By 1853, the United States Mint had been producing the Liberty Seated Quarter series for 15 years, but silver coins were gradually disappearing. Coins were being withdrawn from circulation because the bullion value of silver was much greater than the face value of silver coins. Mint director, George Eckert turned to Congress suggesting that a reduction in the weight of silver coinage would help to make melting the coins more profitable. Although Congress wasn’t too keen on the idea at first, it was finally agreed that all silver coins should be lowered in weight, with the exception of the Silver Dollar.
On February 21, 1853, Congress finally passed legislation lowering the weight of all fractional coinage. The Coinage Act of 1853 became effective on April 1 the same year. Within just 12 months, America’s supply of coinage was at its peak and the coin shortage was nothing more than a distant memory.
The Quarters issued in 1853 still featured Christian Gobrecht’s Seated Liberty design, which had been used since 1838. However, officials felt it was important to mark the Quarter’s weight reduction, and decided the best way to do so was with an obvious design change.
Prior to 1853, all Liberty Seated Quarters depict a left-facing Lady Liberty on their obverse. She is seated on a rock, with her right hand resting on a shield inscribed LIBERTY and her left hand holding a pole. Liberty is encircled by thirteen stars and joined by the mintage year below. On the reverse side of the coins is a left-facing eagle behind a shield, holding an olive branch and three arrows. The bird is accompanied by the engravings UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and QUAR. DOL.
While the same obverse and reverse designs are featured on 1853 Quarters, two very noticeable changes were made to the coins. Arrowheads were placed on each side of the date on the obverse, and rays of the sun emerging from the eagle were added on the reverse. Chief engraver, James Barton Longacre was responsible for the design changes.
1853 Quarters with arrows and rays are very popular pieces because they are one-year type coins. They were issued for just one year because the rays that were stamped on the reverse caused the U.S. Mint major issues. According to then-mint director, James Ross Snowden, it was a complicated process to strike the coins with the rays and ended up costing more time and money. He made the decision to remove the rays from the Quarter and the other silver denominations. This means that 1853 Quarters are the only coins from the entire Liberty Seated Quarter series to feature both arrows and rays. As the arrows didn’t cause any problems, they were kept on the coins for a further two years.
The majority of these modified coins made it into circulation, and there were plenty of them. 15,254,200 1853 Quarters were struck at the Philadelphia Mint (no mintmark), and 1,332,000 at the New Orleans Mint (O). These days, uncirculated specimens are very rare, especially the coins struck at New Orleans and those in gem condition. But these aren’t the only rare 1853 Quarters.
Produced at the Philadelphia Mint, the 1853/4 Quarters featuring an overdate error are extremely rare. They’re quite unusual coins because the 1853 date has been struck over the 1854 date, even though they were produced in 1853. These coins would have been made using the 1854 die and are the only known Quarters that display the mintage year struck over a future year.
1853 Quarters mark an important moment in American coinage history because they were the first ever Quarter Coins to have their silver content reduced. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why the U.S. Mint believed it was important to signify a reduction in the weight of the coin by adding the arrows and rays.
As no other known Quarters feature an overdate with a future year struck first, the very rare 1853 Overdate Quarters are also significant coins. Many people actually consider these pieces quite bizarre because it doesn’t make any sense as to why the Mint didn’t just use the 1853 die. Overdate errors typically have the newer year struck over the earlier year, so the 1853/4 Quarters are rather interesting yet unusual coins.
If you’re looking to add an 1853 Quarter or 1853/4 Quarter to your collection, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Capital Gold Group. For the quickest response, feel free to call one of our experts with your inquiries. Alternatively, you can send us a message via email or the online form on our Contact page, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.