By Ananda Shorey
WASHINGTON – Not one exciting thing has happened in the coin industry in all the years Fred Miller has been collecting. Until now.
The first of more than 1 billion Maryland quarters will be officially released during a ceremony at the State House in Annapolis Monday. It is the latest in the 50 State Quarters Program, in which coins commemorating each state are being released into circulation in the order the states entered the Union.
“I have been collecting coins for over 40 years and I think it is the best thing that has happened,” said Miller, who owns the Maryland Coin Shop in Crofton. “It is a real boost to the coin industry because it is something that has never been done since I can remember.”
Each state’s design is supposed to celebrate the heritage of the state. Maryland’s quarter, which was selected last year by the governor after a statewide competition, will feature the State House dome surrounded by the nickname “The Old Line State,” and balanced on both sides by oak leaf clusters.
More than a billion of the Maryland coins will be minted over 10 weeks at the Philadelphia and Denver mints before the design is retired.
Maryland is the seventh state to have a commemorative quarter released. The first six designs, which have already been retired, are from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Later this year, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Virginia coins will be released.
The 50 State Quarters Program already has dealers and coin fanatics enthusiastic, causing business to soar and rekindling an interest in coin collecting. The release of the Maryland coin is expected to boost that excitement even higher in this state.
“Coin collecting has taken a fall over the years, but this put a big jolt in the coin business,” said Gary Watts, the owner of Annapolis Treasure Company.
Maryland is the first state to have such a large number of coins minted. Demand for the previous series of quarters was so great that it easily outstripped the supply, which ranged from 7 million to 10 million coins for each of the first five states.
“The American public is clamoring for it and we are trying to fill their demand,” said Jennifer Arnold, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mint.
Julian Leidman, who owns Bonanza Coins in Silver Spring, said the program gives people a chance to be proud of their states when their state coin is circulated.
“There is no negative about it, it is all positive,” Leidman said. “It is just a plus for everybody.”
He said it has helped attract new collectors to what had been a dying hobby.
“There are obviously new collectors, for the most part, but that is exactly what we need,” Leidman said. “There are all sorts of people who want to engage in this hobby.”
The co-owner of Metro Coin and Currency, David Thaxter, said the release of other states’ coins has already doubled or tripled his business, and he said he expects even more business when the Maryland quarter goes into circulation.
Thaxter said coin collecting provides moderately price fun for people, “So for the average person it is kind of neat.”
“The only thing that may be a problem is if people start hoarding quarters,” Thaxter said. But his overall impression of the program is that it is “neat, without question.”
Legislation creating the commemorative quarter program calls for five state coins to be released each year, from 1999 through 2008.
“I am looking forward to nine more years of new coins,” Leidman said.