Soon after the 50 States quarter dollar program was launched, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., began her quest for recognition of the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories on the reverse of the circulating Washington quarter dollar. She introduced legislation five times, gaining passage in the House of Representatives. However, her initiatives were blocked in the U.S. Senate because the legislation was viewed by opponents as a backdoor attempt to gain statehood for the federal district.
Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., who was the chief sponsor of the legislation that created the 50 State quarters program, declared his support for quarter dollars honoring the district and the territories soon after the launch of the State quarters program and joined Norton in working to obtain its passage. They achieved success at the close of the 110th Congress by attaching the bill to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 (PL 110-147) signed into law Dec. 21, 2007, some 10 years after the approval of the 50 States quarters law.
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Six quarters were issued during 2009 with reverses honoring the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands. According to the Mint they were issued in equal sequential intervals throughout the year. The District of Columbia quarter was issued Jan. 26.
The John Flanagan's obverse design of George Washington modified by William Cousins (unchanged from the 50 State quarters obverse) appears on each. The reverses honor the District of Columbia and the territories.
The authorizing laws required the secretary of the Treasury to approve each reverse design after consulting with the chief executive of the District of Columbia or the territory being honored and the Commission of Fine Arts, after review by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.
The authorizing law provides for the coins to be struck for commerce, Uncirculated and Proof versions, as well as a 90 percent silver.
Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:
Cents and half cents:
2- and 3-cent coins:
Dimes and half dimes: