Series 'Slick' Not Compliment
By Ginger Rapsus
That poor old
coin had definitely seen better days. The design
was worn smooth in some places, and no date was
visible. The reverse wasn't much better; the
flying eagle was identifiable but showed very
little detail, and the rim was worn down into
the letters, "Quarter Dollar." To add to the
coin's problems, two scratches adorned the
figure of Liberty on the obverse.
The old quarter was "culled" from circulation,
in every sense of the word. But despite the wear
and the abuse, from over 40 years of
circulation, it was obvious to even a young
collector that the coin was once a thing of
beauty. The design was so unlike the plain
Washington quarter that was seen all the time.
I never did find out the date on that coin, but
that beat-up old quarter introduced me to a real
collecting challenge: Standing Liberty quarters.
Back in the late 1960s when silver coins still
circulated, Standing Liberty quarters could be
found in change. Many coins called slicks were
well worn, with the date worn off, but some
still had dates, especially those of 1925 and
I found a few quarters dated 1925 to 1930, and
some even had mintmarks. Later, I found out that
the date had been recessed in 1925, to make it
less prone to wear. Like the Buffalo nickels, a
coin that circulated side-by-side with Standing
Liberty quarters, many coins had the dates worn
off, even though the rest of the coin looked
halfway decent. It was frustrating to find
quarters that looked to be very good or fine,
with that kind of detail, but have no date
visible. And if the dateless quarter had a "D"
or "S" mintmark, it became more frustrating.
Collectors of dateless Buffalo nickels had a
product available to restore dates on their worn
nickels. There was a product for silver coins,
too, called Sil-Va-Date. I bought a bottle of
the stuff at a local coin shop and figured I'd
go to work, just as I did with my hoard of
dateless Buffalo nickels. What do you know - it
didn't work. I am not sure if I didn't follow
directions, or if I had gotten a bad bottle, but
I tried this product on a few of my quarters and
no dates showed up.
Collecting Standing Liberty quarters was a
bigger challenge than I first thought.
The quarters of the late 1920s didn't pose much
of a problem. I found a few of those in change,
even a few with "D" and "S" mintmarks, but the
coins were quite worn. The photos of Mint State
quarters in the Red Book showed the full design.
It was a beautiful coin in full Mint bloom, with
details on the figure of Liberty, the shield,
the eagle, and some had a Liberty head with full
details. When I first noticed Standing Liberty
quarters in the late 1960s, however, no one paid
much attention to full head details.
The first coin to the set, the famous and rare
1916, was a collector's challenge if there ever
was one. Only 52,000 were made, a very low
mintage by 20th century standards. But they had
to get out in circulation.
I saw one or two at coin shops that had plenty
of wear, and that important date was visible.
Weak, but visible. The famous New York Subway
Hoard contained 19 of the 1916 Standing Liberty
quarters, including two in extremely fine
condition, among other scarce coins. I wondered
how many 1916 Standing Liberty quarters had
their dates worn off.
I once read in a coin publication that there was
a way to tell 1916 and 1917 Type I quarters
apart if their dates were worn off. Certain
details on the head and the toes differed, and
the ornamental border at the top of the coin was
As I didn't have any Type I quarters at the
time, I couldn't use this information. I queried
a coin magazine about this and got the response,
"the descriptions probably pertain to a brand
new coin." Well, if the coins were brand new,
the dates would show clearly, and a collector
wouldn't have to study the figure of Liberty to
learn the date.
During this time, I came very close to realizing
my dream of finding a 1916 Standing Liberty
quarter; in fact, I came as close as a collector
could. I found a 1917 Type I quarter in change,
with the last two digits of the date barely
readable. This was the oldest quarter I ever
received in change.
As a young collector, I found the challenge too
difficult, and I didn't pursue Standing Liberty
quarters for long. Years later, I took up the
While visiting one of my favorite coin shops, I
noticed a complete set of Standing Liberty
quarters in an old Library of Coins album. A
nice circulated 1916 led off this set. The coin
showed some wear, but the date was bold. The
next coin was a 1917 Type I with mint luster -
very different from the slick coin I pulled from
circulation years before.
That 1917 was the only coin that showed any
luster. The remaining coins were circulated,
some showing more wear than others, but a great
set to see all at once. Each coin had a full
date. This would have been a wonderful set to
buy and study, and of course, it was a full set
of Standing Liberty quarters, found with no
challenge. The 1916 put this set out of my
budget. On my next visit, the set was gone. Some
lucky - and astute - collector had snapped it
Seeing a set of these beautiful quarters
inspired me to build my own set. I didn't expect
to find every single date in blazing Mint State
with full details, but I thought a "nice
circulated" set could be worthwhile. Yes, it was
still a challenge.
