What Was the Last Year for Silver Quarters?

Silver quarters began being produced in 1796 but what was the last year for silver quarters? The actual silver content within the coins for a long time was approximately 90% and then later, ended up at 0% silver content. The issues from 1838 were not the first to bear a value upon them, these were the 1804 issues. The issues from 1838 were however the first to bear a value spelled out upon them.


The Last Year for Silver Quarters in Regular Production

Last Year for Silver Quarters


The last year for silver quarters (i.e. regular mint production and circulated) was 1964 though a special issue bearing some silver was made to commemorate the 200th anniversary of independence.


The Bust Quarter

  • This was last minted in 1838. They bore no mint mark from their place of minting-Philadelphia- and were composed of approximately 90% silver. Engraved by Robert Scot, there were two major types though only the Capped Bust variety was still in production by 1838. These had diameters less than the 24.8mm of the earlier mints and weighed 6.74gms.

The Seated Liberty Quarter

  • Minted from 1838 to 1891, these coins had several versions issued over the years. With the new reduced diameter of 24.3mm, they still had 90% in silver content with weights varying from 6.22gms- 6.68gms. They were minted at New Orleans, Philadelphia, Carson City and San Francisco with their mint marks being placed below the eagles on the reverse side. Several of these varieties were produced: those bearing a motto and those having none.
  • No Motto on reverse side: these were the issues of 1838-1865. They started of with Liberty having no drapery at the left elbow though productions from 1840 did. The varieties for the 1842 issues come with the options of Large or Small date, with those bearing Small date being more valuable due to rarity. The issue of 1853 had arrowheads placed at the date with rays on the reverse though later versions had none.
  • Motto on reverse side: these started being issued in 1866-1891 with varieties in 1873 having arrowheads placed at the date.

The Liberty Head Silver Quarters

  • Also known as the Barber Quarters, these began being issued in 1892 and continued until 1916. They bore the initial of their designer at the truncation of the neck of Liberty, contained 90% in silver, a diameter of 24.3mm and a total weight of 6.25 grams. Minted from Denver, Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco, their diameters were similar to the editions before it. The obverse side of the coins had Liberty crowned with a wreath, while the reverse had a heraldic eagle with the words “QUARTER DOLLAR” beneath it and a banner bearing “E Pluribus Unum” in its beak.

The Standing Liberty Quarter

  • Issued from 1916-1930, they were designed with the designer’s initial to the right side of the date on these coins. They were similar in weight and composition as the Barber Quarters with changes being made on Liberty to cover the breast. The reverse was also modified in that the eagle had no stars below it on the reverse. The Denver and San Francisco mints have the initials “D” and “S” to the left of the date while those from Philadelphia bore none.
  • Type 1: bore Liberty on the obverse with no stars below the eagle. Liberty bore a bared breast with an upraised shield in the left hand and an olive branch on the right.
  • Type 2: 3 stars were added under the eagle while Liberty’s chest is chain-mail covered.

The Washington Quarters

  • Issued to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of the first president, they were in production from 1932-1964; the last year for silver quarters, at least in regular circulation. The Washington silver quarters had a diameter, weight and composition similar to the the Liberty Head quarters. These coins were only minted from the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints and bore the bust of Washington on the obverse with the word “LIBERTY” on top and the motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST” to his left. Mint marks can be found to the right of the bow in Washington’s hair while the reverse features the bald eagle design with the text “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” at the top and “E Pluribus Unum” below.


So what was the absolute last year for silver quarters?


The Bicentennial Quarter-the last issue with any silver content– was designed by Jack Ahr and minted between 1975 and 1976. However all issues were dated 1976 and sadly enough this was the last year for silver quarters as a circulating currency.

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What Years Were Silver Quarters Minted?

With a denomination of 25 cents, the minting of silver quarters was authorized in 1792 with the first silver quarter coins being issued in 1796. Its origins can be traced to the splitting of the Spanish coins into eight sections and the combining of two of these formed the quarter. It was not until 1804 when they were marked with the value of 25c on the reverse side.


