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Quarter catches my eye

I made a small purchase at a newsstand on Saturday as I transited through the Miami airport.

The clerk handed me my change. There were three quarters in it. One of them showed the characteristic wide rims of the current America the Beautiful coin program. It also looked like it had just been minted.

I was so curious about it that I immediately looked at it.

I apparently paused so long in my examination that I worried the clerk.

She asked me if I had not gotten the correct change.

I felt a little sheepish. I said my change was correct.

There was no one else around, so I told her it was a new quarter that I had not yet seen. It was a Shenandoah National Park quarter, which was the second design issued in 2014.

I handed her the quarter as I told her what it was and she took a look at it. She then mentioned that she had seen numerous 2014-dated coins.

That is not exactly big news in a busy international airport most years, but it is a little more important this year as the American economy continues to recover from the Great Recession.

During the downturn, demand for new coins collapsed as hard-pressed families raided every piggy bank they could to help make ends meet.

The denomination particularly affected by this was the quarter. That is no surprise. Few Americans have half dollars. Cents and nickels, even dimes, are hardly worth the bother to count.

Time spent with quarters maximizes the sum of money realized. Also, many families had saved quantities of the state quarters. When they put them away, it probably never occurred to them that the coins would help keep the economic wolf at bay.

This is a long way of saying that getting new quarters in change again is a big deal for me.

This year's quarters still have not made their way to Iola, Wis., which is a small town off the beaten path, but it is likely new dates will arrive as the economy picks up speed. Current year cents have already returned.

The Mint is striking coins at a rate between three and four times greater than what occurred in 2009, the bottom of the recession.

Quarter production was very slow to rebound. The fact that I reacted to the one I received is evidence of this.

It is also nice to know that the clerk is watching what goes through her hands. She did not admit to being a collector, but if her general awareness is any guide, she might soon become one.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."