Click here to read reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott's take on A Pocketful of History.
Millions of people have collected the 50-State Quarters since the U.S. Mint initiated the successful and lucrative program in 1999, but 2008 marks the final year of the program with the last four state quarters: New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and finally Hawaii (though there have been rumors that the Mint will also issue quarters for District of Columbia and American territories such as Puerto Rico). This book explores the designs of all fifty state quarters.
The origins of the 50 States Quarters idea lie in the success of a similar Canadian program commemorating the country’s 125th anniversary by creating special quarters for each of its provinces. The House of Representatives Banking Committee’s Domestic and International Monetary Policy Subcommittee is responsible for approving legislation on new coins. Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware, chairman of the subcommittee at the time, sponsored the bill to start the program. The 50 States Quarters Program was approved in 1997 by the Congress and President Bill Clinton.
Jim Noles has collated exhaustive information on each of the state quarters and how the various designs were decided on, and by whom. He devotes a half-dozen pages to the various symbols, words, and designs connected with the quarters, including information about the designs as well as some history about the states. Some designs are a bit obscure - the Delaware quarter, for instance. Most see an anonymous horse and a rider; in fact, it is specifically Caesar Rodney riding a horse to return from Delaware to cast his vote for American independence in 1776.
Many states feature the map of their state, which is easily explained. The New Hampshire quarter bears the image of the Old Man of the Mountain, which has broken since the quarter was issued. Noles tells the stories about Illinois’ Lincoln, Alabama’s Helen Keller, Texas’s lone star, and Kansas’ bison (not the only state quarter to have a bison on it; South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore, Oklahoma’s Scissor-Tail Flycatcher, and Hawaii’s King Kamehameha I. Noles presents the history of these and the other states’ designs, a trove of fascinating information on each of the U.S. states and its people.
The general reader will easily enjoy this book. The only illustrations are the quarters’ designs for each state, which head each chapter. There are also endnotes and an index. This book is highly recommended to those who have collected the states quarters over the years. It makes a wonderful addition to have with the collection.
James (Jim) L. Noles, Jr. is an attorney in Alabama. He is the author of six books and has contributed articles to the New York Times and Smithsonian Air & Space. His books include Camp Rucker During World War II (2002), Twenty-three Minutes to Eternity (2004), Dorie Miller (2002), Thomas W. Martin (2003), Hearts of Dixie (2004) and Alabama Power Company (2001).