Adam Starkey

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Standing Liberty Quarters

The Standing Liberty quarter is a quintessential example of the “Renaissance” of American coinage. Released at the height of World War I, the obverse shows Lady Liberty facing right (towards the “Eastern” war), bearing an olive branch in her outstretched right arm and a shield in her left— representing a desire for peace but a distinct readiness for war. The reverse features an eagle in flight, reminiscent of earlier U.S. coinage. A few design changes occurred during its short 15-year history. Most notably, the original 1916 design featuring Liberty with an exposed right breast was covered in chainmail armor by mid-1917. The precise reason for this abrupt modification is not entirely clear, but prevailing hypotheses include prudish public outcry over the exposed breast, requests by the United States Treasury, and symbolic incongruence— if Lady Liberty was ready for war, should she not be dressed for such an occasion? Production continued through 1930, but no coins were issued in 1931 due to a lack of need during the Great Depression. The standing liberty design was replaced in 1932 by the Washington Quarter, which continues to grace our nation’s coinage today, albeit with modification.

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