Quarters are fun to collect because they’re so easily available. Their face value is 25 cents or a quarter of a dollar. That’s how they got their nickname. A regular quarter is clad with a 1/3 cupronickel alloy (75% copper + 25% nickel) over a pure copper core. But how much is a 1776 to 1976 quarter dollar worth? The most valuable one sold for close to $20,000 in 2019!
All About 1776 to 1976 Quarters
Typically, coins have one year marked on the front, and it’s usually the year when the coin was minted. Sometimes, it’s the year when the coin entered circulation, even though it may have been minted the year before. But the 1776 to 1976 coin is different because it has two years on the front. Also, while some of the coins were made in 1975, that year never appears.
1776 to 1976 quarter dollars are commonly known as bicentennial quarters or drummer boy quarters. They were minted to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of signing the Declaration of Independence. At the time, they were a popular treat for your favorite coin collector. So while over a billion were minted, lots of people stashed them away for future profit-making.
The 1776 to 1976 quarter has George Washington on the obverse (that’s the heads side). The bicentennial reverse (that’s the tails side) has the drummer boy, victory torch, and 13 stars, but that design has changed several times since 1998. Importantly, while these quarters are marked 1776 to 1976, all the coins were minted between 1975 and 1976. The four styles were:
- Clad Circulated – For Regular Public Use
- Clad Proof – Cupronickel for Collectors
- Silver Proof – With 40% Silver for Collectors
- Silver Uncirculated – With 40% Silver for Collectors
The bulk of these coins bore a D mark for Denver or no mark at all for Philadelphia. The lowest mintage was from San Francisco, so bicentennial quarters with the S mark are priced higher than Denver and Philadelphia. The original Washington quarter (1932 to 1964) was about 90% silver, and the ‘Johnson Sandwich’ style started in 1964 due to rising silver prices.
For reference, that Johnson is Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th US President. In older sources, you might see a quarter referred to as two bits. It was a common moniker because back then, people routinely used Spanish Dollars aka a Piece of 8. These dollars were typically cut into 8 wedges (or 8 bits) for easier trading, though it’s an awfully aggressive way to make change!
Two bits make a quarter, hence the nickname. And in 1973, the US Mint ran a contest to redesign commemorative coins – a quarter, 50c, and a dollar. Jack L. Ahr designed the winning military drummer on the reverse of the coin, so the coins bear his initials, JLA. Mint marks generally appear on the obverse. The D quarter (Denver minted) is the most common.
Bicentennial Coinage Errors and Varieties
If you’ve spent any time in the reselling space, you know coin errors can be worth big bucks. But that depends entirely on the type and frequency of the mistake. First, let’s distinguish errors and varieties. An error is a flaw on a single coin, while a variety is an error on the die, meaning any batch coined with that die has the same blunder. They could reach thousands!
Die errors are described using O for obverse and R for reverse, and you can find them in doubles, triples, or even quadruples, so you may spot a DDO, TDO, or QDO for double die, triple die, or quadruple die. On these coins, the dates, mint marks, or images might appear doubled or tripled, with overlapping borders. You might also find double-struck coin errors.
These occur when a single coin is stamped twice, so you may find an S mint mark on top of a D mint mark, or half an image over another image. Double-struck coins come from operator error while double, triple, and quadruple die errors are from faulty machinery. Dies with cracks can transfer their blemish onto coins, like the Wounded Eagle on some Sacagaweas.
Another error you might bump into is the double-denomination error. This is when a coin is minted in the wrong size. It could be a quarter coin that’s the diameter of a dollar coin, and the base could be either a blank or an existing recycled coin. This error can cause dual dates or additional mint marks on the coin. Below are some verified 1776 to 1976 errors and varieties:
- DDO – Double die obverse
- Quarter struck on a 10c blank
- Quarter struck on a 5c blank
- Quarter struck on a 1c blank
- Quarters struck on half dollars
- Quarter overstruck on a 1969 S 1c coin
- Broadstrike i.e. struck outside the collar or rim
- 10% off-center strike i.e. the image is a little to the side
- Strikethrough i.e. some features on the coin are smudged e.g. by a sleeve
We’ve mentioned blanks above. These are the unmarked metal bases (aka planchets) that make coins. When you’re looking at errors, check popular numismatic websites to be sure. Why? The market has such high demand for coinage mistakes that an industry has sprung up to fake them! If you don’t do your research, you might pay for worthless counterfeit errors.
