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Liberty Seated Quarters (1838-1891)

Liberty Seated Quarters

The quarter is a denomination that has been minted in the United States since 1796. The first quarter was a Draped Bust, Small Eagle that was a one-year-type coin. In 1804 a heraldic eagle design was added to the Draped Bust obverse. These were issued until 1807. Capped Bust quarters were issued from 1815 to 1838. Later in 1838, a new motif, the Seated Liberty, was used. The new quarters were issued from 1838 to 1891.

Sometimes called the Liberty Seated Quarter, the series had five varieties. These include No Motto Above the Eagle, With Arrows and Rays, just Arrows with No Rays, Motto Above the Eagle, and With Arrows and Motto.

The motif was designed by Christian Gobrecht. It shows Liberty as she sits and looks over her shoulder to the left. With her right hand she balances a Federal shield that is inscribed LIBERTY. With the left, she holds a pole on which is placed a Liberty cap. Thirteen stars are above her, seven to the left, and six to the right. Stars 8 and 9 are interrupted by the cap on the pole. The date is below the image on the obverse. The reverse shows the heraldic eagle looking left. It is surrounded by the required inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the denomination written as QUAR. DOL. below. Dentils are around the periphery of both sides of the coin.

Variety 1 was issued from 1838 to 1853. It shows No Motto Above the Eagle. With its weight at 6.68 grams, it was the heaviest type in the series. It was composed of .900 silver and .100 copper, had a diameter of 24.3 millimeters, and a reeded edge. It was made in Philadelphia and New Orleans. Proofs were made, but they are all extremely rare with no mintage exceeding 15 or 20.

Variety 2 was a one-year-type; arrows were placed at the date and rays were put around the eagle. This change was done to show the reduction in weight to 6.22 grams. The composition and diameter remained unchanged. Because the Arrows and Rays type was made only for one year, it is much in demand from collectors. It too was made at Philadelphia and New Orleans. Proofs are exceedingly rare because only 10 to 15 were minted.

The years 1854 and 1855 saw arrows continue at the date with the rays removed from the reverse. The weight, composition, size, and edge remained unchanged. This Variety 3 was minted at Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Since only 20 to 30 proofs were minted for these two years, they are very rare.

From 1856 to 1865, Variety 1 was resumed with the weight standard of Variety 2. As such it had no arrows or rays, and the specifications were the same as Varieties 2 and 3. This type was minted in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco. These years saw proof mintage increase from 40 or so to 1,000 in 1860 and 1861.

In 1866 a new type was created. Variety 4 had a Motto Above the Eagle. Although the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added, the specifications remained the same as the second and third varieties. It was issued until 1873 in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Carson City. Poof mintages varied from 600 to 1,000.

When the weight was changed to 6.25 grams, Arrows at the Date were added to show the change. The other specifications remained unchanged. This Variety 5 quarter was issued at Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Carson City in 1873 and 1874. Proof mintages were 540 and 700 respectively for the two years.

From 1875 to 1891, Variety 4 was resumed with the weight standard of Variety 5. These were minted in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Proof mintages ranged from 510 to 1,355.

In his Numismatic Art in America Cornelius Vermeule has a decidedly negative view of Gobrecht’s motif as it appears on these coins: “[Liberty] has lost much of her plastic quality, becoming flatter and more like an engraving than a statue….Clutching her ridiculous little hat on a pole and the small shield nestling in the drapery at her side, Liberty looks anxiously over her shoulder as if a horde of Indians were sprinting…toward her.”

Issued for 53 years, the Liberty Seated quarter saw many changes in the United States. By 1838 a major recession had set it that prompted President Andrew Jackson to issue a Specie Circular. It repealed the requirement that all land purchases from the government be made with hard currency. The measure had been faulted for taking large amounts of coinage from circulation and worsening the economic crisis. Following this law, the Supreme Court ruled that property rights can be overridden by public need. After only one month in office in 1841, William Henry Harrison was succeeded by John Tyler. Although he was impeached, the attempt to remove him from office was unsuccessful. Polk was elected in 1844, and Florida and Texas became states. In 1846, there was a war with Mexico. Iowa became a state, and Taylor became President. Wisconsin became the 30th state in the union. The Mexican-American War ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In 1849, the same year, the Gold Rush in California began. The next year, Taylor died and Millard Fillmore became President.

