the 1823/2 or the 1827 Quarters, there isn’t a huge price difference between the ’22 and the 1818. In the price range of the 1818 through some grades are also 1821 and 1825. You should be able to grab a low grade piece for $50-ish. To get a choice unc, you’ll plop down $6,000+. In the in-between grades, they run about half what an 1822 will cost you.

1833 Capped Bust Quarter, Obverse
1833 Capped Bust Quarter, Obverse

The finest coins are again certified Mint State 67, and it’s not much more than half as much to get a nice 1818 in ‘7 as the old 1822 will cost you.

Key Date and Type Small Diameter Capped Bust Quarters – Not Much Difference

In the Small Diameter coins, there really isn’t a key. The lowest mintage is 1833, but they don’t go for much more than any of the other coins. In the lowest grade, you can get one for around $50. But in all other grades, the Small Diameters are less expensive than large diameters.

A VF will set you back under $200. XF, $300 – $400. You should be able to get yourself a nice choice AU for under $1000, and a choice uncirculated will cost you between $2,500 and $5,000.

1833 Capped Bust Quarter, Reverse
1833 Capped Bust Quarter, Reverse

The top of the line is again 67, and the cost for those coins is about the same as the Large Diameter coins – in the $80,000 to $90,000.

The Early Quarters are definitely the most expensive of all US Quarters, particularly in excellent grades. Collectors seem to gravitate to the Half Dollars, but these coins have all the same attractions (aside from size), but are typically scarcer and therefore more expensive. And, therefore, different.

Happy collecting!




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