US Coins

1879 Washlady quarter dollar pattern well-suited

Pattern coins represent many things. They are traditionally seen as experiments for new compositions, denominations or designs, but many were struck directly for marketing to collectors. This was especially pronounced in the 1870s as the Philadelphia Mint went into overdrive producing hundreds of pattern types. Some are gorgeous, other are more modest in accomplishment, but all are collectible. Heritage’s recent June 8 to 11 Long Beach Expo auction realized $10.7 million and included a strong group of pattern pieces from this busy decade.

Here’s one of three patterns from the Expo auction that Steve Roach explores in our latest print issue:

The Lot:

1879 Washlady quarter dollar pattern, silver, Judd 1590, Proof 66 Cameo

The Price:

$25,850

The Story:

Like the Amazonian, the Washlady patterns have an amusing name — this one coming from Liberty’s high ponytail and the somewhat loose and seemingly casual arrangement of her hair — which was seen by some as disheveled (though today it looks strikingly modern). Q. David Bowers has proposed calling it the “Society Lady” design, but it looks like the Washlady name — first used in 1891 — will stick.


Fake 1902 Morgan dollar circulatesUnravel the mystery of die trails: Another column in the July 17 Coin World takes a look at some ‘heavy hitting’ double die discoveries


The design is attributed to William Barber’s son Charles, based on the strong similarity between Liberty’s portrait and younger Barber’s Liberty Head 5-cent piece that entered circulation in 1883.

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The Washlady design appeared on various denominations. This example of Judd 1590, struck in silver with a reeded edge and graded Proof 66 Cameo by PCGS, sold for $25,850, with the gorgeous pattern providing evidence that Charles Barber’s design was well-suited to smaller denomination coins. 


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