The Bicentennial quarter is an iconic special edition coin minted in 1976 to commemorate 200 years since the signing of the Independence Treaty in the US. This makes it a notable and highly collectible coin for its cultural and historical significance.
A proportion of these coins were clad, while the rest were composed of 40% silver. This distinction is important as it greatly dictates the value of the coin. The silver content coins are rarer and more valuable than the clad coins.
The condition of the coin and mint mark will also dictate the value of these coins, as will the rarity. While average values of these coins in mint condition value at only tens of dollars, those in the most perfect condition can fetch thousands, or even tens of thousand of dollars at auction!
Today, we will give a bit of background information on the Bicentennial quarter, a guide on the identification of these coins, and the top 5 rarest and most valuable 1976 quarters in ascending order. We have also included a brief coin grading guide, and a buying and selling guide for those of you who are interested in forming or selling collectible coins.
The top 5 rarest and most valuable Bicentennial quarters on our list and their auctions records are as follows:
- 1976 Bicentennial Quarter, Clad (Regular Strike): $1,119.99
- 1976-S Bicentennial Quarter, Clad (Proof): $6,038
- 1976-D Bicentennial Quarter, Clad (Regular Strike): $6,462.50
- 1976-S Bicentennial Quarter, Silver (Proof): $13,500
- 1976-S Bicentennial Quarter, Silver (Regular Strike): $19,200
Bicentennial Quarter: Background
Bicentennial quarters, also known as 1976 quarters, were released as a numismatic tribute tp the 200th anniversary of the independence of the US. The United States Mint produced these commemorative coins between 1975 and 1976 as a special edition. It is a particularly notable coin as it was the first United States quarter to feature a special reverse design in more than 50 years.
During the same period, the U.S. Mint’s Bicentennial Coinage Program also produced other 200th anniversary commemorative coins including the Kennedy half dollar, Eisenhower dollar, and special edition medals.
Bicentennial Quarter: Identification
Obverse & Reverse Designs
The obverse displays the portrait of the first president of the US, George Washington facing to the left. It is the traditional portrait used on coins through the centuries, created by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon originally in 1785. The inscriptions “LIBERTY”, “IN GOD WE TRUST” and the 200 year stretch “1776-1976” can be found surrounding Washington’s portrait.
The reverse features a design by the engraver Jack L. Ahr – a revolutionary military drummer complete with drum and tricorn hat in place of the usual American eagle. The designer’s initials, JLA, can be found beneath the drummer’s right elbow. A torch surrounded by 13 stars is positioned to the left side of the soldier. Around these images are the inscriptions “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”, “QUARTER DOLLAR”, and the Latin motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM”.
The bicentennial quarter was minted at three different locations in different mintages: Philadelphia (809,784,016 coins), Denver (860,118,839 coins), and San Francisco (11,000,000 uncirculated 40% silver coins, 7,059,099 proof clad coins, and 4,000,000 proof 40% silver coins). These mint locations can be identified by the mint marks P, D, and S respectively.
There are two main types of Bicentennial quarters: clad and 40% silver. The clad Bicentennial quarters, which were minted in Philadelphia and Denver, are made of a copper-nickel alloy and have the same composition as regular circulating quarters. These coins have a silver-colored surface and a copper core. They are technically 75% copper and 25% nickel over a pure copper center, and weigh 5.67 grams.
The 40% silver Bicentennial quarters, which were minted in San Francisco, are composed of 40% silver and 60% copper. These coins have a more golden color and are slightly heavier than the clad versions. The 40% silver Bicentennial quarters were produced in limited quantities and were sold to collectors in special sets. They weigh 5.75 grams.
Due to the higher silver content and greater rarity, the 40% silver Bicentennial quarters are considered to be more valuable than the clad versions.
Top 5 Rarest Bicentennial Quarters (Average Value & Auction Record)
Let’s take a look at the rarest and hence most valuable types of Bicentennial quarters along with their average value at different grades and auction records according to PCGS. Please note that values are accurate at the time of writing but are subject to fluctuations in supply and demand, and market value. It is always recommended to thoroughly research collectible items to gauge their current market value before considering buying or selling collectibles.
