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What Are West Point Quarters & Why Are They So Rare?

United States Military Academy (USMA), also known as West Point,
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The United States Mint at West Point is striking circulating quarters that carry a "W" mint mark for the first time ever.

The 2020-W quarters are being released straight from the West Point Mint and they cannot be purchased directly from the U.S. Mint like other numismatic products. Instead, collectors are being urged to search for them in their pocket change.

What are Quarters in General?

If you live in the United States of America or Canada, a “quarter” is the name of the twenty-five-cent coin found in circulation and in daily life. Only certain types of quarters are made from silver. There are three main types minted by the U.S. Mint with a composition of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper.

These coins include the Liberty Head “Barber” quarter, the Standing Liberty quarter, and the Washington quarter. The U.S. Mint issued these types of silver quarters from 1792 until 1964. Throughout all periods of American numismatic history, silver coins have been minted with anywhere between 35 and 90 percent silver content.

W Quarter made at West Point Mint Close Up

The Washington Quarter was first struck in 1932 andwas designed by sculptor John Flanagan.

The term “coin silver” has been used to describe the types of coins minted with a 90 percent silver alloy. While W quarters may not have a high silver content, their main attraction lies in their design. Modern quarters consist of a Copper-Nickel combination, called a Cupro-Nickel or Cupronickel.

This is a cheaper way for the government to supply circulating coins at bulk rates, but there are also other important uses of Cupronickel. Cupro-Nickel was selected to replace pure silver for circulation because of the way that it resists corrosion and because it is very durable.

Quarters Made at the West Point Mint

If the name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because West Point is a famous military academy. The actual West Point Mint can be found on the grounds of the academy itself. The West Point Mint was established in 1937 as a silver bullion depository and was once known as the “Fort Knox of Silver”. 

Today, the West Point Mint is better known as the minting site for the new “W” quarters that started appearing in 2019. These coins are fast becoming collectible items for numismatists and coin enthusiasts in general.

2019 W Quarters

Although the West Point Mint did produce some quarters for circulation from 1977 to 1979, those coins do not have any mint marks, making them indistinguishable from the ones made in Philadelphia. So it is impossible to find any W quarters in old coin collections.

One exception to this is a 1983 coin, where the “W” mintmark did indeed appear for the first time on a United States coin with the issuance of a $10 gold coin to honor the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The new and rare “America The Beautiful” quarter series is now being designed to honor various landmarks and historical sites.

The “W” quarter is the newest part of a series of US coins launched in 2010. The series will continue through 2021. These quarters offer collectors some beautiful designs and the rare W quarters are one of the highlights of this program.

Equally divided across the five 2019 quarter designs, there have been a combined ten million “W” mint mark quarters made for circulation. They were issued as part of the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful Quarters® Program. The coins are national park quarters and they often depict sites in each state, D.C., and U.S. territory. 

These include Lowell National Historic Park in Massachusetts (released on February 4, 2019), American Memorial Park in Northern Marianas Islands (released on April 1, 2019), War in the Pacific National Historic Park in Guam (released on June 3, 2019), San Antonio Mission National Historical Park in Texas (released on August 26, 2019), and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho (released on November 4, 2019).

List of All of the 2020-W Quarters 

As described above, the United States Mint has also released five different 2020 “America The Beautiful” quarters with the W mintmark.

The 2020-W quarters include the National Park of American Samoa in American Samoa, the Weir Farm National Historical Site in Connecticut, the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Vermont, and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas 

To verify exactly what type of coin you have, you will need to look for the special “W” mintmark from the West Point Mint on the heads side (or obverse) of the coin. The mint mark should appear just to the right of George Washington and it should be quite easy to identify.

Why Is A 2020-W Quarter So Special? 

In modern terms, the “America the Beautiful” quarters Program is the U.S. 25-cent coin program, spanning 2010 to 2021.

The obverse (heads) side has the same profile of George Washington used on the quarter since 1932. The reverse (tails) features five designs each year that depict national parks and sites from all of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and even from some U.S. territories.

The 2020-W quarters are attracting a great deal of attention because they are some of the first circulating coins to have the “W” mintmark. Only two million of each design have been struck, which is just 10 million coins for the whole year of 2020.

With such low mintage numbers, the coins will naturally be quite rare and hard to find, which is something that makes them special. West Point coins, with a “W” under the words “In God We Trust” on the face of the coin, can be very valuable because they make up less than one percent of all the quarters from 2019.

This is the first new mint mark to appear on circulating coinage since the Denver Mint opened in 1906.

More About The “W” Mintmark

Study almost any coin set and you will either see a bunch of coins with a “P” mintmark to depict the Philadelphia Mint or a “D” mintmark to refer to the Denver mint. Some coins will also show an “S” mintmark, to refer to San Francisco.

