US Coins

Take a walk through gold quarter dollar production

While the U.S. Mint announced Aug. 1 that the 2016-W Standing Liberty gold quarter dollars will go on sale at noon ET Sept. 8, what was not disclosed is how many of the coins will be available and whether there are any household ordering limits.

The maximum number of 2016-W Winged Liberty Head gold dimes offered April 21 was 125,000. Coin World sources indicate production for the gold quarter dollars will likely be fewer than 125,000 coins. Production of the gold quarter dollars, with their circulation strike finish, began at the West Point Mint on May 13. As of Aug. 2, the coins were still being produced.

Pricing for the gold quarter dollars is based on the Mint’s pricing grid.

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With the spot price of gold surging, the potential opening sales price for the gold quarter dollar also continues to rise.

Based on the Mint’s pricing grid, if the spot price of gold remains in its current range of $1,350 to $1,399.99, the quarter dollar would be offered at a starting price of $497.50. However, the price is subject to change weekly.

The Standing Liberty gold quarter dollar is a .9999 fine quarter-ounce gold version of the .900 fine Standing Liberty quarter dollar designed by sculptor Hermon A. MacNeil and first struck in 1916. The obverse design on the gold version is the Bare Breast subtype as introduced 100 years ago. MacNeil’s original design was changed in 1917 with chain mail added to cover Liberty’s exposed right breast.

The Standing Liberty gold quarter dollar is the second of three planned 2016-W gold coins to mark the 100th anniversaries of the introduction in 1916, in silver, of sculptor Adolph A. Weinman’s Winged Liberty Head dime, MacNeil’s Standing Liberty quarter dollar and Weinman’s Walking Liberty half dollar.

The gold dime, with an authorized mintage of 125,000 coins, was offered April 21 at $205 per coin with a household ordering limit of 10 coins. Orders placed within the first hour exhausted the authorized mintage. However, returns and order cancellations resulted in the U.S. Mint having an unexpected unsold inventory of nearly 9,000 coins.

The U.S. Mint has released no information regarding plans for the unsold gold dimes. Some people are speculating that the unsold gold dimes could be offered as part of a three-coin set incorporating the dime, quarter dollar and still to be released half-ounce 2016-W Walking Liberty gold half dollar. Others suggest that the Mint could melt the unsold gold dimes.

No date or ordering details are yet announced for the third coin, the half-ounce gold Walking Liberty half dollar.

West Point visit

On a visit to the West Point Mint June 9, Coin World witnessed the production of the 2016-W Standing Liberty gold quarter dollars and spoke with Mint technicians about the coin.

The U.S. Mint requested that details of that visit be embargoed, until now.

The West Point Mint received the required planchets from Leach Garner. The planchets are received with a proto-rim that is upset, or raised, out to which the metal flows during striking.

Before the planchets are struck into coins, which will exhibit a circulation strike finish, the planchets are subjected to five to 10 minutes of burnishing in Spaleck burnishing equipment. The planchets are tumbled in a proprietary solution of soap, water and a mild surfactant in a tub containing steel media. After the burnishing operation is complete and the solution removed, the burnished planchets are placed into trays, with the edges facing up.

A press operator at the coinage press places each planchet, one at a time, into a coin chamber using tongs to hold the piece by the edge.

The planchets are struck twice on a Gräbener GMP 360 coin press exerting striking pressure of 65 to 68 tons per strike to bring up the design relief.

The dies are oriented on the coinage press to strike vertically, with the obverse as the upper or hammer die, and the reverse as the lower or anvil die. West Point Mint officials note the edge, or collar, die imparts a standard wide reed.

During Coin World’s visit, coin press operator Migdalia Velazquez, wearing finger cots and using special coin tongs, fed the gold planchets one at a time into the coinage press. After ejection, the struck coin is removed from the press, inspected for defects and placed into a coin tray that will eventually be delivered to the packaging operation. Struck coins will be visually inspected with the naked eye and possibly examined under magnification using a coin loupe.

Also during the visit, quality control specialist Tracy Henry randomly removed struck coins for further examination under higher magnification looking for defects. What she saw through the microscope’s double eyepieces was also visible on a nearby computer screen, magnified multiple times. Images can be taken of specific areas of concern or for further study and documentation.

While the Standing Liberty silver quarter dollars introduced in 1916 are 24.3 millimeters in diameter, the 2016-W gold version is 22 millimeters, the same diameter as the American Eagle quarter-ounce gold coin. The gold version, at 1.63 millimeters thick, is slightly thicker than the silver coin.

On the gold coin’s obverse, on the tablet to Liberty’s left (viewer’s right), are inscribed the details identifying the coin’s weight and precious metal content, reflected in two lines as AU 24K / 1/4 OZ. 

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