The 1932-S Washington quarter can easily be considered half of a pair of twin key dates. For decades, the 1932-D and 1932-S were priced at the same levels in most grades. It’s still that way today, at least in G-4 condition, where they are currently listed at $115 and $125, respectively.
There has recently been a definite increase in interest in Washington quarters. Over the same period of time, there has also been more study of the 1932-S and 1932-D. As a result, the 1932-S has fallen further and further behind the 1932-D in price in top grades.
On paper, this might seem a little unusual, since the 1932-S (at 408,000) actually had a slightly lower mintage than the 1932-D (at 436,800). With both being produced at the same time under basically the same circumstances, it would seem likely for the 1932-S to be the slightly more expensive of the two, but this is not the way things have worked out.
Back at the time of their release, the 1932-S and 1932-D Washington quarters had some conflicting factors at work. It might just be the case that those factors worked differently on the two low-mintage dates.
The first examples of a new design are usually saved in slightly greater numbers than are the following years. For example, there are more Mint State 1838 Seated Liberty quarters than there are 1839s, even though the latter probably had a larger mintage. This is just a pattern that gets repeated over and over.
However, the situation surrounding release of the 1932 Washington quarter may be slightly different. There was some confusion over whether the new quarter was a regular circulating coin or a commemorative, which certainly was not helped by no quarter mintages in 1933.
The real issue, however, was the economy. The quarter was a higher denomination than many would have collected at the time, and the Great Depression made it even less likely for anyone to save extra quarters.
Maybe things were a little better around San Francisco than they were around Denver, or maybe there were more San Francisco area collectors. Over the years, there have been a few accumulations of 1932-D and 1932-S quarters. When such groups have been found, the majority of coins are almost always 1932-S examples.
It’s certainly not a case where the 1932-S is common. Today, it lists for $465 in MS-60 and $4,000 in MS-65. But the 1932-D is $1,150 in MS-60 and $12,500 in MS-65. In fact, the two dates really part ways in terms of price in any grade above VF-20, where they are still just $15 apart.
The differences in price are supported by population reports. The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has seen 74 examples of the 1932-S in MS-65 and six more in MS-66 but only 23 examples of the 1932-D in MS-65 and one in MS-65. The Professional Coin Grading Service has seen 176 examples of the 1932-S in MS-65 and four more in MS-66 but only 86 examples of the 1932-D in MS-65 and two more in MS-66.
While one could question whether the big price differences seen today are justified, it is certain that the 1932-S Washington quarter is more available than the 1932-D, at least in MS-65 condition. Although twins in lower grades, the 1932-S definitely takes a back seat to the 1932-D in top grades.
Of course, while not as tough as the 1932-D, the 1932-S is still one of the best Washington quarters in any grade.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
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