Some of the more common dates were purchased in
Mint State or almost Mint State. One of the
first Standing Liberty quarters I bought was the
1917 Type I. A lovely coin with plenty of detail
and sparkling mint luster, it was a virtual twin
to the coin I saw in the Library of Coins album.
That coin wasn't difficult to locate, but a few
others took some searching.
The 1919-D, while never number one on the
quarter hit parade, wasn't easy to find. I saw a
few well-worn ones, and perhaps one in Mint
State, but a coin in very fine or extremely fine
turned out to be scarce.
1921 is a favorite year for coin collectors, and
the year is quite special for quarter
collectors. This coin was not easy to find in
any condition. A thorough search of coin shops
in the area failed to turn up a single specimen
in any condition. One of my favorite dealers did
find one that fit perfectly into my set. The
coin had light circulation marks, some wear and
the date wasn't all that strong, but the coin
had an overall pleasing appearance. The eagle on
the reverse looked good, with claims to a higher
Standing Liberty quarters can show any collector
that grading is an art and not a science. A
collector can look up these quarters in any
grading book and read descriptions of the
various states of preservation. Real quarters,
however, may not be true to the descriptions.
These quarters are tricky to grade and, in fact,
have three grading standards. There are
differences in the Type I and Type II quarters,
of course, but the early Type II coins, and
those of 1925 or later, have different
standards, because of the date wearing off so
When my collection of Standing Liberty quarters
began to take shape, and more holes in the album
were filled, I could see how the wear patterns
showed on the early coins and the later issues.
The later dates, except for the 1927-D and "S,"
were fairly easy to obtain, even in higher
grades, but the coins without the recessed dates
were harder to find in high grade circulated
condition. Many of the coins showed good detail,
on the figure of Liberty, the shield and the
wall, but dates looked weak. The 1923-S coin, a
key date, looked as if it hadn't circulated very
long, but the date wasn't that strong. The date
on my 1924-P, not considered an especially rare
coin, was quite weak, although the rest of the
coin looked great.
On the other hand, most of the later dates
looked nice, strong date and all. The 1928-P I
found had only the slightest wear, and showed
some pink toning. It was not a perfect coin by
any means, but very pretty in its own way.
The Standing Liberty quarter is considered to be
one of the most beautiful United States coins,
and it is indeed, when the coin is in Mint State
or has only slight wear. I was right when I
guessed that the old worn quarter I got in
change had been a lovely coin when it was first
My album had a hole for the famous overdate, the
1918-S with "8" over "7," but I doubted I would
ever get this coin. The 1916 coin was expensive,
and so was the overdate. I wondered how many
overdates were lost, due to the date wearing
off. Maybe one of the mintmarked and dateless
coins I got in change was the rare overdate.
That 1916 opening in the album remained empty. I
attended quite a few conventions and saw 1916
Standing Liberty quarters in every grade, but
the price was always out of sight. One dealer at
the Florida United Numismatists show had a
selection of 1916 quarters and was happy to show
them to me, and told me I was a rarity myself -
a woman who collected Standing Liberty quarters.
But even now, the 1916 is a dream coin.
A beautiful 1916 Standing Liberty quarter was
auctioned at a recent FUN show, and I remember
seeing newscasters from the area speaking to the
dealers involved in the sale. That weekend, as I
boarded a tour bus to Epcot, I heard the driver
asking, "What did that topless quarter sell
The Type I quarter was famous for that design,
the "topless quarter" as the driver called it. A
popular television program featured a story on
this coin and implied that the coin was valuable
because of this design, not mentioning that the
Type I quarter was minted in much greater
numbers in 1917. The Old Farmer's Almanac once
ran an article on this coin, too.
Most of the later dates were not difficult to
locate, but the 1927-D and "S" proved
When I became serious about collecting these
quarters, the "full head" quarters became
popular. The Type I and Type II quarters, too,
had different grading standards for a full head.
Since most of my coins were higher grade
circulated, I wasn't concerned with full head
detail, although in my searching I saw a number
of full head coins. I found that every 1930-S
quarter I saw had a flat head, even though this
coin from the final year of issue was not hard
to find in Mint State.
The silver one-ounce rounds, available at many
coin shops, have designs modeled after classic
United States coins, including the Standing
Liberty quarter. It's a good idea to get one to
keep with a set, to compare, and to see how this
pretty coin would look in proof.
Those collectors who want to build a set of
coins quickly, with every single coin in full
Mint State and spectacular detail, would not be
happy collecting Standing Liberty quarters -
especially in the way I went about it. Much
searching, a good eye for detail, a willingness
to look at many coins of the series, and some
tolerance of frustration are all parts of
collecting these beautiful coins. It's a short
set, but quite challenging, even after many