For centuries, Spanish colonial coins circulated
in the Americas. The primary Spanish silver coin, the Eight
Reales, served as the model for the U.S. silver dollar as the Mint
Act of 1792 was being drafted, in terms of size and silver content.
Another Spanish coin, the smaller Two Reales, also called "two bits" in
vernacular, contained about 25 cents worth of silver and circulated
readily alongside the Eight Reales.
In 1796, the United States began minting the
Quarter dollar, with the
idea that it would replace the Two Reales coin. As was the
standard for all U.S. silver coins that year, the 1796 quarter carried
the Draped Bust design, as seen directly below. The reverse side
featured a small eagle atop a cloud.
A stunning example of the
1796 Draped Bust Quarter in MS-63 with beautiful toning appears on our home page.
While This Coin Was Minted...
The Lewis and Clark Expedition took place from May 1804 to
September 1806. Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their band
of explorers returned with important information about the U.S.
territory gained from the
Louisiana Purchase, including reports on the inhabitants of the
land, its rivers and mountains, plants and animals. The expedition made
a major contribution to mapping the North American continent. The
above is a painting by Charles M. Russell, depicting the expedition on
the Columbia River.
Public domain image.
For a while, however, the Two Reales won
out. Faced with perennial budgetary constraints, the fledgling
Mint decided that since the Two Reales already circulated in
appreciable quantities, there was no need to spend scarce resources to
make additional 25 cent coins. Consequently, no more quarters
were issued by the United States until 1804.
The 1804 Quarter featured the same Draped Bust design, but the reverse
was dominated by a larger eagle, with
the Great Seal of the United States emblazoned across its chest.
This "heraldic" eagle suggested power and strength, an image the
American people found more acceptable than its wimpy predecessor.
The final year of the Draped Bust Quarter was 1807, followed by an
eight year absence of quarter production.
The Capped Bust Quarter first appeared in
1815. Since it was the practice of the Mint that one design be
used for all coins of the same metal, it was predetermined the new
quarter would carry the Capped Bust design as did the Half Dollar,
which had been in production since 1807. Capped Bust Quarters
were minted until 1838.
The Draped Bust and Capped Bust designs together comprise what
numismatists call "Early Quarters". There are a number of
exceedingly rare dates which have long held the fascination of coin
collectors, and show great promise for generations to come. One
of them, the 1827, is so rare (maybe 20 or so are known to exist),
there is little chance for most coin collectors to actually own one,
unless you can afford to spend at least $40,000. The other Early
Quarter key dates are:
As is always true when searching rare coins for
sale, don't buy these
Early Quarters unless they've been certified by PCGS, NGC, ANACS, or
ICG, or are being sold by a reputable dealer.
Key date Early Quarters are offered for sale below as a US coin eBay
auction. The left hand side of each "Sales Box" is value trend
data over a very long period of time for the highlighted quarter in G-4
condition. The percent annual increase is computed for
comparative purposes. Bear in mind, these are genuinely rare
coins, so quite frequently, none are for sale at a given moment.
Keep checking back. The coin pictured for sale, if any, in
the right hand side is not necessarily the same condition coin as that
represented in the value trend analysis on left hand side
Draped Bust Quarter
|% Annual Increase
Dr Bust Quarter
|% Annual Increase
|% Annual Increase