30 July 2010


First came the 50 State Quarters - one coin for each state, issued five per year from 1999 through 2008, in the order in which the states were admitted to the Union. Then, as something of an afterthought, came six more quarters in 2009, one for Washington DC and one for each of the five current US territories, issued in order of acquisition (DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands and the Northern Marianas).

Now there's another set of quarters - the America the Beautiful set: 56 coins, again one for each state or territory (plus DC), this time each featuring a National Park, National Historic Park or other site. Five will be issued each year from 2010 through 2020, with the 56th to be issued on its own in 2021. The order will be based on the date the site was established, this year's five being Hot Springs National Park (AR, 1832), Yellowstone National Park (WY, 1872), Yosemite National Park (CA, 1890), Grand Canyon National Park (AZ, 1893) and Mount Hood National Forest (OR, 1893).

All of these quarters have George Washington on the obverse. The Washington quarter was first issued in 1932, the 200th anniversary of his birth, replacing the old Standing Liberty quarter; originally the coins were minted in silver, but since 1965 they've been made of nickel-plated copper ("Johnson slugs," as we used to call them when vending machines wouldn't accept them because of their lighter weight). Prior to 1999, the reverse design (except for the Bicentennial quarters of 1975 and 1976) was an eagle.

Other coins have gone through various special designs recently, too. In fact, the Roosevelt dime and the Kennedy half dollar are the only ones which haven't. Two different designs appeared on the reverse of the nickel* in 2004, and two more in 2005, commemorating the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark's exploration of the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. (The nickel was chosen for these special designs because Thomas Jefferson has appeared on the obverse since 1938, and it was he who sent Lewis and Clark out on their mission.)

In 2009, the penny - officially the one-cent piece - appeared with four different reverse designs showing stages in the life of Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln cent had a reverse design featuring wheat ears from its appearance in 1909 through 1958; from 1959 through 2008 it showed the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington DC. This year it has a new design, with a Union shield; I really like the shield, but it doesn't alter my opinion that the government just needs to do away with pennies altogether.

The 'gold' dollar coins have also been going through various designs. The Presidential series began in 2007; four coins each year, each with the portrait of a different president, from Washington through whomever. (There are certain rules regarding which of the most recent presidents can appear on coins.) Paralleling these are the First Spouse gold $10 coins (real gold, this time), also at a rate of four per year beginning in 2007. This year's coins honour Millard and Abigail Fillmore, Franklin and Jane Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham and Mary Lincoln. Since Buchanan was not married,** the $10 coin issued alongside his dollar will show a replica of the Liberty Head quarter-eagle ($5 gold coin) issued during his presidency.

There's another one-dollar coin, as well - the Native American (or Sacagawea) 'gold' dollar, which first appeared in 2000. Up through 2008 the reverse showed an eagle, but beginning last year it carries a new design each year, showing high points in American Indian history. The coins are being released in chronological order of the events depicted; the 2009 design showed an Indian woman planting the "three sisters" (corn, beans and squash), and this year's design shows a belt of wampum and five arrows commemorating the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy in the early 1400s. (The five arrows represent the five original Iroquois tribes, the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida and Cayuga.)

* When I was a kid, I was taught that "nickel" was the metal, while the coin was a "nickle," but no one seems to make that distinction any more.

** His niece, Harriet
Lane, fulfilled the social duties of the First Lady.


goldberj said...

Hi, I do digital work for the US Mint and if you are interested in the America the Beautiful quarters, the Grand Canyon National Park Quarter event is Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at Grand Canyon National Park at 1:30 p.m. (MST). All are invited to gather between Hopi House and Verkamp’s Visitor Center where the launch will take place. Following the ceremony, you can exchange your cash for $10 rolls of the Grand Canyon National Park quarter. If you can’t make it to the event, you can check out the live webcast at http://bit.ly/atbquarters The webcast starts at 1:25 (MST), 4:25 (EDT).

Elise T. said...

Hi! I'm Elise and I too do digital work for the US Mint. It looks like you've enjoyed our America the Beautiful Quarters program, so I thought you may also be interested in the Mount Hood National Forest quarter launch event coming up this Wednesday, November 17, 2010, at 10:30 am (PT), World Forestry Center, 4033 SW Canyon Road, Portland, OR 97221. You can get more info on the program, event, and webcast at http://bit.ly/atbquarters. Thanks, hope you can be a part of it!