Standing Liberty Quarters (1916-1930)
Often considered one of the most beautiful American coin designs, the standing Liberty twenty-five-cent piece was first made in 1916, and was produced until 1930. Coins were made at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. Hermon A. MacNeil designed the coin. His initial “M” appears on the obverse, above and to the right of the date. The obverse design features Liberty holding an olive branch and shield while passing through a gate. This is widely taken to symbolize the United States’ newfound role in world affairs, on the eve of entering the First World War.
Mintmarks, when present, are found just above and left of the date. No coins were produced dated 1922. There are two rare coins within the series: the 1916 (mintage of only 52,000 coins) and the 1918/7-S, a rare overdate with an unknown but very small number made. Coins dated 1921 and 1923-S are scarce. Well-worn coins with visible dates are usually dated 1925 and after. Earlier-dated worn coins with fully legible dates are uncommon. Coins from 1917 and 1930 are the most often available in excellent condition, as they were saved for novelties.
The coin comes in three types. The 1916 and some 1917 dated coins are known as “Type 1” coins. The obverse depicts a figure of Liberty with a bare breast, while the reverse depicts an eagle flying rightward, with no stars below. This “Type 1” design was an unauthorized modification of Hermon MacNeil’s original design as submitted and approved in 1916. Mint staff had made numerous changes to the design, without MacNeil's knowledge or approval. Seeing the result in January of 1917, the sculptor was decidedly unhappy. He petitioned the Mint to modify his own design. This request was eventually granted, but rather than return to his prior conception, he changed the design in a number of new ways.
The results of this redesign were the “Type 2” coins, produced from summer of 1917 through 1924, and featuring numerous slight modifications from the "Type 1" rendition. The most obvious of these modifications was the covering of Liberty’s breast with a shirt of chain mail, symbolizing preparedness in the face of war. The stars on the reverse were re-arranged, with three stars now directly below the flying eagle.
Both “Type 1” and “Type 2” designs were especially susceptible to wear in the area of the coin’s date. Within just a few years, it became clear that worn-away dates were a problem & design flaw. The solution was a subtle design modification. Starting in 1925, the date is placed within a slight recess, protecting it from wear. Some collectors consider this modified design a separate type, called “Type 3.” Others don’t consider this a separate type, but as a minor modification of the “Type 2” design.