Some people ONLY collect error and variety coins. On the other hand, some collectors collect full date and mint mark sets, but completely exclude all errors, and only include a "non variety" example for each year and mint for their collection. I personally fall somewhere in between...I think.
I have found that variety information of any coin denomination can be one of the most overwhelming facets of numismatics. This is especially true for me when it comes to including the information in my working knowledge of the series which I collect. The reason for this is due to the overwhelming amount of information required for refference in my long term memory. For me, at least right now, getting time to work on the hobby is cyclical. I get spits and spurts of time to really dig in. I'm the kind of person who can remember something if I'm working with it day in and day out. But, a month later, when I've had to put it down to do other things, I can forget a lot. So for me this combination of not having the best memory, and the pattern of life I find my self in, makes it hard to really know\remember every possible variety for ever possible year. I tend to remeber the biggies.
When it comes to which varieties to includ here, it is the same things that makes creating an all inclusive listing of all possible varieties of each and every year and mint mark impractical for this site. It can make the listings cluttered and overwhelming to find any information easily. So my goal here is to list all of the more well known and recognized varieties of the Washington quarter, and then point you to the other resource websites which actually catalog every minutia of variety for each year and mint mark.
What Constitutes a "well known" or "recognized" variety for inclusion here?
In the case of a doubled die obverse variety (DDO), each unique variety represents a different variant on that year and mint mark. Based on mintage estimates and commonality (how often the variety is seen) certain varieties garner more attention than others. In some cases, a variety for a specific year and mint mark may be the only one known for that year an mint mark so everyone knows about it. I other cases there may be 10 different varieties known for a specific year and mint mark, but none of them really elicit any real excitement from the basic collector because the specific attributes of the doubling are almost untraceable even with magnification.
To help make my point I'll use the example of the well known 1955 Lincoln Wheat Cent doubled die obverse pictured below. Notice how pronounced the doubling is on the entire obverse lettering of the coin. When you hold this coin in hand, you can see the doubling without magnification. This is one of those varieties that is well known; everyone knows about it. It's also worth quite a bit of money as well. Its a high value variety for that year and mint mark.
On the other hand you have the 1956 Washington Quarter Doubled Die varieties reported by Variety Vista here. There are 11 different 1956 DDO varieties recognized and listed by Variety Vista. Is this crazy? Well, if you're crazy about variety collecting, no. If you are an organization who's dedicated to finding every known example of a variety then you should list all 11 known examples for that year. However, only one of the Variety Vista listings has photos (some shown below), and NGC doesn't recognize ANY DDO varieties for the 1956 as a variety that they will attribute, if sent in for authentication.
For the 4th 1956 listing (DDO-004) on the above Variety Vista page, they give a description of "Strong extra thickness on IN GOD WE TRUST, with medium extra thickness on date, ribbon end, and LIBERTY." When one looks at the photos of the variety it leaves the basic collector scratching their head at what the big deal is. The pics are taken with high power magnification and even with that you really don't see anything like the above 1955 DDO.
Does this mean the variety isn't worth knowing about, tracking or looking for? To answer for the purposes of inclusion on this website, yes. That's exactly what it means. The 11 varieties of the 1956 DDOs will not be included as separate listings for this website, but I will, however, link you to Variety Vista and CONECA so you can use their listings to find what you need for the 1956 Washington quarter varieties.
The goal is to try to give the nod to as many of the varieties I can without creating too much information and clutter. The "well known" listings will have more information and pics, while In the example case of the 1956, with no "major" varieties, I will most likely have an entry which includes links to the websites which do list varieties for this specific year.
*I have purposely left out any references to Walter Breen's numbers. For an understanding as to why you can read this article.