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When 1927-S Beats the 1916 Quarter
By Paul M. Green, Numismatic News
September 26, 2013

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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The 1927-S Standing Liberty quarter is really two very different coins. It is available in some grades and at prices that seem very inexpensive when you consider the mintage. In other grades, however, it becomes not as tough as its low mintage suggests, but rather far tougher, making it one of the most important and expensive coins of the 20th century.

With very different situations in terms of price, it should be no surprise that there were two very different stories regarding the 1927-S and that is part of what makes it such an interesting coin.

The fact that the 1927-S had a mintage of just 396,000 must be remembered. It is the second lowest mintage, behind only the 52,000 total for the 1916.

Even at the time of issue, the mintage was considered on the low side as routinely mintages were running more than 1 million pieces. The 1927-D was also below 1 million, but at 976,400 it was not significantly lower. These is no question that being below 500,000, the mintage of the 1927-S got some attention.

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When you look at its price today of $48 in VG-8, you have to consider it inexpensive. Priced at $45 in that grade are the Type II 1917-D and 1917-S quarters and their mintages were 6,224,400 and 5,552,000, respectively.

Certainly there is something unusual about the 1927-S, but we could still rationalize the prices of the earlier coins by pointing out that these quarters are divided into two groups, those mintage before 1925 and those minted after.

Dates wore off very fast for the pre-1925 coins. This effect greatly reduced the surviving supply of coins in VG-8 and perhaps accounts for this near equality of the 1917-D and 1917-S with the 1927-S.

On 1925 and later coins, the date was recessed, slowing its rate of wear. When the price of the 1927-S is compared to the VG-8 price of the 1927-D, at $19, the relative values seem to make more sense.

As part of a the group of coins dated 1925 on, the 1927-S is the most expensive.

It is in Mint State where it gets interesting. At $4,500 in MS-60, the 1927-S is the third most expensive coin in the series behind the 1918/7-S overdate and the 1916. In MS-65, its $11,000 price remains in third place. However, in MS-65 with full head strike the price vaults to $185,000, behind only the overdate.

This rarity is borne out by the numbers of coins seen at the grading services. At Numismatic Guaranty Corporation they have seen just nine examples of the full head strike and just three of these were MS-65 or better.

At the Professional Coin Grading Service, the number of full-head pieces was 20, with two MS-65FH and two MS-66FH. That makes just seven coins at MS-65FH or higher, a number that seems to clearly justify the high price of the 1927-S.

Clearly the 1927-S is an extremely special date. It is by far the toughest regular date in the top grades as only the overdate exceeds its price. It is a coin that starts out scarce in the lower grades and ends up very rare. It makes you want to spend the $48, doesn’t it?

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