The 50 State Quarters Program

Collecting all the different quarters that belong to the 50 State Quarters Program is both fun and interesting. Some actively collect and others passively do so as the quarters are also in circulation despite being commemorative in nature. While this particular set is just one of the several circular commemorative coins, it has been shown to be the most widely collected sets.

The whole series includes a coin for each of the 50 States. A unique design that depicts each State was featured on the reverse side of a coin. Other sets have been created to augment the State Quarters, including the Capital and the other 5 territories of the United States.

Starting from 1999, five coins were released per year in intervals of 10 weeks. The order of release was based on the order of the statehood per State, or the date that each State ratified the Constitution. Thus, the first coin released was that depicting Delaware on the reverse side. The final coin was that commemorating Hawaii which was released in late 2008. The 6 additional coins for District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands were released in 2009, in the same order, one coin every other month.

The Program has also been proven to have been a great source of income for the federal government. It has been estimated that the government profited a minimum of $3Billion dollars from the collectors who took coins out of circulation. This came from the fact that each coin was worth 25 cents but only cost 5 cents to mint. And this is actually what brought the government to create the program.

The History of United States Mint Proof Sets

Coin collectors are attracted to United States Mint Proof Sets that have been available since 1936. One of these sets contains a sample of every coin produced in a single year. Over the years, there have been a few breaks or changes in production.

Between 1936 and 1942, a set included that year’s design of the cent, nickel, dime, quarter, and half dollar. In 1942, during World War II, the Mint offered a six-coin option that included the silver wartime nickel. There were no proof sets struck from 1942 until 1950 when production of the traditional five-coin sets resumed. From 1973 through 1981, a dollar coin was included, beginning with the Eisenhower dollar and replaced in 1979 by the Susan B. Anthony dollar. It is interesting to note that the Susan B. Anthony dollar was not produced for general use in 1981 although it did appear in the sets of proofs.


When the Mint introduced the 50 State Quarters program in 1999, they decided to include in the proof set for each year all five quarters struck that year. This meant creating nine-coin sets that were presented split across two sleeves. In 2004 and 2005, sets also contained two Lewis and Clark nickels. The four Presidential dollars were added in 2007, but the largest proof set of 18 coins was produced in 2009 with the featured four different reverses of the Lincoln cent, commemorating the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Another interesting variation was created starting in 1992, when the US Mint offered the Silver Proof Set, including the dime, quarter, and half dollar coins struck in the traditional composition of 90% silver. These sets have continued to be offered through the present day and provide a numismatic and precious metals combination product.

These proof coins are processed in a way that creates a sharper definition to the rims and design. Modern designers also make use of chemicals to create shiny, smooth blank fields and, perhaps, a frosted effect on the image. No matter what year the sets were produced or how special the occasion, they have a beauty of their own.

Gold Denominations Start to Circulate

For much of the early production of gold coinage within the United States, very few of the coins reached actual circulation. The reasons for this were twofold.

First of all, the denominations included quarter eagles, half eagles, and eagles, with values of $2.50, five dollars, and ten dollars. These amounts represented a substantial sum of money at the time of issue in the early 19th century. Whereas most everyday commerce was conducted in cents, the larger gold denominations rarely were necessary except for with transactions between banks or larger international transactions.

The second issue was the rise in the market value of gold, which for a span of time resulted in the United States gold coins having a higher intrinsic value than their face values. As a result, large numbers of newly produced coins were simply melted down for their gold content, which was a profitable endeavor. Some of this occurred after the coins had been exported.

To bring the situation back into harmony, the Mint Act of 1834 reduced both the purity and weight of the gold denominations. At the same time, a new design was introduced to further differentiate the coins.

With the coins now having metal content worth less than the face value, it was no longer profitable to melt down newly minted coins. Rather they were used as intended as a medium of exchange at the given face values. Mintage levels rose ad the coins were now seen within commerce.

An Idea for Starting a New Collection

Some collectors prefer to assemble one example of each date and mint mark for a given series. These coins may be found in circulated or even uncirculated grades and placed within an album or coin board for posterity and display. At the higher end, certified examples may be obtained for each issue and placed within a Registry collection.

The sheer number of coins need to complete such a collection can be daunting when contemplating a new series to pursue. The cost of acquiring one of each can also be prohibitive. There is a different option for these sorts of situations.

Why not start a collection including only the proof issues? For certain classic series gem proof coins can actually be lower priced than gem uncirculated coins. In most cases, there will only be one proof issue per year, as opposed to finding multiple mint marks. This serves to limit the scope of the series while still making an impressive representation of the series.

For a few situations, the collection is even more limited. This is the case for the series of the early 20th century. As an example, the Mercury Dime was struck from circulation from 1916 to 1945. Throughout this wide range of dates, proof coin production was limited to just a handful of years from 1936 to 1942.

This brief run is intriguing and contains some important low mintage keys. The 1936 proof had a mintage of only 4,130. The later issues are surprisingly affordable to acquire, even impressive examples like the one shown above. Try this new approach at collecting, you might like it!

