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Did someone quit saving state quarters?

Are people who saved state quarters when the program began beginning to spend them? I am moved to ask that question because of a state quarter I received in my change on Friday.

The coin is a beautiful BU Pennsylvania quarter. That used to be one of the designs that traded for a premium price on the roll market, so I am not used to seeing too many of them in my change, though I have from time to time run across an example that definitely showed wear from some circulation.

Just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, one Pennsylvania quarter doesn’t mean collectors or hoarders or souvenir hunters have decided as a group to give up.

But this is a good time to speculate. We are concluding the ninth year of the state quarter program. The Utah quarter will be released Nov. 5. There is just one year and five designs to go after that.

Nine years is a long time in human affairs. Age, changing interests and perhaps life events like stress over a mortgage payment can put coins that had once been prized possessions into circulation.

Because of their massive mintages of many times the annual production numbers that prevailed before the start of the quarter program, migration of state quarters from the hands of savers to spenders could have a major effect on the number of quarters the Mint needs to strike in future years.

It is too early to declare it a fact, so I will keep watching, but the post-Civil War period is on my mind. Mintages in the 1880s declined sharply because huge numbers of coins that had been hoarded and sent to Canada during the Civil War found their way back to daily use after the United States successfully extinguished the inflation and by 1879 had once again made all forms of U.S. currency equivalent in value. There were no longer premiums for gold coins or silver coins or gold-backed paper money. It became one big interchangeable mass.

There are enough state quarters out there to have a similar national impact. The question is will they? What are you seeing in your change? E-mail me at david.harper@fwpubs.com.

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