How does a quarter look like? The quarter is one of the most frequently used coins in the United States monetary system. But have you ever taken a close look at it? In this detailed guide, we’ll examine everything you need to know about what a quarter looks like.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: A quarter is a small silver-colored coin worth 25 cents. It features George Washington on one side and either an eagle or a national landmark on the other side. Quarters have ridged edges and measure 24.26 mm in diameter.

Read on as we take a magnifying glass to every detail of the quarter, from the images and text on both sides to its size, weight, metal composition, and more.

Obverse (Heads) Design

Portrait of George Washington

Since 1932, the obverse (front) design of the quarter has featured a right-facing portrait of George Washington based on the bust sculpture created by Jean-Antoine Houdon. Washington was chosen due to his status as a Founding Father and the first president of the United States.

The inscription “LIBERTY” appears above Washington’s head along with the national motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” added in 1964.

The Washington portrait is an iconic and recognizable symbol of American currency. His stoic gaze facing right is said to symbolize moving forward to the future. Over the years, minor tweaks have been made to the portrait as new coin dies are created, but the overall design remains faithful to the original 1932 vision.

Inscription and Date

Arranged circularly along the outer edges of the coin’s obverse are the inscriptions “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “QUARTER DOLLAR,” and the date. The text is set in a simple sans-serif font, with the words “QUARTER DOLLAR” bisected below Washington’s neckline.

Prior to the creation of the Washington Quarter in 1932, Standing Liberty quarters minted from 1916-1930 featured a heraldic eagle design on the reverse and a depiction of Lady Liberty on the obverse.

The shift to the Washington design marked a transition to honoring American statesmen on US coinage.

The date on the quarter updates each year to indicate when the coin was minted at one of the various US Mint facilities in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, or West Point. Collectors can use the mint mark and date codes to assemble complete sets of quarters.

Reverse (Tails) Design

The Eagle Design

The most common design featured on the reverse of the quarter is the bald eagle. This majestic bird has symbolized American strength and resilience ever since.

The eagle clutches an olive branch in one talon, representing a readiness for war. Yet in a sign of America’s desire for harmony, it also grasps 13 arrows in the other, denoting the original 13 colonies.

This iconic 25-cent coin design has gone through a few subtle changes over the decades. From 1932-1998, the eagle was depicted with its wings spread. But starting in 1999 with the 50 State Quarters program, the raptor was shown mid-flight with wings uplifted.

This updated version aimed to capture a sense of forward momentum and progress.

Today, over 90 years since its first appearance, the stoic eagle remains a quintessential symbol of American strength and resilience. The bird’s steely gaze conveys vigilance and preparedness, while its elevated position represents aspirations of peace and unity.

For many Americans, the sight of the eagle anchoring the quarter’s reverse side is deeply familiar, almost like seeing an old friend.

The National Parks and Monuments Designs

In addition to the iconic eagle, various other designs have graced the back of the quarter over the years. Most notably, from 2010-2021, the America the Beautiful Quarters program released 56 special-edition quarters.

Each depicted a different U.S. national park or historic site, showcasing the nation’s natural splendor and cultural heritage.

A few designs stood out for their vibrant colors or intricate details. For example, the 2012 Acadia National Park quarter captured the bold granite peaks and sparkling waters of Maine. The 2015 Blue Ridge Parkway edition etched all 469 miles of the scenic route through North Carolina and Virginia.

Each coin was essentially a miniature work of art commemorating an American treasure.

In all, the U.S. Mint produced over 1 billion America the Beautiful quarters during the 11-year series. Millions found their way into coin collections or pockets as colorful reminders of the nation’s diverse landscapes and history.

The popular program gave the quarter added meaning and value beyond its 25-cent face.

Today, new special-edition quarters are still being minted under programs like the American Women Quarters series launched in 2022. Over the coming years, these fresh reverse designs will continue honoring iconic figures and places that embody American ideals.

Each new quarter tells a distinct story, adding another unique chapter to the coin’s long history.

