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The History of the 1955-D Washington Quarter

Making the case for why this coin should be worth more than its current prices.
Images courtesy

Images courtesy

There is nothing that proves conclusively that the 1955-D Washington quarter should be worth more than its current $10 MS-60 and $42 MS-65 prices. While there may be nothing to prove that it should cost more, there is certainly ample reason to speculate that it seems like a date that just might go up to higher values.

Let’s start with the fact that the 1955-D Washington quarter was a coin with a low mintage but also a coin that was probably overlooked at the time. It was, after all, 1955, and that was a very busy year for coin collectors and dealers.

If you had been trying to decide what coin to save at the time, you might have had a terrible time. Almost every issue seemed full of potential. You started with the 1955-S cent and dime. They were together because they were supposed to be the final two coins to be produced at the San Francisco Mint. As it turned out, the 1955-S cent was the lowest-mintage cent since the 1930s, and the 1955-S dime had a mintage of less than 20 million, so we had two historic and low-mintage issues from San Francisco.

The dime situation went further. Although the 1955-S was low-mintage, the 1955 and 1955-D were even lower. In fact, on a list of low-mintage dimes, they were ranked as the lowest and third-lowest mintage Roosevelt dimes. That certainly seemed like good enough reason to save a roll or two of each of those dimes.

But it didn’t stop there. The 1955 nickel had a mintage of just 8,266,200, and the 1955 Franklin half dollar had a mintage of just 2,876,381. Those too had to be of interest. However, as good as all those dates were, they were completely overshadowed by the famous 1955 doubled die obverse Lincoln cent.

Under the circumstances, it was hard for the 1955-D Washington quarter to even get noticed. Of course, with a mintage of just 3,182,400, a few had to notice, but not many. The Washington quarter was not heavily collected at the time because, like the Franklin half dollar, for most of the nation’s younger collectors it was simply too much money. That influenced dealers: if they sensed no market for a coin, they too were not going to save many.

There is no good way to tell how many examples of the 1955-D might have been saved. However, after a few years, the owners of any examples might have regretted their decision; the 1955-D was not exactly soaring in price. Of course, if someone really wanted a 1955-D, there had been almost 50,000 mint sets sold, so there were options.

In fact, with virtually no collectors, there was no reason for the 1955-D to soar in price except for its low mintage and being from 1955. But that would not have impressed many people. As a result, very few examples would have been saved until all would have been pulled from circulation after 1964, when silver was removed from the quarter.

Of course, the vast majority of the 1955-D quarters saved were circulated. But when silver rose to $50 per ounce in early 1980, it mattered little for any 1955-D whether circulated or Mint State was worth more melted than they were worth to a collector. That may sound odd, but at $10 for an MS-60 today, a 1955-D would be worth more melted if the price of silver was $50.

How many nice Mint State examples of the 1955-D were lost is anyone’s guess. The price increase over the years is interesting because, realistically, the 1955-D is not graded enough to determine if it is tougher in upper grades. It’s not graded simply because the price is not high enough. So even if the MS-65 totals are low, which they are, you cannot really draw a conclusion because the suspicion has to be that most were not graded.

The feeling has to be that current prices are a good deal on a melted date that had a mintage barely over 3 million. In fact, that is the feeling across the board as the 1955-D simply seems better than the prices suggest today.