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Did you know that some 1981 quarters are worth more than $2,500?
While it’s true that most 1981 U.S. quarters are worth only their face value, there are some 1981 quarters that are truly rare and valuable… and worth looking for!
In this article, you will find out how much your 1981 quarters are worth — and exactly what details you should be looking for on 1981 quarters to identify the really valuable ones.
Fun Facts About 1981 Quarters
First, here are some important things you should know about 1981 quarters in general…
What is the design on a 1981 quarter?
The 1981 quarter was designed by John Flanagan, who originally engraved the Washington quarter in 1932.
- The obverse (“heads side”) depicts Revolutionary War general and first United States president George Washington.
- The reverse (“tails side”) carries the likeness of a heraldic eagle.
Where is the mintmark on 1981 U.S. quarters?
All 1981 quarters carry a mint letter stamp, or mintmark — which tells you which U.S. Mint facility struck the coin.
You will find one of three different mintmarks on every 1981 quarter:
- “P” = Philadelphia Mint
- “D” = Denver Mint
- “S” = San Francisco Mint
The mint mark on a 1981 quarter appears on the right side of the obverse — just behind (to the right) of the bow in Washington’s ponytail.
There are presently no known 1981 quarters without a mintmark. Therefore, if you see no mintmark on your 1981 quarter, it should be inspected to ensure that the mint letter stamp was not intentionally rubbed off or removed after the coin left the mint.
Are there any 1981 silver quarters?
Many people want to know how much 1981 silver quarters are worth — or if there’s a rare 1981 silver quarter error that’s valued in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
There are no 1981 silver quarters or silver quarter errors that are known to exist at this time.
All 1981 quarters were made from copper-nickel clad, a base-metal composition that was first implemented on Washington quarters in 1965.
How much does a 1981 U.S. quarter weigh?
Since all 1981 quarters are made from copper-nickel clad, they should have a standard weight of 5.67 grams.
However, it’s totally normal to find a 1981 quarter that weighs slightly less than that or slightly more.
The tolerances for a 1981 clad quarter is plus or minus .227 grams — meaning a standard uncirculated 1981 quarter could tip the scales as high as nearly 5.9 grams or be as light as about 5.45 grams.
It’s worth noting that heavily worn clad quarters can weigh even less due to the loss of metal while in circulation.
Do you have a coin scale? These are the best scales for weighing U.S. coins. (Yet another helpful tool for inspecting your coins more closely is a coin magnifier.)
Are 1981 quarters rare?
Since a total of more than 1.1 billion (yes, billion!) 1981 quarters were made across all three U.S. Mints which struck the Washington quarter that year… in the absolute sense, 1981 quarters are very common.
However, there are quite a few 1981 quarters that are relatively scarce — and, therefore, worth more money. These include:
- Uncirculated 1981 quarters (those that were never spent as money)
- Any 1981 quarters with errors or varieties (mistakes that happened at the U.S. Mint when the coin was being made)
We will go into detail about the most valuable 1981 quarters below. But first, here’s a general overview of 1981 quarter values…
How Much Is A 1981 Quarter Worth Today?
There are 3 general types of quarters that were made in 1981.
Here’s what to look for, and how much they’re all worth:
1981-P Quarter Value
The Philadelphia Mint struck 601,716,000 quarters in 1981, and each has a “P” mintmark.
The 1981-P quarter is a common coin that is pretty easy to find in circulation these days.
Here’s how much this coin is worth:
- Any that you find with wear (AKA circulated) are generally worth just face value of 25 cents.
- Uncirculated 1981-P quarters are usually worth $1 to $3 apiece.
- The most valuable 1981-P quarter was graded Mint State-67 by Professional Coin Grading Service. It fetched $700 in a 2018 auction.
1981-D Quarter Value
The Denver Mint struck 575,722,833 quarters in 1981 with a D mintmark. The 1981-D quarter may have been struck in slightly smaller quantities than its Philadelphia counterpart, but it’s still a very common coin.
