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?
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.)