The end of 2008 is upon us which means that the 50 State Quarters program comes to the end. With the end of this program comes time for a review. It was a unique program, never tried in this scale by any mint. Regardless of any measure, the program was a success. After the release of the Hawaii quarter, the US Mint issued at press release noted that the netted nearly $3 billion in extra seignorage from the increased demand for the quarters.

Another side effect of the State Quarters has been the increased interest in coin collecting. Although the mintage of the quarters dropped as time went on, many of the State Quarter collectibles saw sellouts at the Mint’s online catalog.

States used the program to get their citizens involved in the design of their quarter. Some states held design competitions while others appointed special commissions to find a representative design. After 50 different designs, there were some good designs, there were some bad designs, and then there were the designs that helped teach history. For the rest of this article, I will focus on what I felt were the ten best designs.

#10 Kansas
Engraver: Norman Nemeth
I have to admit I love the concept of buffaloes on coins. I am a fan of the Buffalo Nickel and I think it is a uniquely American animal that is more representative of this country than any other animal. I like the design used on this coin.

#9 North Dakota
Engraver: Donna Weaver
What’s better than one buffalo than a herd of buffaloes! Yes, two buffaloes make a heard. Donna Weaver treated us with a wonderful design that should be used somewhere else.

#8 Iowa
Engraver: John Mercanti
The adaptation of Grant Wood’s “Arbor Day’ to honor Iowa’s place in promoting education is an example of how states should have treated their quarter designs. Mercanti executed an excellent design that Iowans should be proud to carry.

#7 New Jersey
Engraver: Alfred Maletsky
George Washington crossing the Delaware River to attack the British is a powerful story and makes for a powerful image on the New Jersey quarter. The details of the engraving show well on such a small coin. It would be interesting to see how Maletsky would execute this on a larger surface.

#6 Maine
Engraver: Donna Weaver
If you have ever been to Maine, you would understand how the depiction of the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse with the schooner screams that it represents Maine. Weaver’s work reminds me of oil paintings of the area. There is a serene feeling of this image that is very appealing.

#5 Oregon
Engraver: Donna Weaver
Donna Weaver has to be one of the best landscape engraver at the Mint. Her take on Crater Lake, viewed from the south-southwest rim to include Wizard Island and Watchman and Hillman Peaks on the lake’s rim almost puts the us right at the lake on a calm sunny day.

#4 Utah
Engraver: Joseph Menna
When the program started, there were a few states whose themes could be easily guessed. Utah was one of those states. Utah chose a design based on the meeting of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads at Promontory to open the first transcontinental railroad. Even with the design’s predictability, the execution is very impressive. Maybe my bias towards history shows in this pick, but I really like the design of this coin.

#3 Alaska
Engraver: Charles Vickers
Animals are tough to ignore. Animals depicted in their natural habitat showing how the balance in nature works is also tough to ignore. Combine this with the skills of a master engraver and you have a wonderful work of art on a quarter. Vickers depiction of the grizzly bear catching the salmon is a phenomenal work of art and deserving of a Top-5 pick.

#2 Connecticut
Engraver: T. James Farrell
There are some coin designs that look better in hand than its picture. Then there are those designs that look great in hand and phenomenal under magnification. Farrell’s engraving of the Charter Oak, the hiding place of Connecticut’s first constitution, is an amazing work of art, both in hand under under magnification.

#1 Mississippi
Engraver: Donna Weaver
While it might be trite to use a magnolia for the Magnolia State, Donna Weaver produces yet another winner with her beautiful engraving of magnolia blossoms. Magnolias are beautiful flowers and this design does them justice. It is difficult not to smile and have pleasant thoughts when looking at this design.

As you scan my list, you will notice that four of the designs were engraved by Donna Weaver. Weaver was a Master Engraver at the Mint who in 2006 to pursue other ventures (see her website at She continues to be involved with coin design as a member of the Artistic Infusion Program. Keeping her involved with coin design will benefit future Mint issues.

Next, we will look at the the ten worst designs.

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