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Differences Between 1981 Type 1 and Type 2 Washington Quarters

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez - May 2, 2023

The 1981 Type 1 and Type 2 proofs garner much attention among enthusiasts of the Susan B. Anthony Dollar. And while the Susan B. Anthony Dollar bearing the Type 2 S mintmark is the most valuable of the 1981 proofs struck across the six denominations produced by the United States Mint that year, the Type II proof is scarcer than the Type 1 S mintmark regardless of the 1981 denomination – cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, or dollar.

Interestingly, while it is the 1981-S Type 2 Susie B. that seems to grab the most attention of any United States coins struck that year, the other 1981-S Type 2 denominations deserve their own numismatic recognition. This is certainly true of the 1981-S Type 2 Washington Quarter, belonging to one of the most widely collected series in the U.S. coin catalog.

The 1981-S Type 1 S mintmark takes a less-defined shape than its Type 2 counterpart boasting a well-clarified appearance and bulbous serifs. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.
The 1981-S Type 2 Washington Quarter. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView.
Click image to enlarge.

A total of 4,063,083 proof sets were made in 1981, most of which contain coins bearing the more common Type 1 S mintmark from the San Francisco Mint. The Type 1 mintmark on 1981 coins is actually the Type 2 “Clear” S mintmark that debuted in late 1979, replacing the 1979 Type 1 “Filled S” mintmark. The most notable difference between the 1981 Type 1 mintmark and 1981 Type 2 mintmark is best perceived in the serifs of the S mintmark, which on the 1981 Type 2 iteration of the S appear bulbous. The presence of the serifs is indeed the best, and certainly most outward, diagnostic of this scarcer mintmark variety.

Just how scarce is the 1981-S Type 2 coinage? There are no known mint records to suggest exactly how many of the 1981-S Type 2 coins were produced in total or among any specific denomination.

However, it’s generally believed that between 10% and 20% of the 1981 proof coinage exhibits the Type 2 S mintmark. This means that somewhere in the neighborhood of 400,000 and 800,000 of the 1981-S proof Washington Quarters are of the Type 2 variety. Though not a rarity by any measure, a presumed production of fewer than 1 million is relatively scarce for any modern-era coin, and the 1981-S Type 2 Washington Quarter is certainly worthy of some spotlight on that merit.

While price differences between the two 1981-S mintmark types are negligible in the grade range of PR65DCAM to PR68DCAM, they become more pronounced in PR69DCAM and are notable in PR70DCAM – a grade that, many often forget, is still on the tougher side for late 1970‘s and early ‘80s proof coinage. The 1981-S Type 2 Washington Quarter in PR70DCAM offers only around 200 survivors in PCGS holders, and these coins trade for $215 apiece. This is substantially more than the $38 fetched by Type 1 examples in the same grade, which offers nearly 1,000 PCGS-holdered specimens.

Article provided by PCGS at
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