The 1965 quarter is one of the most remarkable quarters in U.S. history. It featured a new composition called “clad composition,” in which two different colored metals were bonded together.
It gained this name because the U.S. Mint covered the pure copper core with a blend of copper and nickel.
If you’re a new coin collector learning about coin values, there’s a lot to learn about the history of the 1965 quarter. It tells the story of a unique period in the U.S. Mint’s past: the 1964–65 transition year from silver quarters to copper-nickel clad coins.
If you’re lucky enough to find a 1965 error coin, it could be worth much more than the face value of the quarter.
History of the 1965 Washington Quarter
Toward the end of 1964, a coin shortage was causing chaos in commerce throughout the country. The price of silver rose sharply in 1963 and 1964, which meant that the intrinsic value of the silver Kennedy half-dollars and Roosevelt dimes exceeded their face value.
The public hoarded them, putting additional strain on the circulating coinage.
Congress reduced the regular production of coins by 10 percent in 1963 and another 5 percent in the fiscal year 1964. These reductions were applied to all denominations except for dimes and quarters, making most coins harder to find in circulation.
The Mint produced “proof” coins for collectors in large numbers, which is standard procedure. At that time, it was selling them at a premium rather than shipping them to banks for distribution into circulation as it does today.
Changing The 1965 Quarter Metal
President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill on July 23, 1964, authorizing the production of a new type of coin: the clad coin. A clad coin has a core of pure metal encased in an outer layer of another metal.
The new coin was composed of a nickel core and layers of copper surrounded by an outer layer made of 80% silver and 20% copper.
The 1965 quarter dollar is the first circulating coin composed entirely of base metal. Government officials chose the new composition from a shortlist that included copper-coated steel and copper-coated aluminum.
The 1965 Copper-Nickel Clad Composition
1965 was also when the silver dime went from 90% to 0% silver. In fact, the only coin to contain silver after 1965 would be the Kennedy half dollars.
The Treasury Department chose a copper-nickel clad composition of 75% copper to 25% nickel because it is hard-wearing and easy to strike and also because it melts at a relatively low temperature (1,100 degrees Fahrenheit compared with 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for pure copper).
The first clad coin entered circulation in the summer of 1965. The public response was immediate and favorable: “the key coin for commerce” was born.
Clad coins were noted as an improvement over their predecessors because they were less expensive than silver yet still distinct in appearance. As a result, the hoarding that occurred during 1964 ceased almost overnight.
1965 Washington Quarter Coin Appearance
The United States Mint unveiled commemorative quarter coins featuring George Washington’s profile on November 14th, 1965. This particular coin was issued to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first president of the United States’ birthday.
The quarter depicts a portrait of Washington with the words “United States of America” across the top and “Quarter Dollar” across the bottom.
The 1965 Quarter Rich Blend of Copper and Nickel
The 1965 quarter is just as memorable for its design as the valuable metal embedded within. It has a rich blend of copper and nickel layers, giving this coin an appealing hue rare among other coins at its release.
The outer layer of the 1965 Washington quarter dollar consists of 75% copper and 25% nickel, making the coin’s outer shield very resilient.
However, its inner core is composed of pure copper, allowing it to be highly conductive while also remarkable in texture and appearance.
Washington Quarter Errors
There are several different types of 1965 quarter errors that occurred during the minting process.
A planchet is a blank disk of metal prepared to be struck into coins. Planchets are typically made from a single composition of metal.
If they are not removed before the coining process, then a penny or quarter will have some amount of other metals present in it. The coin could change in color and possibly even size.
1965 Quarter “Wrong Metal” Error Type
One of the most desirable rare transitional error coins is the 1965 quarter struck on 90 percent silver planchets. The quarter error type is sometimes called a “wrong metal” error.
Wrong metal errors occur when the incorrect metal is used to strike the coin. Early US quarters before 1965 were struck with 90% silver and 10% copper, then from 1965 on, with 40% silver and 60% copper.
