Because of all the recent quarter programs, you’re probably used to seeing lots of quarter designs. You're also used to seeing George Washington on the front. But his face has been there only since 1932, the 200th anniversary of his birth.
The first quarters, made in 1796, not only lacked Washington's picture, they also lacked a denomination. It was probably easy to tell a quarter from a dollar because a dollar had to weigh four times as much.
There was no value marked on quarters until 1804, when "25c" was added to the reverse. In 1838, "QUAR. DOL." was used, then finally spelled out in 1892, still on the back of the coin. It wasn't until the first of the new quarters was made in 1999 that "quarter dollar" was moved to the front, where you know it today.
Instead of being made of silver, today's quarters are "clad," which means coated. The inner core is pure copper and the outer covering is copper mixed with nickel.
The president who proudly graces the front of the quarter is our first: George Washington. If you see the initals "JF" at the base of his neck, they belong to the coin's sculptor, John Flanagan. Since Washington's bust is smaller on new quarters, you'll also see the initials of William Cousins, the Sculptor-Engraver who made the changes.
Before the 50 State Quarters® Program began in 1999, there was a majestic eagle on the back of the quarter...except for two years. Read about the bicentennial quarter and the new quarter designs through the "Coin of the Month" and "Coin Conservatory" links below.
In 1999, the first of the major quarter programs began. The 50 State Quarters® Program resulted in 50 designs on the back of the quarter over the course of 10 years, one for each state. As soon as it ended, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program kicked in, with six new designs in 2009.
The America the Beautiful Quarters® Program followed, consisting of 56 designs over a span of more than 11 years. This time, the Discrict of Columbia and U.S. territories were already included in the line-up. They honor national parks and other sites of national significance, one in each state, territory, or the District.
Through all of these programs, the George Washington design remains on the front of the coin.
Teachers! Looking for lessons based on the coins in our pockets? Check out Coin Curricula.