The Quarter was one of the original coins authorized by Congress in 1792 when it approved the establishment of the U.S. Mint and the production of unique U.S. coins. The basic unit of U.S. currency was the Dollar, which was based on the Spanish 8 Reales Silver Dollar (also known as a “piece of eight”). The Quarter (25 Cents) was based on the Spanish 2 Reales silver coin, which was worth one-quarter of a Spanish Silver Dollar and was known as “two bits.” As a result, the U.S. Quarter also became known as “two bits.”
The first Quarter was struck by the U.S. Mint in 1796. It was the Draped Bust design with the Small Eagle reverse. Interestingly, the denomination did not appear anywhere on the coin. This was a one-year-only design, and the Quarter did not appear again until 1804, this time with a Heraldic Eagle reverse design that included the denomination “25 C.” The Capped Bust coin was struck from 1815 to 1838, and the Liberty Seated coin was issued from 1838 to 1891. Prior to 1838, all Quarters were minted in .8924 silver, but the Liberty Seated Quarter was the first in .900 silver, a level of silver that remained the standard until 1964. The denomination on the Liberty Seated Quarter was “Quar. Dol.”
In 1892, the U.S. Mint introduced the Barber Quarter, which was the first to show the denomination in full as “Quarter Dollar.” This coin was replaced in 1916 with the short-lived Standing Liberty design. The Washington Quarter was introduced in 1932 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington. This design was used continuously until 1998, with the exception of 1976 when a special one-time-only reverse design was used to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The 1976 coin was also the first Quarter that did not feature an eagle on the reverse. Starting in 1965, all Quarters for circulation were struck in copper-nickel.
In 1999, the U.S. Mint began the popular State Quarters, a series of 50 different coins issued over a 10-year period to honor each of the 50 states. The obverse of the State Quarters retained the original portrait of George Washington. In 2009, the State Quarters series was extended to include Washington, D.C., and the five United States territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, United States Virgin Islands and Northern Mariana Islands).