The Washington quarter is a popular coin that is still one of the longest-running and most famous coins that can be found in the United States.
The series has now existed for over ten decades, and over those years, most of the regular issue coins have become quite common and easy to find in general circulation.
What Do They Mean by Quarters?
A “quarter” is the name of the twenty-five-cent coin if you live in the United States of America or Canada. It represents a quarter of a dollar (hence the name, a quarter dollar), and only certain types of quarters have been made out of silver for the duration of the US coinage system.
There have been three main types of quarters that have been minted by the U.S. Mint with a composition of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. These coins include the well-known Liberty Head “Barber” quarter, the Standing Liberty quarter, and the Washington quarter.
All modern quarters consist of a Copper-Nickel combination, called a Cupro-Nickel or Cupronickel. This is a cheaper way for the government to produce a supply of circulating coins at bulk rates, but there are also other important uses of Cupronickel.
Cupro-Nickel was used to replace pure silver for circulating coins because it is very durable and it resists corrosion more. The U.S. Mint issued all of these silver quarter varieties from 1792 until 1964.
Throughout all of the eras of American numismatic history, silver coins have been minted with values between 35 and 90 percent silver content. The term “coin silver” has been used to describe the coins that have a 90 percent silver alloy.
While Washington quarters may not always have a very high silver content, their main attraction lies in their design.
The Design of Washington Quarters
Washington quarters have been very important to the American economy since they were first released into circulation in 1932. The coins were initially designed by the revered artist John Flanagan and then they were updated by William Cousins in 1999 for the launch of the 50 State Quarters program.
This was an attractive series of circulating commemorative quarters that were released by the United States Mint. Minted from 1999 through 2008, they featured unique designs for each of the 50 US states on the reverse side of the coin.
Washington quarters featured prominently in these more modern statehood quarter designs. In contrast to these plentiful statehood quarters, it has now become quite rare to find the pre-1965 90% silver coins in circulation.
However, they can still be found quite regularly in coin collections. Several of the dates rank as quite scarce as key dates, semi-key dates, or significant conditional rarities. Here is a quick look at nine key-date Washington quarters and what they might currently be worth according to the latest USA CoinBook valuations:
1932-D Washington Quarters
This date is one of two main regular-issue key dates that you will find for the Washington quarter series. The other date is its same-year San Francisco coin (discussed below). Only 436,800 examples of the 1932-D were struck, which is the second-lowest business-strike mintage of the series.
This key date is one of the most popular coins of the 20th century and it can trade for about $120 and up when it comes to circulated grades.
1932-S Washington Quarters
The other one of the two very scarce 1932 Washington quarters, the 1932-S is the lowest-mintage regular-issue date in the series. This date is a bit more common in the Mint State grades than the higher-mintage 1932D.
The 1932-S Washington quarter is also a highly sought-after key issue. This date is one of the most widely collected rare coins of the past century. Again, some of these coins can trade for about $120 or more, even in worn grades.
1937 Double Die Obverse Washington Quarters
This rare obverse double die coin shows heavy doubling, which is the most clearly seen in the date.
Even worn specimens of this coin can be hard to find, and many coin collectors are willing to pay considerable sums for these popular die varieties. Prices can often start at around $500 at coin shows and auctions.
1942-D Double Die Obverse Washington Quarters
The 1942-D is one of many double die coins in the entire Washington quarter series.
The date on these coins show a wide spread in the word “LIBERTY” that can be found above George Washington’s head on the obverse side of the coin (rather than on the reverse design). Prices for circulated examples of these coins start at around $270.
1943 Double Die Obverse Washington Quarters
Doubling can also be found across the obverse side on this rare double die. It shows hub doubling in the date, across the word “LIBERTY,” and elsewhere on the coin. This scarce Washington quarter can often trade for elevated coin values of about $500 and up when it comes to circulated grades.
1950-D D Over S Washington Quarters
This date is one of two popular Washington quarter overmintmarks for the year. The 1950-D D Over S is highly prized by many coin collectors, especially series enthusiasts and those who love die varieties. Prices for these types of coins begin at about $100 and up for well-circulated examples.
1950-S S Over D Washington Quarters
This overmintmark variety is the second type for the series with the 1950 date. The 1950-S Over D is also a very popular coin with many Washington quarter specialists. Entry-level examples of these coins in the circulated grades can also trade for around $100 or more.
1983-P Washington Quarters
With a mintage of 673,535,000, uncirculated 1983-P Washington quarters are quite scarce.
No mint sets were issued by the United States Mint in 1983 (or in the previous year). During that time, a heavy recession led to few people saving very many of their 1983 quarters in uncirculated condition. An MS 63 1983-P Washington quarter will easily fetch prices of $20 or more.
1983-D Washington Quarters
Like the 1983-P coin, the 1983-D Washington quarter is also scarce in uncirculated grades. Only a few of these specimens remain in good condition, and no government-issued United States uncirculated sets were offered in 1983.
An MS63 1983-D Washington quarter can be worth many times its face value. All other Washington quarters are also very scarce when they are at or above a particular grade threshold, which is usually about MS66 to MS67.
This can sometimes be due to strike weakness. However, contact marks and other defects can also affect the grade. These blemishes bring uncirculated examples of these coins down into the MS63 to MS65 range.
