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The world's greatest 2-bit racket

One of the most brilliant scams ever perpetrated has to be the 50 States Commemorative Quarters.

It's amazing. The government spends three cents to make a quarter. Every single quarter in circulation is a twenty-five cent government obligation. Which means that every single quarter taken out of circulation and kept in a private collection is worth 22 cents the government gets to keep.

The person who came up with the idea of the quarters is a bloody genius. A complete set of 50 quarters (which won't be done until 2008. At that point, every single complete set held privately will represent $11.00 in pure profit for the government. ($22.00 from the purists, who get one each from the Denver and Philadelphia mints.)

It's a tremendous scam. It's an entirely synthetic market, much like the Beanie Baby craze. There is absolutely nothing intrinsically valuable or useful about these quarters (apart from their usefulness at pay phones and vending machines), yet people are buying special albums and maps to display them.

That's not to say they aren't impressive in their own way. Connecticut's tree is amazingly intricate. The Wright Brothers' plane is features on both North Carolina's (where it flew) and Ohio's (where it was built). Ohio's also seems to feature John Glenn, in violation of the "no living persons" rule. Florida shows the Space Shuttle. Wisconsin, naturally features cheese. Texas' is, inexplicably, a model of simplicity and taste.

I'm probably prejudiced, but I think New Hampshire's is the best. It features the now-lost and lamented Old Man Of The Mountains, making it in essence a two-headed quarter (and there was a hell of a fight over THAT), and proudly proclaims our fiercely independent motto: "LIVE FREE OR DIE."

So it's fun, but never forget that the primary purpose of these quarters was brutal capitalism: the government wants to make money, and has found a way to get people to pay more than 8 times their cost of manufacture for a trinket. Every single person collecting these State Quarters is giving the government free money.

And yeah, I have two albums I've gotten filled up so far through Oregon. What's it to you?

Comments (27)

Notice how the TENNESE stat... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Notice how the TENNESE state quarter did,nt have AL GORE on it there just wasnt enough room for his mouth i guess

Ohio's astronaut might be N... (Below threshold)

Ohio's astronaut might be Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. I believe the inestimable Mr. Armstrong is a Buckeye resident, and he is at least as important an explorer as Sen. Glenn. But either man is worth his picture on an American coin, neither man is named, and it is worth it to honor them both - albeit anonymously - even if each still lives.

Besides, with two such worthies, Ohio is right to put an astronaut on its coin!

Yeah, and the soft-headed i... (Below threshold)
Captain Ned:

Yeah, and the soft-headed idiots who run the state to your west decided that a maple tree with sap buckets was what we needed. I'm not happy with that but there is one bright side. At least it didn't end up being Ben & Jerry.

At times I hate my home state.

What happened to the Old Ma... (Below threshold)

What happened to the Old Man in the Mountain? I remember seeing it as a child on summer vacation.

Cybr, the Old Man <a href="... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Cybr, the Old Man collapsed in the middle of the night back in May 2003. It'd been held up by cables and spikes and other tricks for years, but it finally gave way.

We still miss him.


Jeez, what a half-empty guy... (Below threshold)

Jeez, what a half-empty guy. Think of it as the government spurring private retirement savings accounts, why doncha?

Another scam - they were se... (Below threshold)
Natty Dark:

Another scam - they were selling 5 dollar coins with a US president on each one.

Fine print? Bank of Liberia - exchange rate 1/2

I understand they had to re... (Below threshold)

I understand they had to recall the one for Arkansas. Apparently, the two dimes and a nickel duct taped together wouldn't work in soda machines.

Several astronauts are from... (Below threshold)

Several astronauts are from Ohio, including Glenn and Armstrong. The suit is a moon suit, though.

Let's not talk about stamp ... (Below threshold)

Let's not talk about stamp collecting either...

Re:The person who came up w... (Below threshold)

Re:The person who came up with the idea of the quarters is a bloody genius...
...It's a tremendous scam. It's an entirely synthetic market, much like the Beanie Baby craze. There is absolutely nothing intrinsically valuable or useful about these quarters (apart from their usefulness at pay phones and vending machines), yet people are buying special albums and maps to display them.

Sounds like Jay Tea is showing his true colors.

What he seems to be missing is the basis of this economy...entirely synthetic markets.

Geez Jay...if the Govt offers a product...and the public buys it...like any other product...isn't part of the free market economy?

My choice would be that thoughtful people would devote more time to denying the govt the chance to charge anything we don't want to be taxed for, to the next generation.

It's a shame that our future has been undermined by a party that devoted so much energy to ending the budget deficit...when it was to their political advantage.

Please wake up...call a spade a spade.

