1916 was an important year for U.S. coinage when three major Liberty-themed coins debuted. In addition to new dime and half dollar designs by Adolph Weinman, a new quarter designed by Hermon A. McNeil, an accomplished American sculptor at the time, was selected in a design competition. That design was an immediate hit with collectors and Standing Liberty quarters have been a staple of American numismatics ever since.
The original design, which only appeared on the 1916 and 1917 quarters, featured an image of a standing, draped Miss Liberty on its obverse carrying a shield in her right hand (with a Union shield emblazoned on it) and an olive branch in her left hand. In addition, her right breast was exposed, making these the first U.S. coins with partial nudity. MacNeil is believed to have included that element partly because he was influenced by the Art Nouveau movement that often featured works with nude females.
The 1916 coins were not released until 1917 because the Mint was overwhelmed with production, and later in 1917 a modified version of the coin debuted in which chain mail now covered the exposed breast. The reverse was also modified by raising the position of the flying eagle, adding three stars below it and changing the lettering. This version was used through the end of the series in 1930, but in 1925 the date was recessed due to problems with it wearing out on earlier coins.
Though most collectors today believe the design was made more modest because of public opposition to the original design as obscene, numismatic researchers note that public nudity such as on statues was common at the time, that they could not locate commentary on this aspect from the time when the coin debuted and that chain mail (which is a type of armor) had more to do with the fact that by 1917 the U.S. was at war with Germany and other Axis powers. In fact, the overall motif of the coin is intended to convey the notion of American preparedness to defend itself against any aggressor.
Standing Liberty Quarter values
At current silver spot, all 90% silver quarters, including Standing Liberty ones, have a melt vale of about $4.70. Circulated examples of common dates of this series are worth about $6 and can be purchased in rolls.
Type 1 coins feature the original design, while Type 2 coins have the modified obverse and reverse designs. Type 1 coins are generally rarer, especially the very low-mintage 1916 coin, with an XF 40 of the 1917 running $125, an MS60 $240 and an MS65 $675.
With this series the fullness of the strike on the head of Liberty is an important part of the value of mint state coins, and examples with full details on the head are known as Full Head (FH) coins. For a high-end mint state coin this adds a lot of value with an MS65FH running $800 and an MS67FH $4,500 for the Type 1 issue.
Type 2 runs less at $55 for an XF40, $150 in MS60 and $450 in MS65. With FH these coins are about the same as Type 1 with MS65FH at $775 and MS67FH $5250.
1916 Standing Liberty Quarter
As the first year of issue of the series and the lowest mintage by far of the two years Type 1 quarters were issued (52,000), the 1916 issue has long been considered a significant rarity, especially in higher mint state grades and with FH.
Even a Good 4 coin is worth $3250, while an XF40 is $9,000, an MS60 $13,500 and MS65 $28,000. With FH the coin can reaches $250,000 for the top grade of MS67+FH. The one coin in that grade that has incredible toning sold for $195,500 in 2010.
The reason 1916 quarters are so valuable and rare today is that not many were saved when they were released in 1917, which was partly because no folders or albums existed at the time. As with the dimes and quarters that began that year, interest increased greatly in the 1930s when Wayte Raymond introduced his coin albums.
1917 Standing Liberty Quarter
1917 quarters were not only issued with both types but were also struck at multiple mints. The ones from the Philadelphia Mints of both varieties had much higher mintages of respectively 8,740,000 for 1917 Type 1 and 13,880,000 for 1917 Type 2. The 1917-D and 1917-S Type 1 coins both had mintages under 2 million, while the 1917-D and 1917-S Type 2 both had mintages of around 6 million each.
This situation makes the Philly coins good ones for a type set. A Type 1 1917 runs $325 for an MS63, and $300 for the Type 2 coin. With FH in the same grade, each runs $425. As would be expected, higher mint state examples with FH get more expensive.
Many examples of the 1917 quarters were saved, and nice mint state coins with good strikes and FH for Type 1 are not hard to find in the market except for MS67FH coins. When it comes to Type 2 1917 coins, the situation is different with far fewer examples available with full details.
Up to MS63 coins, there is not a big difference in the value of 1917 Type 2 coins from each of the three mints, but in the higher mint state grades. In the top grade of MS67FH the Philly coin runs $8,000, while the D and S coins are $35,000.
1927 Standing Liberty quarter
All quarters struck in 1927 tend to have poor strikes and almost all lack full details, making them good coins for cherry picking. Coins of this date also feature the recessed date that began in 1925.
The 1927 coin from the Philadelphia Mint had a much higher mintage (11,912,000) than the 1927-S (976,000) and especially compared to the 1927-S, a series key with only 396,000 made.
An XF40 1927 runs just $40, while an MS60 is $135, MS63 $$220, MS65 $425 but MS67 jumps to $2850. If you can find one with FH, it is just a few dollars more in MS60 and roughly double those values from MS63 to MS65, but in MS66 it is $21,50 and in MS67 $12,000.
No matter what grades you can afford, everyone needs at least a nice example of Type 1 and Type 2 Standing Liberty quarters and a full date and mint mark set is a fun and rewarding challenge. Without special varieties an XF40 set runs $16,000, MS60 $$33,000 and MS63 about $85,000, but with FH it jumps to MS60 $70,000 and MS63 $130,000.