By Greg Reynolds
Several of the highest graded
Washington Quarters were sold by B&M in an
auction on April 15 in the Chicago area. The
Marquette-Yakima collection was the number one
collection in the NGC registry of Washington
Quarters. With the addition of about twenty
supergrade common quarters, and some submissions
of NGC graded coins to PCGS, it could have been
very competitive in the PCGS registry.
The $143,750 result for the Marquette-Yakima
1932-D quarter has already been reported on
CoinLink and elsewhere. The purpose here is to
itemize several of the gem quarters in the sale,
and to discuss the rationale for current prices
for such quarters. Do Superb Washington Quarters
constitute logical price values for quarter
The Marquette-Yakima 1932-D is the only 1932-D
quarter that the PCGS has graded MS-66. None
have been certified as grading MS-67 or higher.
The 1932-D has the second lowest mintage of any
business strike in the series, 436,800, and has
always been the hardest to find in MS-64 and
According to Kathleen Duncan, a collector
purchased this specific 1932-D from Pinnacle
Rarities in the mid 1990s, and that collector
consigned it to an August 2001 Heritage auction.
HA.com lists the price realized as $89,125.
Actually, $89,125 in 2001 is, in some sense, am
amount greater than $143,750 in 2008. Rare coin
markets were extremely weak in 2001. The prices
of many coins have since tripled. Indeed, some
early gold coins have quadrupled in value. Yet,
the most famous and valuable Washington quarter
has gone up only 38%, and all the while the
State Quarter program continued to receive
Charles Browne, David Schweitz, and Matt
Kleinsteuber are all expert graders and
competitive bidders on the auction circuit.
Browne was the successful bidder for this
1932-D. Neither Schweitz nor Kleinsteuber bid on
it. When interviewed separately, each told me
that “this is the prettiest 1932-D quarter that
I have ever seen.” Yes, all three employed
almost the exact same sentence, and no one was
prompted by me to say anything of the sort.
Laura Sperber is an active buyer of gem quality
coins and a force at major auctions. She
declared that this 1932-D “was low end but its
stunning color more than made up for it.”
Furthermore, she asserted that “it went kind of
cheap.” She thus expected the price realized to
Not one expert refers to the grade of this coin
as a high end 66. Although I have never seen it,
from my inquiries, my tentative impression is
that its grade is in the 66 range and does not
reach the midpoint of the 66 range. I have been
told that it has a great, natural look, but has
some small contact marks in prime areas. It is
said to be more attractive than some certified
MS-67 grade Washington Quarters of other dates.
Over the last ten years, there has been
considerable speculation that PCGS would certify
more 1932-D quarters as MS-66, yet not one
additional 1932-D has been so certified.
Undoubtedly, several dealers attempted to
upgrade PCGS graded MS-65 1932-D quarters. There
are probably around thirty different 1932-D
quarters that are PCGS certified as MS-65.
Though it is rare in the gem quality range, and
thus a ‘condition rarity,’ the 1932-D is not a
rare coin in general. There would have to be
more than twelve thousand 1932-D quarters in
existence. Many have never been submitted to
PCGS or NGC, though perhaps all should be
certified, as there are numerous fakes around.
At Numismedia.com, a 1932-D in Good-04 grade is
listed at about $150, which must indicate that
there are many thousands of people who collect
Washington Quarters ‘by date.’ Otherwise, the
price for a good condition 1932-D would be
dramatically lower. At current price levels, are
1932-D quarters good values for collectors?
Consider the 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ Liberty Seated
quarter. There are probably just five known. The
PCGS and Numismedia price guides suggest that
two of these are valued at less than $143,750.
The Eliasberg piece, which is at least the third
finest known, was auctioned by DLRC, as part of
the Richmond collection, for $201,250 in March
For $143,750, would a collector rather have a
quarter that is the worst of five known or a
quarter that is the finest discovered (so far)
of twelve thousand or more? The answer depends
upon the tastes and preferences of the
individual buyer, though some logical analysis
regarding relative prices may be educational.
Consider the 1869 Liberty Seated Quarter. There
are certainly fewer than three hundred business
strikes in existence, and probably less than two
hundred. It could be plausibly argued that there
are less than one hundred!
Perhaps sixteen different 1869 quarters grade
above MS-60. No matter how the term ‘rare’ is
reasonably employed, each 1869 quarter is RARE.
Even if the 175 or so Proofs are added to the
number of business strikes, I am almost certain
that the grand total of 1869 quarters is fewer
than five hundred.
On April 17, 2008, at the Platinum Night event
of the Heritage CSNS auction, an 1869 quarter
that is very plausibly the finest known was
auctioned. It is the sole 1869 that is PCGS
graded MS-66, and none have been graded MS-67 or
higher. The NGC has also graded one as MS-66,
which is in the EHG collection. According to the
NGC registry, it was added in August 2005. So,
this 1869 quarter is probably the first, though
maybe the second or third, finest known. As the
highest certified by PCGS, its price may be
logically compared to the highest certified
The 1868 quarter is not quite as rare as the
1869 quarter, but it may also be a rarity.
