The first quarters weren’t minted in the United States until 1796. So what on earth is a 1788 quarter? And what’s it worth?
That’s what we’re here to find out. We’re going to look at the 1788 quarter value in all its different forms. And we’ll find out what separates an average coin from one that’s of interest to collectors.
Ready to learn more? Step this way …
1788 Quarter Value Chart
|Type||Circulated||Mint State||Clad Proof||Silver Proof|
|1788 Quarter – Georgia||25 cents||$1 to $5||$1.75 to $60||$5 to $80|
|1788 Quarter – Connecticut||25 cents||$1 to $5||$1.75 to $60||$5 to $68|
|1788 Quarter – Massachusetts||25 cents||$1 to $5||$1.75 to $40||$5 to $68|
|1788 Quarter – Maryland||25 cents||$1 to $5||$1.75 to $35||$5 to $74|
|1788 Quarter – South Carolina||25 cents||$1 to $5||$1.75 to $30||$5 to $68|
|1788 Quarter – New Hampshire||25 cents||$1 to $5||$1.75 to $35||$5 to $88|
|1788 Quarter – Virginia||25 cents||$1 to $5||$1.75 to $35||$5 to $74|
|1788 Quarter – New York||25 cents||$1 to $5||$1.75 to $35||$5 to $68|
History of the 1788 Quarter
The 1788 quarters were part of a commemorative series issued by the US Mint. The series was launched in 1999, with quarters produced for each state for a period of 10 weeks. The coins were stamped with the date they were minted, as well as the date the relevant state joined the Union.
The whole series was produced over a decade. Each state was commemorated in the order it either joined the Union or ratified the Constitution. The first coin to be produced in 1999 was for Delaware, which joined the union in 1787. The final coin was minted in 2008 for Hawaii, which joined in 1959.
The term “1788 quarters” refers to coins commemorating the states that joined the union in 1788. These were actually minted in 1999 and 2000. They honored Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, and New York.
Each one carries a design related to the state on its reverse. On the obverse is a portrait of George Washington, familiar from other coins.
Most of the 1788 quarters had a mintage of at least 1 billion for each state. That’s higher than any other coins in the series, with the exception of the North Carolina coin. North Carolina joined the union in 1789, and just over a billion of those coins were minted too.
The series was spectacularly popular with collectors. It’s estimated that half of the whole population of the USA collected at least some of the coins. And they made a profit of about $3 billion for the US government.
The 50 States series also gave members of the public the chance to get involved in the design of the coins. In 17 states, the final design was put to a public vote. And in many others, designs were submitted by members of the public, or the subject of consultation with citizens.
In all, more than 3.5 million Americans played a part in selecting the designs.
Features of the 1788 Quarter
The Obverse of the 1788 Quarter
The 1788 has a familiar figure on its obverse (also known as the “heads” side). It’s the portrait of George Washington.
Here, though, the portrait is surrounded by text that more commonly appears on the other side of the coin.
The words “United States of America”, “Quarter Dollar”, “Liberty”, and the motto, “In God We Trust”, are all fitted around Washington. That provides more space on the reverse for the state designs.
The Reverse of the 1788 Quarter
In each case, the obverse carries the name of the state and the year when it either ratified the Constitution or joined the Union.
At the bottom is the year the coin was minted, together with the motto “E pluribus unum”. That’s Latin for “From the many, one” – referring to the many states and the one Union.
But the other design elements are all completely different for each state. The legislation authorising the minting of the 50 States quarters gave a lot of latitude for the way each state selected its design. Some held public ballots, while others consulted on a shortlist with citizens and advisory groups.
The final selection of state symbols reflects varied tastes and values.
Some depict aspects of the natural world. The lovely South Carolina 1788 quarter, for example, includes the state bird, tree and flower – the Carolina wren, cabbage palmetto and yellow jessamine respectively. And Connecticut’s coin features a simple and elegant design of the Charter Oak.
Others feature state landmarks, like New York’s Statue of Liberty, or the dome of the Maryland State House. And yet others mark historic moments, like the founding of Jamestown in Virginia.
Other Features of the 1788 Quarter
The 1788 quarter was made in two different finishes.
The majority were made for circulation in base metal. But proof coins were also struck for collectors. Individual proof quarters were made in base metal. But sets of silver proof coins were made too, each one containing a dime, a quarter and a half dollar.
You can view the complete set of 50 States quarters in this YouTube video.
1788 Quarter Value Guides
1788 Quarter, Circulated, Base Metal Value
Most 1788 quarters were made in base metal and intended for general circulation. Billions of them were minted at all three facilities of the US Mint – Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco.
You can tell where an individual coin was minted by its mint mark: P for Philly, D for Denver and S for San Francisco. This appears on the obverse of the coin, beneath George Washington’s ponytail.
But unless you find an error coin (more on those later) none of the circulated 1788 quarters are rare. That means that the value today is the same as its face value – 25 cents. So while these are interesting and attractive coins, they’re not going to make you a fortune.
1788 Quarter, Proof, Base Metal Value
Proof coins were produced at the San Francisco mint. These were coins struck for collectors, produced on specially polished planchets and with exceptionally good detail. And because they were never intended for circulation, most remain in pristine condition.
