Often referred to as the Liberty Head Quarter, the Barber Quarter was first struck in 1892 and minted continuously until 1916. The coin came about after Mint director James P. Kimball requested that American coinage badly needed a makeover. It was later decided that the United States Mint would hold a competition to source new designs for the Quarter; however, this contest didn’t go according to plan. After two failed competitions, Charles E. Barber was chosen to prepare designs for the coins.
The obverse of the Barber Quarter depicts a right-facing bust of Lady Liberty wearing a cap with a laurel wreath and ribbon inscribed LIBERTY. She is encircled by thirteen stars, along with the engraving IN GOD WE TRUST above and the mintage year below. Barbers initial B is located at the base of Liberty’s neck.
On the reverse is an eagle with outstretched wings, facing right. The bird is holding an olive branch in its right talon and thirteen arrows in its left. A shield is displayed on the eagle’s breast, and a scroll with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is in its beak. Thirteen stars are above the bird’s head, with the markings UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and QUARTER DOLLAR surrounding the image.
When the Treasury Department got the go-ahead to redesign the Seated Liberty coinage, it hoped a competition would be the best way to unearth fresh artistic talent. Chief engraver, Charles E. Barber didn’t agree and felt he should be the one responsible for producing the new coin designs. The Treasury ignored Barber’s wishes and went ahead with the competition, inviting just ten well-known artists to take part.
All of the invited artists had an issue with the competition in that only the winner would be paid for their designs. They all got together and insisted that each participant should be paid for their submissions, but their request was quickly refused. There was only enough money to pay the winner, so the contest was deemed a failure before it had even started. The Treasury wasn’t fazed by this though and became even more determined to find someone other than Barber to design the coins.
A second contest was held in hope of discovering wonderful talent but this time it was open to one and all. The judges included Saint-Gaudens, Henry Mitchell and Barber, all of which had to view hundreds of entries. When the judges met in June 1891, all of the entries were rejected. Annoyed that both competitions were a complete waste of time, the then-mint director, Edward O. Leech ordered Barber to come up with new designs for the Quarter, Dime and Half Dollar.
The first Barber Quarters were minted in January 1892 without any complications. However, not long after the coins were released to the public, the Mint began receiving complaints about the coins inabilities to stack correctly. Barber was told to make the necessary modifications and quickly resolved the problem by changing the relief and altering some of the design elements.
This means that there are two 1892 Barber Quarter types including “Type 1” (the coins that don’t stack properly) and “Type 2” (the pieces that do stack correctly). Both types can be identified by looking at the eagle’s wing on the reverse. A Type 1 1892 Barber Quarter will show the left wing covering around half of the letter E in UNITED. With a Type 2, the same letter E is nearly covered up by the wing. Type 1 and Type 2 Barber Quarters were struck at the mint facilities in Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco, with the Type 1 being the rarest issue.
It’s quite unusual for a coin to be named after its designer, but Charles E. Barber achieved this with the Barber Quarter nonetheless. A total of four different mint facilities struck these coins throughout the series including Philadelphia (no mintmark), New Orleans (O), San Francisco (S) and Denver (D). The mintages range from a low of just 40,000 pieces (1913-S) to over 12 million (1899 and 1902), and the mintmark can be seen below the eagle’s tail.
The 1901-S with a total of 72,664 pieces is one of the rarest dates. Other key dates include the 1896-S and the 1913-S, as well as the proof 1892 and 1909-O. Proofs were actually produced annually, with the exception of 1916.
If you’re interested in purchasing Barber Quarters, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Capital Gold Group. We serve most areas across the United States and welcome all questions about any of the coins featured on our site.