The 5 Worst US State Quarter Designs

It’s hard to believe, but the US Mint’s very successful 50 State Quarters program ended five years ago. It was a 10-year initiative that honored each of the nation’s states in the order that they ratified the Constitution or were admitted into the Union. Each quarter was only minted for a brief 10-week period, and will never be produced again.

At the time, it seemed like everybody was collecting these quarters. I completed my collection not long after the Hawaii quarter was released in 2008.

Anyway, the other day I decided to open up my specially-designed album that holds all 50 quarters and I couldn’t help but marvel at all of the varied designs. Some quarters were quite beautiful while others, well … not so much.

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to list, in reverse order, my nominations for the five worst US State Quarter designs. How do my picks line up with yours?



5. Wyoming

God bless Wyoming. I’ve visited 45 of the 50 US states, and I think Wyoming is among the most beautiful. Part of its charm is it’s sparsely populated — fewer than a half-million people live there — which probably explains why Wyoming was unable to find an artist capable of producing a top-tier design for their quarter. Although most of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming, the designer decided against featuring it. Why? I understand that Wyoming was a leader with respect to women’s suffrage, but if you’re going to include “The Equality State” on the design, why not, at the very least, show a cowgirl on the back of that bronco, buckaroos? Pro-tip: This would have been one of the best quarters if Wyoming’s state motto was “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.”


4. Idaho

I’ll never forget the time when I received my first Idaho quarter. Upon seeing it, my first thought was, “Hmmm, that sure looks likes an eagle being held at gunpoint.”So I showed the coin to a buddy to see if he could make heads or tails out of it, and he informed me that: 1) The bird is a peregrine falcon;  and 2) The handgun I thought I saw was actually a depiction of Idaho. How could Idaho fail to go with a design centered around a potato theme? After all, I’m fairly certain that “Esto Perpetua” is Spanish “Pass the home fries.”


3. Pennsylvania

This design reminds me of the typical kid who is given three months to complete a major project for his social studies class and then waits until the day before it’s due to get started. I realize Pennsylvania was the second state to join the union, which meant that they had less time than other states like, say, Alaska, to come up with their design; but come on …  Frankly, I expected a lot more from the great state of Pennsylvania. The designer clearly put very little thought into this. How could he forget the Liberty Bell? Where is Independence Hall? As for centering the design around Miss Penn … Let’s just say the Quaker Oats guy or Ron Jaworski would have been a more interesting alternative.


2. Ohio

My parents are from Ohio — and I still have relatives who live there. That’s why it pains me to include the Buckeye State here. In Ohio’s defense, the final design isn’t really their fault. I know what they were trying to achieve: The quarter reminds us that the Wright brothers’ famous plane that first flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, was designed in Ohio. It also represents the achievements of Ohioans John Glenn and Neil Armstrong — the first American astronauts to orbit Earth and walk on the moon, respectively. Still … every time I see that space man, all I can think of is MTV.


1. Michigan

Kindergarten teachers: Want to have some fun?  Give the Michigan quarter to your kids and ask them what they see.  Talk about a Rorschach test. Every clinical psychologist should carry one of these quarters with them wherever they go — just in case they get an emergency call. Stare at this quarter for a couple minutes and then tell me what you see. I saw a collection of human organs: a liver in the upper left; pancreas in the lower right; even an inflamed gall bladder. If you look carefully, some people say you can even see a male appendage hanging out too … You know what? On second thought, showing this quarter to the kids probably isn’t such a great idea.

Photo Credit: bradleygee (map); US Mint (coins)

(This is an updated version of an article originally posted on February 2, 2010.)


  1. 3

    Bob Nostrof says

    Len: John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth but I think Alan Shepherd was the first American in space.

    I think Iowa quarter should be on the list.

  2. 4

    Ricky says

    I don’t think it is funny The iamge on reverse quarter is the actual image of Michigan. I don’t see any worse about Michigan. The quarters representing all 50 states are equally worse Period

  3. 5

    Eric says

    You can add Alabama to the list as well. It’s great to put Helen Keller on your quarter, but the attempt to put lots of detail in metal just left her looking like an amorphous blob of an old woman in a chair. “Alabama – Grandma’s welcome!”

  4. 6

    Bill says

    The Idaho quarter is terrible, I live in Idaho and we could have done so much better, like a salmon, trout mountain goat or the Sawtooth Mountains. GEEZ

  5. 7

    Jim says

    I just want to know, How the blue blazes did a Peregrine Falcon end up on the Idaho quarter? I’ve been to Idaho several times and camped in the sawtooth’s but I have NEVER seen a Peregrine Falcon there, now Colorado, that’s a different story.IMHO I think that Kentucky SHOULD have been represented, Idyllic pasture scene with a horse and My Old Kentucky Home, granted all reconizable, but it should have been more like a giant distillery pumping out gallons of alcohol, and tended to by a overly obese man in overalls and 10 kids piling on wood to stoke the fire.

    • 8

      April says

      From what I read, the governor picked the peregrin falcon because they had some peregrin falcon sanctuary or something that was doing a lot for the peregrin falcon in Idaho. Which is still a stupid reason, you’d think they’d want to celebrate something historical.

    • 10

      Gary says

      The main symbol in the bucking horse-It is based on a real horse name Steamboat that was know an the horse that couldn’t be ridden. He was ridden by and working cowboys, but later was in the rodeo circuit. He was born in 1896 on the M-Ranch outside of Chugwater, Wyoming and this symbol is on the Wyoming license plates. There is a plaque at The National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Steamboat’s honor. The cowboy is just a nameless cowboy doing his best to stay on.

      Wyoming’s motto “The Equality State” comes from the fact that Wyoming is the first place (a territory at the time) in the US to grant women the right to vote-in 1869. It also is the first state to allow women on a jury and it had the first woman governor.

