In a completely unscientific survey conducted by AOL, over seventy-thousand people responded to a poll asking if they collected US state quarters that were produced under the US Mint’s extremely successful 50 State Quarters program.
Seventy-eight percent answered yes.
According to the US Mint the program was launched in 1999, as part of 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 minted for a 10-week period and they will never be produced again.
My US State quarter collection will never be valuable because I only bothered to collect one quarter for all 50 states. If I was truly serious I probably should have collected three quarters for each state: one from the Denver mint, one from the Philadelphia mint, and the proof coins from the San Francisco mint.
Oh well. Nobody will ever confuse me with being a serious numismatist.
In any case, the program ended a little over a year ago and I couldn’t help but marvel at all of the varied designs, some of which were quite beautiful while others, well…
The Internet is loaded with people who have opined on the best and worst designs. In fact, in another unscientific survey, Wallet Pop asked its readers to vote on their favorite and least favorite designs. The readers there concluded that Alaska was their favorite design, while Idaho was the worst.
The poll, however, failed to shed any light on why those quarters fared well or poorly, as the case may be. Was the Idaho design really that bad, or was the state’s poor showing the result of some sort of anti-Idaho bias?
The world will never know.
In reverse order, here is my list of the five worst US State Quarter designs – but unlike those unsatisfying surveys, I will try to explain my reasoning for why I chose to bestow such a dubious honor on these coins.
God bless Wyoming. I have visited all but about a half dozen US states and I think Wyoming is one of the most beautiful of them all. It is very sparsely populated though – as of the last census there were less than a half-million people living there. That probably explains why Wyoming was unable to find a capable artist that could produce a top-tier design for their quarter. Although most of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming, the designer decided against featuring it. Why? The dichotomy of the state motto with the actual design is what bothers me here. I understand that Wyoming was a leader with respect to women’s suffrage, but if you are 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? On the other hand, 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. I got it as change during a visit to Wienerschnitzel – I believe I had taken advantage of their “Chili Cheese Dog, Chili Cheeseburger and Chili Cheese Fries for $3.33″ deal. My first thought was “Hmmm, that sure looks likes an eagle being held at gunpoint.” So I showed the coin to my buddy Gibby to see if he could make heads or tails out of it (no pun intended) and he quickly informed me that: 1) It’s a peregrine falcon; and 2) That’s not a handgun, it’s the state of Idaho. Oops. Maybe it’s just me, but I think a potato-themed design would have been more apropos. Don’t you? Then again, if I remember correctly, I believe “Esto Perpetua” is Spanish for “Pass me the home fries.”
Do you know what this design reminds me of? 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 and as such they had less time than other states like, say, Alaska, to come up with their design, but come on. At least Wyoming can lean on the “we barely have enough people living here to operate our Taco John’s and McDonald’s, let alone design a state quarter” excuse. But I expect more from the great state of Pennsylvania. If you asked me, the designer just ran out of time and put very little thought into this. How could he forget the Liberty Bell? Where is Independence Hall? Even the Quaker Oats guy or Ron Jaworski would have been an improvement over that lame statue in the center.
My parents are from Ohio. Youngstown to be exact, back when the steel mills there were thriving and the city was alive. I still have relatives in the greater Youngstown area, as well as in Akron and Columbus. I have some terrific memories of Ohio too – hanging out with all my cousins and aunts and uncles. That’s why it pains me to include OH-10 here, but I have to call them as I see ‘em. I will say, in Ohio’s defense, the problem I have with this design isn’t really their fault. I know what they were trying to achieve here – but every time I see this design, and the space man in particular, all I can think of is MTV.
Kindergarten teachers: Want to have some fun? Give the Michigan quarter to your kids (preferably the ones that can’t read yet) and and ask them what they see. Talk about a Rorschach test! I bet most clinical psychologists carry one of these quarters with them wherever they go – just in case they get an emergency call. Timothy Leary would have loved this quarter. Next time you decide to get really drunk, or partake in some peyote, don’t forget to stare at this quarter for a couple minutes and tell me what you saw. The last time I took the “Michigan state quarter Rorschach test” I saw a jumbled mess of human organs: In the upper left I saw a liver, I think I also saw a pancreas and even a male, er, appendage hanging out. On second thought, teachers, you better strike my original suggestion – perhaps showing this coin to your kids wouldn’t be such a great idea after all.
Disagree with me?
By all means, please let me know what quarter you think is worse than any of those five abominations.