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Motto Varies in Strength on 1934 Quarters
By Tom LaMarre, Coins Magazine
February 19, 2014

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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The Washington quarter began as a circulating commemorative in 1932, celebrating the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. No quarters were struck in 1933 because of the Great Depression. In 1934 the Washington quarter returned as a regular issue.

The official George Washington Bicentennial observance ended on Thanksgiving Day 1932. Some newspapers were already referring to the Washington quarter in the past tense.

According to at least one source, a special vote of Congress in 1934 was responsible for the Washington quarter’s comeback. Actually, the resumption of Washington quarter production came as no surprise to those who had been watching the situation carefully.

In late 1931 The Numismatist said that whether the Washington quarter design would continue after 1932 would probably be decided later. The magazine predicted that if the Washington quarter was found to have good wearing qualities and was otherwise acceptable, it might remain in production.

The Philadelphia Mint struck nearly 32 million Washington quarters in 1934. The Denver Mint turned out about 3.5 million, which explains how it became one of the more desirable coins in a series known for large mintages.

On 1932 and early 1934 quarters the motto “In God We Trust” was so lightly defined that it was difficult to read. Writing in the September 1934 issue of The Numismatist, Robert H. Lloyd said the motto was “cut so lightly into the die” that it appeared somewhat “shadowy” on the coin.

During the 1934 production run the master die was hubbed to strengthen the lettering. Previous 1934 quarters had a “light motto.” The revised version had a bold “heavy motto.”

Later, collectors identified a 1934 “medium motto” variety with distinct but thin letters. All 1935 quarters have a “medium motto.” Quarters minted from 1936 to 1964 have a “heavy motto.”

Lloyd described the motto as “greatly strengthened” on the new and improved 1934 quarter. He said the difference from previous Washington quarters could be easily noted without the aid of a magnifying glass.

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Lloyd jokingly suggested the strengthening may have been the Roosevelt administration’s reaffirmation of its belief in the motto now that the economic recovery program was taking effect and the worst of the Depression was over.

After the die was redone, a Washington quarter variety with doubled “In God We Trust” was struck at the Philadelphia Mint. Values range from $100 in Very Good-8 to $850 in Mint State-60.

In November 1934 the Spokane Daily Chronicle said the new quarters with the head of George Washington would soon have replaced entirely the older quarters with a Standing Liberty design.

In the fall of 1934 a banker arrived at the White House to visit President Franklin D. Roosevelt. When he realized that he didn’t have any change to pay the cab fare, he borrowed a quarter from a reporter. Roosevelt accused him of “begging” from the White House steps.

Collectors shouldn’t have to resort to begging for a 1934 Washington quarter. The value guide in Coins lists Fine-12 examples at $12 or less. The variety of motto doesn’t make much difference, which indicates they were probably struck in almost equal quantities.

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