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1899-S quarter surprises in upper grades


It?s easy to get lost in the world of Barber quarters. It?s a case where the Barber quarter has not one key or two, but rather three, and in addition, there are a large number of other better dates as well, and that makes it almost impossible for some dates to stand out.

The 1899-S is one of those better dates that gets no attention despite having a below-average mintage and few examples in Mint State.

The 1899-S has a lot going for it, but compared to the famous 1901-S and nearly equally famous 1913-S, or the rising star in the form of the 1896-S, the 1899-S just seemingly is not in the same group.

What you have with the 1899-S is a Barber quarter with a mintage of 708,000. Normally speaking, that sort of mintage would stand out, but not with Barber quarters, with two under 100,000 and another under 200,000.
In 1899, there were not that many people who cared about the mintage of the 1899-S, as the Barber quarter was not heavily collected. It was partly because there were not a lot of people in 1899 who could afford quarter collections.

What happened to the already small mintage of the 1899-S is that some were sent to the Philippines, along with numbers of 1898-S and 1900-S Barber coins of all denominations. We know this because significant numbers returned to the United States, usually in extra fine or almost uncirculated condition and cleaned.

It is impossible to determine what numbers of every date involved were sent to the Philippines, or even what numbers returned and in what grades.
If an 1899-S did return from its trip to the Philippines without damage or other problems, and in XF or AU, it would be one of relatively few to be found today in those grades.

For the average 1899-S Barber quarter, there was no long trip to the Philippines. Rather it was used over and over again for decades, with the likely fate of many being that they would become so worn that they would be retired and destroyed, as even after decades of wear, there was still no significant demand for Barber quarters from collectors.

Under the circumstances, we do not have a good idea as to the supplies of the 1899-S in any grade. In G-4, it lists for just $17, and that seems cheap, but with minimal demand it may be a fair price, although any time you can get a coin with a mintage of just over 700,000 for under $20, you have to feel you are getting a good deal.

The story of the 1899-S gets very interesting in Mint State, where it would naturally be very tough. We would suspect that the current MS-60 price of $440 and MS-65 listing of $3,800 would probably end up seeming low.

The world is full of surprises and the grading services provide one with the 1899-S, as at Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, there have been 27 examples of the 1899-S in MS-65 or better, with some being MS-67. Those numbers are not high, but for a low-mintage Barber quarter, they are surprising.

At the Professional Coin Grading Service it is similar, with 33 examples of the 1899-S called Mint State and 14 graded MS-65 or better up to the MS-67.
There is no good way to explain why the 1899-S is so seemingly attainable in Mint State. What is really surprising is that there are a few truly extraordinary examples. Barber quarter collectors are the beneficiaries.