Mar
25
2012
0

Striking the wrong note

Yesterday’s Vaguely Interesting article looked at the numismatic phenomenon that is the US 50 State Quarters programme. Whilst it was an unrivalled seigniorage success story, the programme was not without its mishaps, mistakes or unintended consequences. Once a state’s chosen image was minted, it was there for posterity in hundreds of millions, if not billions, of copies.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire depicted the Old Man of the Mountain in its state quarter. It was issued on 7 August 2000, with the craggy old man staring out implacably to the similarly implacable state motto – live free or die.

The Old Man of the Mountain was one of New Hampshire’s iconic natural landmarks. Its geological description is uninspiring – just five granite cliff ledges jutting out from the side of Cannon Mountain in the state’s White Mountain range.

But, when viewed from the north, it magically transformed into the furrow browed profile of a face. It became famous enough to be chosen as New Hampshire’s state emblem in 1945, given pride of place on car license plates and state route signs and, of course, was chosen to represent the New Hampshire on its state quarter.

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Mar
24
2012
2

Coining it in

In 1999 the United States Mint issued the first of its 50 State Quarters. Over the next 10 years, each state in the Union would be showcased on its own shiny quarter dollar coin. The law passsed on 1 December 1997 as United States Commemorative Coin Program Act was controversial, with some officials claiming it marked the ‘Disneyfication’ of US currency.

From Delaware to Hawaii, the 50 State Quarters programme would see almost 35 billion coins minted with the states featured in the order that they ratified the U.S. Constitution. An additional 636,200,000 quarters were minted as part of the follow on programme for the District of Colombia and US Territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands).

The number of coins minted for each state varied widely, with more than 1.5 billion coins depicting Virginia but only 453 million Wisconsin quarters leaving the US Mint – less than a third of Virginia’s total. The coins all featured a portrait of George Washington on the obverse, with the different state designs on the front. High resolution pictures of these designs are available in the thorough Wikipedia article on the programme.

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