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Viewpoint: Quarters do not look uncirculated

I am now retired and have been a collector for over 50 years. I worked in casinos the past 20 years and I have lived in New Mexico for the past 13 years. I also started to buy online in 2000.
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By Patrick Satterlee

I am now retired and have been a collector for over 50 years. I worked in casinos the past 20 years and I have lived in New Mexico for the past 13 years. I also started to buy online in 2000.


Today, I received my Numismatic News along with several packages of U.S. coins purchased from Internet coin dealers/suppliers.

Most coins received were proof national parks quarters (officially called the America the Beautiful series), proof Presidential dollars, proof Sacagawea dollars and uncirculated Sacagawea dollar coins.

Also, some packages were received with the Denver and Philadelphia national parks quarters listed as uncirculated or BU quality coins.

In my opinion, none of the Denver or Philadelphia national parks quarters have been anything other than poor quality (damaged/stained/spotted) circulation strikes.

None will ever be circulated by local banks here in New Mexico since they only issue rewrapped coins received from bank depositors.

I have been to every bank in Santa Fe, N.M., and verified that there is no Mint distribution of coins currently here of anything but the Lincoln dollar.

Only grocery stores here in the surrounding counties receive new coins from the armored car service coin suppliers, but neither will sell them to customers. We can only get new coins one at a time in change at the registers with a purchase.

The only new quarter coins found here in circulation since the 1999-D Delaware issued at Walmart in Espanola, N.M., is the 2011-D Vicksburg quarter. No others, in 13 years, not ever.

The Vicksburg coin has only been available for the past two months from a local casino change machine near Albuquerque, N.M.
Yet none of these coins have received any machine damage. So far, I have over 60 uncirculated Vicksburg quarters.

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While the reverse is of an uncirculated quality on the Vicksburg quarter coin, the same cannot be said for the obverse side with Washington’s portrait. The obverse is not a high quality image.

After viewing these new national parks quarters, I came to the conclusion that they appear to have been made from used/discarded dies.

In the national parks series coins observed, Philadelphia puts out the worst and oldest looking national parks coins.

On all uncirculated “P” and “D” national parks coins that I viewed, Washington’s hair does not show properly at the curls on any coin provided. Many varieties were observed. The obverse is VF at best, regardless of them being newly minted.

When inspected under 14X magnification, none of the national parks quarters seen could be graded as uncirculated on both sides unless using the MS-70 disclaimer listed in the ANA Grading Standards to qualify every coin for the die wear/die repair/maching damage type present.

The spots on the majority of coins appear as if someone sneezed on them.

Some discolorations appearing at center or throughout a planchet seem as if a heating problem were introduced to the planchet before being stamped. Some “P” mint coins are yellowed or blue-tinted, have a fuzzy appearance in the center or throughout the obverse. The discolorations/stains and graying make some of the coins look dirty and old.

Almost all coins observed have what appears to be a matte/sandblasted appearance from the obverse dies. Some are shiny, but vary in appearance. Some were bright.

One coin has a flat surface with file marks to the left of Washington’s face.

Several coins have counting machine damage near/through the obverse lettering, making them no better than pocket change and not worth storing/buying.

My belief, after looking at all of the Denver and Philadelphia national parks quarters received this month and before reporting the problem to my suppliers is that I can still believe as I have since 1974 that the Mint operators have no intention of making any affordable/quality coins for the public to use or collect.

Most coins that I have seen in circulation over the past 40 years have deteriorated rapidly. Much more than the foreign coins that I have collected since 1960 for my world collections.

The zinc cents turn black quickly and many have actually rotted when thrown into water fountains or burned by fire. When damaged, they are not wanted by the coin counting businesses that prefer shiny coins.

Since 1995, I began to observe that newer nickels in circulation easily pick up heavy gouges, even on those showing five full steps.

This make grading of circulating coins almost impossible due to the excessive damage associated with circulating them in vending machines and coin counters.

Older coins gradually wear and can still be found in circulation and easily graded even after years of use in vending/counting machines.

This Viewpoint was written by Patrick Satterlee, a hobbyist who is from Santa Fe, N.M. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to

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