1901-S Barber Quarter

The 1901-S quarter is the undisputed “King of Barber Coinage”. Except for the nearly uncollectible 1894-S dime, the 1901-S quarter is the rarest date within the Barber series. In fact, some experts rate the 1901-S Barber quarter as the rarest regular issue (non-variety) silver coin of the 20th century.(1)

The San Francisco Mint struck a meager 72,664 quarters in 1901, a number very low, even for those times. No one has determined why so few were made, but some researchers suggest the Mint still had not fully distributed the 1.9 million “S” quarters produced just the year before, in 1900.(2)

The 1913-S quarter mintage was even lower, at 40,000 pieces. Though rare and highly desired, the 1913-S is not as elusive as the 1901-S, because there were relatively few coin collectors in the Pacific coast states in 1901 to set aside examples. On top of that, interest in mintmark collecting was still a novel concept, so most of the miniscule 1901 mintage entered and served dutifully in commerce. By 1913, the number of coin hobbyists in the country had increased dramatically and comparatively more examples of the 1913-S were saved by contemporary collectors.(3)

There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest the April 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire claimed some of the 1901-S quarter population. The mint building was the only financial institution still standing amid the rubble, but banks, homes, and businesses were mostly destroyed. It’s logical to assume many coins were consumed by the event and lost forever.(4)

The 1901-S Barber quarter began attracting attention in November 1914 in when B. Max Mehl auctioned an example from the Arthur Nygren Collection, describing the coin as "Uncirculated, mint luster."(5)

Fascinating Fact: In 1994, one of the finest known 1901-S Barber quarter examples was discovered in the cornerstone of a schoolhouse in Reno, NV, alongside a dime, half dollar, and dollar, all pristine new from the San Francisco Mint. Apparently, all four coins were carefully selected and entombed in the cornerstone during the groundbreaking ceremony in 1901. The coin was professionally certified as MS-65 and sold in 1994 for $29,150.(6) The same coin brought nearly $80,000 in 2013.(7)

Whatever the explanation may be for its relative scarcity, the 1901-S is the leader of the pack for Barber quarters, and for over 100 years has ranked highly on the “Want List” for many experienced collectors.

Estimated survivors in all grades: 2000
? 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: 4.6
? 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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1. PCGS.  1901-S 25C (Regular Strike).

2. Heritage Auctions.  1901-S 25C.  Jan 2007 Auction.

3. Heritage Auctions.  1901-S 25C.  Jun 2014 Auction.

4. Green, Paul M. Could 1906 Earthquake Be Pricing Factor?.  November 10, 2008 Numismatic News.

5. Heritage Auctions.  1901-S 25C.  Jun 2014 Auction.

6. Heritage Auctions.  1901-S 25C.  Jul 1994 Auction.

7. Heritage Auctions.  1901-S 25C.  Aug 2013 Auction.

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Coin Images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.