Editorial from Coin World, August 25th

Planning key to program's success

Now that a 50-state commemorative circulating quarter program seems assured, the reality of the need for a detailed implementation plan is hitting home for Mint officials and the collecting public.

Every detail - major and minor - will need to be thought about, "walked through" and placed on a master schedule. To do otherwise would be to invite chaos and virtually assure public officials' reluctance to consider future design changes for circulating coins.

Equitable distribution is one major detail which was very much on the minds of collectors attending the American Numismatic Association's recent convention in New York City. During a Numismatic Theater session which Mint Director Philip N. Diehl opened to "any question you want to ask," collectors immediately zeroed in on whether everyone would have a chance to obtain the quarters from circulation.

West Coast collectors appear to be anxious as to whether the coins will be as available on the West Coast as the East Coast. Since the order of issue is to follow the order in which the original 13 states ratified the Constitution and then the order in which states joined the Union, the focus of the first half of the program will be East Coast states.

Diehl assured there would be "national" distribution using the Federal Reserve banks, the same channel used for distribution of all circulating coins in the United States.

The Mint Director's response, on first blush, seems reasonable. The quarters should flow to areas of heaviest demand. If the state being honored is densely populated, the expectation would be that more quarters would be in demand there. Diehl also indicated he does not expect that an equal number of quarters will be issued for each state. With a mandate to produce five per year, the Mint's capacity will ultimately limit the number which can be produced during a given period of time. The one certainty he espoused is that once a state issuance is complete, no more will be made. Thus as the program gathers momentum into the mid and latter years, it should produce a rising wave of demand in the secondary market for the earlier issues produced in the first years of the program. The specter of a rising secondary market excites both collectors and Mint officials.

Solicitation and selection of appropriate, meaningful and imaginative designs for the quarters is another detail of intense interest to collectors. Diehl appears firmly committed to public involvement and the design ideas being proposed by the state being honored. However, he also recognizes the need for federal coordination of the design selection process. In the "thinking" stage, he appears to be taking a cue from the Canada 125 program, which provided a template bearing the necessary coinage legends to would-be designers.

There are literally thousands of other details and considerations associated with implementing the 50-state circulating commemorative quarter program. Deciding the best strategy and course of action to follow will be a formidable challenge for the U.S. Mint.

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