Guide to U.S. Standing Liberty Quarters
The Standing Liberty Quarter was first struck in late 1916 and would continue to be produced through 1930 amidst two modifications to the original design. Most famously, one of the modifications was to cover up Liberty’s bare breast. The series has been considered one of prime numismatic interest. In addition to a significant key date coin, collectors can also pursue well struck examples with the “Full Head” designation, which can drive high premiums over weakly struck coins.
The quarter dollar was one of three silver denominations to receive a new design in 1916, replacing the previous designs created by Charles E. Barber. The new designs for the denominations would be selected through a competition. Adolph A. Weinman would create the winning designs for both the dime and half dollar, while Hermon A. MacNeil would create the winning design for the quarter.
MacNeil’s original obverse design features the standing figure of Liberty within the opening of a small gate, or in MacNeil’s words, “to the gateway of the country.” She holds a shield in her left hand and an olive branch in her right. The gate is adorned with thirteen stars and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST split over both sides. The designer’s initial “M” can be seen on the right side of the gate, next to the lowest star. The inscription LIBERTY appears above, with the date placed on a pedestal below. The reverse design features an eagle in flight with the inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and E PLURIBUS UNUM above and QUARTER DOLLAR below. Thirteen stars are present, arranged seven to the left and six to the right.
The initial design, identified as “Type 1” or “No Stars Below Eagle,” was struck in 1916 and during the first few months of 1917. This version features a depiction of Liberty with an exposed breast, and according to numismatic lore, there was a public outcry to cover her up. However, recent research of correspondence between MacNeil and the Mint has shown that the appearance was altered at the request of MacNeil, who felt that the design was not up to his usual standards.
The modified design, identified as “Type 2” or “Stars Below Eagle,” would be introduced during the latter part of 1917. The design includes an overall strengthening of the devices on both sides of the coin, in addition to two notable changes. On the obverse, Liberty now wears a suit of chain mail. On the reverse, the eagle is moved towards the center and the stars are rearranged with five to each side and three below.
The second modification to the design would occur in 1925, when the area containing the date was recessed. Prior to this, the date was placed at the same relief as the other parts of the design, which allowed it to be completely worn away in circulation. By placing the date in a recessed area, it would be better protected from wear.