Washington Quarter Overview
First minted almost 90 years ago, the Washington quarter is not only an essential piece of pocket change but is also a great series for beginning collectors.
The Washington quarter was created in 1932, despite the economic constraints imposed by the Great Depression, to celebrate the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. To that end, it was first intended as a limited-run, special-edition coin.
The Washington quarter replaced the rather unpopular Barber quarter with a design by John Flanagan. On the obverse we have the iconic profile bust portrait of Washington with the legend “LIBERTY” along the top, the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” to the left, and the year of mintage at the bottom.
The reverse face features a perched eagle with outspread wings in the center with the legends “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” above its head. Below the eagle is an olive branch, and at the bottom of the face is the denomination “QUARTER DOLLAR.”
The Washington quarter far outlasted its initial intention as a one-year mintage and was minted until 1998, when it was replaced by the Washington State quarter series. Over its long lifespan, its composition evolved, producing two types of quarters.
The first type, commonly called the silver type or silver composition, was 90% silver and 10% copper. This type was used until 1964, when a rise in silver prices prompted a change.The second type, called the clad composition, was struck from 1965 to 1998 and consisted of 91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel.
History of the 1960 Washington Quarter
In 1960 Washington quarters were struck only at Philadelphia and Denver. 63,000,324 were produced at Denver, while 30,855,302 were produced at Philadelphia, making for a sizable total mintage of over 93 million.
In accordance with the large production numbers, these issues remain relatively common up into Uncirculated grades. However, both are somewhat scarce in gem state, and even high-quality mint state examples can be tricky to find.
This is attributable primarily to the 1960s practice of selling Brilliant Uncirculated bags of quarters as an investment. Any time coins are bundled together in a bag, there is a risk of the coins getting scratched through contact with each other.
Thus, many mint state examples, though possessing high quality strikes and minimal wear, are marred by these “bag marks.” Gem specimens not displaying these marks are therefore very desirable.
As they were minted prior to 1965, this issue belongs to the first type of Washington quarter, meaning that it contains 90% silver. The coin’s diameter of 24.3 millimeters and mass of 6.25 grams are typical for the series.
Grading the Washington Quarter
As with any coin, what a Washington quarter is worth depends greatly on the grade or condition that it is in. Use the descriptions below as a guide to get an idea of what grade your coin might be. Also, keep in mind that each category has levels within it as well.
Good: Washington’s portrait has been worn down and made smooth by circulation, but the important details (eyes, nose mouth, ponytail) are still legible. The reverse rim may have blended into the lettering.
Fine: Large parts of the portrait have been smoothed out, especially the hair detail, but the hairline on the forehead can still be seen.
Extremely Fine: The elements are starting to show wear, but some of the hair detail is still visible. The cheeks and neck are somewhat smoothed out but still retain most of their contour.
Uncirculated: The coin looks new and untouched. Details on the portrait, especially the hair, are clearly visible. The coin will show a bright silver luster or a natural tone. No visible evidence of wear.
Valuing the 1960 Washington Quarter
Seeing as these coins are still fairly common in circulation today, their numismatic value is not typically very high. However, they are still often worth above face value, and the right specimen can bring a decent premium.
Because the 1960 issue contains a significant amount of silver, the minimum value for this coin should be its melt value, or how much it is worth to a precious metals dealer.
Based on the current price of silver, the melt value of the 1960 Washington quarter is around $2.78. This should be the same regardless of condition.
Good-4 to Extremely Fine-40 grades of this quarter are valued at $4.15. This is the likely value for an average specimen.
The value increases slightly to $4.97 in About Uncirculated-50. Lower Uncirculated (MS-60) coins are worth $6.07, and Brilliant Uncirculated (MS-65) coins are valued at $21. Proof strikes are worth around $9.
Coins graded MS-66 or higher can be worth hundreds or even thousands, but these are rare cases. If you think your coin may be of such an exceptional grade, consider having it professionally evaluated by a coin-grading service. However, this will only be worth the money and time if your coin is in very good condition.