In an Opinion piece published in The Hill this week, former U.S representative and Delaware governor Michael Castle reflects on the outcome
of the 50 State Quarter program. -Editor
It is a rare occurrence for a government program to be both popular with the public and produce revenue for the U.S. Treasury. The U.S.
commemorative quarter circulating series, which began with the 50 States Quarter Program, has been that rare success. Our economy is now in a
transition period where more Americans are using debit cards and other electronic transactions rather than paper currency and coins, but the Quarters
program has been embraced by the public and profitable for the government.
In 1995, as part of the first Republican Congress in 40 years, I became the new chairman of the House Domestic and International Monetary Policy
Subcommittee, and we began a review of the programs under our jurisdiction, which included the United States Mint. One of the first issues that came
up was the state of the U.S. Commemorative Coin program. Coin collectors were frustrated by the cost of the non-circulating commemorative coins and a
decline in interest among young people in collecting coins. The last circulating commemorative coin had been the Bicentennial Quarter in 1976.
The coin community was very interested in a new circulating coin program that would attract the interest of the public, particularly young people.
Coin collecting advocates, like Beth Deisher of Coin World, suggested a program that would honor the 50 States on the back of the quarter. I
initially expressed some concern about public reaction to their plan for a 50-state quarter program, that "it might be perceived as monopoly money."
Our subcommittee held some public hearings on the concept of a new circulating commemorative coin program and began to work through the potential
benefits and concerns over a major new coin program. It was pointed out that Canada was having success with circulating coins, and we began to see
the educational value of highlighting key moments in the history of each state.
After much persuasion and cajoling, it eventually passed the House and Senate. Meanwhile, I had met with Secretary of Finance Bob Rubin and his
key staffer, Larry Summers, who expressed some of my original concerns. They asked for a study to allay their concerns. The firm of Coopers and
Lybrand did a study that confirmed the positive economic impact of this idea, and the secretaries agreed if this legislation passed in Congress, they
would recommend President Bill Clinton sign it, which he did.
In the years that have since passed, the seniorage has mounted to more than $6 billion and seems permanent, as most of these coins are collected
and not turned in. It has cost the taxpayers nothing, as even the new quarters are issued for the same 25 cents, and has saved the taxpayers many
dollars, as the seniorage is used to help pay the costs of the Treasury rather than tax dollars.
Although I am often credited with having created the 50 State Quarter Program, the credit really belongs to all those who pushed us to get this
done; my credit is for finally realizing what a good program this could be and pushing hard for it.
To read the complete article, see:
The 50 State Quarters
Program: A government program that actually worked
Wayne Homren, Editor
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