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State Quarters - 50 Commemorative Quarters Program

July 18th, 2011 Coins

History of the Quarter

The quarter has a long history, as far back as 1792. This is when decisions were made with regards to the layout of the quarter. In fact, this was when Lady Liberty and the Eagle were first selected for the coin. Quarters began to be minted in 1796, and were made of silver, but in 1873, it was decided that the quarter wasn’t heavy enough, so extra weight was added at the Mint.

Liberty had many looks over the years. She has had flowing hair, a draped bust and a capped bust. Talk about a fashionista! In 1916, she got risqué and bared her breast to the public. Outrage ensued, and she covered back up a year later. The eagle too has seen a few makeovers. It started out looking more like a pigeon and has grown in grandeur as time went on.

In 1932, George Washington replaced Liberty to celebrate the bicentennial of his birthday. In 1976, a colonial drummer replaced the eagle in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In 1965, the Mint Act changed the composition altogether to copper nickel (silver was in short supply).

And today, we are seeing the next phase in the life of the quarter: commemorative state quarters. These state quarter coins feature each of the 50 states as they entered the Union. What’s next for the quarter? Only time will tell.

How to Collect State Quarters

No matter your age, race, gender or income, collecting state quarters is easy to do. You can start right now! Just stick your hand in your pocket and see what turns up. Chances are you have several state quarters among the lint!

Get the Family Involved: Don’t take this project on alone - get the entire family involved! Get each member of your family a state quarter display or album to hold their quarters. Share with one another if you have duplicates. You’ll find this activity brings your family together.

Timeline: Keep up with which quarters have been released, and which haven’t. The 10 year program will be over in 2008, so most are already out there. An interesting side note: 2000 was the most proliferate year for the state quarters, with nearly 6.5 million coins issued that year!

Preserve: While the state quarters are used in soft drink machines, toll booths and malls right now, one day they will become extinct in circulation. Keep your coins safe so that when they go the way of the Dodo bird (and the Morgan Silver Dollar), your set will be in pristine condition. Who knows? Your state quarter collection might make you (or your grandchildren) a millionaire one day!

Making the Cut: Design Criteria for State Quarters

Did you know that artists from around the country were able to submit their designs for consideration on one of the 50 state mint quarters? However, the U.S. Mint is a stickler for rules. Here are the guidelines for assessing state quarter designs and selecting them.

  • The quarter design cannot be “frivolous or inappropriate.”
  • No head-and-shoulder portraits, busts of any person (living or dead) or portraits of a living person are not permitted.
  • The state quarter designs must "uphold the dignity that is associated with the U.S. coins."
  • The design must be acceptable to the general public (i.e., not offensive in any way).
Some appropriate types of subject matter include:
  • State landmarks, both natural and man-made
  • Landscapes
  • Historically significant buildings
  • Symbols of state resources or industries
  • Official state flora and fauna
  • State icons
  • State outlines
Surprisingly, state flags and state seals are no-nos for the coin design. In seeking submissions, each state is encouraged to look for “designs that promote the diffusion of knowledge among the youth of the United States about the state, its history and geography, and the rich diversity of our national heritage.” That’s a tall order for an artist, but you can bet the artists whose designs were selected are glad they entered their drawings!

North, South, East and West: Which Quarter Do You Love Best?

No matter what part of the U.S. you’re from, you can visit every state with the 50 state quarter program. Here are some examples of what the quarters look like from all directions.

North: The Montana state quarter stays true to the idea of “Big Sky Country.” It features a bison’s skull in the foreground, with Montana mountains in the background. The quarter was the first issued in 2007, corresponding with its arrival in the Union in 1889 (it was the 41st state).

The runners up as far as design of the Montana quarter were:

  • “Bull Elk”
  • “State Outline”
  • “Big Sky with River”
South: The Alabama state quarter reflects the quintessential south. The coin features Alabaman Helen Keller (you didn’t know she was from Alabama, did you?) with her name in both Braille and print. On either side of her are an Alabama long leaf pine branch and a sheaf of magnolias, with the motto “Spirit of Courage” at the bottom.

East: The east is represented by the Delaware state quarters, among others. This coin of the first state features Caesar Rodney on horseback. His legendary 80-mile horseback ride through the rain (he had asthma and cancer to boot) to Independence Hall resulted in Rodney casting the deciding vote for our country’s independence!

West: Where better to begin your journey to the west than with the California state quarter? This “Golden State” coin’s design shows John Muir (a famous conservationist) gazing at Yosemite Valley’s “Half Dome” under the watchful eye of a California condor.

Overview of the 50 State Commemorative Quarters Program

The 50 State Commemorative Quarters campaign began in 1999. The plan was to issue one coin to represent each state in the U.S., with five coins to be issued each year. The quarters are being minted in Philadelphia and Denver Mints, while the proof coins hail from San Francisco.

Here’s an interesting fact: in the unlikely event that another state is admitted to Union during this program, it too will get its own coin. The State Quarters program is making money for the U.S. Treasury, with 20 cents of every coin minted serving as profit. This keeps taxpayers from having tax increases, as the funds will go toward U.S. Government operations.

The design of each coin has specifications. For instance:

  • State flags and seals are not allowed.
  • Acceptable subject matter includes:
    • State landmarks
    • Landscapes
    • Historically significant buildings
    • Symbols of state resources or industries
    • Official state flora and fauna
    • State icons
    • Outlines of states
The coins are circulated, legal tender (as your pocket change will tell you), but collectors are finding them a good addition to their collections. Many companies are creating state quarter displays, state quarter albums, and state quarter maps to house this quarter collection.

