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About the Bicentennial Quarters | Bicentennial Issues

Explore Special Edition Bicentennial Quarters 

Bicentennial quarters are reminders of the surging patriotism and national pride experienced around the country’s Bicentennial. These coins, with other Bicentennial issues, played a pivotal role in celebrating the country. 

In 1976, commemorative Bicentennial quarters were released to mark the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, joining the half dollar and dollar coins in the celebration. The Bicentennial coins were issued in 1975 and 1976, though all Bicentennial coins bear the 1776-1976 date. No quarter, half dollar, or dollar bearing a 1975 date was minted. 

As a result of abuses to the system in operations of the past, members of Congress established the American Revolutionary Bicentennial Commission in 1966 and began introducing bills to celebrate the bicentennial in 1971. 

Mint Director Mary Brooks opposed initial proposals for bicentennial coinage but later supported the bills. With her support, Congress passed legislation for a temporary redesign of the quarter, half dollar, and dollar reverse. 

The Design Contest of the Bicentennial Reverse 

In October 1973, President Nixon signed legislation for the design and issuance of 45 million silver-clad coins, and a design contest was announced for the reverse of Bicentennial coinage. 

Any U.S. citizen could enter the contest, and Treasury Secretary George Schultz would select the winning design for each denomination with the advice of a panel of judges.  

Amid much contention and drama, three winning designers were selected and invited to Washington D.C.  

Three winners of the design competition received $5,000 each. This was the first time that designs on circulating U.S. coins were changed to honor American independence. 

Jack L. Ahr’s design was chosen for the quarter. He featured a colonial drummer with a torch of victory and 13 stars for the original colonies around him. 

U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro made minor changes to each design, and all three designers approved the changes.  

Production and Distribution of Bicentennial Quarters 

In August 1974, the designers were allowed to operate the coin presses to strike the first coins with their designs. These differ from other Bicentennial issues; while they are silver proof coins, they feature no mint mark.  

In November of 1974, the U.S. Mint started taking orders for celebratory silver clad coins. They were sold at a rate of $15 for proof sets and $9 for Uncirculated sets and consumers were allowed to buy five sets per person.  

The price was reduced to $12 for proof sets, and buyers were sent refunds for the difference. Later, Uncirculated sets were reduced to $7 for bulk orders of 50 or greater. 

On July 7, 1975, the first Bicentennial coins entered circulation with the half dollar. In September, the Bicentennial quarter was released, and in October, the dollar was released.  

Mintage of Bicentennial Quarters 

One of the reasons these coins do not command a higher premium today is that they were struck in numbers exceeding the need for circulation. The goal was for as many Americans as possible to be able to obtain a Bicentennial set. 

So many Americans obtained the Bicentennial quarters that in a 1996 study, T.V. Buttrey found about one third of all Bicentennial circulation quarters, about 750,000,000, were hoarded.  

Circulation quarters were the same copper-nickel alloy used in the Washington quarter today. The proof-clad coins were copper-nickel clad over a copper core, and the proof silver variety was 80% silver-clad over a silver-copper core. 

Official mintages of the Bicentennial quarter were as follows. 

Mint Circulating Proof Clad 40% Silver 
Denver 860,118,839     
Philadelphia 809,784,016     
San Francisco 11,000,000 7,059,099 4,000,000 

The value of these is dependent on their relative rarity among other factors, and they are widely available for a nearly 50-year-old coin.  

How to Tell if Your 1976-S Quarter is Silver Clad 

In order to differentiate your copper-nickel clad Bicentennial quarter from the 40% silver Bicentennial quarter, you may need to weigh it. 

If your 1976-S Bicentennial quarter weighs 5.75 grams, it is made from a 40% silver composition. If your Bicentennial quarter weighs 5.67 grams, it is a copper-nickel clad proof.  

There are some ways to tell the copper-nickel clad apart from the silver Bicentennial quarter. The clad variety has an apparent copper layer visible on its edge and the silver quarter will not have a layered edge. 

Bicentennial quarters are more than coins. They are an artifact of history and a portal to American heritage. Their intricate design, patriotic imagery, and high mintage offer collectors of all ages an opportunity to enjoy a classic piece of Americana. 

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