Pay close attention to your Washington quarters for die varieties. You might want to especially look for examples with very strong strikes and surfaces that show no blemishes.
As you get deeper into the hobby of coin collecting, you’ll soon discover that most coins, including Washington quarters, of any date or mintmark can sometimes be worth high premiums to certain types of coin collectors or numismatic enthusiasts.
Washington Quarter Errors
There have been quite a lot of errors in this series, but the most common ones are:
- 1937 Double Die Obverse: $560 in XF40, $2,000 in MS60 and $6500 in MS65
- 1942-D Double Die Obverse: $280, $2,000, and $8,000 in the same grades
- 1943 Double Die Obverse (the rarest of this type of error with only 137 coins overall graded by PCGS): $3,000, $10,000, and $16,500
- 1943-S Double Die Obverse: $250, $530, and $1,160
When it comes to the state quarters, there are also some error coins, with the best-known ones the 2004-D Wisconsin, with an extra leaf of corn that comes in High Leaf and Low Leaf varieties worth respectively $145 and $100 in MS63; $200 and $125 in MS65; and $3,250 and $4,500 in MS67.
The other well-known error is the 2005 Minnesota coin with an extra tree worth around $25-$50 in MS63-MS66 and $70 in MS67.
Finding Your Own Washington Quarters
As we have explained above, it can often be quite hard to find these types of coins in your pocket change.
But there are ways to can increase your odds of finding Washington quarters by using a few ingenious strategies:
- Use cash for every transaction. The more change you get back from different types of businesses, the better your chances of finding special edition varieties. So, try and pay with cash whenever you are able to.
- Look through some coin rolls from the bank. You can improve your chances of finding Washington quarters when you search through hundreds of rolls of quarters. The best types of rolls will be the brand new ones from a bank. Rolls of older quarters are less likely to contain Washington quarters.
- Check each and every quarter that you find in your hands. Maybe that sounds like a bit of common sense, but surprisingly, there are many people who never check any of the coins that they handle.
Evaluating Your Washington Quarters
A wide variety of coin organizations, coin dealers, and other groups involved in the hobby of coin collecting can be some excellent resources to use when you are thinking about grading some of your Washington quarters, and also when you are looking for special edition coins, such as the new 2019-W and 2020-W quarters:
- The Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) is currently offering $2,000 for the first example of each of the five 2020-W quarters they receive for grading. This third-party coin grading service also offers special “First Week” and “Early Find” pedigrees on the grading labels for any new 2020-W quarters submitted to them within a certain number of days after each coin’s release.
- The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) is issuing special “Early Release” or “First Release” pedigrees for any of the qualifying 2020-W quarters. Visit their website to get more information or to do some deeper research into whether you might have found an eligible coin.
- Certain coin dealers are expanding their 2019-W quarter promotions by offering large rewards to people who agree to sell them the first 2020-W quarters they receive. Ask a few coin dealers in your town if they might be participating in this national initiative to expand the level of interest in coin collecting.
To celebrate National Coin Week (April 21-27), more than 200 members of the group “Coin Dealers Helping Coin Dealers” decided to place thousands of old coins—from century-old Indian Head and early Lincoln cents to vintage silver quarters, dimes, and even some paper money—into general circulation around the US for a promotion called The Great American Coin Hunt.
Sponsored by the American Numismatic Association (ANA), the coins (some of which are listed on sites like eBay for quite reasonable sums of paper money) will be mixed in with other types of quarters produced in Denver and Philadelphia.
The coins were all shipped to regular city banks during 2019, and they started to appear in general circulation within six weeks.
Beyond Washington Quarters: Other Valuable Coins
Although Washington Quarters are some valuable coins that you might find, you won’t want to forget about all of the other types of quarters that are available as collectibles or as pieces of inflated value.
A very valuable thing to know in the world of coin collecting is that all dimes, quarters, and half dollars minted by the Federal Reserve in the USA by the year 1964 or earlier were made of 90% silver.
With the price of silver being so volatile and changing so often in the modern environment, it can be profitable to look through some of your pocket change for Washington quarters as well as for any other coins that might contain a lot of silver.
Quite a few of the coins in circulation today will still have at least some type of silver content, and some of the earlier quarters can be really valuable. You might also find a wide range of commemorative coins and proof sets issued by the US Mint.
There are limited quantities of these coins that can still contain 90% silver today. There are plenty of other US coins like buffalo nickels, silver dimes, Kennedy half dollars, or Eisenhower dollars that are also made of 40% silver.
All of these special types of coins can have very specific dates and their value is based largely on the dates they were minted. If you are lucky, you can find coins like these at special coin shows and at certain types of coin dealers.
Keep them safe, because they can sometimes prove to be valuable collector’s items.
Keeping Washington Quarters Safe
In addition to many other types of coinage, holding on to these types of quarters can be a really good idea if you are an investor. Washington quarters can be bought for a small premium above the spot price of silver.
If you want highly liquid silver at a low cost, quarters are hard to beat because they are easy to trade. Silver is one of the most valuable precious metals that there is. If you are lucky enough to find any silver quarters in your daily life, hang onto those coins as long as you possibly can.
Washington quarters might turn out to be one of your best hedges against inflation or a currency that can lose value very quickly.