July 16, 2013
What started out as a commemorative coin to celebrate the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birthday turned out to be one of the most recognized and enduring of all U.S. coins. Whether it's a pre-1965 silver version, or a 50 States Quarter from Kentucky, or an oversized National Parks five-ouncer, the Washington design has inspired millions of people, kids included, to become collectors of coins.
The Great Depression devastated American coinage, especially the big silver pieces. None of the U.S. Mints made any silver Dollars from 1929 to 1933. Half Dollars appeared only in 1929 and 1933, but only in limited numbers. Quarter Dollars skipped 1931 and 1933, but in-between those years, the Mint introduced John Flanagan's inspirational Washington head design as the first commemorative Quarter Dollar since 1893. Public demand for the coin motivated the Mints to adopt the design for regular coinage beginning in 1934.
How popular was the design? Check the mintages of any U.S. commemorative coin prior to 1932. Most mintages are in the tens of thousands. The big exception was the 1893 Columbian Exposition Half Dollar, which boasted a mintage of over 1.5 million coins. But even that paled in comparison with the 1932 Washington Quarter. The three mints at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco produced a combined total of over 6.2 million 1932-dated Washington Quarters. Today, the mintages of the Washington Quarter Dollar run into the hundreds of millions, with occasional bursts approaching two billion coins. That's a popular coin by any definition.
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