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Low demand keeps quarter prices at bay

The 1914-S Barber quarter is simply an entertaining coin. It lends itself to comparisons and all sorts of questions that make it a great deal of fun to consider and a very good coin to own.

Barber quarters were not heavily collected because quarters were just too expensive for most at the time. Even if Barber quarters had been saved, it is unlikely that many would have saved an extra example of the 1914-S. While it had a very low mintage of 264,000 pieces, it was far below the previous year’s San Francisco quarter that had a mintage of just 40,000. Anyone given a choice between the two was going to select the 1913-S. So the 1914-S went into circulation, and in most cases it stayed in circulation for a very long time.

In the 1990s Littleton Coin Company purchased what they called the “New York Subway Hoard.” The hoard was begun in the 1940s by an employee of the New York Transit Authority and included key dates pulled from circulation in the change of the New York Subway. This would have started more than 25 years after the 1914-S was produced. Its hoard total of 40 pieces was twice the total of the 1913-S and other top dates of the period.

The situation results in today’s G-4 price of $70 for the 1914-S, and that is up from $50 in 1998. This is a decent increase, although the key date Barber quarters like the 1901-S, 1913-S and even the 1896-S have all produced better gains in G-4. This may mean that the supply of the 1914-S while limited is still not being threatened in the same way as the even smaller supplies of the key dates. That would be natural since collector numbers are limited. Also, because the 1901-S and 1913-S are so famous they have an added demand from people who want those rare dates but are not collecting Barber quarters.

The 1914-S is currently priced at $940 in MS-60 and $3,550 in MS-65. As in G-4 the prices are up, but not dramatically so since 1998. The demand for Barber quarters even in Mint State is minimal. The identical mintage 1916-D Mercury dime is $1,050 in G-4 and $26,500 in MS-65. This demonstrates the difference in demand.

Mint State grading service totals provide additional proof that the 1914-S was not saved. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation reports just 14 examples in MS-65 and above, while the Mint State total in all grades is at 36 pieces. Professional Coin Grading Service similarly reports a Mint State total of 48 pieces, of which 13 were called MS-65 or better.

The totals suggest that the 1914-S could move to much higher prices, but for now it is the lack of demand that is keeping prices modest. If that demand were to ever change, the 1914-S could easily be seen at much higher levels. For now, however, it remains a very interesting date but one that is under the big shadows of other key Barber quarters.

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