Bicentennial quarter dollars continue to circulate: Making Moderns

Premiums paid for high-grade examples
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Published : 12/23/15
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Making Moderns column from Jan. 11, 2016, issue of Coin World:

Because it saw widespread circulation, the 1976 Bicentennial quarter dollar is the most recognizable of the coins struck to honor the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Nearly 1.7 billion were struck for commerce, and it was the first circulating commemorative U.S. coin of its type. The design shows a Revolutionary War drummer in a tricorne hat. Dual dated 1776-1976, the Bicentennial quarter dollars actually replaced the standard circulating quarter in both 1975 and 1976. No 1975 quarter dollars were issued.

In addition to the Philadelphia- and Denver-Mint copper-nickel clad coins struck for circulation, Proof coins were made in copper-nickel clad and silver-copper clad alloys, both struck at the San Francisco Mint. An Uncirculated finish silver-copper clad version was also made for inclusion in an Uncirculated silver set. Although nearly 4 million Silver Proof sets and 5 million Silver Uncirculated sets were sold, they didn’t fly off the shelves. The Mint offered Bicentennial Silver Uncirculated sets as late as 1986.

Partly owing to their abundance, Bicentennial quarter dollars are sent to third-party certification services in greater number than any other Washington quarter dollar of the post-1964 era.

High-grade examples appear at auction nearly three times more frequently than other date. However, they are among the most expensive Washington quarter dollars of the era because they comprise a single-date type coin.

In 2007, Heritage Auctions sold one of the finest-known 1976-S silver-copper clad quarter dollars graded Mint State 69 for $5,888. Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corp. combined have graded only three coins at this lofty level. In 2012, Heritage sold a 1976-D copper-nickel clad quarter dollar graded NGC MS-68 for $3,220.

A prominent die variety of the 1976-D quarter dollar, showing bold doubling on the obverse legends, is also very valuable. Designated as FS-101 in the Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins, it is very scarce in higher grades. GreatCollections sold an example certified PCGS MS-63 for $2,640 in 2014. Just two Uncirculated examples have been certified combined by NGC and PCGS.

All issues of Bicentennial quarter dollars are much more affordable in lower grades, but still expect to pay a premium over any standard-design Washington quarter dollar of similar rarity.

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