1956 Washington Quarter: Using Proof Dies To Make Business Strikes

One of the most recognizable coins in modern US history, the Washington quarter finds a home in many people’s collections. With the introduction of the state and national park series to the Washington quarter, the series has seen many new collectors enter the marketplace.

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John Flanagan was responsible for the creation of the original Washington Quarter design in 1932. This same year, Flanagan’s design would be put into production and would continue to be produced until 1999 when the state quarter series would begin. Flanagan’s bust of George Washington would be slightly changed over the years to help increase detail and decrease the size.

On the obverse, a bust of George Washington is centered and facing left. The motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” can be found just underneath and slightly to the left of the bust of Washington. “LIBERTY” can be found centered above, and the date of mintage can be found below Washington’s bust.

The reverse design is very similar to other US coins and features an American bald eagle with outstretched wings and arrows in its talons. The mottos “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” can be found just above the tips of the eagle’s wings. “QUARTER DOLLAR” can be found centered at the bottom and is expressive of the coin’s denomination.

If you would like to learn more about collecting all types of quarters, including the Washington quarter, please read our Ultimate Guide To Rare Quarters.

History of the 1956 Washington Quarter

There was an increase in mintage early in the 1950s to help keep up with the demand of the general populace. A reduction in mintage happened in 1955, leading to a increase in production during 1956.

The Philadelphia Mint reports striking 44,144,000 examples of the Washington quarter dated 1956. Other US mints did strike the 1956 Washington quarter but at a much lower rate. In this article, only the Philadelphia Mint–produced 1956 Washington quarter will be discussed.

Washington quarters minted from 1932 till 1964 were created with 90% silver and 10% copper. The diameter measured 24.3 mm and weighed 6.25 grams. The edges of all Washington quarters are reeded.

Striking Business Coinage with Used Proof Dies

In today’s day and age of large government deficits and high spending, it may seem strange that the US Mint began reusing used proof dies to strike business coinage in 1956. Striking regular coins meant for circulation with used proof dies may seem somewhat unusual, but it has become common practice.

Because proof dies normally have the same design as the regular business dies, no changes in design are normally observed. The only real difference is that the proof dies receive more polishing, which creates a mirrored-like image.

Once this polishing is removed, the proof dies are essentially useless for the production of proof coins as they will no longer have the same premium mirrored finish. Instead of throwing away these dies, they were then used in regular coinage production.

The only difference that was detected between regular dies and used proof dies for the 1956 Washington quarter was the slight separation between the “ES” in “STATES.” Apart from this small difference, all the coins produced using used proof dies were almost exactly the same as the coins produced from business dies.

Valuing the 1956 Washington Quarter

It is noted that many premium uncirculated rolls were being traded and saved in the 1950s by coin dealers and collectors. This has led to the survival of many 1956 Washington quarters in grades that are above MS-65. Even in the lowest grades, silver Washington quarters are still worth their silver value (worth $3 at the time of this writing).

Because of the large number of 1956 Washington quarters that are still in high grades, those that are below Mint condition are only worth about $4.50. Coins in these grade are far more plentiful than those of higher grades, which makes their value fall just above melt price.

Uncirculated examples see the largest price increases between grades. MS-60 graded examples only realize a price of $8.25. A three-point upgrade to MS-63 only increases in price by $1.50 for a price of $9.75. The price jumps to $25 for those examples that are graded MS-65.

Higher graded coins exist and are still relatively common compared to other dates in the series. MS-67 examples sell for about $225, while MS-67+ go for around $650.

Overall, the 1956 Washington quarter is one of the most common coins in the series and can be found in high grades for much lower prices than many other of similar years.

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