Here’s how much this coin is worth:
- Most circulated 1981-D quarters are worth only their face value of 25 cents.
- However, uncirculated 1981-D quarters are worth more, with typical examples selling for $1 to $3 each.
- The most valuable 1981-D quarter was graded Mint State-67 by Professional Coin Grading Service and sold for $375 in a 2011 auction.
1981-S Quarter Value
Can’t find any 1981-S quarters in your pocket change? That’s probably because they weren’t made for circulation!
You see, 1981-S quarters were struck at the San Francisco Mint just for coin collectors. The 1981-S quarter was struck in proof format and included with other coins in 1981 proof sets. These proof coin sets were sold directly to the public.
All told, the San Francisco Mint struck 4,063,083 proof quarters in 1981.
However, all 1981-S quarters do not look the same! There are two kinds of 1981 proof quarter:
- 1981-S Type 1 quarter — The “S” mintmark has a filled appearance, which makes it look almost like the number 8.
- 1981-S Type 2 quarter — The “S” mintmark is quite clear with bulbous serifs (those sort of bubbly ends you often see on letters).
Here’s how much these proof coins are worth:
- The 1981-S Type 1 quarter is the more common version of the two proof quarters from the year. These tend to sell for $3 to $7 each. The most valuable 1981-S Type 1 quarter was graded Proof-67 Deep Cameo by Professional Coin Grading Service and notched $507.67 in a 2018 auction.
- The 1981-S Type 2 quarter is the scarcer of these two proof coins — although it’s unknown exactly how many were struck. (Some estimates suggest between 500,000 and 800,000 were made, but there are no public U.S. Mint records that show this.) A typical 1981-S Type 2 proof quarter is worth $4 to $8. The most valuable 1981-S Type 2 quarter was graded Proof-70 Deep Cameo by Professional Coin Grading Service and sold for $2,530 in a 2007 auction.
Rare 1981 Quarter Errors To Look For
Some of the most valuable 1981 quarters are those that contain errors and varieties.
The good news: These error coins can actually be found in your everyday pocket change!
The bad news: There aren’t many of these coins to go around.
1981 Off-Center Quarter Error
Off-center errors are really cool — they are missing some of their design due to the blanks not being perfectly square between the dies.
Off-center quarter errors range in value depending on how much of the design is missing and what parts of the design are absent.
A 1981 quarter that is 3% to 5% off-center might be worth $10 to $20 or so, while one that is 50% off center yet still shows a complete date can garner $150 or more!
1981 Smooth Edge / No Ridges On Edge Quarter Error
We receive so many questions about quarters without ridges on the edge or smooth edges. Unfortunately, most of these types of smooth edge quarters aren’t errors but rather just showing heavy edge wear — perhaps from extensive use in vending machines. These heavily worn quarters are worth their face value.
However, there is a type of smooth edge quarter error worth money! These are known as broadstrikes, made when the coin was struck outside its retaining collar (the device that keeps a coin the correct diameter and thickness upon being struck and imparts ridges on the edges of coins that typically have these lines, known as reeds). Broadstrikes are usually wider and thinner than normal (but are of correct weight).
A 1981 broadstrike quarter error can be worth $20 to $30 and up.
1981 Doubled Die Quarter Error
Think you’ve found a 1981 double die quarter error and want to know what it’s worth?
Chances are, your 1981 quarter with doubled details is just showing mechanical doubling and is not really worth anything above face value.
A 1981 doubled die quarter is really quite rare, and none of these coins is known to be worth a lot right now. Why not? Because those that have been found don’t exhibit the kind of dramatic doubling that brings the big bucks.
Many 1981 doubled die quarters contain the kind of minor doubling that might bring $25 to $50.
Must Read: A List Of The Most Valuable Coins You Should Be Saving In All Denominations
I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I’m also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I’ve contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I’ve authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!