      Both the image and the motto are historically correct and they can coexist with no problem.

  6. 11

    Michael says

    They threw out my idea in my home state of Washington. A profile of George Washington. Wait you say, there already is a profile of George Washington on ALL quarters. hmmmmm.

  7. 12

    Yoda says

    Yeah, Michigan’s the “Great Lakes State” but Lake Ontario doesn’t even touch Michigan. They could’ve left it off and made the rest of the map that much bigger and more visible.

    Or at least had the St. Lawrence delta running off the side of the coin so that Lake Ontario doesn’t look so much like a foot.

  8. 13

    Jess says

    On a few of the coins the relationship between the art and the state is so obscure that the people in the state don’t even get it. The NY coin does have the Statue of Liberty, but then on the state shape you’re supposed to know that the squiggly lines on the state are the Hudson River and the Erie Canal. And how many people know the state grain of Wisconsin is corn? And I’m sorry, but the buffalo on the Kansas coin is just wrong.
    While Arizona has art that is representative of the land, New Mexico put their old license icon on theirs. Connecticut has the Charter Oak, (which I really like), but because the oak was destroyed in 1856, and what passes for history that’s being taught in our schools, few know why the tree is important.

    In the US, coins, like postage stamps, are chosen by strange and arcane methods. And sometimes the crap floats to the top and gets chosen, which is a shame because we have so many wonderful things in this country. In every state there is beauty and things the people KNOW and love. Add that to the artists and technology we employ in of our minting system and you begin to realize the options amazing.

    The reason the National Parks didn’t go on the “state” coins is probably because they have a set of National Parks Coins, as well as I think 6 Territory Coins.

    • 14

      Gary says

      I’m not sure why you would take issue with a buffalo on Kansas’ coin-There were thousands of buffalo there. I can understand maybe taking issue with them being pushed out and slaughtered.

  9. 15

    Nancy says

    I also live in Idaho and I believe the consensus among Idahoans is that the folks in charge of our quarter design really blew it. Rumor has it that the story behind the horrible design is this…Idaho’s Raptor Recovery Center played a role in helping to protect the bird from extinction. Which is great (although not a well-known story, even among we Idahoans). Our governor at the time, Dirk Kempthorne, chose the design. Several months later, he was appointed by George W. Bush as the Secretary of the Interior. Hmmm…interesting.

  10. 17


    I think you did a good job with the list. When I see Ohio I think of three other states first because of the space man. Florida, Texas, and Alabama. Why is he on there anyway?

  11. 19

    Darrell says

    I am a non-native of Wyoming, and have learned that the one college in the state has a mascot of the Cowboys. The cowboy seen on the quarter is the college logo. No excuses, ‘just is what it is.

  12. 21

    Nicholas B says

    Hahaha, as a Wisconsinite all I see in MI’s quarter is WI.

    And a big mess.
    I know what the Great Lakes look like, and what MI looks like, but this is a big gross mess.

    We got our quarter right!

    • 22

      valdy fox says

      Yes… because nothing says “timeless, classy design” like a big old cow head next to a hunk of cheddar cheese. Good job, Wisconsin! If the Wisconsin quarter were scratch-&-sniff, I’d expect to smell cheese curds or manure. Wisconsin should have been in the top 5, along with:

      Florida – Nice montage; almost as classy as a 1980s arcade token with that space shuttle on there

      Iowa – A one room school, lifeless, flat and forgotten! Just like our entire state!

      Indiana – A NASCAR car!? And not from the Southern state? Finally, something to offend people with good taste AND rednecks alike…

  13. 23

    Krystal says

    It’s funny the things other people see that are so obvious when pointed out (like the person who only sees WI). I’ve lived in MI all my life and when I saw MI @ the bottom of the list I thought, “What’s wrong with our quarter (other than it being a little boring)?” Then after reading this I realize that I only see the image clearly because I’ve been looking at it all my life, and that it really does look like a Rorshach test. Maybe the people who made the quarters were similarly “blinded” by what these look like to outsiders, because they’re images they’ve seen all of their lives.

  14. 24

    Steve Jacobs (Starving Steve) says

    The Michigan quarter is actually very interesting:

    a.) It shows the adjoining Great Lakes i.e, Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie, with Lake Ontario to the North-east but not adjoining Michigan;

    b.) It shows the subtle low relief of Michigan, including the Gogebic Range in the western U.P, and the Porcupine Mountains in the U.P;

    c.) It shows the interesting geography of Michigan, with its Upper Peninsula and its Lower Michigan, also its Isle Royale (National Park) offshore of Thunder Bay, Ontario in Lake Superior.

  15. 25

    Karayray88 says

    In regards to the Wyoming quarter and the “cowboy” on the design. It is actually the State of Wyoming logo and is a registed trade mark. The University also uses it. Any why would a state that is know as forever west not have a cowboy featured on it? Just sayin!!!

  16. 27

    Derf says

    New Hampsire’s is pitiful. The old man on the mountain fell into the valley…the people of that state way overvested their emotional attachment to a rock that wouldn’t get a second look in most western states.

    Thumbs up to the states that resisted using an outline of their state in their motif.

    • 28

      Len Penzo says

      I agree; using the state’s outline in the design was pure laziness, Derf.

      The New Hampshire coin became kind of irrelevant after the Old Man collapsed into the valley. I remember when it happened and I immediately thought “Well, so much for NH’s state quarter!”

  17. 29

    Paul says

    I believe the space-suited figure on the Ohio quarter is meant to represent Neil Armstrong, the first human on the moon. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth; Alan Shepard is credited as the first American astronaut in space (May 1961). Yuri Gargarin, Soviet cosmonaut was the first human to into outer space and to orbit the earth.


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