Authorized in 1792, the first Draped Bust quarter was not issued until 1796 with a mintage slightly over 6,000. No more were minted until 1804, with slight variations and low mintages until 1807. From 1808 to 1814, there were no quarter dollars minted, and in 1815, minting resumed with the Capped Bust design that included two varieties until 1838.
Mid-1838 saw the introduction of the Liberty Seated quarter. This issue included 5 varieties and lasted until 1891. The first variety had no motto above the eagle. The second variety of 1853 had arrows at the date to signify a weight reduction and rays around the eagle. Variety 3, from 1854 to 1855, included the arrows again, but no rays were present around the eagle. Variety 4, 1866 to 1873, signified the addition of the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the reverse. And in Variety 5, 1873 to 1874, arrows reappeared to signify the adoption of the metric system by the US Mint.
In 1892, the Liberty Head or Barber quarter was introduced. Designed by Charles Barber, this is one of the few American types to take the name of the designer, rather than the name of the main design element. This issue included two varieties and lasted until 1916, when the Standing Liberty quarter appeared, featuring a bare-breasted Liberty in a long, flowing dress; she was later covered in chain mail from 1917 to 1930.
In 1932, the Washington quarter was introduced and is still in circulation today. Originally designed to commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of the first president, Congress made the new design permanent, forever replacing the Standing Liberty quarter. Originally struck in 90% silver, the mint transitioned to copper-nickel clad coinage in 1965, and since then, there have been varying series and varieties, including the Bicentennial from 1975-1976, the State quarter series from 1999-2008 and most recently, the America the Beautiful quarter program from 2010-2021.
Coin Images courtesy of PCGS CoinFacts