Unusual Run of Washington Quarters in Stack's Bowers Auction

This group of Washington quarters was distinctive and important; it featured key business strikes, important better dates, and curiously expensive die varieties.

by Greg Reynolds | Published on September 4, 2023

FROM JUNE 13 TO 16, Stack’s Bowers Galleries (SBG) conducted a coin auction at their headquarters in Costa Mesa, California. Earlier, lots were shown at the SBG office in New York City and at the Baltimore Coin Expo.

As hundreds of coins were offered, the whole auction will not be covered. I emphasize different parts of different auctions. It would not make sense to consider only the coins that realize the highest prices.

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Four amazing Washington quarters from the recent Stack's Bowers auction

In this auction, a run of Washington quarters was distinctive and important; it featured key business strikes, important better dates, and curiously expensive die varieties. The focus here is on business strike Washington quarters, though one Proof in this auction really should be mentioned.

A PCGS certified Proof-68 Deep Cameo 1950 quarter realized $22,800, the second highest auction result known to me for a Proof Washington quarter of any date. In contrast, a PCGS certified Proof-66-Cameo (rather than Deep Cameo) 1950 quarter has a medium retail value of around $300.

Among regular business strikes in the series of silver Washington quarters (1932–64), the 1932-D and the 1932-S are the key dates. There is not a consensus regarding the status of overmintmark and Doubled Die varieties in this series. The 1950-D/S and S/D overmintmark varieties are interesting and relatively very scarce. I never thought of either of them as being needed for a set by date.

Doubled Die Washington quarters are not even major varieties, in my view. They are minor varieties that are not extremely noticeable. Some well accepted guides, however, list a few Doubled Die obverse (DDO) varieties as if they are additional dates of particular years or date & mintmark combinations.

Market levels and bidding activities suggest that a significant number of collectors are including overmintmark and DDO varieties in sets by date of Washington quarters. Indisputably, a few Doubled Die varieties are bringing tremendous premiums in auctions. Even so, far more collectors are interested in the 1932-D and the 1932-S.

The 1932-D is scarcer than the 1932-S. There were three PCGS graded MS64 1932-D quarters in this auction. Only the first had a CAC sticker. Honestly, though, I placed my hand over the slab label and the area used for stickers before viewing this coin, as I often do while examining auction lots. Before reading certified grades, I observed that the CAC approved 1932-D really is certainly superior to the other two PCGS graded MS64 1932-D quarters in this auction.

While not spectacular, this CAC approved coin is technically very impressive and scores highly in the category of originality. It realized $5,040. The two non-CAC, PCGS graded MS64 1932-D quarters realized $2,880 and $2,520, respectively.

A PCGS graded MS67 1934 Light Motto quarter realized $1,920. The three hub varieties with noticeably different impressions of the motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ appear to feature different fonts in addition to noticeably varying in boldness. These are major varieties.

The $1,920 result for this coin was clearly strong. The PCGS graded MS67 1934 Light Motto quarter that Heritage sold for $2,640 in October 2021 had a CAC sticker, and the presently discussed coin may very well be inferior to that one. Before analyzing auction results, it makes sense to analyze the respective coins.

A PCGS graded MS66, and CAC approved, 1934 Doubled Die Obverse (DDO) quarter is a certification rarity. The $7,800 result is a medium retail price and was unsurprising. I just do not understand why collectors find this variety to be so important. In my opinion, it is a product of a very mild Doubled Die, nothing like 1955/1955 Lincoln cents or 1916/1916 nickels. Currently, a CAC approved, PCGS graded MS66 1934 DDO Medium Motto quarter is worth twenty to thirty times as much as a CAC approved, PCGS graded MS66 1934 Medium Motto quarter that was struck from regular dies.

Unlike the mysterious scarcity of DDO varieties, connoisseurs of Washington quarters have known for decades that MS66 to MS67 grade 1936-D quarters are relatively scarce, much more so than almost all of the other dates in the series. An NGC graded MS67+ 1936-D quarter, with a CAC sticker, brought $3,960.

It is important to keep in mind that experts at the CAC office in New Jersey ignore the plus aspect of plus grades assigned by PCGS or NGC and just focus on whole number grades. (At the CACG office in Virginia, plus-grades are assigned to some coins.) My opinion is that the grade of this 1936-D is closer to 67-minus than to 67-plus, and the price realized, $3,960, is very much consistent with my analysis. If all pertinent bidders really thought that this 1936-D merited a 67+ grade, it would have realized more than $5,000, maybe as much as $8,000.

Eleven PCGS or NGC graded MS67+ 1936-D quarters auctioned from 2015 to 2022 each realized more than $5,000, including the Pogue Collection 1936-D, which was auctioned by Stack’s Bowers on March 20, 2020, for $7,800. Moreover, a different NGC graded MS67+ 1936-D quarter, also with a CAC sticker, was auctioned by Heritage on January 21, 2021, for $5,760. Although I did not see that coin sold by Heritage, it is a realistic possibility that it brought significantly more than the presently discussed 1936-D because it is a higher quality coin in the minds of pertinent bidders. At auction lot viewing sessions, I see many of the same people over and over again.

A CAC approved, PCGS graded MS66 1943-S Doubled Die Obverse (DDO) brought $6,000. This was a very strong price, though my guess is that at least one competitive bidder was figuring that this coin might upgrade at PCGS to 66+.

An NGC graded MS68 1951-S quarter realized $1,020, a weak price. While this coin might never be graded MS68 by experts at CAC, it is especially attractive with really cool natural toning. Its appearance in reality is much more appealing than its appearance in published images. Indeed, I really enjoyed viewing it.

An NGC graded MS67+ 1952-D quarter, with a CAC sticker, realized $960. Over the last few months, market levels for these have fallen, in my estimation. This was a strong price in the context of market levels during June 2023.

The coins cited here are atypically expensive Washington quarters. MS66 or MS67 grade representatives of most dates in the series of vintage Washington quarters (1932–64) may be purchased for modest sums. Except for Doubled Die and overmintmark varieties, the CPG®retail medium retail estimates for MS66 grade Washington quarters for all dates from 1944 to 1964 range from $34 to $94 each.

Copyright ©2023 Greg Reynolds


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Source: Greg Reynolds

Greg Reynolds image More than 750 of Greg Reynolds’ articles about coins and related items have appeared in ten different publications. Reynolds has closely examined a tremendous number of rare, or conditionally rare, vintage U.S., British and Latin American coins. Furthermore, he has attended dozens of major coin auctions, including those of Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, Gardner and Pogue Family. From the NLG, Reynolds has shared or won outright the annual award for ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ a record seven times. Greg is available for private consultations and analyses, especially regarding rarities and auctions.

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