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Quarters Detailed
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 officials.

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 head.

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.

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