In 1872, the San Francisco Mint struck 83,000 quarters, a respectable number and the second highest mintage for quarters at the branch mint between 1866 and 1872, the first years for the Motto Above Eagle, No Arrows variety.(1)
Given the original mintage size, novices might be surprised to learn the 1872-S ranks among the rarest dates in the entire Seated Liberty quarter series. PCGS estimates only 225 examples exist in the present day, calculating to a survivorship rate of less than 0.3%(2)
Why are there so few 1872-S quarters? Researchers are confident most of them never left the Mint,(3) perhaps in anticipation of numerous changes coming to American coinage.
The Coinage Act of February 12, 1873, among other things, mandated a 4.8% increase in the silver content of the dime, quarter, and half dollar. The new dimes weighed 2.50 grams. The quarter and half dollar were increased likewise to 6.25 grams and 12.50 grams, respectively. This was done to place the United States in harmony with the silver coinage of Europe, hence the metric weight units.(4)
It’s almost certain a large percentage of the 1872-S population, still in government storage, were melted down and recoined in accordance with the new weight standard. This could explain why the 1872-S is more scarce than other dates with lower mintages.(5)
Obviously, not all the 1872-S quarters perished in the melting pot. Some made it into circulation, but were mostly ignored by contemporary collectors, who had no idea how few of them existed. Even Augustus G. Heaton, the man credited with stimulating interest in mintmark collecting with his A Treatise on the Coinage of the United States Branch Mints (published in 1893) did not view the 1872-S quarter as a rarity.(6)
Times have certainly changed! The 1872-S Seated Liberty quarter has been on a power gallop for decades as prices have risen steadily. However, we’ve seen some price reductions for higher circulated grades (certain to be only temporary).
|Estimated survivors in all grades: 225
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
|PCGS Rarity Scale: 6.7
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
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