We jingle them in our pockets, we toss them at football games, some of us even use them to determine when we should drink beer. But how much do we know about quarters? American quarters have an interesting backstory. While the majority of currencies worldwide use twenty-cent pieces, the United States began its pecuniary journey using Spanish milled dollars, which were divided into eighths. For some debts, two of these “bits” was required – or, a quarter. This history helps explain the prevalence of the phrase “two bits” in pop culture.
Not surprisingly, American quarters cost much less than their face value to produce. After all, a currency that expensive would be essentially pointless; far gone are the days when the value of coins was entirely literal. The extra money produced goes towards funding the U.S. Mint; that government body that maintains the machines and employees that produce the money that we all use every day.
American quarters are pretty old, but they’re getting updated all the time. In the late nineties, the Mint introduced a State quarter program that saw each of the stars on the flag honored with a special twenty five cent piece. These coins have become collector’s items for a wide variety of folk, from novices to numismatists.
And that history is ongoing; the future of the American quarter is in the United State Mint’s new “America the Beautiful Quarters” program, which seeks to highlight our natural resources. This time around, there are 56 to collect, representing all 50 states and 6 American territories. Each year from 2010 to 2021, five new ones will be rolled out. So get out there and start collecting!