Know your U.S. coins: Washington, 50 states quarter

The 50 States quarter program proved Americans like change. From the outset in 1999, the public embraced the new designs, providing undeniable proof the mindset long engrained at the United States Treasury that insisted Americans would find new circulating designs confusing and therefore reject them was premised on nothing more than bureaucratic inertia.

Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., shepherded through Congress legislation that became Public Law 105-124, a 10-year initiative commemorating each of the 50 United States with a reverse on the circulating Washington quarter dollar.

During the 10 years of issue (1999 to 2008) the U.S. Mint reported that more than 140 million Americans were collecting the 50 State quarter dollars. And at its conclusion in 2008, the series was hailed as the most successful coinage program in the history of the U.S. Mint.

COIN VALUES: See how much Washington quarter coins are worth today

State quarters were struck for general circulation, but they were also offered in a multitude of collector products in different finishes in both the copper-nickel clad alloy and 90 percent silver. The U.S. Mint produced five new reverse designs each year in 10-week intervals in the order the states entered the union.

A modified version of John Flanagan's portrait of George Washington serves as the common obverse. To accommodate state designs on the reverse, the legends united states of america, quarter dollar, liberty, and IN GOD WE TRUST all appear on the obverse. Each reverse design has a different theme and carries the name of the state being honored, the year it entered the union and the year it was issued.

States chose a variety of ways to decide upon appropriate themes and design concepts, from public competitions to committee recommendations. The U.S. Mint reviewed design concepts for coinability and both the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts provided recommendations regarding the artistic merits and historic appropriateness. Ultimately each reverse design was recommended by the governor of the state being honored with final selection by the secretary of the Treasury.

All final design were rendered by U.S. Mint sculptor-engravers, contracted designers or Artistic Infusion Program artists contracted by the Mint from design concepts or word descriptions.

Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:

Cents and half cents:

2- and 3-cent coins:


Dimes and half dimes:


Half dollars:


Gold coins:

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