Size and Weight Specifications


The diameter of a standard United States quarter is 24.26 mm (0.955 in). This has been the official diameter since the introduction of the Washington quarter in 1932. Prior to that, some earlier coin designs like the Standing Liberty Quarter had slightly different diameters.


The thickness of a quarter is 1.75 mm (0.069 in). This standard thickness has been used for United States quarter dollar coins minted since 1831.


The weight of a quarter is 5.67 grams. This has been the standard weight since the Coinage Act of 1965. Prior to 1965, quarters weighed 5.8 grams at worst and 6.25 grams at best. The change to a uniform standard helps with commerce and vending machines.

Coin Composition and Materials

Outer Layers

The outer layers of a quarter are made up of 75% copper and 25% nickel alloy. This gives the coin its distinctive silver color and offers durability for frequent circulation and use. The exact specifications per United States Mint guidelines state that the outer cladding layers should contain at least 72% copper and no more than 28% nickel.

This copper-nickel alloy creates a hard and dense surface for the coin that resists corrosion and maintains its appearance well during routine use. Over decades of circulation, some wear will occur that exposes the core inner copper layer in small amounts.

But generally, the cladding holds up beautifully over a long lifetime of daily exchanges.

Inner Core

Inside the outer copper-nickel layers lies an inner core made of pure copper. The copper core accounts for about 20% of the coin’s total weight. It provides a strong base for the nickel alloy cladding material to adhere and bond to.

Using a pure copper core inside a nickel alloy covering has been standard practice for U.S. coinage since 1965. This replaced a previous 90% silver core that was used in some earlier quarters. The newer copper core and cladding method significantly reduced the manufacturing costs of coins while still providing excellent durability.

The inner core copper purity must meet special United States Mint requirements to allow for optimal bonding with the outer cladding layers. Impurities are limited to trace amounts of other metals such as zinc or manganese as needed to help control the grain structure and material properties.

Edge Type and Details

Reeded Edge

The edge of a US quarter has a “reeded” pattern around its circumference. This means it has closely spaced ridges, similar to vertical grooves, running along the sides of the coin. The precise number of reeds or ridges can vary on different issues of the quarter but generally ranges between 119 to 126.

These reeds serve a few key functions. First, they make the coin more durable and resistant to wear. The ridges help protect the flat surfaces of the coin from becoming too smooth. Additionally, the reeded edges make the quarter easier to grip when selecting from a stack of coins.

Finally, the distinctive pattern acts as an anti-counterfeiting measure, making the quarter more difficult to replicate.

The ridges around the edge of a quarter have been a standard feature throughout the coin’s history, appearing on every circulated issue since the first Washington Quarter in 1932. This consistency makes the reeded edge integral to the quarter’s iconic design.

Lettering and Date Markings

In addition to the reeded pattern, the edge of a quarter also contains two key pieces of information – the coin’s date and either a “D” or “S” mint mark.

On earlier issues until 1964, the date and mint mark appear in raised lettering, with the date spaced in between each reed. This allowed the date and mint to remain visible even as the faces of coins exhibited wear over time.

Since 1968, the date and mint have switched to an incused, or recessed orientation. Despite less visibility, the durability and consistency of the US minting process have made this incused approach the standard for quarters today.

1932-1964 Quarters 1968-2023 Quarters
Raised date & mint lettering Incused date & mint lettering
Exposed on ridges Set within reeded grooves
More wear over circulation Protected from wear

Both types of quarters share the iconic reeded edges. But the shift from raised to incused lettering displays an evolution in practical minting refinements while maintaining the integrity of the quarter dollar coin’s legacy.

Examining and understanding these details allows greater insight and appreciation for one of the most widely used US currency coins today.

How Does A Quarter Look Like – Conclusion

As you can see, even a small coin like the quarter has a number of intricate details worth examining. From George Washington’s enduring portrait to the changing landscape designs, there’s more to the humble quarter than meets the eye at first glance.

Understanding what a quarter looks like inside and out – from the images and text to its physical specifications – gives you an appreciation for the coin you use on a daily basis. So next time you get a quarter back in change, take a moment to look more closely at America’s workhorse coin!

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