Since 1932, the obverse (heads) side of the quarter has featured George Washington, the first president of the United States. George Washington has been on the quarter ever since his 200th birthday.
The quarter is the United States 25-cent coin. Quarters are typically the coin denomination that sees the widest circulation.
Since its initial release, the design on the reverse (tails) of the Washington Quarter has undergone numerous changes. As of 2022, the US Mint has been introducing new reverse designs as a part of the American Women Quarters Series.The program celebrates American women and the contributions they’ve made to the United States of America.
Born in 1732, George Washington played a vital role as one of the founding fathers of the United States. He served as the country's president from 1789 to 1797. Best known for leading America during the American Revolutionary War, Washington excelled as a farmer, entrepreneur, and successful general in the war for independence.
Washington had to face hardships since his early years. His father died when he was just eleven, and as a young man had to help his family manage their heritage.
He didn't go to college or received a formal education. But his personal library had over 1,200 books. He committed himself to educating the next generation and supported public academies, colleges, and universities throughout the new nation.
Washington's Political Milestones and Military Career
His military career started in 1753 as Major George Washington. In this role, he defended the state of Virginia against Native American invasions in the French and Indian War.
In 1775, George Washington assumed command of the American Revolution, a significant military achievement where he successfully defeated the British forces. This pivotal moment established and safeguarded the independence of the United States. Washington's courageous actions garnered trust and admiration from the American people, ultimately leading to his election as president in 1789.
As president, Washington played a crucial role in the ratification of the Constitution of the United States, which remains the world's longest-standing written and codified national constitution to this day. Washington is known for being impartial and for remaining non-partisan throughout his presidency and opposed the divisiveness of political parties.
Later in 1791, he created the first bank in the United States. In 1792, he opened the United States Mint and established the American dollar as the official currency.
Following a tumultuous life, Washington retired to Mount Vernon in March 1797 and dedicated the rest of his life to business endeavors.
At Mount Vernon, on December 14, 1799, George Washington, the former president, passed away due to a throat infection. Four days later, he was laid to rest in the family vault at Mount Vernon, a place that held significant meaning for him as it had been a cherished part of his childhood.
The U.S. Mint made its first quarters in 1796, and they were made of silver. The early quarters, just like other silver coins, didn’t indicate the value of the coin.
During that era, it was mandatory for copper coins, such as pennies, to display their denominations. However, discerning the value of a silver coin required familiarity with its physical dimensions and weight. To distinguish between a silver quarter and a silver dollar, people relied on the knowledge that the dollar weighed four times more.
But that would change in 1804 when the U.S. Mint marked the one quarter with “25c” meaning 25 cents, which made it the first silver coin to have a face value.
In response to the soaring silver prices, the U.S. Mint made the decision to discontinue the production of silver quarters in 1965. This strategic measure aimed to deter individuals from hoarding silver coins and alleviate the risk of a silver shortage. Consequently, starting in 1965, the U.S. Mint transitioned from minting coins composed of 90% pure silver to employing a copper-nickel alloy for the production of quarters.
Today’s quarters are “clad,” which means coated. The inner core is pure copper, and the outer covering is copper mixed with nickel.
Predecessors to the Washington Quarter
Before the introduction of the familiar Washington quarter, there were several previous designs for old quarters.
Draped Bust Quarter
The 1796 quarter is considered to be a key issue in any grade in the American coinage series. As you will see, quarter dollars minted from 1804 through 1807 continue the Draped Bust obverse first used in 1796.
Capped Bust Quarter
The Capped Bust style made its debut in 1815 and remained in circulation until 1838.
Liberty Seated Quarter
The Liberty Seated design by Gobrecht was first introduced on the quarter dollar in 1838. This captivating design remained in production continuously from 1838 to 1853, and later from 1856 to 1865.
The “Barber” design was used on quarter dollars from 1892 through 1916.
Standing Liberty Quarter
The figure of the Standing Liberty Quarter Dollar was designed by Hermon A. MacNeil. It was first minted in 1916, remodeled in 1917, and was minted until 1930.
This is the last design released before the introduction of the Washington quarters.
The first U.S. quarter designs featured Lady Liberty as the first obverse design. The reverse included a bald eagle, the American national bird.
Since 1932, the Mint has used many different reverse designs. Some of the designs were part of special quarter programs to celebrate places or events and inspire coin collecting.
Eagle (1932 to 1974 and 1976 to 1998)
To honor the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth, the government made the decision to redesign the quarter dollars, featuring the image of the esteemed first president. This endeavor sparked a spirited competition, ultimately won by John Flanagan, a renowned sculptor hailing from New York.
The obverse of the Washington quarter shows the head of George Washington facing left, with LIBERTY above, IN GOD WE TRUST to the left and the date below.
The reverse depicted a heraldic eagle, with olive branches below and E PLURIBUS UNUM above. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and QUARTER DOLLAR inscriptions are at the borders.