Incredibly, on April 17, Heritage also auctioned
a PCGS graded MS-66 1868 quarter. Laura Sperber
exclaimed that these were both “awesome.” Matt
Kleinsteuber is ecstatic about them. He asserted
that these two quarters are “absolutely
phenomenal, real superb gems with fresh original
color.” The 1868 sold for $40,250 and the 1869
for $57,500. So, the sum of both is less than
$100,000, high prices for Liberty Seated
Quarters, though perhaps better values than the
finest certified Washington Quarters.
Of course, it is true that a 1932-D quarter is
much more famous than an 1869 quarter, and that
there are one hundred Washington Quarter
collectors for every single person who collects
Liberty Seated Quarters ‘by date.’ It is also
true that there is much more to coin collecting
than obtaining rarities. Does it make logical
sense, however, to put time, effort, and very
substantial sums into the acquisition of common
On April 15, 2008, why did someone pay $143,750
for a Washington Quarter? The successful bidder,
Charles Browne, was acting on behalf of a
collector. The fascinating news, in this regard,
is that the collector-buyer is not building a
PCGS registry set. He collected Washington
quarters as a kid. According to Browne, this
collector bought this 1932-D quarter as “a
remembrance of childhood,” and this collector
“always wanted the best one.” Browne relates
that this collector is now “very happy with his
purchase and keeps talking about it. He wants to
learn about past owners” of this 1932-D quarter.
When I was kid, I collected some Liberty Seated
coins, as did many of my friends. Personally, I
found them to be more attractive and interesting
than Washington quarters. It would never have
occurred to me then that Washington quarters
would sell for prices in the five figure range.
The next highest price for a Washington Quarter,
in this April 2008 auction, was $23,000 for a
The 1943-S has a mintage of more than twenty-one
million, and, in Good to Very Fine grades, its
value is largely determined by the price of
silver bullion. The Marquette-Yakima coin is the
only 1943-S quarter that is PCGS graded MS-68.
David Schweitz remarks that “there is no
question that it grades 68; it is a real MS-68.
It is one of the few 68-grade quarters that I
have never owned.” Sperber declared that it is
“pretty, for sure.” I acknowledge that it may be
a wonderful coin, but should it be worth
This exact same 1943-S was sold by Heritage in
Sept. 2003 for $16,100. In 2007, Heritage
auctioned three 1943-S quarters that were each
PCGS graded MS-67. One realized $1150 and two
sold for $1265 each. A 1943-S in Extremely
Fine-40 grade is currently valued at around six
dollars. The PCGS price guide values a PCGS
graded MS-65 at $80. It is astounding that the
highest certified 1943-S sold for $23,000.
Another amazing price was realized for the PCGS
graded MS-68 1954-S quarter in this April 15
auction, $10,350. In Jan. 2007, a PCGS graded
MS-67 1954-S was auctioned for $1495. According
to the PCGS price guide, a PCGS graded MS-65
1954-S is worth $38, a substantial portion of
which should be imputed to the cost of grading
and encapsulation. The prices of Good-04 to
AU-50 grade 1954-S quarters usually stem from
their silver bullion value, though some of these
There is no need for me to see the 1961-D
quarter, from this sale, that is the lone PCGS
graded MS-67 1961-D. I am very much willing to
acknowledge that it may well be an appealing,
true MS-67 grade coin.
Perhaps there is no point in mentioning that the
mintage of 1961-D quarters is more than 83
million, and that Brilliant Uncirculated (BU)
rolls of new coins were avidly, frequently and
wildly traded in the coin business in the early
1960s. Although this is currently the only
1961-D quarter that is PCGS graded MS-67, it may
be likely that more will be so certified in the
future. Undoubtedly, many people possess rolls
of 1961-D quarters, usually without even
realizing that these may be worth more than
bullion (silver) value.
On April 15, the Marquette-Yakima 1961-D
quarter, PCGS graded MS-67, sold for $18,975!
Without doing any further research, I will
tentatively assume that this is a record. With
the possible exceptions of obscure and truly
rare Mint errors, it is unlikely that anyone has
paid more than $20,000 for a quarter from the
1960s. At least, I hope not.
Barber Quarters, which were minted from 1892 to
1916, are generally much scarcer than Washington
Quarters. For less than $18,975, a collector
might be able to obtain, in MS-67 grade, one of
the following better-date 19th century Barber
Quarters: 1894-S, 1895-O, 1895-S, 1897-S,
1899-O, or 1899-S, which is even worth $23 or so
in Good-06 condition.
I do hope that more quarter collectors will
notice that there are numerous dates in the
Liberty Seated Quarter series (1837-91) for
which there are, respectively, fewer than five
hundred in existence. Nice, naturally toned,
RARE Liberty Seated Quarters are often less
expensive than gem quality Washington quarters.
It may be understandable to collect condition
rarities (coins that are very rare above a
certain grade, usually 65) in situations where
the respective coin itself is at least somewhat
scarce. I am puzzled by the phenomenon of
collectors paying from $5,000 to $25,000 each
for condition rarities of coins that are common