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Description and Analysis

Early Quarters
1796 25C MS

Description & Analysis

While several denominations of United States silver coins were struck as early as 1794, it was not until two years later that the first quarter dollars appeared. This has been attributed to the large numbers of Spanish colonial two-reales coins in circulation that traded at the same value. When the first quarter dollars were struck in 1796 they bore the newly adopted Draped Bust Liberty by Robert Scot. This was paired with the Small Eagle that was destined to be short lived. In keeping with U. S. Mint practice of the time, these coins carried no statement of value, though some other denominations proved to be exceptions.

A mere 6,146 1796 quarters were coined, with part of that production taking place the following year. A single reverse die was paired with two obverses that vary only slightly. Though Browning-1 is more scarce than B-2, there are not many collectors of this series by die marriage. Interest in this issue comes primarily from type collectors seeking just a single piece in the highest grader affordable.

More than 100 examples have survived in Mint State, these likely saved for their novelty. Despite such availability, 1796 quarter dollars are costly in any grade. The reason for this is that coinage did not resume until 1804, by which time the reverse design had changed, leaving this date as a one-year-only type coin.