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The Rare 1921 Standing Liberty Quarter

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez - May 25, 2021

Standing Liberty Quarter, 1921 25C, FH, PCGS MS67FH. Click image to enlarge.

When the topic of key-date Standing Liberty Quarters comes up, one’s mind often turns to the iconic 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter, noted by many numismatic experts as among the most important rarities of the 20th century. With its mintage of just 52,000 pieces and prices starting at over $3,000 in a grade of PCGS G4, it’s not hard to see why the 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter has deservedly earned such fame; its status as a rare first-year issue for this series designed by Hermon A. MacNeil also helps. But there’s another rare and significant Standing Liberty Quarter that keeps series enthusiasts on their toes, and that is the 1921.

To a collector whose expertise falls beyond Standing Liberty Quarters, the 1921 “Standing Lib” might not stand out as a landmark rarity on the surface. Its seven-figure mintage of 1,916,000 certainly doesn’t scream “key date,” but that’s where such assumptions would quickly end. The year 1921 lent to the creation of many rarities in United States coinage due to a post-World War I recession that mitigated the need for high coinage outputs by the U.S. Mint that year. Many series, including the mass-produced Lincoln Cent, saw relatively scant numbers in 1921. The quarter, a workhorse coin in the nation’s commerce seemingly forever, saw extensive use in the early 1920s – a time when few American collectors were setting aside modern U.S. coins by date anyway.

There may be many tens of thousands of 1921 Standing Liberty Quarters out there, but we’ll never know it. Why? Because until 1925, the date on the obverse of the coin was placed in a proud position atop the pedestal upon which Miss Liberty strikes her pose. This means the date wore off to oblivion in short order in circulation, and it appears such was the case for the vast majority of 1921 Standing Liberty Quarters. PCGS estimates approximately 10,000 examples of the 1921 Quarter exist with verifiable dates, though most of the known survivors are in lower circulated grades.

One could expect to pay $375 for a decent example grading F12, while prices reach $800 in XF40. The 1921 really shows its scarcity in the uncirculated grades, where entry prices top $1,500 for an MS60. Gems in MS65 take around $2,675. Standing Lib aficionados vie for Full Head specimens, which are generally rarer because they exhibit a complete strike, which wasn’t common with certain dates – and it wasn’t with the 1921, a coin notorious for its strike weakness. Perhaps fewer than 500 Full Head examples exist, and these are the object of desire for the PCGS Set Registry collector who wants to complete a top-notch collection of Standing Liberty Quarters. A 1921 graded PCGS MS65FH fetches $7,750. The record price belongs to a specimen graded PCGS MS67FH and realized $69,000 in a 2012 Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction.

Collectors must exercise caution when buying the 1921 Standing Liberty Quarter. Its rarity begets plenty of altered dates and counterfeits, which could easily outnumber the population of legitimate 1921 Standing Liberty Quarters on the market. Beyond the scores of cast counterfeits, electrotypes, and deceiving fakes struck with spurious dies, there are alterations involving manipulation of the “4” in the date on 1924 Standing Liberty Quarters. On authentic 1921 Quarters, both “1” numerals in the date look the same. One’s best bet is to simply buy 1921 Standing Liberty Quarters that have been authenticated and graded by PCGS.

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