The next decade saw division as a result of the conflicting ideas of national unity and sectionalism. The Compromise of 1850 admitted California as a free state, but Fugitive State Laws were enacted. In 1852 Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published and Jossiah Priest published Bible Defense of Slavery. Franklin Pierce was elected President, and California encouraged Chinese to immigrate and work on the railroads. The next year the United States and Mexico sign the Gadsden Treaty. In Kansas Free Soilers establish a government banning slavery and blacks from Kansas. In 1856 Bessemer invented a process that allowed for the m ass production of steel. John Brown led a raid in Kansas in which five slavery supporters were killed. The momentous Dred Scott Supreme Court decision was handed down in 1857. During the next several years Lincoln debated Douglass. Douglass was elected to the Senate. Oregon was admitted as a new state in 1859, and John Brown let his raid on Harper’s Ferry Virginia. In 1860 Lincoln was elected President, and South Carolina seceded.

The Civil War began with Fort Sumter fired upon. Virginia seceded, and the remaining four of the eleven Confederate states seceded. In the summer the Confederacy won the First and Second Battle of Bull Run. They also win the Battle of Fredericksburg and lose 5,300 men compared to 12,600 lost by the Union. In 1863 in the North, conscription was enacted. The Union was defeated at Chancellorville but prevailed at Gettysburg, where they fought a defensive battle. Draft riots and raced riots took place in New York City. In 1864, Lincoln was re-elected. Sherman marched thorough Georgia, and Lee surrendered in April. A week later, Lincoln was shot. In May the remaining Confederate armies surrendered.

In the aftermath of the war, there was a period of Reconstruction. Johnson was impeached and acquitted in 1868, and Grant was elected President. Southern states were readmitted to the Union. The 15th Amendment was ratified giving blacks the right to vote. In 1871 KKK members were tried and convicted in Mississippi. President Grant suspended habeas corpus and declared martial law in nine South Carolina counties. Many blacks were elected to political office including seven in the 43rd Congress. In Tennessee in 1875 “Jim Crow” laws were enacted. Federal troops were sent to Vicksburg to protect blacks, and a Civil Right Act was passed; however, in 1883 it was declared unconstitutional. In 1889 Washington was admitted to the Union. The Battle of Wounded Knee took place in 1890.

Christian Gobrecht was the third Chief Engraver at the United States Mint. Born in Hanover, Pennsylvania in 1785, he was the son of a German immigrant and a mother whose family traced their ancestry to the early settlers at Plymouth. Gobrecht married Mary Hewes in 1818. He became an engraver of ornamentally designed clocks in Baltimore. In Philadelphia, he later became an engraver of banknotes. He worked at the Franklin Institute as an engraver of medals. He invented a machine that enabled one to change a three-dimensional medal into an illustration. Gobrecht had a good position and was reluctant to work for the Mint for less money, but Mint Director Robert Patterson persuaded Chief Engraver William Kneass to accept less, since he had a debilitating stroke, so Gobrecht could be his assistant. In 1826 he did his first work for the Mint as an assistant to Kneass. After the stroke, Gobrecht did the pattern and die work for the Mint. He served as Chief Engraver from 1840 to 1844. He was well known for his Seated Liberty motif, which was present on all regular silver denominations. He also designed the Trade Dollar and the Twenty Cent piece that were based on the same motif. In addition Gobrecht designed the Liberty Head motif, which was used on all gold denominations of the time including the eagle, half eagle, and the quarter eagle. He was responsible for the Liberty Head, Braided Hair half cent, and the Braided Hair cent. Gobrecht was succeeded by James B. Longacre as Chief Engraver.

Specifications:
Variety 1, No Motto Above Eagle (1838-1853)
Weight: 6.68 grams
Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper
Diameter: 24.3 millimeters
Edge: reeded

Variety 2, Arrows at Date, Rays Around Eagle (1853)
Weight: 6.22 grams
Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper
Diameter: 24.3 millimeters
Edge: reeded

Variety 3, Arrows at Date (1854-1855)
Weight: 6.22 grams
Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper
Diameter: 24.3 millimeters
Edge: reeded

Variety 4, Motto Above Eagle (1866-1873)
Weight: 6.22 grams
Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper
Diameter: 24.3 millimeters
Edge: reeded

Variety 5, Arrows at Date (1873-1874)
Weight: 6.25 grams
Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper
Diameter: 24.3 millimeters
Edge: reeded

Variety 4 Resumed, With Weight Standard of Variety 5 (1875-1891)
Weight: 6.25 grams
Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper
Diameter: 24.3 millimeters
Edge: reeded

 

 



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