How can you tell if a 1970 quarter is rare? The 1970 quarter is one of the most intriguing from the era. With unique designs and some minting quirks, these old quarters can be highly valuable to coin collectors and investors if certain signs point to their rarity.
If you’re short on time, here’s the key to identifying a rare 1970 quarter: Look for proof or silver proof versions, low mintage numbers out of Denver or San Francisco mints, unusual wear patterns, or double die errors on the coin’s face.
Examining Mint Marks
Proof and Silver Proof Versions
Proof versions of the 1970 quarter were specially minted for coin collectors. They feature a mirror-like finish and have exceptionally sharp details on Lady Liberty and the eagle on the reverse side. Proof quarters from 1970 were struck at the San Francisco mint.
These proofs have an S mint mark located underneath the eagle on the reverse of the coin. Around 2,632,810 proof quarters were struck in 1970.
|No visible mint mark. Has a mirror-like proof finish.
|S (San Francisco)
|Has an S mint mark on the reverse below the eagle. Proof finish.
Silver-proof versions, made of 80% silver, were also struck that year. They closely resemble the standard-proof coins but contain real silver instead of copper and nickel. Details on mintage numbers are scarce, but silver proofs from 1970 carry significant premiums due to precious metal content and scarcity.
Low Philadelphia and San Francisco Mintage
Circulation-strike 1970 quarters feature much lower mintage figures from the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints versus Denver.
- The Philadelphia mint struck over 136,420,000 quarters for circulation in 1970. With lower mintage, these coins can carry a higher price over face value, between $5 to $10.
- The 1970-D quarter had a comparative mintage of 417,341,364 coins. Well-struck, uncirculated examples can sell for a slightly higher price than a face value.
- The key rarity of the bunch is the 1970-S proof, with a microscopic mintage of just 2,632,810 quarters. 1970 was the last year the San Francisco Mint struck quarters for circulation, adding to demand. Prices today start around $20-25 for pieces showing light wear.
As with earlier years, mintage totals alone don’t tell the whole story of value. Condition, small variances in striking quality, and special finishes like proof can greatly influence collectability.
To summarize, proof and silver issues of the 1970 quarter bring strong premiums and are worth keeping an eye out for during coin roll hunting. And pieces showing no wear that were struck at Denver or San Francisco merit close inspection when assessing quarter value.
Inspecting Condition and Wear
When examining a 1970 quarter for rarity, one of the most important factors is the coin’s wear and condition. Specifically, pay close attention to the high points of the coin’s design for evidence of wear patterns.
The high points refer to the raised areas of the design that stand out, like the horse’s mane, the breast feathers of the eagle, and the columns of the building on the reverse. These areas tend to show wear first as the coin circulates.
For a rare, high-grade 1970 quarter, the wear should be minimal if any. You want to see full, sharp detail remaining with no smoothing of the design’s lines and features. If the high points exhibit smoothing, nicking, rubbing, or blurring of detail, that is considered moderate to heavy wear and will detract from the value.
One common issue on many well-worn 1970 quarters is a flattened or weakened breast feather area just below the eagle’s beak. Check that this area remains full and rounded. Also examine the horse’s mane lines, the building columns, and other elevated design segments. The sharper the detail, the better.
Toning refers to the colorful, film-like patina that forms on a coin’s surface over many years due to natural oxidation. For circulated 1970 quarters, attractive toning can enhance eye appeal and value.
It tends to display blue, purple, red, green, gold, or brown hues on the coin’s silver surfaces.
However, there are also less desirable types of toning. Unnatural toning with splotchy rainbow colors or thick dark streaks typically detracts from a coin’s grade and value. These may be signs of improper cleaning, contamination, or environmental damage.
When you inspect a 1970 quarter for toning, look for smooth, even coloration in natural hues rather than harsh artificial tones. Just a light glow of rich old silver patina can make a high-grade example stand out.
If the toning is unusual or vibrant, be sure to have the coin authenticated before assuming it is natural.
In all, attention to detail is key when judging condition and wear. The more crisp details remaining with minimal friction and natural toning, the better. These factors play a pivotal role in determining the 1970 quarter value and rarity.
Checking for Die Variations
The Prominent 1970-S Double Die
The most famous die variety for 1970 quarters is the 1970-S double die. This variety exhibits a strong doubling of the date, liberty, and in god we trust lettering. It was created early in the San Francisco mint’s production run when working dies exhibiting the doubling were accidentally put into use striking coins.
This prominent doubling makes the coin very popular with a variety of collectors.
While a few thousand 1970-S quarters with this dramatic doubling were struck before the error was caught, most were placed into mint sets sold directly to collectors. Finding one in circulation is exceptionally rare. When they do appear, they can sell for over $1,000 even in a lower grade.
One example graded MS65 by PCGS sold at auction in 2022 for an astounding $36,000.
Other Lesser Die Varieties
There are some other 1970 quarter die varieties which while lesser, can still garner significant collector interest. These include:
- 1970-D DDO (Doubled Die Obverse) – Doubling visible on the date, liberty, and god we trust lettering.
- 1970-D DDR (Doubled Die Reverse) – Doubling evident on the eagle, lettering, and to a lesser degree the left wing.
- 1970-S Proof Doubled Die – Minor doubling seen on the date and motto lettering.
While these varieties tend to be worth less than the very rare and dramatic 1970-S double die, they can still potentially add numismatic value far above the quarter’s silver melt value. Identifying them takes a sharp eye and comparing them against images of known specimens.
Using resources like the Cherrypicker’s Guide to Rare Die Varieties or CoinWorld’s Variety & Errors section can provide images and details to hunt for elusive doubled dies, repunched mintmarks, and more.
While valuable coins may be scarce, checking those old quarters in pocket change provides an exciting treasure hunt.
Understanding Grades and Values
The Sheldon Scale
The Sheldon Scale is the most widely used grading scale for coins in the numismatic community. It was devised by William Sheldon in the 1940s and categorizes coins on a scale from 1 to 70, with 70 being a perfect mint state coin.
On the Sheldon scale, a grade of 60-70 is considered uncirculated, meaning the coin has no wear and looks as it did when it left the mint. Grades 50-58 indicate a coin in extremely fine condition with very slight wear, and grades of 40-45 denote a coin in very fine shape with some light wear visible under magnification.
Coins graded from 20-35 on the Sheldon scale exhibit considerable but not excessive wear and fall under the “fine” designation. Coins under 20 are well-worn with designs barely visible and are deemed “good”, “fair”, or “poor” depending on just how much wear is present.
Impact on Value
The Sheldon grade has a direct correlation to a coin’s market value. The higher the grade, the more coveted and valuable the coin. This is because a coin in pristine mint condition is much scarcer than a well-circulated example.
To illustrate, a 1970 Washington quarter certified MS-65 (gem uncirculated) recently sold for $50 at auction. Another 1970-D quarter-graded AU-58 (about uncirculated) realized a selling price of $15. In comparison, circulated 1970 quarters in VG-8 (very good) condition can be acquired for around $3-5 apiece.
As you can see, a higher Sheldon grade exponentially increases a coin’s collectability and value on the secondary market. This is why coin collectors and dealers closely examine each coin under a magnifying glass and compare them to images on the Sheldon scale when assessing grade and appraising value.
How Can You Tell If A 1970 Quarter Is Rare – Conclusion
With a trained eye and understanding of key indicators like mint marks, wear patterns, die clashes, and grade condition, the average 1970 quarter can transform into a highly coveted rarity in the palms of your hand.
Learning these telling signs allows quick identification of a valuable 1970 coin that can be the envy of any numismatist or collection.