Capped Bust Quarters (1815-1838)

The third major design type of twenty-five cent piece was not introduced until 1815, when John Reich’s capped bust design debuted on the quarter. On account of low demand for the denomination, capped bust quarters were produced intermittently, with none minted in 1816, 1817, 1829 or 1830. Mintages were generally much smaller than for the capped bust fifty-cent pieces, by a 10 to 1 ratio. Only one year of capped bust quarter, 1835, had a mintage over one million. Most of the earlier years saw mintages below 200,000, while the 1830s saw mintages averaging slightly above 300,000. Mint state quarters before 1831 are rare. High-grade examples of any early quarter are scarce and very sought-after. 

All capped bust quarters were minted at Philadelphia. The coins dated 1828 and before are 27 millimeters in diameter, made with an open collar. Their edges are reeded, and their reverse design features a ribbon above the eagle, bearing the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. Advances in minting technology resulted in a modified design starting in 1831. The modified design was adapted by Chief Engraver William Kneass, after Reich’s original. These ‘small-size’ coins are 24.3 millimeters in diameter, and were made in a closed collar, with smaller denticles and finer edge reeds. Rare dates include 1823/2 and 1827. Only about 30 of the 1823/2 are known to exist, while the 1827/3 is a famous rarity that survives in about a dozen original examples. There are numerous varieties within the series, some rare. Varieties of the type are cataloged and collected by “B-” numbers, a reference to Ard W. Browning’s The Early Quarter Dollars of The United States, first published in 1925 and still a standard reference on the series.


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