(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Last week the Missouri quarter entered circulation sending coin collectors -- and even the non collectors -- scrambling and hoping to get their hands on the newest mint.
"We're almost out of our Missouri quarters," said Pat Compas, head teller for a U.S. Bank branch in Sikeston, on Tuesday. "So many of our regular customers get them as soon as they come out."
The Missouri quarter has been offered through banks and the United States Mint since the middle of last week. According to the U.S. Mint, it's the first circulating coin to depict Lewis and Clark's historic expedition nearly 200 years ago, representing the explorers' return to St. Louis down the Mississippi River. The Gateway Arch is illustrated in the background with the inscription "Corps of Discover 1804-2004."
"We always have people coming in and asking about the quarters -- whether it's Missouri or another state," noted Emily Wright, customer service representative for First Security State Bank in Charleston. "But people are more excited about the Missouri quarter because it represents our state."
For as many people who purchase the coins, there are as many different reasons for wanting them.
"A lot of them think they will be worth something. Some are buying gifts for people. Some are collectors, and some just collect them to pass down to their children," Wright said.
Area coin dealer/collector Mike Sprouse said the state quarters have really given the coin collecting hobby a shot in the arm.
"You collect out of change," Sprouse explained. "Up until the quarters, every coin has been mundane and routine. They've (state quarters) brought a great deal of excitement and brought millions of people to the hobby."
Millions isn't exaggerating. According to the U.S. Mint, more than 130 million people are collecting the coins.
Launched in 1999, the U.S. Mint's 50 State Quarters Program is a 10-year initiative that honors each of the states in the order that they were admitted into the Union. Each quarter is produced for about 10 weeks and will never be produced again.
And once a bank is out of the loose quarters, they're out, Wright said. They're not easy to get because of their limited quantities, she explained.
"I don't know if they'll ever be worth more than a quarter," said Sprouse, who's been collecting coins for 40 years. "They produce like 500 million of each state. They're a great collectible, but just not as valuable."
And what is it that makes a coin valuable?
Supply and demand plays a huge role, Sprouse said. "If their are 10 coins and 100 people want them, it's going to be worth more than 10 coins that only two people want," he explained.
The number minted is another factor as well as the quality or condition of a coin, Sprouse said. If it's fairly used, it's worth more than something that's been damaged, he said.
The U.S. Mint reports last year the state quarter program turned $1 billion profit to the country. Many people buy the quarters by the roll which costs $10, Compas said. Other collectible versions of the Missouri quarter such as a two-coin set from the Philadelphia and Denver mints, a Missouri quarter necklace and money clip are also available.
Coin collecting is nicknamed the "hobby of the kings" because a long time ago, only the rich royalty could afford the coins, Sparse said. And hobbyists could do a lot worse than coin collecting, he added.
"How can you go wrong with saving money?" Sprouse asked. "I mean the worst thing you can do is spend it."
For more information or to order special collectible versions of the Missouri quarter, visit www.usmint.gov or call 1-800-USAMINT.