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Collecting State Quarters
By Arlyn G. Sieber
August 15, 2012

Excerpted from The Instant Coin Collector by Arlyn G. Sieber, available from

The Story Behind the Coin

President Bill Clinton signed the 50 States Commemorative Coin Program Act into law on Dec. 1, 1997. The bill originated in the Senate. It was introduced to “honor the unique Federal republic of 50 States that comprise the United States” and to “promote the diffusion of knowledge among the youth of the United States about the individual States, their history and geography, and the rich diversity of the national heritage.”

The bill provided that from 1999 through 2008, the quarter’s reverse would be redesigned to honor each of the 50 states. Five new designs would be introduced each year, and each new design would honor a different state. The states would be honored in the order in which they ratified the Constitution or were admitted to the union.

The bill gave authority for final approval of the designs to the Treasury secretary. It required the secretary to consult with each state’s governor or the governor’s designee on the respective state’s design. The designs were also reviewed by the U.S. Mint, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, and the Commission of Fine Arts before the secretary’s final approval.

The Instant Coin Collector
The Instant Coin Collector

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The law banned any “frivolous or inappropriate” design. It further prohibited the depiction of a head-and-shoulders bust of any person, living or dead, or any representation of a living person.

To accommodate the reverse designs, the words “United States of America” were moved from the quarter’s reverse to its obverse, and the date was moved from the obverse to the reverse.

The law also authorized the Mint to produce uncirculated and proof examples of the 50 State Quarters for sale to collectors and to produce examples in 90-percent-silver composition for sale to collectors.


Circulation strikes of the 50 State Quarters were produced at the Philadelphia (“P” mintmark) and Denver (“D” mintmark) mints. Thus, 100 coins—a “P” and “D” example of each state—are required to complete a set of circulating 50 State Quarters.

Special collector versions—for inclusion in mint and proof sets, and the 90-percent-silver examples—were produced by the San Francisco Mint and carry an “S” mintmark.

The mintmark on 50 State Quarters is located on the obverse behind the bow in Washington’s hair and below the words “In God We Trust.” It is approximately the same location for the mintmark on quarters used since 1968.

Where to Get Them

A close watch on pocket change can quickly fill holes in a 50 State Quarters folder and may be the most fun way to collect the series. One collector filled about half of the 100 holes in his folder in about a year’s time just from pocket change.

If you find a duplicate of a coin already in your folder, keep the one in better condition.

Searching rolls or other sources of bulk change can again speed the process. Five rolls of quarters (200 coins total) obtained from a local bank yielded the 50 State Quarters listed in the chart on page 62. Not counting duplicates (indicated in parenthesis), the sample rolls produced 47 of the 100 coins needed to complete a set of circulation strikes.

Nice examples of 50 State Quarters are also available individually at coin shops and shows for a small premium.


On the obverse, Washington’s cheek and the hair around his ear remain key points to check for wear on 50 State Quarters. Because of the wide variety of designs, it is difficult to pinpoint specific areas to check on reverses. In general, check detailed areas in the designs and look for a minimum of scratches and other surface abrasions.

How to Store Them

Folders provide adequate, inexpensive, and handy storage for 50 State Quarters collected from circulation. For coins purchased from a shop or show, 2-by-2 holders or an album in which both sides of the coin are protected are recommended. Follow all the rules for safe handling of coins (see Chapter 1) when transferring purchased coins from one storage method to another.

More Coin Collecting Resources:

State Quarters Deluxe Folder By Warmans

• Subscribe to our Coin Price Guide, buy Coin Books Coin Folders and join the NumisMaster VIP Program

Strike It Rich with Pocket Change, 2nd Edition

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