With a big aloha to Hawaii, a new generation of coin collectors will soon shut their books on the U.S. Mint's 10-year state quarter program full of fond memories and a fun history.
While not rare – about 34 billion were produced – the commemorative quarters have captured the fancy of kids and their parents as they've drawn extended family members, tip-collecting waitresses and friendly bank tellers into the hunt.
Coveted by roughly 147 million collectors in the U.S., the coins have also been lucrative for the Mint, bringing in $3.5 billion in pure profit by the end of last year, excluding special-issue sets.
The Mint knew the program would be successful, said spokesman Michael White, “but it turned out to be even more popular than expected. This is the most popular coin program in history.”
Come November, it will end with Hawaii as the last state honored, while igniting interest among young people in U.S. history, geography and coin collecting.
The Mint issued the quarters in the order each state joined the Union, with five releases a year at intervals of about 10 weeks. Colorful collection books, often in the shape of U.S. maps, are full of state trivia and history.
Teachers have also hopped aboard, downloading thousands of free lesson plans on the quarters from the Mint's Web site.
“I like learning about the state nicknames, what year the state joined the U.S., what year the quarter was made and what the flags look like for each state,” said Grey Miller, 10, of the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst.
Established collectors have also embraced state quarters, said William Gibbs, news editor of the weekly “Coin World,” which describes itself as the hobby's No. 1 publication.
With the end of the program comes special complete sets of the quarters as well, including uncirculated collections with a satin finish and silver proofs.
And collectors looking for a fresh fix should keep eyes peeled next year. That's when quarters will be issued for the left-out District of Columbia, the commonwealths of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.