Guide to U.S. Draped Bust Quarters
The Draped Bust Quarter represented the first series of quarter dollars struck within the United States. The series was produced with two distinct reverse designs, creating two different subtypes. The first subtype was issued for only a single year in 1796. After a gap in production, the second subtype was issued from 1804 to 1807. During the brief duration of the series, only a limited number of coins were produced, with both the 1796 and 1804 dates representing important rarities.
The United States Mint would strike the first quarters four years after the denomination had been authorized under the Coinage Act of 1792. This was due to the limited demand for the denomination within the American monetary system at that time. The quarter dollar was too large for everyday commerce, as most transactions were conducted in cents and other small denominations. Additionally, the quarter dollar was too small for silver depositors, as they usually requested half dollars and silver dollars, which were more convenient. Most transactions between banks and companies were conducted in larger denominations as well, resulting in limited use cases for the quarter.
The Draped Bust Quarter was designed by Robert Scot, who is credited with the designs of other early American coins. The silver denominations which had been introduced in 1794 and 1795 featured the head of Liberty with flowing hair. The quarter dollars introduced in 1796 featured what was seen as an improvement to that design. The full bust of Liberty is depicted, older in appearance and facing right. Her hair is still flowing, but closer to her neck and loosely bound by a ribbon. The portrait is surrounded by fifteen stars, representing each of the states in the Union at the time. The date, slightly curved, appears below along the rim. For the second subtype, the number of stars on the obverse would be reduced to thirteen.
The original reverse design features the same design that had been introduced on the half dollars and silver dollars of 1794. A small eagle appears standing on a bank of clouds with wings spread, surrounded by a wreath bound by a ribbon at the base. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA appears around the periphery of the coin. No denomination is given, as was the case with many other early American coins.
The second reverse design was introduced in 1804 and used for the duration of the series. A heraldic eagle appears at center with its wings spread and a shield at its breast. The eagle’s talons separately hold an olive branch and a bundle of arrows, and the eagle’s beak holds a ribbon inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM. An arc of clouds appears above the eagle, enclosing an arrangement of thirteen stars. The inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the denomination expressed as “25 C.” surround the image.