Washington Quarter Overview
The Washington quarter is a quintessential piece of American coinage, and its commonality makes it a great series for beginning collectors.
The Washington quarter first saw mintage in 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression. Because of the economic crisis, there was little demand for new quarter dollar pieces, but as the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth approached, the Mint decided to go ahead with the creation of a new coin.
Originally intended as a one-year special mintage, the Washington quarter was designed by John Flanagan. The iconic obverse design features a profile bust portrait of Washington, and at the top of the coin is the word “LIBERTY.” The motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” appears in the left field, and the year of mintage is below Washington’s head.
The reverse, hardly less iconic, displays a perched eagle with spread wings in the center. Along the upper rim are the legend “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” Below the eagle is an olive branch and the denomination “QUARTER DOLLAR.”
The composition of the Washington quarter is commonly divided into two types: the silver type and the clad type. The silver type was minted from 1932 to 1964 and consisted of 90% silver and 10% copper.
The clad type was instituted in 1965 in response to a spike in the price of silver. This new composition was 91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel.
This clad type was used from 1965 to 1998, when Washington quarters were replaced with the Washington State quarter series, which used a slightly modified version of Flanagan’s obverse design.
For more information on quarters, check out our Ultimate Guide to Rare Quarters.
History of the 1953 Washington Quarter
1953 was a rather prolific year for the Washington quarter, with almost 90 million coins struck across three mints.
The Denver Mint was responsible for producing the majority, having struck 56,112,400 quarters in 1953. Next is Philadelphia, where 18,664,920 quarters were minted. Lastly, San Francisco produced 14,016,000 quarters.
Unfortunately this year is typical for the decade, meaning that on the whole, quarters from this year exhibit low strike quality. The culprit is likely overused dies, which often result in blurred design elements.
San Francisco and Denver mintages are more likely to show higher quality strikes, but high quality specimens are still scarce, and Denver coins in particular tend to show contact marks.
A number of major varieties are known, however, including a doubled-die reverse and several repunched mint mark varieties (one of which has been repunched twice). One extremely rare variety (only one specimen has been identified) features hand-engraved feather detail on the reverse face.
Thus, what this issue lacks in strike quality it makes up for in collectible varieties!
As for composition, the 1953 quarter belongs to the silver type, and its mass of 6.25 grams and diameter of 24.3 millimeter are typical for the series.
Valuing the 1953 Washington Quarter
Overall, this issue is still reasonably common today, so the value tends to be on the lower side. Nevertheless, even lower grades are worth well above face value, and high quality specimens may fetch very high premiums.
The minimum value for this coin is typically its melt value, or what the silver content is worth to a precious metals dealer. Based on the current price of silver, the melt value of a 1953 quarter is around $2.81.
The numismatic value (what the coin is worth to a collector) is almost always higher than the melt value for these coins.
In this case, what mint mark is present on the quarter does not make much difference in terms of value outside of the highest grades.
Good-4 to Very Fine-12 grades are valued at $4.16, and Extremely Fine-20 specimens are worth from $4.16 to $4.74. This should be taken as the average range of value. About Uncirculated-50 coins are worth $5.00, and Uncirculated (MS-60) examples are worth $6.10.
MS-65 coins may be worth between $34 and $41. Grades higher than this (which are very rare for this coin) may be worth hundreds or even thousands due to the majority of this issue having such poor strike quality. MS-67 examples are valued at $625, and an MS-68 specimen sold auction in 2016 for $2,115!