Early Quarters (1796-1838)
Of the various silver denominations authorized by the Mint Act of 1792, the quarter dollar was the last to debut. Learn More...
Early Quarters (1796-1838)
Of the various silver denominations authorized by the Mint Act of 1792, the quarter dollar was the last to debut. Mintages remained small during the early years, as the large quantity of Spanish two-reales pieces in circulation easily met the demand for coins of this value. As a consequence, there were simply few requests for quarter dollars from depositors of silver. In fact, coinage of this denomination was limited for years, and it was not until the 1830s that significant mintages occurred.
The Draped Bust type of 1796-1807 includes just five dates, two of which, 1796 and 1804, are quite scarce. The former is also a one-year-only type coin, as it is the sole date bearing the Small Eagle reverse. There is a small following of both date and variety collectors for this series, but the coin market as a whole is focused primarily on type collecting.
The large size Capped Bust Quarter Dollars of 1815-1828 likewise enjoy only limited attention from date and variety collectors, but there are numerous scarce and rare varieties that are highly sought by specialists. The rarity of the 1823/2 issue, the only variety to bear the 1823 date, and the proof-only 1827 quarter, has proved a deterrent to this series' widespread popularity.
The reduced-size Capped Bust Quarters of 1831-38 are readily collectable by date and are likewise more easily obtained in attractive grades. There are a number of very rare varieties, but the greater availability of coins from which to choose makes this series appealing to more advanced collectors. Variety attribution is highly recommended for these coins.
NGC will assign Browning (B) numbers to all quarter dollars from 1796 through 1838. The Browning numbering system begins anew with each date, so the first variety of each date is listed as B-1. Subsequent varieties are numbered B-2, B-3, etc.
The available reprints of Browning's 1925 book are difficult to use, with vague descriptions and photo plates of variable quality. The Duphorne reference is similar but not an improvement. A new book that promises to be superior to Browning is being prepared, and NGC will review this work for possible adoption when it is published.
- Browning, A.W. The Early Quarter Dollars of the United States 1796-1838. Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena Galleries, 1992.
- Tompkins, Steve M. Early United States Quarters 1796-1838. Sequim, WA: Destni, Inc., 2008.
- Rea, Peterson, Karoleff and Kovach. Early Quarter Dollars of The United States Mint. Rory Rea, 2010.