Proof Reverse Washington Quarters ( 1956-1964) The Ultimate Variety Part II
Part II of a two part article series written by Dr. Richard S. Appel
In Part I of my Proof Reverse Washington Quarters article I discussed the history, facts and questions regarding these remarkable coins. I also described their characteristics and importance as well as the controversy that continues to surround their genesis. Below is a date by date analysis of their rarity with a special note exposing their extreme rarity in high grade.
A YEAR BY YEAR ANALYSIS
The vast majority of Mint State examples of each issue are limited to MS64 or lower grades. Depending upon the date, they are all very scarce or rare up to MS65, and are exceptionally rare in MS66 or finer condition. Other than the 1957 emission many dates have yet to see their first coin certified in even MS67. No coins are graded MS68! It is important to recognize why many of these issues will likely never have more than a few MS67 or finer specimens. This is due to the general rarity of 1959-1964 Type I Reverse Washington Quarters in that condition. Since so few high grade coins exist for these Philadelphia Mint dates, it is understandable that the far rarer Proof Reverses are the Holy Grail of the series.
As stated in Part I, the 1956 Proof Reverse issue is by far the rarest of the entire nine year series. While there were likely many thousands produced, most first found their way into circulation, and finally into the melting pots. They are seldom encountered in Circulated condition and are quite rare in Mint State. In fact, only a combined minuscule 103 coins have been certified in Mint condition by PCGS and NGC. I doubt if even a few thousand Uncirculated coins remain for all present and future collectors to enjoy. This is the first Condition Rarity of the series. Only nine specimens are graded MS66, and no MS67 or finer coins have been seen by either service.
The 1957 issue is quite scarce in Brilliant Uncirculated condition, and is the most common Proof Reverse date in high grade. Fortunately for the collector at least this issue can occasionally be found in superb, MS67 grade. NGC and PCGS have graded 253 Mint State coins with 29 in MS67, and none finer. Their existence in MS67 is due to the fact that a few found their way into government issued Mint Sets.
Mint Sets of a given date during the 1956-1964 era were produced in the early months of the following year. When Mint employees pulled Washington Quarters from the prior year’s production for inclusion in those sets, they took the coins that were on hand. Their presence while limited in the 1957-1964 sets, confirms the great likelihood that Proof Reverse coins were minted at year end. Otherwise they would have already been dispersed to the various Federal Reserve Banks, then to local banks, and would not have been at the Mint.
However, it is noteworthy that coins found in government issued sets tend to grade MS65 or lower.
1958 coins exist in slightly greater numbers than those from 1957.
The two grading services show a combined total of 509 Mint State coins. It is quite rare in higher grades, and MS66 is the Finest Known grade yet certified.
1959 also boasts zero MS67 or better certified coins. The two services report holdering 590 combined Mint State examples. Even at the MS66 level only 30 coins have been graded. Its greater availability can likely be attributed to its appearance in Mint Sets.
The 1960 Proof Reverse issue hosts 546 Mint State examples. Only two NGC MS67 graded coins have been certified, with none by PCGS. This date is also occasionally found in Mint Sets.
1961 records a lone NGC MS67 graded coin! This is likely the third rarest year of the series in Uncirculated condition. A mere 195 coins are Mint State certified for this issue, and only 30 specimens reach the MS66 level. Also reported in a few Mint Sets.
From my experience, and others, 1962 appears to be the second rarest Proof Reverse Washington Quarter. This was first pointed out to me by Jose Cortez. It is occasionally seen in Circulated condition, but is quite rare in Mint State. Like a number of these issues, at the MS66 or finer level it can be considered an important Condition Rarity. Only 151 coins are certified in all Mint State grades, and only a combined total of 6 coins have attained the MS66 level by NGC and PCGS. Somewhat surprisingly, two PCGS coins claim the highly desired MS67 grade.
1963, while rare in Mint State, must be considered one of the more available Proof Reverse issues. While only 437 examples have met the Mint State standards of PCGS and NGC, only 34 have been graded MS66, and a single example grades NGC MS67. This is yet another issue of these great coins that is destined to remain virtually unknown in high grade.
1964 is the final year of this coveted series.
Despite the year’s enormous mintage, either the Mint had made sufficient normal business reverse dies, or virtually all of its Proof Reverse coins met their fate in a melting pot. I feel it is slightly more common than the 1961 issue with just 203 certified coins in all Mint State grades. It is not surprising that no MS67 or finer coins have been graded by NGC or PCGS. This is because the Mints were greatly overtaxed during that year. The demand for coinage had skyrocketed, and in their haste Mint employees seemed to take far less care in handling the coins. Even normal business strike coins are rare in MS67. I believe this is the reason why only 7 coins even reach the MS66 level, and the first MS67 example has yet to be designated a Proof Reverse. This is the final great Condition Rarity of the group. A few coins have been reported in Mint Sets of that year.
When I first became interested in these intriguing coins I thought like every other numismatic expert I consulted, that these were unusual if not extraordinary. With little thought we all referred to them as either accidents, mistakes, errors or even mules. No one seemed to recognize or even spent a moment to consider their indispensable place in the Washington Quarter Series. This may have been fostered by the original belief that the coining dies were made from a Proof Hub rather than from Proof dies themselves. However, the more I pondered them and their origin, the more I recognized their unheralded position in the numismatic universe.
