After making repairs and installing new machinery, the New Orleans Mint resumed coin production in 1879. Of the three southern mints, it was the only one to reopen following the Civil War.(1)
Entering the 20th century, New Orleans continued to strike gold and silver coins, but as time marched on, it became increasingly clear the "O" Mint was nearing the end of its heyday. Newer equipment in the Denver and San Francisco Mints dwarfed the productivity of the aging New Orleans facility, raising many questions about its future viability.
The end came on July 1, 1909, when the federal government cut off funding for coining operations. Two years later, the historic structure was stripped of much of its machinery and relegated to an assay office.(2)
From the inception of the Barber quarter in 1892 until 1908, production of the 25-cent denomination at New Orleans averaged a respectable 2.86 million pieces annually, never falling below 1.23 million. With only a six-month window in 1909, the doomed Mint managed to strike only 712,000 quarters before the coining presses were shut down.(3)
The relatively small mintage of 1909-O quarters were released into circulation, where few of them were saved by contemporary collectors.(4)
Many numismatists consider the 1909-O quarter as one of the most important rarities in the Barber series. Dealer and author David Lawrence took a deep dive on this subject with his 1994 book The Complete Guide to Barber Quarters and had this to say in 1997:
"The 1909-O is the scarcest of all the New Orleans Mint Barber quarters in most grades, especially if with a decent strike. It is on the want list of just about everyone who wants to build a Mint State set."
The 1909-O quarter was underrated for a long time. The track record for the coin from 1950-1990 was good, but not great. Starting around the mid-1990’s, prices catapulted and have remained high.
Some may contend it was the publication of Lawrence’s book that initiated the spike by drawing attention to the rarity and historical significance of the 1909-O quarter, as the last of the New Orleans Mint coinage.
Perhaps the two events were purely coincidental, but prices are mostly inching still higher, clearly indicating solid and sustainable numismatic interest.
Important Advice: Most of the 1909-O Barber quarters are characterized by weakly struck central devices (e.g., the hair below the headband on obverse). Collectors are willing to pay hefty premiums for sharply struck specimens.(5)
|Estimated survivors in all grades: 2500
? 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: 4.5
? 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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