The 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter Dollar

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Posted by: John Roberts, on 6/1/2007, in category "Grading and Authentication"
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Abstract: A look at a popular key date coin with some tips on authentication.

1916 Standing Liberty Quarter Dollar
Efforts to make America’s everyday coinage more artistically appealing reached a peak in 1916 with the introduction of the Mercury Dime, the Walking Liberty Half Dollar and the Standing Liberty Quarter. Struck in the final weeks of December and released in January of the new year, the 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter has one of the lowest mintages of any 20th century coin issued for actual circulation with 52,000 pieces. While they are not of the rarity that the date is often purported to possess, the 1916 is a key date in a popularly collected series and no set of Standing Liberty Quarters may be considered complete without an example. The coin has a long history of strong demand and even stronger prices. Retail pricing information may be found in the latest edition of A Guide Book of United States Coins available at
     Photograph courtesy of Stack’s Rare Coins from their sale of the Norweb Collection
Hermon MacNeil’s design features the Goddess of Liberty standing within a portal or gateway. Her left arm presents a shield and her gaze is fixed to the east, some would theorize toward a war torn Europe. Her right hand holds an olive branch emblematic of America’s desire for peace. With the influence of the “Art Nouveau” style and her right breast showing, much has been made of the partial nudity exhibited in this obverse. The design was changed part-way thru 1917 with Liberty now clothed in chain mail armor. The reverse portrays a Bald Eagle in full flight, its wings in mid-stroke. Thirteen stars surround the eagle, with seven to its left and six to the right. The reverse design was also slightly modified with the introduction of the 1917 Type II issue. The eagle in this version is surrounded by five stars to the left, five to the right and three stars below it.
Both the 1916 and early 1917 quarters are commonly referred to as Type I. While they share the same reverse design, there are subtle yet important differences between the obverse designs used for the two years. These features allow numismatists to identify examples of each year even when the date has completely worn off of an example. They also aid in the detection of altered dates. Images of pieces with considerable circulation wear will highlight these important details.
              1916                               1917 Type I
 Note the shallow curve of the base of        Distinct “J” shaped fold with well rounded
  the gown to the left of Liberty’s leg.         curve clearly separated from ankle, passes
      The gown is near her ankle.                  behind Liberty’s right leg about mid-calf.
 Note beads and line above Liberty’s head.      Two strong beads on either side of line
 One strong and one weak bead on either        which is clearly separated from the top
 side of indistinct line above Liberty’s head.     of her head. The end of the curl behind
 Blunt end on curl of hair behind Liberty’s       her head tapers, with a raised hair strand
  head with an incuse line above the curl.              visible above the primary curl.
Type II pieces have a completely different hair style with
 a bun that turns downward at the back of Liberty’s head.

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