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1962 Washington Quarter Not to be Taken for Granted

A 1962 Washington quarter graded MS-67 by PCGS. (Images courtesy Heritage Auctions, www.ha.com)

Just when you think all the interest in quarters is centered on the 50 states and America the Beautiful quarters, along comes a coin like the 1962 Washington quarter – to which absolutely no one gave a second thought – with the sort of price jump that makes you realize you can take no coin for granted in the rare coin market.

Certainly, the 1962 has been easy to take for granted for many years. It was, after all, a Washington quarter. And where Washington quarters are concerned, about the only two dates that ever mattered to anyone were the 1932-D and 1932-S. They were the rare and valuable Washington quarters, or so the thinking went for many. It was especially true in the 1950s when people were collecting from circulation. You could find any Washington quarter date except the 1932-D and 1932-S.

Later, people realized there were a couple other pretty solid Washington quarter dates, especially in MS-65. The 1934-D was a pretty tough coin in top grade. Most dates from the 1930s from Denver especially but also San Francisco were not going to be easy or inexpensive in MS-65.

One date no one seemed to mention was the 1962. Actually, there were quite a few dates no one seemed to mention. But the 1962 was without a doubt one of the rarely, if ever, mentioned dates. It was natural as the 1962 had a mintage of 39,374,019 pieces which, compared to today, is a tough date. But this was 1962 and, compared to other dates of the period, 39 million pieces was not a mintage that got anyone very excited. The Philadelphia 1960 had been just over 30 million and the Philadelphia 1961 was very close to the 1962 at just over 40 million. The 1958 had been just over 7 million and the 1955-D was just over 3 million. Under the circumstances, the 1962 was not likely to get very many people excited.

In many minds, perhaps the only potential the 1962 Washington quarter might ever have was that it was a prime candidate for melting, and plenty of that took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A date like the 1962 could never hope to be worth more to a collector than it was worth as silver when silver was $50 an ounce. A few might have held out to keep a 1962 for their collection or a particularly nice one, but when silver is at a price of even say $40 by the coin, by the roll, by the bag, or in any quantity possible you just naturally sell things like 1962 Washington quarters.

Almost every Washington quarter date except the two keys, the 1932-D and 1932-S, are in basically the same boat as the 1962 in most circulated grades. When silver is $40 or $50 an ounce there are not many VF-20 or XF-40 Washington quarter dates that are not prime candidates to be melted. In uncirculated condition that changes some, but for many years the 1962 and a lot of other dates were still easily sold for their silver value as in uncirculated grades they were still nothing special and had a fairly limited opportunity for future price increases, or so it would have seemed to many.

Today, a 1962 Washington quarter is up to $8.50 for an MS-60 while an MS-65 is $26. Frankly, there is no way to explain the sudden change in the 1962 prices. One thing we do know is that in 1963 the mint set sales were about 150,000 sets more than in 1962 but in both cases they are still well under today. That could play a role as today when collectors and dealers want a 1962 in top grade they are suddenly having trouble locating one. Of course, if there are not many mint sets to break up and the uncirculated rolls were melted, which are two logical possibilities, finding a nice 1962 quarter will not get any easier in the future. 

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