WHY I BELIEVE PROOF REVERSE WASHINGTON QUARTERS BEAR SUCH GREAT IMPORTANCE
Numismatists generally consider a complete set of regular Mint coins to consist of one example of each issue of the series produced exclusively for circulation. I believe that Proof Reverse Washington Quarters qualify under this definition. Further, I feel they belong in the numismatic class that contains all other major numismatic varieties and errors. Importantly, to my mind what sets them apart from even the most intriguing and coveted varieties is their genesis and the reason for their existence.
One might consider them a Type coin, which I feel is appropriate.
If numismatists decide this is the case I feel it is yet another reason for their inclusion in every complete set of Washington Quarters. If I am correct, the nine coins in the group (1956-1964) are the true under appreciated rarities of the entire Washington Quarter series!
PROOF REVERSE WASHINGTON QUARTERS JOIN OTHER ELITE NUMISMATIC RARITIES
Numerous other desirable coins come to mind that are universally considered by numismatists as indispensable in completing a set in their respective major series. This is despite the fact that they are not typical business strike issues. Among them are a number of years containing both large and small dates or large and small letter pairs that are scattered throughout American coinage. Similarly, there are a plethora of overdates as well as date variations such as open and closed 3 issues. These and a substantial number of other treasured varieties don’t possess the uniqueness of the Proof Reverse Quarters, yet they are extremely desirable and hold their places in most major sets. Like those mentioned above there are many other widely sought varieties that complete all important coin collections. When considering these my mind first went to Gold coins which have forever been among my favorites. The 1849 Philadelphia Open Wreath and Closed Wreath Gold Dollars are examples. In fact if the great rarity 1849-C Open Wreath existed in sufficient quantities, it too would hold its rightful place in all Gold Dollar collections. The 1796 No Stars Quarter Eagle, along with its Stars Obverse sister, the 1861-S Paquet Reverse $20, and the 1839 $10, Obverse of 1838 are ALL recognized as belonging in complete sets of their respective series. What St. Gaudens $20 or Indian $10 Gold collection would be finished without the 1908 Philadelphia and Denver No Motto issues, or the 1907 High Relief in a set of Saints?
Among minor U.S. coinage the 1883 No Cents Liberty Nickel, the Type Two 1917 Liberty Standing Quarters and even the 1878 Morgan Dollars with Eight Tail Feathers or Eight over Seven Tail Feathers are present in all major collections. This is also true for the 1879-S Reverse of 1878 Silver Dollar, when the Mint modified the Morgan Dollar’s reverse. All of these important coins represent major design or other changes and, just as the Proof Reverse Washington Quarters, all were struck by the U.S. Mint with the intention of entering circulation and becoming legal tender for all of our nation’s transactions. There are numerous other similar major varieties that could be included to complete this list. In all cases, they are viewed as being necessary to finish all major or minor coin collections of their respective series.
The 1932-D and 1932-S Quarters are considered the utmost rarities of the entire Washington Quarter Series. NGC and PCGS have graded a combined Mint State total of about three thousand 1932-D and five thousand 1932-S coins. The rarest issue of the Proof Reverse Series is the 1956 issue with just over 100 Mint State graded coins, and the most common is the 1959 issue with fewer than 600. Consider that a 1932-D specimen in MS66 would trade at $100,000-$150,000, and a similarly graded 1932-S is worth $15,000-$20,000. Even including the 1957 Proof Reverse, there are only a handful of MS66 or finer coins certified for all nine Proof Reverse issues. I am not suggesting that any of the Proof Reverse coins will ever attain such lofty prices as the 1932-D and 1932-S issues, but it is an interesting thought to ponder how future coin collectors will ultimately value them.
I believe that a wonderful opportunity presents itself for today’s numismatists and investors. This is due to at least three factors. First, there remains a widespread misunderstanding of the Proof Reverse Washington Quarter’s rightful place in American Numismatics among today’s coin enthusiasts. Next, the majority of coin participants, including many major collectors and dealers, while aware of their existence, just don’t care at present. Finally, and likely more important, the surviving number of these exceptional coins especially in high grade is minuscule when compared with other comparable desirable and significant numismatic rarities.
Today, few numismatists recognize the Proof Reverse coin’s importance, and give little thought to their station in numismatics. I am confident that as knowledge of their significance spreads their desirability will increase. Then, they should take the place where they rightfully belong, and be part of not only every complete Washington Quarter collection, but also every collection of U.S. Coinage as well.
Collectors can add these to their Washington Quarter, date, Type or other collections. Or, they can complete their own 1956-1964 Proof Reverse sets at a reasonable cost. Also, an investor can put away a few and enjoy the price appreciation possibilities offered by these wonderful coins. If I am correct, as knowledge of them and their popularity grows, the demand for these rarities will likely far outstrip the number of coins that are available to fill it. Ultimately, I believe those who add them to their collections will be rewarded for their foresight. They will have beaten the crowd in recognizing the true importance of the 1956-1964 Proof Reverse Washington Quarter series. I leave it in the hands of today’s and future Numismatists as to how Proof Reverse Washington Quarters are viewed. Only time will tell if others agree with me. In any event, it will be interesting to see how the controversy is resolved, and how Proof Reverse Washington Quarters are ultimately viewed and desired.
This article was published in the April 10, 2015 issue of the COIN DEALER CND MONTHLY SUPPLEMENT newsletter and written by the below author.
The author has given me permission to publish this article here and if you have any questions you can contact him below.