Lauren and I put the last quarter in the state quarter collection last week.
I have been a coin collector since I was a kid, when my dad got me hooked. Stashed away in a bright purple Crown Royal bag in his dresser was a pile of American and foreign coins that he had acquired from any number of places, few of which were all that valuable but all of which were utterly fascinating. We’d go through them now and then, and every once in a while we’d try to organize them. We still haven’t succeeded on that last score, but that’s part of the fun of it.
Ever since I have kept my eye on my pocket change, much to the grand annoyance of cashiers in any number of places who always think I don’t trust them and am checking up on them. Honestly I couldn’t have told them if they’d shortchanged me or not – I was just checking the coins.
And you’d be surprised at what people will hand you in change even now. Silver. Foreign coins. Coins that haven’t been minted since my grandparents were little. It’s fun looking for them, really it is. Even today, finding a wheat cent in change can make my day.
I remember my first reaction to the new state quarters when they came out in 1999. Unfortunately I will not repeat it here. Let’s just say that the program caught me by surprise and leave it at that.
That cashier was really annoyed, but at least she had a reason for it.
When the girls were born I decided that it would be fun to collect three sets of these quarters – one for me and one each for them. And so, slowly, bit by bit, we have been pulling out of circulation all of the new and previously unseen designs and stuffing them into the appropriate slots in our folders.
Some have been hard to find – one of the Floridas, for example, took me ages to collect. Others have inundated me – I believe that for several years there has been an entire subterranean mint in the same Undisclosed Location that Dick Cheney used to run the country from devoted to producing nothing but Connecticut quarters. For a while after 9/11 I actually felt sort of guilty spending the New York ones. It seemed somehow dishonorable not to hold on to them. Eventually that began to feel too much like the old Onion headline about how someone baked a flag-shaped cake because they wanted to feel more patriotic and didn’t know what else to do, so I started spending them again. My honor did not seem to be affected one way or another.
Tabitha mostly lost interest a while ago, but Lauren has still been involved. We’d go through our change and pull out the gems. And last week we found our last holdouts – three Oklahoma-P quarters – and in they went.
It was a strange feeling, having completed a decade-long project like that.
Of course there are still unexplored vistas of quarters, should we choose to continue this project. We’ve got some gaps with the territories that followed the states, for example – few of the Northern Marianas Islands quarters find their way to Wisconsin for some reason. And I just have not had the heart to collect the “tourist attraction” quarters that they’re on to now, so those have largely gone by the wayside.
But we’ve got all fifty states from both mints producing for circulation.