Collectors Can Pursue Different Design Subtypes

The fact that the most stunning designs were used to make Seated Liberty Dimes, as well as the fact that they are no longer produced, is why so many coin collectors find them so appealing. Designed in 1837, the dimes changed to some extent by the following year, creating the first of many different subtypes for the series. Beyond trying to assemble a complete set of dates and mint marks, collectors may instead opt to obtain one example for each of the various iterations of design, which can be quite appealing in its own right.

The coin gets its name from the design, which features a seated Liberty. Rather than sitting on a chair though, Liberty is shown sitting on a rock, symbolizing the strength of the country, as well as the concept of freedom in general. The rock she is sitting on also relates back to another important part of American history, Plymouth Rock. Liberty is clasping a staff and shield in her hands, on which the word “Liberty” has been etched.

No stars were depicted in the designs of the first editions, but were included in the second edition, showing a row of them moving above Liberty’s head, and circling the outer edge of the coin. This is very obviously linked to the flag of America with each star representing one of the original states. The opposite side of the coin displays one of two versions of a wreath. The first was simple and consisted or laurel tied with a bow, while the second was a more ornate agricultural wreath.

Fifteen Stars of Thirteen?

In the early days of the United States Mint, coins were designed with a number of stars to represent each of the current states in the Union. This was a reasonable concept which signified the representation of all within the country. An issue somewhat quickly arose when the number of states began to grow.

On some denominations the number of stars was increased from fifteen to sixteen when the state of Tennessee was admitted in 1796. With more states coming it was soon realized that stars could not be added indefinitely and it might be difficult to keep up with the changes.

As such, the stars reverted to the number thirteen around the turn of the century. This would represent the original states and symbolically symbolize all of the current states in the country.

In 1817, something curious occurred, a large cent was minted with fifteen stars! Some have attributed this to an engraving mistake, as by this time the number of stars had been firmly established at thirteen. All remaining issues of the same series had the standard number of stars with no explanation provided for the unusual change.

Whatever the reason, this issue certainly makes for an interesting piece of coin trivia!

Design of the Flying Eagle Cent

Featuring a design by James B. Longacre and dating back from between 1856 and 1858, the design of the Flying Eagle cent is based on the prior art made by Titan Peale used on the Gobrecht dollar’s reverse-side. The image is a striking one, depicting a flying eagle in realistic form. This series represented the change in size from the bulky large copper cents to the smaller sized coins produced in an alloy.

The Philadelphia Mint originally produced about 700 examples of the coin for distribution to important congressional representatives and other thought leaders of the day. Technically a pattern, these coins were meant as proof of concept for the small cent. Such steps were necessary to avoid public dissent over the debasement of this small unit of currency since its metal value would decline significantly.

Originally, the popularity of the coins priced them at around $2.00. The mint created 1,500 additional coins in 1857 to sell to the public. Proofs of the coin now go for around $6,000 to coin collectors.

Ultimately, the public was won over by the new design which also featured a wreath on the reverse, encircling the inscription “One Cent”. The coins were struck in large numbers in 1857 and 1858 for distribution to circulation and to replace the now disappearing large cents. Due to some striking problems the design would be changed after only this brief run to the iconic Indian Head Cent.

1982 George Washington Half Dollar

Coins are often laden with multiple historical references and this is certainly true for the 1982 George Washington Half Dollar. This commemorative piece shows the great man riding his horse on the front. At the back is an image of his stately mansion at Mt. Vernon in Virginia. An eagle with wings spread out appears below the house. The designer was Elizabeth Jones who at the time was the chief sculptor of the mint. As for text, one side reads “George Washington” at the top, “Liberty” at the middle, and “250th Anniversary of Birth-1982” at the bottom. The other side has “United States of America” on top, and “In God We Trust” just below, with the words “Half Dollar” at the bottom.

These coins are special because it is the 1st time that the US minted 90% silver coins after abandoning the practice in 1964. The remaining 10% is made up of copper alloy. Minting was made possible by Congress through the strong lobby of the Treasury Department for the project. The silver used came from what was left of the Eisenhower coins that preceded these. A cap of ten million coins were allowed to be produced. Early buyers were given a special discount. The remaining coins were then sold at a regular price until the end of 1985. Those that remained unsold were then melted for future use. The project successfully generated $36 million in revenues for the Treasury.

Collectors can find some of these coins being sold at varying rates, often dependent on the current value of silver on the market. People may choose to purchase them either as a historical artifact or an investment on a precious metal.

Half Dimes Have Historic Value

If you are interested in coins, you might want to know about the Seated Liberty Half Dime. This coin was produced for over 60 years and deserves a spot in your collection. This coin was used by pioneers, cowboys, and civil war participants. There were many different versions produced between 1792 and 1873. This coin is very historic in that it was actually the very fist coin ever minted by the United States treasury.

During the late 1860s and early 1870s, there were two official versions of this coin-the silver half dime and the shield nickel.

You can find three total versions including the standard run. These coins have distinctive features, including long hair and the draped bust. The seated liberty version was minted in three different cities, making it slightly easier to obtain.

There are several different categories for rating coins. You would want something in the very fine category for collectibility purposes. To see if a half dime meets that standard, the word liberty should be legible, along with the date. The lady should have details still noticeable, including the hair and face. Some versions are more rare than others, and the value will depend on the condition, the date, and possible historic value. Regardless, any of these half dimes are a great part of US history, and worth an awful lot more than five cents.