Production Years for Silver Quarters



  • The first silver quarters issued were from Philadelphia though they had no mint marks and had approximately 90% silver content. They begun being produced from 1796 and these earliest of issues were of the Bust Quarter variety and included: Draped Bust and the Capped Bust mainly. They measured a diameter of 24.3 mm and weighed 6.74gms.

1838-1891silver quarters years

  • Next were the  Seated Liberty varieties of 1838 which had 90% silver content with the weight varying between 6.22- 6.68. They were minted from Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco and Carson City and stopped being produced around 1891.


  • The next two varieties also had 90% silver content. The Liberty Head, commonly known as the Barber was issued from Philadelphia, Denver, New Orleans and San Francisco from 1892 till 1916 at a weight of 6.25gms.barber silver quarters The initial of the designer graces the neck of LIBERTY on these coin varieties which have reeded edges. The Standing Liberty Quarter, minted from 1916-1930, was similar to this only that they never came out of New Orleans; LIBERTY’s breast was covered in these issues. The date was also set into a depression so as to protect it from wear.




  • The Washington Quarter of 1932 also had 90% silver though the editions from 1965 on-wards were debased and are known as clad coinage. These issues were similar in weight and dimensions to the earlier two productions and was minted from the same cities as the Standing Liberty issues. Collectors value the early Washington Quarters more highly than the later varieties. Beginning in 1932, silver quarters were minted through several years with their production stopping in 1964- though some silver quarters that were dated 1964 were still in production in 1965 as a transition to nickel-copper coinage was being done.


The End of Silver Quarters


At the opening of the 1960s, a demand for silver led to a shortage that forced the American Treasury to stop the production of coins with such high silver content as the coins were being saved by citizens or melted down for their silver value. As such, the Coinage Act of 1965 led to the removal of silver from American coinage due to the rising prices of silver. The Act was slow in coming into action thus the Treasury continued to strike silver bearing coins right up to 1966. These coins were however dated 1964. As such, the last quarters minted from silver were produced in 1966.

The silver quarters that were being issued as of 1932 were composed of 90% in total silver content, coming to a total weight of about 0.18 ounces. They were majorly minted in San Francisco and Denver and bear mintmarks from these two cities. However, some silver quarters were also struck, though in special occasions and not for general issue.

The Bicentennial Quarter of 1976 was struck to commemorate the 200th anniversary of independence. These were actually minted in 1975 and the following year though they cannot be told apart from each other. These should not be confused with the varieties that came after 1965-in that they have no silver. The Bicentennial variety being spoken of here had 40% in silver content.

What Is The Silver Content Of Quarters?

Curious about the silver content of quarters? Oddly enough it’s a very old story…

From ancient times, metals such as silver have been used as a medium of trade all over the world. The most expensive and valuable metals, mainly silver and gold, were forged into coins to determine and measure value numerically.

The most valued but expensive metals were traded in for more convenient but light ones. The lighter metals were used to represent the value they held of the more expensive ones. This further evolved into paper money until eventually, today’s paper money which merely represents the value of past hard coinage while not backed by any precious metal or specie.


Silver Content of Quarters in the U.S.


The coin refuses to die off. Instead, it survives every turn by changing from one precious metal to another. Take for instance the American quarter. Since its inception in 1792 with the enactment of the Coinage Act, it has changed metal on several occasions in order to adapt to the changing money markets it operates in. The Mint Act of 1890 made it possible to change coin designs every 25 years.

silver content of quartersIn 1916, the US Mints in Philadelphia and Denver were still making the Barber quarter but later that year, the Philadelphia Mint began producing the Standing Liberty quarter.

Both coin versions were similar in the quantity of silver contained (approximately 0.1808 ounces) but were designed by two different men.

Charles Barber made the Barber using new technology at the time to create better engraving designs while Herman McNeil produced the Standing Liberty coins.

The Barber later proved to be the more durable craftsmanship. Barber coins were made until 1916 and are approximated to have been about 1,788,000 produced. In comparison, Standing Liberty quarters amount to approximately 52,000 making them the more valuable of the 1916 coins.

