Change in Your Pocket
A new quarter for every state
by Damon Goldsmith
In 1999, the American Eagle on the back of the quarter took off to make room for some new twists on one of America's most popular coins.
If you're trying to make heads or tails out of that change in your pocket, stick with tails, all fifty of them. Starting in 1999, the United States Mint began releasing a series of brand new quarters to honor the 50 states.
In December 1998, President Clinton approved the 50 State Quarters Program Act. The program was scheduled to run from 1999 until 2008, with five new quarters released every year for ten years.
Give the People What They Want
What's on these new quarters? That decision is up to the American people. Every new quarter bears the same portrait of George Washington on the obverse (front) of the coin. The reverse side bears a design decided upon and created by each state.
Although the Secretary of the Treasury has final approval of the design to be minted, it is up to the Governor of each state to decide on the design process. Anyone may submit a design for their state quarter, and many states have turned to students, artists, historians, and other residents with ideas. The quarters are being released in the order that the states ratified the Constitution and joined the Union.
While each state is invited to create its own design, not just anything can go on a quarter.
The Quarters Program guidelines state that, just as on the backs of other coins, no head and shoulders portraits or busts of persons living or dead can appear in the design. State flora and fauna are in, but state flags and seals are out. No "controversial subjects or symbols that are likely to offend," either. The Mint suggests landmarks, state icons, or outlines of the state as a few ideas.
It's a Quarter to One
Why change the quarter at all? The quarter is the most popular coin in circulation today, and the state quarters are the first change in American coinage since the bicentennial quarter was released in 1976. Coin collectors, historians, and many others are excited; it's not often that you see a coin change five times a year for ten years in a row!
With a new coin being released about every 10 weeks, people now have something more to look for when they reach into their pockets for change: a symbol highlighting the diversity and history of the States of America. When the program ends in 2009, the Eagle will resume its place on the back of the quarter, and close a chapter in the history of American currency.
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