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1921 SLQ tougher to find in lower grades

 Although its mintage was less than two million, other factors played a greater part in why the 1921 Standing Liberty quarter is tougher than expected. (Images courtesy

Although its mintage was less than two million, other factors played a greater part in why the 1921 Standing Liberty quarter is tougher than expected. (Images courtesy

There is an interesting story behind the current price of $130 for a 1921 Standing Liberty quarter in G4 condition. In fact, there are interesting considerations behind all prices for this coin.

We cannot honestly draw many conclusions from its total mintage of 1,916,000, as mintages of under two million were actually very routine for the Standing Liberty quarter. It is hard to know why; the best guess may be that the quarter did not have much commercial use at the time.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that by 1921, the Standing Liberty quarter had already had five dates with mintages below two million. In the years that followed, not counting the 1921 itself, there would be another eight dates with mintages of less than two million. As a result, the 1921 mintage would not cause it to be seen as especially tough.

What was unusual back in 1921, however, was the lack of 1921 quarter mintages from either San Francisco or Denver. The reason may simply be a lack of time. It must be remembered that 1921 was the year the United States resumed silver dollar production, with both Morgan and Peace dollars being produced that year.

This was an emergency situation, at least in the mind of Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, who was responding to the fact that just over 270 million silver dollars had been melted under the terms of the Pittman Act in 1918. While those silver dollar were not necessarily needed in commerce, they were needed as backing for Silver Certificates. The government had been forced to take out short-term notes that paid two percent interest, and to stop paying that interest, Mellon ordered emergency silver dollar production.

Mint shifts went from eight hours to 12 hours, which meant that day and night silver dollars were being produced at the expense of other denominations. That explained low mintages in 1921 and, in the case of 1921 quarters, no mintages at all from Denver and San Francisco.

With a mintage of just over 1.9 million, the 1921 Standing Liberty quarter was unlikely to be heavily saved. Of course, no quarter at the time was likely to be heavily saved, as there were not a lot of quarter collectors. It was just a higher denomination than many collectors could afford. There was even very little saving of the 1916 date despite the fact that it sported a new design and had a mintage of just 52,000 pieces.

This small saving of the 1921 explains its current price of $1,450 in MS60, $2,900 in MS65, and $5,500 in MS65 with Full Head. With its mintage, the 1921 could be called a better-date Standing Liberty quarter, but it is hardly a key date.

If, however, we go back to that $130 G4 price, the 1921 suddenly becomes a very expensive date. It is not even close to the price of the 1916 or the 1918/17-S overdate, but as regular dates go, it ranks behind only the 1923-S in price.

The reason for that surprising G4 price is the date. The date on any Standing Liberty quarter produced before 1925 was too high, meaning it would easily wear off. Steps were taken in that year to recess the date.

Anyone who examined coins in circulation during the 1950s could tell you that officials were not wrong to have done so. There were still a reasonable number of Standing Liberty quarters in circulation at that time, and a significant number of them had lost at least part of their date, while many had no date at all.

Based on prices today, we can conclude that the two dates suffering the heaviest losses were the 1923-S and the 1921. There is probably not any one special reason why, because wear had to be random. Of course, these dates started with fairly low mintages.

Whatever the reason, the 1921 is a date that is much tougher in lower grades than its mintage would suggest.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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