The Standing Liberty quarters were produced until 1932 when they were replaced by the Washington silver quarters. The rarest Washington quarters were made in San Francisco and Denver in 1932 and their low production numbers makes these some of the most valuable quarters. They contain 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper.


The Change in the Silver Content of Quarters


In 1964, however, the shortage of silver “forced” the Congress to initiate some changes in the metal content of these coins. The silver coins were replaced with 75 percent copper coins clad in 25 percent nickel in 1965.

Over its years in circulation, the Washington quarter underwent some redesigns beginning with the mintmark relocation from the reverse to the obverse in 1968 but was returned to its original design in 1977.

In 1992, the silver content was briefly reinstated in the San Francisco Mint. This changed again in 1999 when legislation passed initiating the State Quarter Design in which five states were to be honored by having them included in the reverse of their individual quarters.

The current quarters in circulation are mainly a mix of copper and nickel in the ratio 8.33 percent nickel and 91.67 copper. They are relatively cheap to produce and are designed for durability with modern engraving methods making it all the easier and faster to produce on a large scale.

As you can see the bad news is that the silver content of quarters is now 0% however the good news is you are still able to find old silvers quarters to invest in.

Were There 1965 Silver Quarters?

There’s sometimes confusion about the last date for silver quarter production and folks wonder if there where 1965 silver quarters produced. It’s a bit of a story but here we go…

In 1932, the Washington silver quarter replaced the Standing Liberty quarter as America’s official 25 cent coin in circulation. This new coin was produced in three main US Mints in America: Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco.

The main specification for the coin in terms of composition was that it should contain 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. These coins were produced in bulk up until 1964 and were estimated at a total count of approximately 3.8 billion in circulation and replacement minting measures across American states.


The 1965 Silver Quarters ‘Crisis’


By 1964, the market price for silver made it too expensive for the US Mint to maintain production of quarters and all other coins at their traditional quantities because aside from the usual 0.18084 ounces of pure silver

1965 silver quarters
Washington Quarter Designs via Wikipedia

needed per quarter, the 10-cent and 50-cent coins had similar quantity demands since they were also made of 90 percent silver.

Because it was no longer economical to use silver in the production of any coins by the US Mint (because of dollar devaluation), other viable metals had to be used. Establishing which metals to use required time to evaluate since legislators did not want to run into a similar outcome in the future.

In this short period, the public began to save the silver they had (in terms of the coins) having realized it was steadily surpassing the set face value. As a result, the number of coins in circulation quickly diminished resulting in the coin shortage of 1965.

Global shortage in silver also forced the US Mint to reduce production resulting in the further decrease in the coins in circulation.

Hence, around 1965, Congress reevaluated the Coinage Act of 1792. It’s plan was to come up with a transition mechanism that would prevent the already occurring speculation of the 1964 silver coins from happening further.

As an initial measure, it instructed the US Mint to keep producing Washington silver coins but date them as 1964 coins even after the year had ended.

Therefore, the silver coins produced in 1964, 1965 and 1966 were all dated 1964. The very last of the silver quarter coins was made in January 1966 while the very last silver coin (the 50 cent coin series) was made in April 1966.

Because Congress realized that by the replacement, clad coins they would use were not going to be speculated on, they allowed the US Mint to date them from 1965.


What Replaced the 1965 Silver Quarters?


The replacement metals to be used in the production of the new clad coins were copper, nickel and zinc. In these three metals, Congress saw all their problems answered. The abundance of each of these metals guaranteed that they would not become scarce in the near future forcing another reevaluation.

In retrospect, the cost of producing them at their current input quantity per coin makes them far more economical. In addition, as a precautionary measure, they too are mixed to prevent depletion of available quantities too soon- more along the lines of sustainable use.

For instance, the quarter coin in circulation now contains cupro-nickel in the ratio 91.67 percent Copper and 8.33 percent Nickel using more copper for its low price and availability.