The first Washington quarter to be released from the US Mint was in 1932. Back in the 1930's a quarter had significantly more purchasing power than it does today. This fact meant that collecting Washington quarters was left to those that could afford it. The relatively low number of collectors in the 1930's through the 1940's and into the 1950's meant that the Washington quarters circulated for a great length of time allowing the quarters to wear significantly. This is the reason that uncirculated and extra fine specimens in the 1930's are so valuable in today's market. For example a common 1934 Washington quarter is valued at $2.50 in fine condition, however, in extra fine the value jumps to $7.00 and from there to $23 in uncirculated condition.
Mintages of Washington quarters were low in the 30's, 40's and 50's compared with mintages after 1962. Mintages of Washington quarters in the 1930's ranged from a low of 408 thousand to a high of 102 million. In the 1940's Washington quarter production increased from the almost ten years before. The 1940D had a low mintage of 2.8 million and the 1942 Washington quarter had a high mintage of 102 million. By the 1950's inflation had raised prices of commodities to new levels, making the demand for the Washington quarter greater. The US mint began to produce new levels of quarters, making a low 3.2 million 1951S minted quarters and a high of 78 million 1958D quarters. By the time the 1960's rolled around, the mint was cranking out massive numbers of quarters making a historic 1.8 billion 1965 quarters.
All quarters dated before 1965 began to disappear in circulation in 1966 and by the mid-70's there were virtually no silver quarters in circulation. From 1965 forward the mint began to make quarters in the hundreds of millions.
Grading Washington quarters:
Obv. The rim of the coin is worn into the letters and date
Rev. The rim is worn halfway down into the letters.
Ovb. The rim will be worn into the tops of the letters and the bottom of the date
Rev. The rim will touch the tops of the letters.
Ovb. The rim will touch the tops of the letters and the bottom of the date
Rev. The rim will touch the tops of some of the letters
Ovb. There is a full rim
Rev. There will be no feathers on the eagle's breast
Obv. The major details of the hair will show. There is a lot of wear on the curls of Washington
Rev. Feathers will show on both sides of the eagle's breast.
The only wear on the coin is only on the highest points of the coin shown as flat spots.
Silver mintage of the Washington quarter ended in 1964 and the clad coinage began the next year.
The Washington quater design remained unchanged for most of its coinage until 1976 when the mint changed the reverse of the coin to commemorate the nation's 200th birthday. Although a circulated 1976 Washington quarter is valued at only $.25, the general population has horded most of the coinage. Occasionally these quarters find there way into circulation and those that do are usually in the highest grades. In 1977 the mint returned to the regular pattern until 1999 when the state quarter series was introduced.
Although billions of state quarters have been minted, most of the quarters in common change are not from the state quarter series. Hoarding of billions of state quarters has made looking for some of the states and mint marks a challenge. Currently, coin dealers are able to command a higher price than normal for uncirculated state quaters since the demand is high from novelty collectors. The Delaware quarter in roll form once commaded a price of $80 per roll. Today the same roll can only generate around $30.
The most valuable Washington quarters remain the 1932D and the 1932S. Both of these quarters are valued around $70 in good condition and from there the prices rise dramatically for the higher grades.
Having collected since 1963, I can safely say that I never found a 1932D or S coin in circulation back then. Most of the quarters dated in the 1930s with mint marks were difficult, by not impossible to find.