For people who have an interest in coin collecting but don’t know where to begin, one common recommendation everyone gives is to search out Lincoln cents. There are so many different varieties of this coin, and they are everywhere in circulation, so even young children can successfully hunt for them. Barber coins are another wonderful entry-level choice - attractive coins that can be found at mostly affordable prices. There are enough Barber coins available that a collector can build a year set without breaking the bank. Halves are readily obtainable, quarters have three challenging years, and dimes have the mammoth rarity being 1894 S. Given some very low mintages compared to Walking Liberty halves, Standing Liberty quarters, Mercury dimes, and Washington quarters there is upside potential. The Walking Liberty half dollars series has a mere 9 coins with mintages under one million compared to 20 for the barber half series. Considering the extra years in circulation, this makes higher grade circulated coins a fun challenge.
What Are Barber Coins?
U.S. Mint engraver Charles E. Barber designed these coins, and they get their name from him. Specifically, Barber coins are dime, quarter, and half dollar denomination coins that were minted between 1892 and 1916. Barber dimes, quarters, and half dollars all have the same design on the obverse of the coin, so size is the best way to tell them apart, along with the different details on their reverse sides.
The obverse design features a Liberty Head. Liberty faces right and has a pileus or olive branch crown with a small headband that reads “Liberty.” Above her, on the quarter and half dollar, are the words “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Below her neck is the minted year, and flanking her on both sides are 13 6-pointed stars. The dime is smaller, so besides the Liberty Head, are only the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and the date.
The reverse of Barber quarter and half dollars features a heraldic eagle. In the eagle’s mouth is a scroll that reads “E Pluribus Unum.” In its right claw is an olive branch, and in its left are 13 arrows. Above the eagle are 13 5-pointed stars and the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” Below the eagle is the coin’s denomination. The reverse of the dime features a wreath made of corn, wheat, maple, and oak leaves and the words “ONE DIME.”
Barber coins were used extensively for decades by Americans in their daily transactions, but they’ve held up well over time. While the newest Barber coins are over 100 years old, these coins look good even down to a grade of Very Good. This means that enthusiasts can build a collection of very attractive, older American coins without a huge outlay of money.
For enthusiastic Barber coin collectors, there is the Barber Coin Collectors’ Society (BCCS). Collectors and dealers connect with each other to study and discuss Barber coins and U.S. Mint engraver Charles Barber’s impact on American coinage. If you love Barber coins, contact the BCCS for membership and event information.
Currently Barber coins are underpriced, especially compared to a few decades ago. This makes them both a good investment and a great entry point for anyone interested in collecting. If you are interested in learning more or acquiring Barber coins, contact us. We love Barber coins, and we are more than happy to share our knowledge with you and get you started on a collection of your own.