1. 1976 Bicentennial Quarter, Clad (Regular Strike)
The 1976 Bicentennial Quarter which was minted in Phladelphia (and hence carries no mint mark) is the most common coin in this series. It is also clad, making it the least valuable version of the Bicentennial quarter.
The average value of a 1976-P Bicentennial quarter at MS65 is around $28, but examples in perfect condition can fetch much higher prices. The auction record for a 1976 Quarter, PF70, Ultra Cameo was $1,199.99 in 2022!
2. 1976-S Bicentennial Quarter, Clad (Proof)
The clad coins produced in San Francisco, bearing the S mint mark, are the next coins on our list. All clad coins produced in this mint were actually struck as proof coins. The average value range for these coins at PF68 is between $11-$30.
The auction record for a 1976-S Quarter, PF67, was $6,038 in 2010!
3. 1976-D Bicentennial Quarter, Clad (Regular Strike)
Next up, with a lower mintage and hence a rarer coin is the 1976 Bicentennial quarter which was minted in Denver. Again, this is a clad coin and has the same average value as a 1976-P Bicentennial quarter at MS65, around $28.
However, the auction record for this coin is considerably higher. A 1976-D Quarter, MS68 was sold for $6,462.50 in 2017!
4. 1976-S Bicentennial Quarter, Silver (Proof)
This version of the 1976 quarter, minted at San Francisco, is the special 40% silver content edition. The coins which were minted as proof coins can be identified by their mirror-like surface.
The value of a 1976-S silver quarter in PF67 ranges from around $9-$13. However, the auction record for this type of coin with a Dual-Date Double-Denomination error, in PF65 condition was a stunning $13,500 in 2019!
5. 1976-S Bicentennial Quarter, Silver (Regular Strike)
A proportion of the 1967 silver quarters minted at the San Francisco mint were intended for circulation, also known as business or regular strike. These lack the mirror-like surface of the proof coins. Images comparing the difference between the proof and regular strike coins minted at San Francisco can be found here.
The average value of a 1976-S silver quarter in MS68 condition is around $95. However, the auction record for a 1976-S silver quarter, MS68, was an incredible $19,200 in 2019! This makes it the all-time most valuable Bicentennial quarter sold so far!
Brief Coin Grading Guide
Perhaps you have a commemorative 1976 quarter and you would like to grade its condition? Or you might like to find out how much to expect to pay for such a coin in some pre-defined condition?
Numismatists commonly use the Sheldon Scale when grading coins. This scale ranges from P1 (Poor 1) to MS70 (Mint State 70). It can get incredibly complicated and coin grading usually requires a professional for accurate appraisal. However, there are a few simple tips that can help you get an idea of the rough grade of your coin based on a condition rating of poor to uncirculated. Some coins may also be Proof coins, meaning they were not intended for circulation but for the purposes of collection.
In general, coins are separated into 3 buckets (or groups): circulated, about uncirculated (AU) and uncirculated (MS).
Circulated coins are split into categories from P1 to EF49:
- Poor (P) – these coins can barely be identified with major damage and wear. The date and mintmark are just about visible.
- Fair (FR) – these coins have been majorly worn and will appear very smooth. They are more easily identifiable compared to Poor coins.
- Good (G) – coins in Good condition are still heavily worn with some details smoothened so they “run into” one another. Still, the main features can be identified.
- Very Good (VG) – the main features of the coin can be seen but may be quite faint on coins in Very Good condition. These coins are still pretty worn through usage.
- Fine (F) – the rims are fully separated from the design elements, and all features can be seen with an albeit even wear over the coins’ surfaces.
- Very Fine (VF) – coins in Very Fine condition can be described as moderately worn with all major details visible and some minor details visible.
- Extremely Fine (EF) – the best condition coins in the circulated category, Extremely Fine coins are lightly worn. All details can be seen but the finer pattern details are worn down a little.
