100 Years of Standing Liberty Quarters
100 years ago in 1916, the United States Mint first struck one of the most beautiful – and most controversial – coins in U.S. history: the Standing Liberty Quarter.
The first coins were made between December 16 and 31, 1916, but they were not released into circulation until January 17, 1917, along with the first of the 1917-dated coins. Designed by famed sculptor Hermon A. MacNeil, the design was selected in a competition in 1916 along with Adolph A. Weinman’s Mercury Dime and Walking Liberty Half Dollar. As with all such coins of the era, it was struck in 90% silver.
The obverse shows Liberty dressed in a flowing gown while defending an opening in a wall bearing the motto “In God We Trust.” In one hand, Liberty holds a shield of defense, while in the other she holds an olive branch of peace. MacNeil’s model for Liberty was Broadway actress Irene MacDowell.
Together, the shield and olive branch were highly symbolic: they indicated that the United States was a peace-loving nation, yet it was willing to fight for freedom. This was especially important, because just a few weeks later the U.S. joined World War I.
The reverse of the coin is a dramatic and elegant flying eagle. A beautifully sculptured image with each feather clearly identifiable, it was a more realistic design than had appeared on previous coins. The eagle is surrounded by 13 stars to represent the 13 original states.
When the first Standing Liberty Quarters came out, they instantly became scandalous! Liberty was shown with an exposed breast – and the Society for the Suppression of Vice was very vocal about the coin being “immoral” and “obscene.” There was such an uproar that the U.S. Mint was forced to change the design early in 1917 to cover Liberty’s breast with a chain-mail shirt.
New in 2016 … the 100th Anniversary GOLD Standing Liberty Quarter!
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Standing Liberty Quarter, the U.S. Mint produced a 99.99% gold (24-karat gold) edition on September 8, 2016. Using the exact same design as the original 1916 coin with the exposed breast, it was the first gold quarter in U.S. history.
In keeping with the coin’s history and design, the 2016 gold edition is about the same size as the original 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter. It was struck with 1/4 ounce of pure gold – symbolic of the quarter being 1/4 of a dollar. It is therefore slightly heavier than a silver quarter but is about the same diameter.
The coin is being struck only at the U.S. Mint in West Point, and the edition limit is only 100,000 coins. West Point’s “W” mint mark appears to the left of, and slightly above, the date; designer MacNeil’s initial “M” is to the right of the date. Also on the obverse are the inscriptions “AU 24K” (i.e. 24-karat gold”) and “1/4 oz.” to certify the coin’s weight and gold purity.
This coin follows the 100th anniversary gold Mercury Dime that was issued in April, 2016, while the 100th anniversary gold Walking Liberty Half Dollar will be issued later in 2016.