Roll Call: Quarters Issued Past, Present and Future

The State Quarters program began in 1999, and will continue until 2008. Each year, five quarters featuring states are issued throughout the year. If you are interested in collecting these beautiful coins, here is a schedule of which coins have been issued, and which are remaining to date (June 2007).

Past To date, 42 of the 50 coins have been issued. The coins are issued in the order they were admitted to the Union.

1999 In 1999, 4,430,940,000 circulating coins were minted of the following states:

  • Delaware
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • Georgia
  • Connecticut
2000 In 2000, 6,470,932,000 were issued.
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • South Carolina
  • New Hampshire
  • Virginia
2001 2001 saw 4,806,984,000 coins.
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Kentucky
2002 3,313,704,000 coins were minted in 2002.
  • Tennessee
  • Ohio
  • Louisiana
  • Indiana
  • Mississippi
2003 In 2003, 2,280,400,000 there were state quarters issued.
  • Illinois
  • Alabama
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Arkansas
2004 There were 2,401,600,000 minted in 2004.
  • Michigan
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Iowa
  • Wisconsin
2005 In 2005, mint numbers were up to 3,013,600,000.
  • California
  • Minnesota
  • Oregon
  • Kansas
  • West Virginia
2006 2,925,400,000 quarters were issued in 2006.
  • Nevada
  • Nebraska
  • Colorado
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
2007 To date, 1,058,440,000 coins have been minted in 2007.
  • Montana
  • Washington
Future The eight remaining coins to be minted as part of the State Quarters program are Idaho, Wyoming and Utah (2007), and Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii.

State Quarters Evaluation Process

The process of choosing a design for each of the 50 state commemorative quarters is a long and difficult task.

First, two years before the state’s coin is to be released, the state will appoint a liaison to work with the U.S. Mint on the coin project. Next the state will submit three to five concepts that best represent the state to the Mint. A narrative must be provided that elaborates on why the theme represents the citizens of the state.

The Mint will then provide artwork for the concepts presented. A state historian or expert will serve as a consultant to ensure the design is historically accurate. The Mint then makes modifications as necessary before presenting the designs to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. These advisory boards will make suggestions for change as necessary, and the Mint will comply.

Next, the Secretary of the Treasury reviews the designs and approve several. The designs are then returned to the state for selection of the final design. Once the final design has been selected, it is presented back to the Secretary of the Treasury for final approval.

No wonder it takes two years for just this part of the 50 state quarter program! Minting the coins is a breeze after this!

Teaching Kids About State Quarters

The State Quarters collection is ideal for sharing with kids! By collecting these 50 coins, children can get a better understanding of history, geography and currency. The U.S. Mint provides lesson plans online for teachers who wish to implement instruction on the state quarters.

The lesson plans, which provide age-specific topics from Kindergarten all the way up to grade 12, cover topics such as:

  • Basic Map Skills (K-1)
  • Coin Identification (K-1)
  • American Geography (Grades 2-3)
  • Addition and Subtraction (Grades 2-3)
  • American History (Grades 4-6)
  • Online Research (Grades 4-6)
  • Federalism (Grades 7-8)
  • Global Views on Currency (Grades 7-8)
  • National Identity (Grades 9-12)
  • Ancient Banking Systems (Grades 9-12)
The U.S. Mint has a website called h.i.p. Pocket Change (History in Your Pocket) that provides additional resources for children to learn about currency and the state quarters collection. The site provides educational games and cartoons, news about coins, and activities kids can do with adults, such as create a state quarter display.

If you have children, this is a valuable resource that can help teach them about a wide range of topics, from coins to history to math. If you are a teacher, this website provides tools that can enhance classroom learning. Either way, it’s a source you need!

The Launching of a Quarter

Each State Quarter has a special launching ceremony to welcome it into the world. Consider it a coin birthday party! Here’s how different states have celebrated the arrival of their coins.

Pennsylvania: In 1999, the audience gathered to watch a Pennsylvania state quarter be minted before their eyes. Pennsylvania dignitaries gathered for the historic event, including U.S. Representative Robert Brady (1st District of Pennsylvania), and members of the Governor's Commemorative Quarter Panel, representatives from the state's numismatic and historical societies.

Texas: When the Texas state quarter arrived on the scene in 2004, its launch was Texan to the core. Mariachi bands played while party-goers ate free barbecue. Each child received a free, brand new Texas state quarter. Adults could exchange their dollars for rolls of quarters given by local celebrities. And speaking of celebrities, Peter the United States Mint Eagle dropped by for a special appearance.

Nebraska: To celebrate the launch of the Nebraska state quarter, a ceremony was held at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. The celebration was made extra special with the appearance of the legend Buffalo Bill, as well as Matthew "Sitting Bear" Jones, the Scarlet & Cream Singers, and a local choir and school band. At the event, the Nebraska governor declared April 7, 2006, "Nebraska State Quarter Day in the Classroom.”

The Perfect Gift for a Quarter Lover

If you are looking for the ideal gift to give your favorite quarter lover, consider a 50 state quarter map. Many companies offer different variations of this display item online and in stores. The general gist is that it is a cardboard flat with a U.S. map on it. Each state has a cutout that will house the quarter issued for that state.

Variations of this collectible include:

  • State flags and issue dates listed on the outside of the folder map
  • Wall or frame mounting capabilities
  • Color coordinated map
  • Bonus uncirculated quarters included
  • Historic information about the quarter or state
All 50 state quarter maps are portable, making them ideal for your child to take to show and tell, or for a collector to take to a coin meet. They are made of durable material that can usually be folded. Prices of these maps are extremely affordable, and range from $8 to $15.

An even cheaper alternative is a downloadable map! This you can print on your home printer, and place the quarters as you collect them with an adhesive on the paper. It’s not as durable as a cardboard map, but will still make a good project for kids.