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Promote Numismatics with American Women Quarters

2022 American Women quarter designs featuring, from left: Maya Angelou, Dr. Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong. (Image courtesy United States Mint.)

2022 American Women quarter designs featuring, from left: Maya Angelou, Dr. Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong. (Image courtesy United States Mint.)

Whenever there is a major change in a nation’s coins or currency, there is invariably a surge in numismatic collector interest. When the U.S. Statehood quarter series debuted in 1999, the U.S. Mint reported a couple years later that there were about 100 million people collecting these coins.

There are multiple new coin issues this decade, with the first being the 2021-dated Morgan and Peace silver dollars. At the beginning of 2022, the four-year series honoring a total of 20 American women on circulating quarters began. The concept for the American Women quarter series was loaded with prospects for sparking greater numismatic interest. Unfortunately, between the U.S. Mint and Federal Reserve Bank, the implementation and then circulation of these coins has thus far mostly failed to prompt public interest in these issues.

When the Statehood quarters were created and issued, it was possible in most states for the public to submit design ideas. In Michigan, for example, about 4,000 suggestions were received, of which more than 20 percent came from students. Then, when a new issue came out, banks and credit unions could request receipt of this specific issue from the Federal Reserve Bank. Both of these factors were critical in boosting public interest in the coins. The higher public interest resulted in higher mintages than otherwise would have occurred, which had the effect of increasing the U.S. Mint’s profits that were turned over to the U.S. Treasury.

Unfortunately, for the American women on quarters issues, the public at first was not given any means of suggesting candidates to be selected to appear on these coins. (There might have been some merit to excluding public input as a public survey taken around 50 years ago of who should appear on a U.S. coin came up with Elvis Presley as the runaway most popular choice.) However, since three committees would ultimately decide which 20 women to honor, they could decide to ignore such input.

Eventually, there was a convoluted process established where the public could submit suggestions on which women deserved to be on a quarter, but the process was cumbersome even if one was able to find the online link to do so.

Then, as I have previously lamented, banks and credit unions were not allowed to request the specific issues from the Federal Reserve Bank. As a consequence, the U.S. Mint has reported that only 480 million of the Maya Angelou quarters, the first coin in the series, were struck for circulation. This mintage is 38 percent lower than for the first Statehood quarter in 1999 (Delaware with 774,824,000 coins struck for circulation).

Every single Statehood quarter for the 50 states had mintages for circulation of more than 400 million, peaking at 1,592,616,000 for Virginia in 2000. I am concerned that the difficulty of obtaining this year’s quarters from banks or credit unions will lead to even lower mintages as the series continues.

As each of the new issues of the Statehood quarters and America the Beautiful quarters debuted, the coin store where I work received a deluge of calls from the public wanting to know if the new coins were available. Sadly, there has not been any particular public interest leading people to contact our store for this year’s quarters.

Despite the obstacles of the lack of public participation in selecting which women to honor and of being able to obtain these coins from local banks and credit unions at face value (people can order rolls and small bags of these coins from the U.S. Mint at prices from 40-45 cents per coin), there are still opportunities to promote interest in numismatics using the American Women quarters issues. Remember, if people cannot find them in their change, they just might become interested if they consider these coins to be rare.

Here are a few ideas on what collectors, coin clubs, and dealers can do:

1. Obtain some of the newest issues at face value from your local bank or credit union. If you cannot, consider paying the Mint’s higher price to obtain a quantity of these coins. Then simply go out and spend them, one at a time, drawing the attention of the person receiving this coin to the woman honored on it. This could spark some interesting conversations.

2. Coin dealers could obtain quantities of these coins, then try to get free advertising by offering to give away free or charge face value for one of these coins. Since there has been a relative lack of publicity about this coin series, your prospects of getting publicity through news coverage on these coins are pretty good.

3. Coin clubs or coin dealers could run contests asking for student submissions on the subject of the latest women honored on the quarter – and award a single quarter or a “PDS” set of three to every student who turns in an entry.

4. Conduct a treasure hunt, where a coin club or coin dealer might offer a reward for the first person locally who finds and presents the newest quarter in circulation.

5. Take a survey for suggestions on which women might deserve to be honored on the 2024- and 2025-dated quarters. If you keep track of when you received each survey, you might offer a prize to whomever turned in the first entry naming a woman who is later selected to appear on a quarter.

6. Consider dedicating or naming coin shows, coin club meetings, and the like in honor of the latest woman to appear on a quarter.

7. Collectors could acquire a few rolls or bags of these quarters, then see if any schools would be interested in you speaking to students about the woman who is honored on the quarters – where you give each student their own quarter to keep.

8. Dealers could consider offering a discount on numismatic coins dated in the year of birth or death of the women honored on quarters.

If you use your imagination, you can certainly come up with other low- or no-cost ideas on how to use the American Women quarters to spark an interest in numismatics. Have fun doing so.

Patrick A. Heller was honored as a 2019 FUN Numismatic Ambassador. He is also the recipient of the American Numismatic Association 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, 2017 Exemplary Service Award, 2012 Harry Forman National Dealer of the Year Award and 2008 Presidential Award. Over the years, he has also been honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild (including twice in 2020), Professional Numismatists Guild, Industry Council for Tangible Assets and the Michigan State Numismatic Society. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at www.libertycoinservice.com. Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio archives posted at www.1320wils.com).