On average, a 1776 to 1976 quarter is worth 25c to $5 based on face value. The silver versions cost more because silver is about $18 per ounce while copper is only 20c per ounce at the time of writing. But with errors and premium grading, that purchase price shoots up. As a beginner, you’ll probably be attracted to shiny proof coins, assuming they’re worth more.
But proof coins rarely sell for more than $200. Proofs coins weren’t intended for circulation, and the melt value of silver has dropped over the years. So you might earn more from mint state clad quarters than silver proofs. Also, here’s a bit of trivia. That military drummer on the back of the coin? Colonial drummer boys (and girls) were sometimes as young as 7 years!
Grading 1776 to 1976 Quarters
You probably know rarity is the top thing to consider when you’re evaluating coins. The more coins were made, the lower their value. But bicentennial quarters are different. While +1.6B were minted, their intrinsic collector’s value was obvious from the start. So you’ll need to account for other factors to know whether your coin is worth 25c or $2,500. These include:
- Mint Mark
To get an accurate appraisal, you should take your coin to PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) or NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Company). But grading can cost anything from $30 to $300, and for PCGS, you need a paid subscription to submit coins. In 2022, membership starts at $69 for PCGS. NGC does have a free membership tier and paid access starts at $25.
So if your coin is worth $50 or less, grading is overkill. You could try the PCGS photo grader instead. It’s on the PCGS website, and it has high-resolution photos of various coins to help you make an eyeball estimate. For reference, coins are typically graded from 1 to 70. The best coins are mint state (MS) or Proofs (PF) between 60 and 70. Below are a few quarter prices:
|Grade||Mint Mark||Metal Composition||Price|
|PR70||S (San Francisco)||40% Silver||$144|
|MS 67+||None (Philadelphia)||Clad – Cupronickel||$2,750|
|MS 65 DDO||D (Denver)||Clad – Cupronickel||$3,246|
|MS 68||D (Denver)||Clad – Cupronickel||$5,170|
|MS 69||S (San Francisco)||40% Silver||$5,888|
|MS 68||D (Denver)||Clad – Cupronickel||$6,426|
|MS 69||S (San Francisco)||40% Silver||$6,600|
|MS 62||Error (Overstruck on 10c)||Clad – Cupronickel||$9,200|
|PF 65 Red||Error (Overstruck on 1c S)||Clad – Cupronickel||$13,500|
|MS 69||S (San Francisco)||40% Silver||$19,200|
Coin sales are cyclical, so having a top-notch coin won’t necessarily get you a better price. As an example, silver proof bicentennial quarters have sold for $5,000+. But so far, the highest graded silver coin – a PF 69 Ultra Cameo – was only worth $9.99 in 2018. Meanwhile, the top-rated clad coin – a PF 70 Ultra Cameo – went for $875, so grading isn’t the only thing!
The two sales above are from 2018, and one MS 67 clad coin sold for $91 in 2021. It’s still a tidy profit for a 25c coin. That said, millions of 1776 to 1976 quarters were preserved for speculation, so you can find tons in uncirculated condition. MS 67s and MS 68s are common, but if you find a superior coin in MS 69 or MS 70, the price point could be well over $10,000!
Another coin to look out for is any unmarked bicentennial quarter in MS 68 or higher. These unmarked coins were from the Philadelphia Mint, and their quality wasn’t the best, so not many of them survived. So far, the highest is MS 67, and its estimated value (as per PCGS) was about $3,000. It could earn way more if it’s ever auctioned, so check those mint marks!
Precious Treasures in Your Pocket Change!
You can still find valuable quarters in your coin purse, and even the cheapest bicentennial quarter could net you a few hundred dollars. But how much is a 1776 to 1976 quarter worth? Anywhere from 25c to $20,000 depending on its mint mark, condition, and variety errors. Do you have any special pieces in your quarter collection? Tell us about it in the comments!