Quarters are one of the most commonly used coins in the United States. They are used in everyday transactions and are easily recognizable due to their distinct design. While modern-day quarters are composed of copper-nickel clad, there was a time when quarters were made of silver.
Those quarters made from 1964 and earlier are made mostly from silver, are highly sought after by collectors and can fetch a high price on the market. Silver quarters are special because they represent a unique time in American history, and because they are tangible artifacts of the country’s economic and cultural development.
If you’re looking out for quarters composed of silver and want to know which years to look out for, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will explore the history of US quarters and answer the question “in which years were quarters made from silver?”.
US Quarters: Brief History
Quarters were first minted by the United States Mint in 1796. They were originally made of silver, with a weight of 6.74 grams and a diameter of 24.3 millimeters. The design of the coin featured the bust of the Statue of Liberty on the obverse and a bald eagle on the reverse.
Over time, the design of the quarter changed, with different depictions of Lady Liberty and the eagle appearing on the coin. In 1932, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth, the United States Mint began minting a new design for the quarter, featuring Washington’s portrait on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. This design has remained in use with some modifications to the reverse since then.
What Year Quarters Are Silver?
The United States Mint stopped producing silver quarters in 1964. Any quarters produced before this date were made of 90% silver and 10% copper. Quarters produced after 1964 are made of copper-nickel clad.
Here is a list of the years that quarters were made of silver:
- 1796-1807: Draped Bust Quarter
- 1815-1838: Capped Bust Quarter
- 1838-1891: Liberty Seated Quarter
- 1892-1916: Barber Quarter
- 1916-1930: Standing Liberty Quarter
- 1932-1964: Washington Quarter
Coinage Act Of 1965
So why the cut-off point of 1964? The US mint stopped producing silver quarters and other silver coins as a result of the Coinage Act of 1965. This act was passed due to multiple factors including rising silver prices and a desire to move away from using precious metals in coinage.
During World War II, the United States government needed large amounts of silver for military use. This led to a reduction in the amount of silver used in coinage, with dimes and quarters being minted with 35% silver from 1942 to 1945. However, even after the war, the demand for silver continued to increase, leading to rising silver prices.
The Coinage Act of 1965 was a response to this situation. It authorized the production of new, copper-nickel clad coins for circulation, which would be cheaper to produce and would not contain any precious metals. This meant that quarters, dimes, and half dollars minted after 1965 would be made of a copper-nickel alloy (or clad).
The act also provided for the gradual elimination of silver from circulating coins. Beginning in 1965, the silver content of dimes and quarters was reduced to 0%, while half dollars still contained 40% silver until 1971. From 1971 onwards, all circulating coins were made of a copper-nickel alloy.
The Coinage Act of 1965 had consequences for collectors. It meant that silver coins became increasingly rare and valuable, as they were no longer being produced for circulation. It also meant that the designs of coins changed, as the new copper-nickel coins were lighter in color than the silver coins they replaced.
Most Valuable Silver Quarters
So, all quarters produced between 1796 and 1964 had some silver content. But which are the most valuable? We’ve broken the silver quarters into categories based on design, taking a closer look at the most valuable silver quarters within each category based on auction records…
1796-1815: Draped Bust Quarter
The most valuable quarter within this time frame is the 1796 MS, type 1, small eagle quarter. One example fetched a staggering auction record of $174,000 in 2022!
1815-1838: Capped Bust Quarter
The 1827/3 original proof quarter from this category is the most valuable. The best known example of this coin fetched an incredible $705,000 at auction through Stacks & Bowers!
1838-1891: Liberty Seated Quarter
The 1839 Type 1, No Drapery, proof quarter from this time period is the most valuable. One amazing quarter of this kind raised a massive $517,500 at auction in 2008!
1892-1916: Barber Quarter
The 1901-S MS Barber quarter is the most valuable within this category. In 1990, one coin sold for an amazing $550,000 at auction!
1916-1930: Standing Liberty Quarter
The 1920-D MS Type 2a, Stars Below Eagle (Pedestal Date) quarter is the most valuable coin from this series. In 2021, one prime example sold for a big $372,000 at auction!
1932-1964: Washington Quarter
The 1932-D MS Type 1, Silver quarter from within the Washington quarter series is the most valuable. One coin sold for a total of $143,750 in 2008 at auction!
What Makes Silver Quarters Special?
Unlike modern quarters, which are made of a copper-nickel alloy, silver quarters contain 90% silver and 10% copper. This gives them a unique appearance and feel, and makes them much more valuable in melt weight compared to modern quarters.
Silver quarters were first minted in 1796, and they have been an important part of American currency for over 200 years. They were used to buy goods and services, and were a symbol of the United States’ economic power and stability.
While millions of silver quarters were minted over the years, their silver content made them susceptible to hoarding and melting. As a result, many silver quarters have been lost or destroyed over time, making them relatively rare and valuable.
Silver quarters are highly sought after by coin collectors, who value them for their historical significance, rarity, and beauty. Collectors often seek out specific dates and mint marks, and may pay a premium for coins in excellent condition.
Can I still use silver quarters to buy things?
No, silver quarters are no longer legal tender in the US so cannot be used to buy goods or services. However, they remain valuable as historical artifacts and collectible items.
Are there any other coins that contain silver?
Yes, dimes, half dollars, and dollars minted before 1971 contain silver.
How can I tell if a quarter is silver?
You can look at the edge of the coin. If it is silver, it will have a distinct silver color and lack the copper stripe that can be found on modern quarters. They are slightly lighter weight compared to modern quarters.
Why did the United States stop making silver coins?
The United States stopped making silver coins in order to preserve the silver supply for industrial use during World War II. Later, the Coinage Act of 1965 was passed to completely eliminate silver from circulating coins due to rising silver prices.
Are all silver quarters valuable?
Not all silver quarters are valuable, as their value depends on several factors, such as their rarity, condition, and historical significance. Some silver quarters may be worth only a few dollars, while others may be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
How should I store my silver quarters?
Silver quarters should be stored in a cool, dry place, and handled as little as possible to prevent damage. You can use coin holders or coin albums to protect your silver quarters, but you should avoid storing them in PVC or other materials that may damage the coin’s surface.