The 1998 Washington quarter would be the last of the Washington Quarters with the heraldic eagle on the reverse.
U.S. Bicentennial (1975 and 1976)
1976 was the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Even though actual independence was not won until the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, the year 1776 has been symbolic for Americans.
The obverse of each coin bore a dual date (1776-1976), and the reverse featured a colonial drummer boy.
50 State Quarters Program (1999 to 2008)
In 1999, the United States Mint began an ambitious program to create a special quarter for each of the fifty states, to be released in groups of five coins each year until the series is completed in 2008.
The example above represents New Jersey.
District of Columbia & U.S. Territories Quarters (2009)
In 2009, the U.S. Mint launched six more quarter designs representing Washington DC, and the five U.S. territories: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The obverse featuring Washington's bust was not changed.
America the Beautiful Quarters Program (2010 to 2021)
America the Beautiful Quarters Program was launched in 2010 to honor 56 different national parks and national sites from each state of the country.
The America the Beautiful Quarters Program made its debut in 2010, with the first release being the Hot Springs National Park quarter.
General George Washington Crossing the Delaware (2021)
In 2021, the U.S. Mint began minting and issuing quarters with a reverse design depicting General George Washington crossing the Delaware River prior to the Battle of Trenton during the American Revolutionary War.
In this depiction, George Washington fearlessly guides the Continental Army across a frozen river as they launch a decisive attack against the adversaries during the Revolutionary War.
American Women Quarters Program (2022 - 2025)
From 2022 through 2025, the U.S. Mint will release up to five designs on circulating quarters each year. Each reverse will honor a different woman and her impact on American History. The women will be from a variety of fields and have diverse backgrounds.
The obverse design shows a portrait of George Washington. But instead of the left-facing image, Washington is now facing to the right. It was created by the famous sculptor, Laura Gardin Fraser, for the 1932 quarter but was never used until 2022.
The quarters are listed below in the order the designs will be released:
- Maya Angelou – writer, performer, and social activist.
- Dr. Sally Ride – physicist, astronaut, educator, and the first American woman in space.
- Wilma Mankiller – the first woman elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
- Nina Otero-Warren – suffrage leader and the first woman superintendent of Santa Fe public schools.
- Anna May Wong – first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.
This beautiful reverse is designed by Emily Damstra. The new U.S. quarter depicts Maya Angelou, who is on the quarter because she is a celebrated writer, performer, and social activist. She is seen in the design with her arms uplifted.
Behind her are a bird in flight and a rising sun, images inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived.
Behind her is a bird in mid flight and a rising sun, images inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived.
- Bessie Coleman – first African American and first Native American woman licensed pilot.
- Edith Kanakaʻole – indigenous Hawaiian composer, custodian of native culture and traditions.
- Eleanor Roosevelt – leader, reformer, first lady, and author.
- Jovita Idar – Mexican-American journalist, activist, teacher, and suffragist.
- Maria Tallchief – America’s first prima ballerina.
- Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray – poet, writer, activist, lawyer, and Episcopal priest.
- Patsy Takemoto Mink – first woman of color to serve in Congress.
- Dr. Mary Edwards Walker – Civil War surgeon, women’s rights advocate, and abolitionist.
- Celia Cruz – Cuban-American singer, a cultural icon, and one of the most popular Latin artists of the 20th century.
- Zitkala-Ša – writer, composer, educator, and political activist.
Obverse design: Shows a right-facing portrait of George Washington, originally sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser for the 1932 quarter.
Inscriptions: LIBERTY, IN GOD WE TRUST, Year.
Reverse design: Depicts different American women through the American Women Quarters Series.
Inscriptions: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, E PLURIBUS UNUM, QUARTER DOLLAR, Honoree's name.
Mint and Mint Mark
The Mint makes the quarter for circulation, as well as uncirculated and proof finishes for collecting. The Denver and Philadelphia Mint facilities produce the circulating and uncirculated coins, and finally, the San Francisco Mint makes the proof coins.
- San Francisco Mint
The history of the United States is illustrated throughout the beautiful changes of the quarters' reverse in an inspiring way of telling the tales from the dawn of America.
George Washington began paving a path that future presidents would follow, as he was an example of character and leadership.
After so many changes, such a creative launch of the program featuring the American woman historical figures in 2022 is, in some way, a breath of fresh air. It gives us a hint of the long way we still have to go as a society in order to recognize important historical figures who were part of the construction of the country, just like Washington, but can be historically overlooked.
Several other US presidents have been featured on American coinage.
Thomas Jefferson, the third president, is depicted on the nickel with his portrait on the obverse and Monticello on the reverse.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, is the face on the penny with his portrait on the front and the Lincoln Memorial on the back.
Finally, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president, is depicted on the dollar coin with his portrait on the obverse and the Apollo 11 mission insignia on the reverse.