The majority of proof coins were made of base metal, and they were produced in large numbers. Depending on the quality, most will today fetch anything from around $5 to $60.
1788 Quarter, Silver Proof Value
A smaller number of proof coins were minted in silver, again at the San Francisco mint. They were offered for sale as part of sets which also included a dime and a half-dollar.
Their composition means they have an intrinsic value, and they’re among the most collectable of 1788 quarters. Depending on the quality of the coin, you can expect to pay anything between $5 and $90 to add one to your collection.
1788 Quarter, Highest Grade Uncirculated Value
So far, most of the coin values here have been rather modest. But there are some exceptions to this rule. And for the very finest specimens of a particular coin, the value is considerably higher.
Take, for example, a 1788 New York quarter minted in Denver in 2001. This coin was graded MS (mint state) 68 by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). That’s out of a maximum of 70 points, putting the coin firmly in the “gem quality” category.
It wasn’t the only example to achieve this grading. The PCGS had assessed another 17 coins at the same level. And rival grading firm the Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) had graded 41 coins at MS 68.
But it was still tied in top spot for the finest available specimen of the New York 1788 Quarter. And when it was presented at auction in 2007, it crossed the block for $1,100.
1788 Quarter Errors
1788 Quarter Mules
Coins known as “mules” are amongst the rarest and most collectable of all mint errors. They occur when a coin combines obverse and reverse designs that should not go together. And there is a known mule amongst the 1788 quarters.
The error was made in 2000. The resulting coin combines the reverse of the Sacagawea dollar with the obverse of a state quarter. The dies were struck on the planchet for a dollar coin, and only about 19 are believed to have been made.
Even more excitingly for collectors, this is one of the first known examples of a mule error.
16 of the known examples are currently in the hands of the same collector. In most cases where the prices are public, they were bought for between about $40,000 and $70,000. But the most recently discovered example was sold at auction in 2012 for a record price of $155,250.
1788 Quarter Double Strikes
Double struck coins are rather more common as errors.
They occur when a coin is struck for a second time, leaving a double imprint of the design. This can happen, for example, when a coin isn’t fully ejected from the press after being struck.
There are a number of double strike error coins among the 1788 quarters. The prices vary according to the quality of the coin, and how interesting the error is to collectors.
A double struck Maryland 1788 quarter graded MS 68 by the PCGS is worth around $160. A double struck New York 1788 quarter, graded MS64 and with the second strike off-center by about 30%, was presented at auction in 2002. Its reserve was set at $500, but it did not sell.
1788 Quarter Multiple Strikes
Coins that show signs of having been struck twice are rare and interesting. But even more interesting are the error coins with evidence of having been struck multiple times. And again, there are a number of examples of such coins among the 1788 quarters.
These include triple struck Connecticut and Georgia quarters, both graded MS64, and a triple struck South Carolina quarter graded MS65. At the time of writing, a triple struck Virginia quarter graded MS62 was being offered for sale on eBay for $950.
1788 Quarter Overstrikes
Very occasionally coins are struck on an existing coin, instead of a blank planchet. The result is known as an “overstrike”, and it’s another collectable variety of error.
One such coin was offered for auction in 2009. It was a Georgia 1788 quarter which had been overstruck with the die for the Susan B. Anthony dollar. It was graded MS 63 by the Numismatic Guaranty Company, the NGC.
It had a reserve price of a hefty $9,500. But that was too rich for collectors, and it did not sell.
For more details of error coins in the complete 50 States quarter series, check out this excellent YouTube video from Treasure Town.
What makes a 1788 quarter rare?
None of the standard 1788 quarters are particularly rare. They were produced to stimulate interest in coin collecting, as well as to enhance knowledge of the geography and culture of the different states.
In that, they were very successful, with billions of coins going into circulation. Large numbers of proofs were also carefully stored away by collectors. So even good quality coins are not in particularly short supply.
Error coins, however, are considerably rarer. Mistakes at the mint are uncommon, so the coins that result are highly sought after by collectors. Look for die errors like double strikes, or a 1788 quarter struck over another coin.
Which 1788 quarter is worth a lot of money?
Because 1788 quarters were produced in such high numbers, their values are usually fairly modest. But silver proofs in the higher grades can fetch towards $100. And the very finest examples in their class can fetch considerably more.
A Massachusetts 1788 quarter graded MS69 came up for auction in 2017. It was only two such coins to receive this grading, with none finer known to exist. It sold for $3,760.
Error coins can be very valuable too. The famous mule pairing the Sacagawea dollar with the 1788 quarter commands a price of five or even six figures.
What year is the rarest 1788 quarter?
The mintages of the different quarters in the 50 States series vary significantly.
The lowest mintage was for the Oklahoma quarter, minted in 2008. 416,600,000 coins were produced – so even these are pretty easy to find.
Almost all the 1788 quarters had a mintage of over 1 billion coins. The exception was the Georgia coin, which slipped just under that threshold with a mintage of 939,932,000.
The most ubiquitous 1788 quarter is the one commemorating Virginia. Well over 1.5 billion of those coins were minted.