But coins with the “W” mint mark are very rare indeed. The West Point Mint also struck American Gold Eagle coins without a mintmark. The West Point Mint achieved official status as a mint in 1988 and went on to strike many more coins, such as the special 1996-W Roosevelt dime produced only for coin collectors and included in 1996 uncirculated sets.

There were also a few special commemorative and American Eagle coins released since the 2000s. While the West Point Mint has produced some coins bearing the “W,” it never struck any circulating coins with its mintmark until 2019.

That was the year it produced five different 2019 “America The Beautiful” quarters with the W mintmark. Only two million of each type of coin were ever made, which has made the 2019-W quarters the scarcest regular-issue circulating coins since the release of the 1937-S Washington quarter.

Another thing to look for on this type of coinage is the special “V75” privy mark that is intended to honor the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, and this is the first of its kind for a circulating United States coin.

Three Ways to Find a 2020-W Quarter 

With only 10 million 2020 quarters being made with the “W” mintmark, it will probably prove to be pretty hard to find them. But you can increase your odds of finding a 2020-W quarter by using these three strategies: 

  • Use cash for all of your purchases. The more change you get back from a wide range of businesses, the better your chances of finding a special 2020-W quarter. So, try and pay with cash whenever you possibly can.
  • Check each and every quarter that happens to come through 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.
  • Look through some coin rolls from the bank. You can greatly increase your chances of finding W quarters by searching through 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 W quarters. 

How Much Is A 2020-W Quarter Worth? 

While some West Point quarters in circulation will not be worth much more than their face value, there are some rarities that are worth much more than just the face value of 25 cents. Like other coins, the real value of a 2020-W quarter will usually be based in great part on the condition of the coin. 

For example, a slightly worn 2020-W quarter can be worth up to $10. A 2020-W quarter in average uncirculated condition is often worth $15 to $20. But some of the nicest 2020-W quarters, with grades of Mint State-68 or better, can bring in more than $500, or even more.

There is a wide range of coin values in between these extremes. Just as with the many promotions that were launched in conjunction with the 2019-W quarter series, a wide variety of coin organizations, coin dealers, and other entities involved in the hobby are offering some special rewards for the earliest examples of these rare 2020-W quarters:

  • The Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) offers $2,000 for the first example of each of the five 2020-W quarters they receive for grading. The third-party coin grading service is also awarding special “First Week” and “Early Find” pedigrees on the grading labels for any new 2020-W quarters that are 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 coins that they consider to be special qualifying 2020-W quarters. Visit their website to find out more information or to check if you might have found an eligible coin.
  • Certain coin dealers are expanding their 2019-W quarter promotions by offering rewards of $100 or more to people who agree to sell them the first 2020-W quarters they receive. Try to visit a few coin dealers in your town to see if they might be participating in this national initiative to expand the level of interest in coin collecting.

Billed as the Great American Coin Hunt and sponsored by the American Numismatic Association (ANA), the coins (some of which are listed on sites like eBay for about $40 in paper money) will be mixed in with other types of quarters produced in Philadelphia and Denver.

The coins were all shipped to regular city banks on April 1, 2019, and they started to appear in general circulation within four to six weeks.

Beyond the 2020-W Quarters: Other Valuable Coins

Although we are naturally very excited about all the 2020-W Quarters that you might find, you won’t want to forget about all of the other types of quarters that will still be available as collectibles or as pieces of inflated value.

The most important 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 changing so often, it can be a wise idea to look through some of your pocket change for the 2020-W quarters as well as for coins that might have high silver content. A lot of the coins you can find in circulation today have at least some type of silver content, and earlier quarters can be particularly valuable.

You might also find a wide range of commemorative coins and proof sets issued by the US Mint. Limited quantities of these coins still contain 90% silver today. Other coins like buffalo nickels, silver dimes, Kennedy half dollars, the Eisenhower dollar, and silver dollars themselves are also made of 40% silver.

Fifty cent half dollar US coin

The first batch of Kennedy half dollars was produced on the 1st of December, 1794.

All of these coins can have very specific dates and their value is often determined by the dates that they were minted. You can sometimes find coins like these at special coin shows and at certain types of coin dealers, and they can be valuable collector’s items.

Collecting silver quarters is a good idea for investors. These coins are easy to obtain with a small premium above the spot price of silver. If you want highly liquid and easy to trade silver at low cost, quarters are hard to beat. Along with gold and platinum, silver is one of the most valuable precious metals around.

If you find any silver quarters among your stash of change, hang onto those as long as you possibly can. They might be one of your best hedges against inflation or a currency that loses value very quickly.

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