Quarters were knocked pretty hard by the Great Recession of the last five years, but mintage numbers for the denomination during the first 11 months of the calendar year indicate some good news.
Production is growing again. So far in 2012 the U.S. Mint has cranked out 564.81 million quarters. This number looks tiny compared to the figures from the year 2000 when any one of the five designs had a mintage of well over 1 billion pieces and the Virginia coin was nearly 1.6 billion.
But a turnaround has to start somewhere and 2012 seems to confirm a trend that started almost imperceptibly in 2011.
In 2011, quarter production was 391.2 million, up 44.2 million from the 347 million struck in 2010, the low point. That was a gain of almost 13 percent.
Even without any additional quarters struck in December, the 2012 number is up over 44 percent from 2011.
Two steps forward might just indicate that we will advance even further in 2013.
There is little likelihood that collectors will fall again under the spell of the quarter to the degree we did during the state quarter program, but these numbers show the worst is over and economic and hobby life can go on.
Many collectors, both veteran and novice, saved large numbers of state quarters when they were issued 1999-2008 and bought proof and other collector sets that contained them. Enthusiasm was almost at giddy levels.
We probably won’t see anything like this again in our lifetimes, but if the U.S. Mint revamps the compositions of the quarter and other denominations, we might see an echo. There will be a great need to crank out new coins quickly.
The general public will likely do what it seems to always do when change comes to American coinage: they will save examples of the coins that are passing into history and a few of them will join the ranks of collectors.
That will be good for us and get us through our quarter hangover.
Even without potential new demand from the public, an the uptrend in quarter demand that has set in already and an end to bad news can be called good news.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”