This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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The 1913-S Barber quarter is certainly a special date, as would be expected with a mintage of just 40,000. These 40,000 coins were released into circulation at a time when very few were collecting Barber quarters. That meant very little saving.
If today a silver coin was announced to have a mintage of 40,000, people would scramble to acquire examples at almost any price. That was not the case in 1913. In part it was because the mintage was not very likely to produce higher prices. After all, there had been any number of dates of assorted denominations in the 1880s that had even lower totals. In addition, the 1901-S Barber quarter had been below 100,000 and the 1916 Standing Liberty quarter would be just 52,000, while any number of Barber half dollars would be below 200,000. Under these circumstances, the 1913-S might have looked good but probably not great.
2011 U.S. Coin Digest: Quarters
It also must be considered that not many people collected Barber quarters. In fact, not many collected Barber coins of any denomination. The Barber designs had not inspired many to start a collection. The high face values entered the picture as well. Even if some did collect at the time, they would have been most likely to collect by date only.
Another factor worth noting is that at the time dealers were also not prone to save new issues, even if they appeared to have promise. The coins could easily be found in circulation, even if they were low mintage.
The proof that the 1913-S was in circulation and not saved in hoards early on can be found in the “New York Subway Hoard” purchased by the Littleton Coin Company in the 1990s. The 1913-S was found in the hoard among other key dates plucked from the change of the New York Transit Authority starting in the 1940s. There were 20 examples of the 1913-S in the hoard. It must be remembered this hoard was not even started until the 1913-S had been in circulation for almost three decades.
Historically speaking, it has been natural to compare the two low mintage Barber quarters: the 1901-S and the 1913-S. The 1901-S has always been more expensive. The 1901-S was $1,750 in G-4 back in 1998, and at the time the 1913-S was $415 in the same grade.
Today the 1901-S is up to $6,250 while the 1913-S is at $1,850. In MS-60 the 1901-S is $40,000 while the 1913-S is at $15,000 In MS-65 the 1901-S is $82,500 while the 1913-S is $37,500.
The prices do not seem right since the 1901-S had the higher mintage. For some reason, the 1901-S has always been in shorter supply. In the New York Subway Hoard, there were 20 examples of the 1913-S but only eight of the 1901-S.
While the 1913-S may not dethrone the 1901-S, it still looks to be a very good buy at today’s levels. If you want to spend your money wisely in Barber quarters, the 1913-S looks like the coin to own.