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Barber Quarter (1892-1916)

The 1890’s were a major period of transition for the United States of America. The country was rife with an economic depression and unions were attempting to find their role in the new industrial society. Major events and developments were unfolding in the areas of industry, art, music, culture, and politics. This was, in every sense of the word, a stepping stone from the world of the 19th century to the world of the 20th. This is the era that barber quartercreated the Barber Quarter.

The Barber Quarter is noted for being one of the few coins in American history that is referred to by its designer. Typically, a Quarter or other coin will be called by the figure that appears on it or other indications on the design itself. The Barber Quarter acts as a notable exception to this rule, which makes it a fascinating quarter in and of itself. The reason the coin is named after Charles Barber has a great deal due to controversies surrounding the man rather than the actual design.

On the Barber Quarter, Liberty is depicted as facing rightward. Her hair is tied at the back of her neck in a ribbon and she is wearing a cap. Above her is engraved the phrase ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ and below her the date is displayed. On both sides of her there are stars, adding up to thirteen and symbolizing the original thirteen colonies of America. At the base of the neck is Barber’s initial, ‘B’. On the reverse side, there is the classic reverse depiction of an eagle with outstretched wings and grasping an olive branch and arrows. Clutched in the eagle’s peak is a ribbon which bears the phrase ‘E PLURIBUS UNUM’.

No year of the series can be called particularly rare, but there is generally difficulty in locating 1901 additions. Additionally, 1896 and 1913 can be somewhat challenging to track down, but several more dedicated collectors have been able to find them.. Over the run of the entire series, almost 265 million coins were minted. When grading Barber Quarters, it’s important to look at marks and scratches (particularly on Liberty’s face). These become more noticeable in the cheek, forehead, and hair areas and those should be examined the most closely. Liberty’s cap is also one of the most clear makers for sign of wear and degraded quality. The tail, wing tips, and head of the eagle on the reverse side of the Quarter also tend to show wear the most clearly and quickly of anything on that side.

After being in circulation for 25 years, in 1916 there was a competition to replace the design of the Barber Quarter. Ultimately the contest succeeded and in the same year the Barber Quarter was replaced by a new design. That said, the Barber Quarter still continued to circulate well past this date and into the 1950’s. This is due to the strength and longevity of the design and materials used for this coin, which has helped with maintaining its quality to the present day.

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