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The History of the U.S. Quarter

June 17th, 2013 Coins

Have you ever wondered about how certain coins in your wallet have come to exist? Take a few moments to consider how often you reach for a quarter, whether it's to pay for a cup of coffee or feed a parking meter. Chances are, that coin has been around the block more than once. In fact, quarters have been in circulation since silver was used to create them in 1796, according to ThinkQuest. Today, many people consider them to be one of the most popular, useful coins available. 

The beginnings of the quarter
The official Nebraska government website claims that the original designs for the quarter were conceived in 1792 with the arrival of the Mint Act. As a part of the act, it was decided that certain features and figures would appear on the coin once it was developed. The manufacturers also needed to use the word "Liberty" on one side of the quarter. After the coin was made official, Lady Liberty - a legendary, fictional character - appeared on the quarter to represent the free spirit of America. She donned her face on the quarter for more than a century before any changes were made to the design.

Over the course of the 18th and 19th century, Lady Liberty was pictured on quarters with an eagle by her side. Both of them were slightly altered over the years to ensure that the quarter stayed relatively contemporary. Adjustments were specifically made to the bird, which became more patriotic-looking in nature.

George Washington's appearance
While it seemed like Lady Liberty was there to stay, her reign eventually came to an end upon the celebration of George Washington's 200th birthday. His face replaced Lady Liberty's smile on one side of the coin. When the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence came in 1976, there was also a change made to the quarter. The eagle said good-bye to his side of the coin and was replaced with a drummer to commemorate the moment in history. 

The Coinage Act of 1965
If you've ever looked closely at a quarter from the early 20th century and one after 1965, you might notice a slight difference in its appearance. Your eyes aren't playing tricks on you - there was an actual change made to the quarter! The Coinage Act of 1965 made it official that quarters would no longer be created from silver, but copper-nickel instead. ThinkQuest specifies that the alteration was created due to a shortage of silver. Although the copper-nickel might not seem as luxurious as silver, it's just as bright and shiny in texture, making it the perfect replacement.

Modern changes to the quarter
In recent years, the United States Mint has made adjustments to the design of the quarter to not only increase its appeal, but make it more than just another coin in your wallet! Since 2010, the Mint has been rolling out quarters that have one side dedicated to national parks across the country. Each year, a quarter with a different park is minted for collecting purposes. This is part of the "America The Beautiful" program, which will not come to an end until 2021.

Other themes that the U.S. Mint has adopted in recent times are U.S. territories and states, according to Coin Community. While the next theme will not be unveiled for several years, these programs and changes to the quarter will likely keep collectors motivated for decades to come. Whether you want to start collecting or you already have some valuable coins, understanding their histories can help you appreciate your hobby.