The U.S. Mint's recent state-quarters program has been a boon to coin collecting. According to a survey conducted by the Mint, nearly half of all Americans have collected the coins, resulting in billions of dollars in profits for the U.S. Treasury.
Begun in 1998, the program has introduced five new state quarters into circulation each year. Quarters were minted in the order of statehood—Delaware first, Hawaii last. On the coin’s obverse is a William Cousins update of the 1932 John Flanagan design for the Washington quarter. Because state information would take up the space on the coin’s reverse, the words "United States of America" were moved to top of the coin’s front. This pushed the word "Liberty" to the spot below Washington’s chin, which, in turn, forced the words "In God We Trust" to the area behind the founding father’s ponytail.
The design of each state quarter’s reverse side was left to the states and their governors. Delaware’s design features the historic horseback ride of Continental Congress delegate Caesar Rodney, who galloped 80 miles from his home in Dover to Philadelphia, where, on July 2, 1776, he cast the deciding vote in favor of the nation’s independence.
Other quarters are themselves pieces of history. The reverse of the New Hampshire quarter, which was minted in 2000, is dominated by a rock formation known as The Old Man of the Mountain, which crumbled in 2003. Some states chose icons (a Wright Brothers airplane for North Carolina, the Gateway Arch for Missouri), others picked animals (both Kansas and North Dakota selected buffalo), and a few states placed noted figures on its coins (Helen Keller in Alabama, John Muir in California).
Only a handful of production anomalies have occurred. Some Minnesota quarters from 2005 have an extra tree on them, while the obverse of some Kansas quarters struck the same year read "In God We Rust."
But the most famous flaw in the program occurred at the Denver mint during the striking of the Wisconsin quarter in 2004. The coin’s reverse features a dairy cow, a wheel of cheese, and an ear of corn, all above the state’s motto, "Forward." But that ear of corn has an extra leaf pointing up on some coins, and an extra leaf pointing down on others. These variations have made the Wisconsin quarter the most expensive in the program.
Finally, smaller runs of all state quarters were produced in silver versions. For these quarters, the Mint went back to the pre-1965 recipe of 90-percent silver...
In 2009, the Mint produced coins for the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands, but these coins are not considered part of the state-quarters program.
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