A History and Overview of the 50 State Quarters Program

Marin Aleksov’s Overview of the 50 State Quarters Program

For many Americans, the U.S. Mint’s 50 State Quarters Program was their introduction to precious metals. The limited edition coins made collecting a personal, accessible, and appealing pastime for hobbyists of all ages. Family, friends, and households often bonded over new pieces, and periodic program releases provided a sense of anticipation and excitement. In this article, I’m excited to cover a brief history of the 50 State Quarters Program, the anatomy of these patriotic coins, and the legacy of this initiative.

History of the United States Mint and the Creation of the 50 State Quarters Program

Before diving into the program itself, it’s worth taking a moment to touch on the organization behind its creation: the United States Mint. Hundreds of years ago, the Mint was established following the Coinage Act in 1792. While the federal government agency originally operated out of Philadelphia, it now has centers in California, Colorado, and New York, as well as a bullion depository in Kentucky. The Mint produces dollar coins, collectible and investment coins, and medals. Additionally, it’s responsible for creating circulating coins and circulating coin programs. The Mint’s inaugural circulating coin program, finalized via Public Law 105-124, was the 50 State Quarters Program.

50 State Quarters Program Production

The 50 State Quarters Program ran from 1999 to 2008. Each year during this timeframe, five new coins — also referred to as “Statehood quarters” — were revealed in chronological order according to date of statehood. Each coin in the series was only produced for 10 weeks. These specialty products were produced across the country in a number of different cities, including Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. The very first 50 State Quarters Program coin honored Delaware, while the last commemorated Hawaii. Below is a breakdown of each group’s release:

  • Group one (1999) — Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut
  • Group two (2000) — Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Virginia
  • Group three (2001) — New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Kentucky
  • Group four (2002) — Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, and Mississippi
  • Group five (2003) — Illinois, Alabama, Maine, Missouri, and Arkansas
  • Group six (2004) — Michigan, Florida, Texas, Iowa, and Wisconsin
  • Group seven (2005) — California, Minnesota, Oregon, Kansas, and West Virginia
  • Group eight (2006) — Nevada, Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota
  • Group nine (2007) — Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah
  • Group ten (2008) — Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii

Coin Designs, Inscriptions, and Aesthetics 

The craftsmanship and attention to detail in each Statehood Quarter is striking. It’s important to note that the 50 State Quarters Program, which was passed under President Clinton, beautified American Coinage in an unprecedented fashion. Prior to this program, only two quarter designs, one issued in the 1930s and another in the 1970s, existed in the numismatic industry.

On the obverse side, the U.S. Mint prioritized historical accuracy, tradition, and industry customs. Most notably, this can be seen with the image of George Washington. According to the United States Mint official website, this silhouette has appeared on the quarter since 1932. Customary writings were also added, such as “Liberty” and “In God We Trust.” The reverse side of each coin emphasizes originality and individuality, displaying unique artwork specific to each region. Ultimately, states were given the creative freedom to decide how they wanted their coming-of-age stories to be told. Many states engaged the community through crowdsourcing and open calls for imagery. Some regions actually gave the public, rather than their governor, the last vote — a symbolic nod to democracy. 

Initial Popularity and Lasting Collectability

The 50 State Quarters Program quickly found widespread success. According to Greysheet, a third of the population in the early aughts were collecting these pieces. Additionally, a news story on The Hill reported that, “the Mint produced and shipped 34.3 billion quarters during the 50 State Quarters Program.”

Even today, patrons and amateurs alike remain eager to expand their 50 State Quarters collection. Those looking to add to their collection might consider looking for more rare denominations, including the 2004-D Wisconsin Extra Low Leaf, 2004-D Wisconsin Extra Leaf High, or 2005 Minnesota Extra Tree. Another collecting strategy hobbyists may consider is adding more scarcely circulated coins to their collection. This interactive map shows which states had fewer coins produced. Lastly, some may opt to buy coins that were produced in specific U.S. Mint production sites or have high grades on the Sheldon Scale.

Subsequent Collections

Since its release, the U.S. Mint’s 50 State Quarters Program has inspired unity among the American people. And while the program is no longer running, the Mint continues to emulate this notion of nationalism with new collections, including the DC and U.S. Territories Quarters Program (2009) and the America the Beautiful Quarters Program (2010). Rosland Capital is also proud to offer gold and silver coins that pay tribute to the United States. Some of our most beloved American bullion coins and exclusive coins include the American Buffalo Coin, American Eagle Coin, and the Lady Liberty Proof Series. Be sure to check out the Rosland Capital website to learn more.

A History and Overview of the 50 State Quarters Program
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