The State Quarters Program was authorized by Public Law 105-124 signed by President Clinton at the end of 1997. The legislation had been introduced by Congressman Michael Castle and advocated by David L. Ganz. The first State Quarters were issued under United States Mint Director Philip N. Diehl.
The innovative program honored each of the fifty states in the order that they ratified the Constitution or were admitted to the Union. The series began on January 4, 1999 with the release of the Delaware Quarter and concluded on November 3, 2008 with the Hawaii Quarter.
The United States Mint has estimated that 147 million Americans have collected the coins in the 50 State Quarters Program. On average, this number represents at least one person from every household in the United States.
The State Quarters have served as a valuable tool for education of the history and geography of the states. Nearly 6 million free lesson plans related to the program were downloaded from the US Mint’s website by teachers, parents, and students.
When the first issue of the series was introduced in 1999, it represented the first design change for a circulating coin since the 1976 Bicentennial coin designs.
The highest overall mintage for a State Quarter occurred with the 2000 Virginia Quarter. The combined mintage from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints was 1,594,616,000. This number represents at least 5 quarters for every man, woman, and child living in the United States.
The lowest overall mintage for a State Quarter occurred with the 2008 Oklahoma Quarter. The combined mintage from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints was 416,600,000.
During the course of the ten year series, more than 34 billion State Quarters were produced for circulation by the US Mint facilities in Philadelphia and Denver. In the prior ten year period, about 14 billion quarters had been produced.
Designs for each State Quarter were submitted and recommended by the governor of each state. Most states chose to involve their citizens through design contests or open design proposal submissions. The United States Mint reviewed the designs, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts provided comments, and the Secretary of the Treasury provided final approval.
The quarters issued from 1999 to 2008 generated more than $6.1 billion in seigniorage. The US Mint estimates that the extra seigniorage generated by the State Quarters Program was $2.7 to $2.9 billion.
Following the enormous success of the 50 State Quarters Program, the concept of rotating designs has been applied to numerous other coin series as seen in the Westward Journey Nickel series, Presidential Dollar series, Native American Dollar series, and 2009 Lincoln Cents.
The State Quarters series was followed by the District of Columbia and United States Territories Quarters Program. This separate program was created to honor the non-state jurisdictions of the United States.
The 50 State Quarters Program and DC & US Territories Program will be followed by a new series known as America the Beautiful Quarters. This program will feature rotating reverse designs highlighting National Parks and National Sites.