In 1965, all dimes and quarters were made with the 90% copper-nickel clad planchets prepared by mint officials. It would be the first time quarters would be made with anything other than silver. It was a cost-saving measure as the price of silver had skyrocketed with the great demand of 1964–65.
Rare and Valuable 1965 Quarters
The U.S. Mint has a fascinating history of rare and transitional error coins. Many rare 1965 silver quarters have been found in circulation throughout its history.
When they were originally produced, they didn’t have the same specifications as the standard set of coins issued around the same time, so some of them had to be retired and destroyed. But luckily, a few went missing — making them some of the most valuable and expensive quarters you can find.
Off-Center 1965 Quarters
The dies are fixed in position before striking the coin in the normal minting process. However, manufacturing errors happen when the die is not fixed in place. The image on the coin becomes displaced. The coin’s surface area displacement can be from 1% to 99%.
It is not common to find an off-center quarter because this phenomenon occurs for only a few minutes; therefore, the number of pieces in circulation is minimal.
A coin can be perfectly centered (0%), slightly off-center (1% or 2%), moderately off-center (3% or 4%), heavily off-center (5% or 6%) or very heavily off-center (7% or 8%).
An off-center 1965 quarter will have two primary measures: the amount of metal displaced by the missing portion of the coin and how much surface area is lost to the displaced metal. The greater the displacement and surface area, the higher the value of the off-center piece.
Identifying Valuable Quarters vs. Standard Clad Quarters
If you have a 1965 silver quarter, it may be worth more than 25 cents.
The simplest method to determine if your 1965 quarter is worth more than face value, start by weighing it. The 1965 Washington quarter weighs 6.25 grams, 0.25 grams heavier than all other quarters from 1965 because it is composed of 90% silver.
All standard quarters minted between 1965 and 1970 are made of a copper-nickel clad composition and weigh 5.67 grams.
If you don’t want to buy a scale, there’s another way to determine whether your quarter is silver or clad.
Start by looking at the edge of the coin with a magnifying glass. If your quarter has a reeded edge, it is most likely clad and not silver. If it doesn’t, it could be either clad or silver.
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Appraising Valuable Coins
How much is your double-weighted silver 1965 quarter worth? It depends on the condition and the whims of collectors, of course.
A common 1965 quarter weighs 5.67 grams and is copper-coated zinc with no intrinsic value. But if you have one that weighs more than 6 grams, it may be worth having a professional inspection to see if it’s a misstruck silver quarter. If so, it could sell for thousands of dollars, especially if it’s in uncirculated condition.
If you have an unusual coin that weighs more than six grams, you should get it inspected by an independent third party before selling it or putting it up for auction online.
These experts can assess whether the coin has any numismatic or melt value by inspecting its details and comparing it to similar rare quarters in their database.
Proffessional Grading of 1965 Quarters
The experts at Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) certify coins and give them grades. These grades are very similar to what you’d see on a report card for school.
The grading scale is numerical, with 70 being very good and 100 being perfect. An uncirculated condition1965 quarter with a grade of MS 65 is worth around $10.
If you have your coin graded by NGC or PCGS, they apply a sticker to the coin containing an identification number. You can then look up that number online and determine exactly how much it’s worth.
Is My 1965 Quarter Valuable?
Standard clad Washington quarters are not considered rare. Over 2 billion Washington quarters have been minted already. They are not being produced anymore because they’ve been replaced by other coins with more artistic designs, such as the state quarters.
Standard circulated 1965 quarters are worth money, but it’s only around the face value of 25 cents. The average value of an uncirculated 1965 quarter is 40 cents.
If you find a special coin with a unique mint of origin or an error, the value of your coin can skyrocket. Some very rare 1965 error coins in a mint state condition have sold for as much as $7,000. If you find a more common error coin, like an off-center 1965 quarter, its value may be as high as $50 to $300.
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