By Mike Thorne
How do you feel about
the Standing Liberty quarter, minted from
1916-1930? If you're like most collectors, you
probably think it's one of the most interesting
and attractive 20th-century issues. That's
certainly the way I feel about the series.
After all, Standing Liberty quarters were still
circulating when I started collecting in the
mid-1950s. Remember, that was only about 25
years after the Mint stopped making the coins.
The next time you're at the bank, get a couple
of quarter rolls and see how many 25+ year-old
coins you can find.
As I said, Standing Liberty quarters turned up
from time to time, and these weren't dateless
coins either. The best find I can remember was a
1927-D my father retrieved from the coffee
change at his office. A certification company
assigned it a grade of About Uncirculated-58.
All of this is by way of introduction to J. H.
Cline's fourth edition of Standing Liberty
Quarters. Cline has the reputation of being an
expert and aficionado of this series. His
previous edition of this book was published in
1997, a decade before the 2007 publication date
of this new edition.
Just a glance at the new edition informs me that
Cline has added 60 pages. Published by Zyrus
Press, the fourth edition appears to be more
professionally done than the third edition,
which was self-published.
Still, Cline's latest work has the same personal
touch as his earlier editions. It's obvious from
his writing that this is a coin he dearly loves.
As he puts it in "How I Got Started and Other
Stories," "Like no other coin or series, I loved
the Standing Liberty quarter at first sight and
that love still burns white hot!" Cline was
motivated to write about this love when he
"began to look for anything in print about the
series, and found nothing."
Cline doesn't begin this book with a look at the
development of the coin, as you might expect.
Instead, he talks about his visit in 1995 to the
Smithsonian Institution, where he was able to
examine the Standing Liberty quarters in the
National Numismatic Collection. "It was a dream
come true!" he exclaims. He ends this brief
chapter with a description of some memorable
pieces he studied at the museum. One that caught
my eye was a 1927-D, which he writes "looks deep
mirror prooflike and has a frosty eagle, but it
is not a Full Head."
Chapter 3 tells about the artist, Hermon Atkins
MacNeil, and the next chapter deals with the
headaches involved in actually bringing the
Standing Liberty quarter to fruition. The title
of this chapter, appropriately, is "Government
Bureaucracy." Cline's written material is
supplemented with several pages of copies of the
correspondence between MacNeil and various mint
In Chapter 5, Cline briefly explores the
possibility of two models for the final coin.
Doris Doscher, the woman usually credited with
modeling for MacNeil, was, according to Cline,
"one of the first women to promote natural
medicine and exercise for good health." She
became a devotee of self-improvement following
her successful recovery from polio.
The other possibility was Irene MacDowell, the
wife of MacNeil's tennis partner. The Evening
News of Newburgh, N.Y., published shortly before
MacDowell's death, "carried almost a full page
article of Irene MacDowell in which she finally
admits to being the 'barebreasted' beauty that
posed for her friend, Hermon MacNeil."
Cline is particularly fascinated with full head
Standing Liberty quarters, which are analogous
to full bell lines Franklin halves, full split
bands Mercury dimes, etc. In other words, a
fully struck Standing Liberty quarter can be
identified by the detail on Liberty's head. In
Chapter 7, "The Connoisseur Section," Cline
includes a date-by-date examination of the
series. As an illustration of what he has to say
about individual dates, he writes of the 1927-S:
"Very, very tough! Have handled less than 10
pieces in sharp Full Head MS65.& Probably a 10
piece or less availability. TOUGH!!!"
Chapter 8 is the heart of the book, as this is
where Cline presents his "Year and Mintmark
Analysis" of the series. The description of each
coin takes approximately a page and a half. As
you would expect, there's a picture of the
coin's obverse and reverse along with the date's
mintage. This is followed by the coin's rank in
terms of price, then its quantity rank. To
illustrate, for the 1927-S the mintage was
396,000, which gives it a quantity ranking of 3
(after the 1918/7-S and the 1916). The price
rank is 2, as the coin is second only to the
overdate in price in Mint State-65 with full
Next, Cline has a chart of "Estimated Population
by Grade." According to this chart, he estimates
that approximately 67 percent of the remaining
coins grade from Good-Very Fine, and that only 3
percent of the date are in gem condition. "Less
than 1% struck with Full Heads," he writes.
In one interesting paragraph, Cline compares the
1927-S with the 1916 in terms of the number of
full heads. "Your author would rate it three to
five times rarer than the 1916 in Full Head.
With that said, the present price for a 1927-S
FH is not in line with the real scarcity of the
coin. In the 45 years your author has collected
and admired these coins, the ratio I have
observed is at least one 1927-S to twenty-five
1916s with Full Heads.
Near the end of the 1927-S section, Cline has a
table based on Professional Coin Grading Service
and Numismatic Guaranty Corp. population numbers
giving the availability of full heads in
mint-state grades from MS-64 to MS-67. For
MS-65, the two major services have certified a
total of seven full head pieces, with another 65
in this grade without full heads.
Note that I've merely scratched the surface of
what you can find about Standing Liberty
quarters in Cline's new edition. Fortunately,
the list price of the book is quite low at
$21.95. If you like and/or collect the series,
if only by type, then Cline's book should be in
your numismatic library.