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The Rare 1913-S Barber Quarter

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez - September 1, 2023

The 1913-S Barber Quarter is one of the great rarities of the series, represented here by a stunning PCGS MS68 specimen that once sold for more than $170,000. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

The Barber Quarter, struck by the United States Mint from 1892 through 1916, is one of the classic collectibles that have drawn collectors for decades. Among the wonderful things about building a date-and-mintmark set of Barber Quarters are the many challenges of building out a complete set. Many issues are relatively common in the lower-circulated grades, particularly in VG8 or lower. However, the element of conditional scarcity in this series builds at the threshold of F12 and only amplifies in XF40 or higher.

But as far as absolute rarity, the series fields several toughies – no matter the grade. One of them is the 1913-S, a Barber Quarter that saw a small mintage and offers very few for collectors today. The 1913-S has long been heralded as a key date. With only 40,000 struck, the 1913-S is the lowest-mintage business strike among all Barber Quarters. In terms of availability today, the 1913-S ranks as second rarest, with an estimated survival of 2,500 specimens versus just 2,000 for the ultra-rare 1901-S. Conversely, the 1913-S is rarer than circulated specimens of the 1896-S, another key date for which collectors vie.

The vast majority of 1913-S Barber Quarters are in circulated grades, though around 150 are believed to be in Mint States grades, with about half of those in the grade of MS65 or better – remarkable considering the overall rarity of this coin. Clearly, collectors saved these coins from the onset. Of the Mint State examples, there is a relative abundance of MS64 and MS65 specimens, though the issue is truly rare in MS66 and extraordinarily rare in MS67. Amazingly, one of these uncirculated pieces scored a PCGS MS68 grade. It is a truly impeccable specimen and one of the very few examples in the entire series that notches such a stellar grade.

It should be noted that a number of 1913-S Barber Quarters exhibit a die crack in and around the lower portions of the “3” in the date. Some theorize that the appearance and progression of this die crack may be what led to the retirement of the dies and, thus, the anemic mintage of the 1913-S Barber Quarter.

At any rate, this is a piece collectors take seriously, both in terms of their reverence for its rarity and when planning the purchase of an example. The 1913-S is one of those rare coins that requires a keen eye and careful searching, for prime examples don’t turn up all that often. When they do, competition from other collectors can be fierce, especially when offered as an auction lot, where bids may start at an attractive price level but quickly escalate as two or more collectors tussle with each other for the same specimen.

Prices begin at around $1,400 for an example in G4 and climb skyward from there, eclipsing $5,000 in F12 and soaring past $10,000 at XF40. In the lowest Mint State grades, collectors pay nearly $20,000, while MS63 specimens regularly trade in the range of $22,000 to $24,000. It’s a $37,500 coin in MS65, and prices lurch upward beyond $50,000 at that point. The price record for a 1913-S belongs to the aforementioned MS68 beauty, which scored $172,500 in its 2005 offering by Heritage Auctions.

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