Discovering Silver Treasures: Which Year Quarters Are Made of Silver?

For coin collectors and silver enthusiasts, one of the most common questions is: Which quarters are made of silver? While today‘s quarters are composed of copper and nickel, there was a time when the U.S. Mint struck quarters from precious silver. These silver quarters aren‘t just valuable for their metal content, but also as tangible pieces of American history.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore the fascinating world of silver quarters. You‘ll learn which specific years quarters contained silver, the history behind these coins, and what makes them so special to collectors. Whether you‘re a seasoned numismatist or simply curious about these shimmering relics, read on to discover the answers to all your silver quarter questions.

A Brief History of Silver Quarters

The story of silver quarters begins in 1796, when the U.S. Mint first struck these 25-cent pieces. At the time, each quarter dollar contained 6.74 grams of pure silver, which was the standard for U.S. coinage established by the Coinage Act of 1792.

Over the next 168 years, quarters went through several design changes, but the silver content remained constant at 90%, with the remaining 10% consisting of copper to improve durability. Here‘s a timeline of the different silver quarter designs:

  • Draped Bust (1796-1807)
  • Capped Bust (1815-1838)
  • Seated Liberty (1838-1891)
  • Barber (1892-1916)
  • Standing Liberty (1916-1930)
  • Washington (1932-1964)

It wasn‘t until 1965 that the era of silver quarters came to an end. Due to rising silver prices, the U.S. Mint could no longer afford to strike coins with such a high silver content. As a result, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1965, which removed silver from dimes and quarters and reduced the silver content of half dollars from 90% to 40%.

Which Years Were Quarters Made of Silver?

Now that you know a bit about the history of silver quarters, let‘s dive into the specifics. Here are the date ranges when U.S. quarters contained 90% silver:

  • 1796-1964: All quarters minted during this period are 90% silver
  • 1965-1970: Quarters minted during this time contain no silver
  • 1976: The U.S. Mint issued special Bicentennial quarters with a dual date of "1776-1976." These coins are made of copper and nickel, with no silver content.

It‘s important to note that in the 1970s and beyond, the U.S. Mint did produce some silver quarters, but these were commemorative issues not intended for circulation. For example, the 1976 40% silver Bicentennial quarter was sold to collectors in special mint sets.

The Most Valuable Silver Quarters

While all pre-1965 quarters contain silver, some are much more valuable than others due to their rarity, historical significance, and condition. Here are a few of the most sought-after silver quarters:

1796 Draped Bust Quarter

As the first quarter ever minted in the United States, the 1796 Draped Bust quarter is incredibly rare and valuable. Only 6,146 were struck, and far fewer survive today. In 2015, a high-grade example sold at auction for nearly $1.6 million.

1827 Capped Bust Quarter

The 1827 Capped Bust quarter is another rarity, with only 4,000 minted. What makes this coin even more special is that all known examples were struck from the same pair of dies. In 2008, a pristine specimen sold for $517,500.

1901-S Barber Quarter

Among Barber quarters, the 1901-S is the undisputed key date, with a mintage of just 72,664. In 1990, a particularly well-preserved example fetched $550,000 at auction, setting a record for the series.

1916 Standing Liberty Quarter

The first year of the Standing Liberty quarter series saw two distinct design types: one with a bare-breasted Liberty and another with the figure more modestly attired. The Type 1 coins are scarcer, and high-grade examples can command six-figure sums.

What Makes Silver Quarters Special?

Apart from their valuable silver content, these historic quarters have a charm all their own. Here are a few reasons why collectors prize silver quarters:

Tangible History

Each silver quarter is a small piece of American history you can hold in your hand. These coins circulated during some of the nation‘s most transformative events, from the Civil War and the Great Depression to two World Wars and the Space Race.

Stunning Designs

The artistry on silver quarters is simply breathtaking. From the classic elegance of the Draped Bust to the striking modernism of the Standing Liberty, these coins showcase the incredible talent of U.S. Mint engravers.

Satisfying Heft

Due to their 90% silver content, these quarters have a pleasing weight and feel that sets them apart from modern clad coinage. For many collectors, the tactile experience of holding a silver quarter is as enjoyable as admiring its beauty.

Investment Potential

While silver quarters are not immune to market fluctuations, they can be a solid addition to a diversified investment portfolio. As tangible assets, they offer a hedge against inflation and economic uncertainty.

Frequently Asked Questions About Silver Quarters

1. How can I tell if my quarter is silver?

The easiest way to determine if a quarter is silver is to check the date. If it was minted before 1965, it‘s 90% silver. You can also look at the edge of the coin. Silver quarters will have a solid silver band, while clad coins will show a copper stripe.

2. Are all pre-1965 quarters worth a lot of money?

Not necessarily. While all pre-1965 quarters contain silver, most are only worth their bullion value unless they are rare dates or in exceptionally good condition. However, even common date silver quarters are still worth more than their face value.

3. Can I still use silver quarters as currency?

Technically, yes. All U.S. coinage, including silver quarters, remains legal tender at face value. However, given their silver content and collectible value, it‘s not advisable to spend them as you would modern quarters.

4. How should I store my silver quarter collection?

To protect your silver quarters from damage and tarnishing, it‘s best to store them in individual coin flips or air-tight containers. Avoid exposing them to moisture, extreme temperatures, or sulfurous materials like rubber bands or certain papers.

5. Where can I learn more about silver quarters?

There are numerous resources available for learning about silver quarters. Consider joining a local coin club, attending coin shows, or exploring online forums and websites dedicated to numismatics. The American Numismatic Association (ANA) is also an excellent source of information and community for coin enthusiasts.


From the earliest days of the U.S. Mint to the mid-20th century, silver quarters played a vital role in American commerce and culture. Today, these historic coins are prized by collectors for their beauty, rarity, and tangible connection to the past.

By understanding which years quarters were made of silver and what makes them special, you can begin your own journey into the fascinating world of numismatics. Whether you‘re drawn to the thrill of the hunt, the joy of ownership, or the pride of preservation, collecting silver quarters is a rewarding pursuit that can last a lifetime.

As you build your collection, remember that each silver quarter has a story to tell. By holding these coins in your hand, you become part of that story, linking the past to the present and preserving a piece of American history for generations to come. Happy collecting!

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