The tremendous quantities of gold being pulled from the earth in California during the late 1840s and early 1850s adversely affected the silver coins being struck in the United States Mint. As the value of silver reckoned in gold continued to rise on the world market, newly minted coins such as Seated Quarters from the 1849-1852 era gradually became worth more as bullion than as circulating currency. By early 1853, such pieces were rarely seen in circulation, the vast majority of yearly mintages disappearing into bullion dealers' caches shortly after leaving the Mint. These coins were then melted for their precious metal content, sometimes after having been exported and always at a net loss to the federal government.
In order to keep newly minted silver coins in domestic circulation, Congress passed the Mint Act of February 21, 1853 reducing the weight of the Half Dime, Dime, Quarter and Half Dollar. In the specific case of the Quarter, the old weight standard of 6.68 grams yielded to one of 6.22 grams. Mint Director George N. Eckert felt that a distinguishing feature was needed lest the public confuse the new subsidiary coinage with its old-tenor predecessor. Accordingly, arrows took their place at both sides of the obverse date and a glory of rays was added to the reverse field around the eagle. While many numismatists agree that this is an aesthetically pleasing design, the reverse rays created a cluttered effect that decreased working die life and increased production costs. In order to alleviate this problem, Mint personnel dropped the rays from the design in 1854, although the arrows remained through 1855. These decisions combined to create a significant one-year type in the U.S. Quarter series - one that has long been popular with both general collectors and numismatists who specialize in Seated coinage.