Vote for Competency in 2006 and 2008

When I 'buy' a state quarte... (Below threshold)

When I 'buy' a state quarter, I am not losing anything of value, as I am simply trading one quarter for another.... exchanging one 3 cent piece of metal for another 3 cent piece of metal.

If there was something to your theory, the government would be making more of a killing from paper money than they would for these quarters. The $100 bill doesn't cost any more to produce than a $1 bill.... and neither of which costs anywhere near $1 to produce.

It's true that every quarter put into its decorative case is a quarter taken out of circulation, which isn't typically the case with $100 bills... but the $12.50 in quarters (for the whole set) taken out of circulation pales to the money kept in rainy day cookie jars (at least it does mine).

As for calling them trinkets, these quarters retain their intrinsic value... unlike trinkets, where the value is subjective, overpriced and subject to collapse as collectors move on to other fads. So long as I refrain from paying more than 25 cents for one of these state quarters, I'm not losing anything on my 'investment'.

I didnt know those facts at... (Below threshold)

I didnt know those facts at all! WOW! I will never look at those quarters the same

Wow, Jay Tea, what a stunni... (Below threshold)

Wow, Jay Tea, what a stunning revelation. Money has little intrinsic value. LMAO.
No wonder liberals pass off the dearth of conservatives on campus as merit driven.

Actually, I think it costs ... (Below threshold)

Actually, I think it costs a little more to produce the larger bills due to the copy protections put on them, the differing colors, the watermarks, the alternating colors (viewing angle), the inserted strip with the amount printed on it.

As far as I know, the one dollar bill is just green and simple.

I was sorry to hear that Ne... (Below threshold)

I was sorry to hear that New Hampshire's famous monument was defaced.

steve sturm is absolutely r... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

steve sturm is absolutely right. A quarter is worth exactly 25 cents whether it has a fancy picture on the back or not. Anything only has value based on what someone else is willing to pay for it. Beanie Babies only had value because other idiots were willing to pay large amounts of money. This created the market for them. This drove the price up. After the market burst, the Beanie Babies had no value. The beauty of the state quarters is that you can take some of them down to a vending machine and still get a soft drink. They can have no less value than what you orginally "paid" for them (minus the effects of inflation of course, but then again, that affects every quarter equally.)

Ah, you sound surprised. Wh... (Below threshold)

Ah, you sound surprised. What surprises me is that it took the Treasury soooooo long to get in on the USPS Scam of collectable stamps. Talk about profit margins, escpecially whne you get to wildlife stamps that can run upwards of $5 face value for a piece of guey paper...

Calfornia has JOHN MURE fou... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Calfornia has JOHN MURE founder of the imfalous SIERRA CLUB and the CALIFORNIA CONDOR nothing but a oversized vulture minnasota has a LOON which has more intelligence then all those tree huggers and climbers

The Michigan quarter is als... (Below threshold)

The Michigan quarter is also surprisingly tasteful and shows off our finest assets.

Ha! Eat rocks all you lesse... (Below threshold)

Ha! Eat rocks all you lesser states of the Union! The Great State of Utah will probably (it won´t come out until 2007 I think), a family of pioneers pushing their handcart superimposed on the Great State of Utah! At least it would if I was in charge. Anyway, whatever it turns out to be, you will all be extremely jealous.

The cost of a set of these ... (Below threshold)

The cost of a set of these quarters is nothing compared to the pennies I've got stockpiled.

Your logical and I now beli... (Below threshold)
Drew Edmondson:

Your logical and I now believe to be correct, insight into the "quarter thing" is the reason I visit this blog and others in which i might often disagree. I had thought this would have made more sense leading up to the bi-cenntenial(with first States last) But you are absolutly right on the out-of circulation theory. Thanks for this insight...I have already shared it with some friends..I gave you credit but did not provide a link because your blog in intended for those who share most of your philosophy...postings like this provide your finest writing and obsevations..(it is also pretty crass PR for the State's tourism..that was the issue here in Colorado.."What will sell us to the nation")

Indiana is so lacking in hi... (Below threshold)

Indiana is so lacking in history that they put an advertisement for Tony George (owner of the 500 Motor Speedway) on our coin. They even made it a modern Indy car instead of an old one from the '30s or '40s. Sad.

Hey, I need an Oregon... an... (Below threshold)
OC Chuck:

Hey, I need an Oregon... and a Wisconsin!

"Texas' is, inexplicably, a... (Below threshold)

"Texas' is, inexplicably, a model of simplicity and taste."

Inexplicable? You damn Yankees have been calling us Texans "simple" for decades! And as for taste, what tastes better than some good Tex-Mex cuisine?

'And as for taste, what tas... (Below threshold)

'And as for taste, what tastes better than some good Tex-Mex cuisine?'







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