About Uncirculated Coins
About Uncirculated (AU) coins run from AU50 to AU59. They may or may not have been circulated, but they are no longer in mint condition because of handling marks:
- About Uncirculated (AU50) – these coins will have some very small traces of damage on the most raised parts of the coin surfaces. Otherwise the coin is eye appealing.
- Very Choice About Uncirculated (AU58) – the best AU coins will have only the tiniest wear on the raised points of the surfaces. Otherwise the coin has an almost original luster and great eye appeal.
Uncirculated, or Mint State (MS), coins run on a scale entirely of their own with 11 grading points (MS60 to MS70). All of these coins are strictly uncirculated, no matter their condition. Some of these points include:
- Mint State Basal (MS60) – these coins may have some contact marks but no signs of wear that comes with handling.
- Mint State Choice (MS65) – these midpoint coins will have a eye appealing mint luster, almost no visible contact marks and an above-average strike.
- Mint State Perfect (MS70) – in theory these coins typify the perfect coin. No flaws or damages can be found even when the coin is magnified 8x. Everything about the detail – the strike, luster and centering – are perfect. The eye appeal is exceptional. These coins are very rarely found!
Tips On How To Grade Coins
Grading coins yourself, and hence getting the “right” price for a coin is a tricky process. Professional appraisal is recommended, and if a coin can be certified by authorities such as PCGS it is likely to fetch a higher price.
There are some basic steps you can take in order to grade a coin yourself:
- Light Source – Find a top-notch light source which will illuminate all the tiny details and difference in coloration on the face of the coin. Bright white bulbs are recommended.
- Magnifier – Ideally, a magnifier with 5x to 8x magnification is recommended. You will not be able to see all the microscopic flaws with a magnification below 5x.
- Which bucket? – try to determine whether your coin is circulated, almost uncirculated, or uncirculated by identifying all the flaws including wear, scratches, and other damages.
- Comparison – check your coin against other examples of coins with different grades. Perform a thorough search online to find detailed images of examples. Thus, you can check the condition of your coin against certified graded coins to get an idea of where it fits on the scale.
Grading your coin will allow you to place a price on it when trying to sell it. Otherwise, becoming an expert in coin grades will allow you to make coin purchases yourself to add excellent coins to your collection.
Try taking a look at this video guide on valuable 1976 quarters.
Bicentennial Quarter: Buying And Selling Guide
When buying or selling Bicentennial quarters, it is important to consider the condition of the coin, as well as its rarity. Coins that are in perfect condition and are rare will fetch higher prices than coins that are in poor condition or are more common. It is also important to consider the mint mark, as coins minted at different locations can have different values. In this case, 1976 quarters minted in San Francisco will be the most valuable, followed by Denver and Philadelphia.
Make sure to conduct thorough research and purchase only from reputable sellers – don’t be afraid to ask them for more details. Coins should be authenticated and graded by a professional before making a purchase. These points should also be adhered to before attempting to sell your coins – have coins authenticated and graded by a professional before listing them for sale, and include plenty of details and close-up photos in your coin listing.
Three sites you can try are:
- eBay – here you can search for the exact type of coin you are looking for, and get an idea of the kinds of prices they are sold for. You can filter by certification, grade, date, price, and more! Selling through eBay is also recommended. Bear in mind you will build your reputation through successful selling, so if you have already sold good through eBay and received 5 stars you are already considered a reputable seller.
- Mavin – this is a good way to have a look at completed listings and gauge the right value for the coin you want to buy or sell.
- Etsy – you can try Etsy for individual sellers selling vintage and collectible items. Often you can find good deals through Etsy, and Bicentennial quarters are common. Just make sure you go for listings with genuine coins and avoid fakes.
- Numista – through this site, you can find out a lot of information about coins from around the world. You can also swap coins with other members (Coin Swappers) and track down listings for the coin you are interested in purchasing.
You can also try antique or vintage stores specialising in coins and paper money, or ask around on specialised numismatic forums for advice and coin swaps.