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Capped Bust Quarter, Small Diameter, 1831-1838

Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries

Quarters with John Reich’s Capped Bust design, introduced in 1815, were not produced in 1829 and 1830. When mintage began again in 1831 it was with new technology, the “close collar”, which surrounded the edge of the planchet during striking. This collar die prevented the planchet from spreading outward, giving a size uniformity to the finished coins, while at the same time impressing a reeded pattern into the coin edge. A second technical improvement from the close collar was the incorporation of a raised rim around the edge of the coin, a device that helped protect interior design elements from wear. Engraver William Kneass modified John Reich’s designs, keeping the overall look but making changes that improved striking quality and, in the minds of some, refined the overall appearance of Liberty’s portrait.

A controversial change was the removal of the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM (“One made up of many”), which Mint Director Samuel Moore felt redundant with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Moore was compelled to go to Washington to justify the change to Treasury officials, who wanted the motto restored. Moore was successful in his efforts, and the motto was absent from the quarter for 60 years until reintroduced by Charles Barber on his quarter design in 1892. Unlike the Large Diameter Capped Bust type, Reduced Diameter quarters were produced yearly through the end of the type in 1838.

The obverse portrait of Liberty is a leaner, perhaps more elegant representation than the previous Capped Bust version. Liberty is wearing a mobcap (a fashionable woman’s headdress of the period, not a liberty cap as it is sometimes erroneously labeled) with a band displaying LIBERTY. Long curling hair drapes over the forehead, around the ear, across the shoulders, and down the back. A flowing robe, which covers the bust and shoulder, is fixed with a clasp above the shoulder. Thirteen six-point stars surround the portrait, seven to the left and six to the right, just inside a dentilled (also called beaded) border, which is inside a raised rim. The date is centered at the bottom.

The reverse displays a left-facing eagle with outstretched, though partially folded, wings and a Union shield across its breast. The left claw clutches three arrows, the right an olive branch. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA encircles inside of the dentilled border and outer rim, around the top two-thirds of the coin, and the denomination of 25 C. is at the bottom, below the eagle (the period after C is absent on some date varieties). All coins were minted at Philadelphia; no mint mark appears on the coins.

Prices for business strikes are moderate up to XF grades, advancing steadily and becoming very expensive as Gem and finer. Though some dates are more common in census/ population reports, prices for all dates are fairly uniform, with small differences apparent only for coins graded Gem and finer. A few prooflike business strikes have been certified. Census/ population reports list only a small number of proofs from each year, and include pieces with a cameo designation. All proofs are expensive to extremely expensive, particularly as Gem and finer. Proofs for 1831 have been certified only for the Large Letters variety. The 1833 and 1838 proof issues show steadily increasing price premiums over the other dates, with prices of the 1833 as near-Gem nearly double that of other coins.


Designer: John Reich, modified by William Kneass
Circulation Mintage: high 1,952,000 (1835), low 156,000 (1833)
Proof Mintage:high 20 (1831, estimated), low 5 (1838, estimated)
Denomintion: $0.25 Twenty-five cents (25/100)
Diameter: ±24.3 mm, reeded edge
Metal content: 89.24% silver, 10.76% copper; 90% silver, 10% copper in 1837 and 1838
Weight: ±6.74 grams; 6.68 grams in 1837 and 1838
Varieties:A few minor variations in the appearance, size, and placement of device details have been identified. Best known varieties include 1831 Small Letter and Large Letter types (referring to the size of the reverse UNITED STATES OF AMERICA lettering), and 1833-1835 examples with no period after the denomination.

Additional Resources :

Coin Encyclopedia:
Early United States Quarters 1796-1838. Steve Tompkins. Steve Tompkins and Destni, Inc.
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Ron Guth and Jeff Garrett. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Don Taxay. Arco Publishing
Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.

Last Updated : 09/17/2008

About the Author

Tim Shuck is a life-long Midwestern resident, and started collecting coins after finding an Indian Head cent on the ground at his childhood farm home. Additional encouragement came from looking through a collection of well-worn late 19th and early 20th century coins kept by his grandfather in an old leather coin purse. Current collecting interests include U.S. types from the Civil War era through the early 1930's, and Colonial and Early American coins.

RSS Feed for This Post3 Comment(s)

  1. Kimberly | Oct 12, 2008 | Reply

    Hi. We are going through some old coins of my father’s and how found an 1831 mint coin of the quarter eagle. It looks exactly like the one on you page on:

    except that it has only 5C., not 2.5. It is in perfect condition, so I am not reading it wrong. Is it a different coin? Did they have one almost identical to it?

    We are interested in selling it as well. Kind regards, Kimberly

  2. CoinLink | Oct 12, 2008 | Reply

    What you have is a Capped Bust Half Dime. Here is more information:

  3. Jennie | Oct 28, 2008 | Reply

    How much is a quarter like this worth?

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