Coin Specifications

Category: Seated Liberty Quarters (1838-1891)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 2,260,800
Obverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Reverse Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 6.2500g
ASW: 0.1808oz
Melt Value: $3.13 (10/19/2017)
Diameter: 24.3mm
Edge: Reeded
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1878 25C MS obverse 1878 25C MS reverse

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Description & Analysis

The mintage of quarter dollars fell drastically during 1878 over that of the previous two years. It has become a numismatic myth perpetuated by countless writers that the mints were too busy coining Morgan Dollars to strike many fractional silver coins during 1878-90, but this is completely wrong. The drastic cutback in coining was due to a law passed July 22, 1876 limiting the total value of fractional silver and fractional notes in circulation to 50 million dollars. The large mintages of 1876-77 went a long way toward retiring the notes and replacing them with coin, but another event that occurred around the same time caused the legal limit to be achieved sooner than anticipated.

With the price of silver falling during the 1870s, not only did federal paper currency achieve value parity with silver coins, but millions of silver pieces that had disappeared after 1861 rapidly returned to domestic circulation starting in the fall of 1876. Some of these coins had been hoarded, but the vast majority had been circulating in Canada and Latin America, where a lack of local coinage had made them welcome. Now that their face value in the USA exceeding their bullion value, they returned home and quickly became a nuisance in commerce. Fractional silver had a legal tender limit of five dollars in any one transaction and could be refused above that amount. These older coins, now well worn, were neither needed nor wanted by banks and often had to be sold at bullion value to brokers. Their numbers, combined with the huge new coinages of 1876-77, also exceeded the $50 million limit imposed by the 1876 legislation, and the Treasury actually began withdrawing coins. Naturally, this brought production of new pieces to a near standstill that, for the quarter dollar, lasted through 1890.

1878(P) quarters are noticeably scarcer in circulated grades than those of the preceding two years. Mint State pieces are also in limited supply. Larry Briggs wrote that they were "probably melted to make the first year silver dollar." This is a repetition of the old myth about the mint halting fractional silver production to make silver dollars. It is possible that some 1878(P) were withheld from release and destroyed, but the silver for dollars was purchased under an entirely separate program.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 10/12/2016

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1878 25C MS
Base $ 25.00 28.00 35.00 40.00 85.00 160 175 225 265 315 360 390 645 975 2900 3800 - - - -
$ - - - - 280 - - - - 1250 - 4500 - -

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Total Graded: 120
Low Grade: PrAg
Average Grade: 60
High Grade: 66

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
9/6/2004 NGC MS 63   Goldberg September 6-7, 2004 Pre-Long Beach Coin Auction, 26/Lot# 713 $546.00
4/28/2010 PCGS Genuine Genuine   Teletrade Auction 2845, 2845/Lot# 1617 $97.75
3/18/2012 NGC Details F Details  GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 03/18/2012, 13/Lot# 40123 $30.00
6/16/2013 NGC MS 64   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 756, 765/Lot# 915 $853.00
6/9/2014 NGC XF 45   Stack's Bowers iAuction 3485, 6034/Lot# 20267 $70.50
10/27/2014 PCGS MS 66   Heritage Auctions 2014 October 27 The Eugene H. Gardner Collection II US Coins Signature Auction - New York Session(1), 1214/Lot# 98385 $7,050.00
3/22/2015 NGC AU 58   Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(1), 131513/Lot# 29086 $258.50
4/26/2017 PCGS MS 65   Heritage Auctions 2017 April 26 - 30 CSNS US Coins Signature Auction - Chicago Session(1), 1254/Lot# 3200 $1,762.50

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1878 25C MS Prooflike
1878 25C MS
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 61 PL
Points: 0
Owner: CT72
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