From the February 2004 issue of ACCent, the newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club:
Bargains: 1917 to 1924 Standing Liberty Quarters in Extra Fine
Lets start with the basics, for the new collectors out there. There are three sub-types within the Standing Liberty quarter series, which was minted from 1916 through 1930. The first type is easiest to identify by looking on the reverse (back, or tails side) of the quarter. If there are no stars under the eagle, then you have the first type of Standing Liberty quarter, minted only in 1916 and 1917. This is the best way to identify the type one coins since it works even on heavily worn out coins with no date and few obverse details visible.
If you see three stars under the eagle, then you have either a type two or a type three Standing Liberty quarter. To determine which one it is, flip it back over and look at the obverse (front or heads side) and look at the date, which is located on the pedestal upon which Miss Liberty is standing. If the date is between 1917 and 1924, you have a type 2 coin; 1925 and later indicates the third type. If the date is worn off the pedestal, odds are that you have a type 2 coin, but it really does not matter since it is only worth bullion value anyway.
Our focus here will be on the type one and type two coins, which are far scarcer than the type three coins, which are available in virtually unlimited quantities in average circulated condition. As you may already know, before the date on Standing Liberty quarters was recessed in 1925, it would wear off quickly. Therefore, all of the dates minted form 1917 through 1924 are scarce despite having reasonably generous original mintage quantities. For purposes of this discussion, we will skip the rare 1916 issue, which had an original mintage of only 52,000 pieces, and is priced beyond the budget of most collectors.
Even in Good condition these coins are pricey, and in that grade only part of the date is likely to be visible. In Coin World’s new magazine, Coin Values, you can see that none of the 1917 to 1924 quarters has a retail value below $14, and the most expensive date, the 1923-S, is valued at $150 in Good. But wait, the title of this article says that these quarters are a bargain in Extra Fine condition, not worn out Good-4 condition. That is true! And the reason why is because a look at the that same Coin Values publication will show that most of these quarters may be purchased in Extra Fine condition for only four times the cost of a well worn Good-4 coin. It is easy to find examples of single coins that are worth four times as much in Extra Fine as they are in Good, but it is very difficult to find a whole series of coins where that pricing structure holds true.
Let’s take a closer look at the Standing Liberty quarter series from 1917 (both types) through 1924. There are a total of 21 coins including all dates and mint marks, enough coins to make an impressive display that will make you the envy of all the other coin club members (when was the last time you saw a set of early Standing Liberty quarters in Extra Fine???). Of these 21 coins, only six of them retail for over $100 (I said they were pricey in Good-4 condition, so they must be pricey X 4 in Extra Fine!). Again, the most expensive item in the set is likely to be the 1923-S. A total of 14 out of the 21 coins cost less than four times as much in EF as they do in Good, and five of those cost less than three times as much. The total retail value of the set is $733 in Good condition, or an average of $35 per coin, and the set is $3150 in Extra Fine, or an average of $150 per coin.
Why was the grade of Extra Fine chosen instead of something better, such as AU-50? Simple – retail values in AU-50 are typically 50% to 100% higher in AU than they are in EF. A collector will get a good deal paying four times as much for an Extra Fine coin as for a Good because said collector is getting coins with a great deal more visible detail with the Extra Fine. The difference in visible detail between an EF and an AU coin is rather minimal, so it is probably not worth the large increase in price for the collector on a budget to acquire the AU coins. The Extra Fine grade does a splendid job of showing the vast majority of design details.
The other question that has probably come to mind is, to quote from inside your brain, why not build the whole set in Extra Fine, including the type three coins minted from 1925 through 1930? The answer is simply that the argument for buying the 1917 through 1924 quarters in Extra Fine does not apply to these later quarters. Unlike the early quarters where the price difference from Good to Extra Fine is typically four times, for the later dates the price difference is generally 15 to 20 times higher for Extra Fine than for Good, and reaches as high as 90 times in the case of the 1927-S! The later dates, which consist of fifteen coins, are actually a better value in Very Fine than in Extra Fine.
A complete set with the first 21 coins in Extra Fine and the last fifteen in Very Fine would be a set to be proud of , and should hold it’s value extremely well over the years.
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