Earlier this year, the United States Mint began the new series of National Park Quarters, under the official title of America the Beautiful Quarters. The series will feature a National Park or national site from each of the 50 states, 5 U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia depicted on the reverse a circulating quarter. The sites will be presented in the order federally designated with a total of 56 different designs issued over 11 years of the series.
The first coin featuring Hot Springs National Park was officially released into circulation on April 19, 2010. This was followed by the Yellowstone Quarter, Yosemite Quarter, and most recently the Grand Canyon Quarter released on September 20, 2010. The full release schedule for the series can be found here, although precise dates are not yet available for coins to be released from 2011 to 2021.
People attempting to build a collection of the new quarters from circulation have been encountering difficulties, especially when compared with the widely collected 50 State Quarters Program. The problems stem from the lower mintages and more fragmented distribution of the current series.
The State Quarters had an average mintage of 348 million coins per design, while so far the National Park Quarters have had an average mintage of about 67 million coins per design. The much smaller number of coins produced mean that there are less of them to go around. At the height of the State Quarters Program, the US Mint had claimed that 147 million Americans collected the series. Due to the lower mintages, it would not be possible for the same number of Americans to assemble a complete set of National Park Quarters.
Throughout the State Quarters series, banks and depository institutions were provided with special ordering periods during which unmixed quantities of the newly released quarters could be ordered from the Federal Reserve. As a result, many banks ordered and received quantities of each new quarter as it was released, providing a convenient source for their customers to acquire the coins at face value. Unfortunately, similar ordering procedures were not put into place for the new National Park Quarters. Instead, the coins are distributed to meet transactional demand, without regard to specific design.
With the most dependable source no longer available, many individuals have been trying to find alternative sources to obtain the latest releases of the series. Several times per week, CoinUpdate.com will receive questions from readers or passers-by asking where to locate or buy the new National Park Quarters. This article will provide the several known methods for acquiring the quarters either at face value, or a premium to face value.
Some banks and financial institutions– Although there is no longer a method for banks to specifically order the new National Park Quarters, invariably some will receive them through their regular coin orders. If you are lucky enough to find a bank with a supply available for customers, you will be able to obtain them for face value. Many readers have reported calling multiple area banks without success, while others have reported inadvertently finding a bank with a ready supply of the most recently issued quarter.
Coin dispensing machines at US Mint locations – Certain US Mint locations have coin machines which will exchange currency for the most recently released National Park Quarters or Presidential Dollars at face value. The machines are typically stocked with the latest release for the respective series on the official circulation release date at 12:00 Noon.
Confirmed locations for the US Mint coin dispensing machines include the Philadelphia Mint lobby at 151 North Independence Mall East, Philadelphia, PA, and near the sales counter at US Mint headquarters at 801 9th Street NW, Washington, DC. Another likely location is the Denver Mint at 320 West Colfax Avenue, Denver, CO.
Launch ceremony coin exchanges – The United States Mint typically holds a launch ceremony to formally present each coin of the series. The date is usually on or around the circulation release date and the location is typically somewhere within the park. The ceremonies are open to the public and attendees are allowed to exchange currency for rolls of the newly released quarter. Past exchanges have carried a minimum of $10 (one roll) and a maximum of $100 (ten rolls) per person. Children in attendance aged 18 years and younger receive a free coin. Some collectors who obtain coins from the ceremonies have their rolls postmarked to attest to the source.
The date, time, and location of these ceremonies are typically announced a few weeks beforehand on the US Mint’s Pressroom page.
Bulk Purchase Program – The US Mint does sell the National Park Quarters in bulk quantities, although the minimum order requirements put the program out of reach for most individuals. The quarters are sold in bags of 200,000 coins ($50,000 face value) from either the Philadelphia or Denver Mint. A processing fee of $1,500 applies to each bulk bag and pick up must be arranged from one of the mint facilities by a properly licensed commercial carrier.
From the announcement of the program on June 8 through June 22, the US Mint recorded sales of 97 bulk bags containing 19.4 million quarters.
US Mint numismatic bags and rolls – The United States Mint offers a line of numismatic bags and rolls targeted towards collectors. These products contain circulation quality coins, but they are specially packaged and sold at a premium. Options available for the National Park Quarters include 100-coin bags ($25 face value) from the Philadelphia or Denver Mint priced at $35.95 each, or two roll sets containing 40 coins from each mint ($20 face value) priced at $32.95. These products go on sale to coincide with the official circulation release date and are intended to remain available for one year from that date.
US Mint annual coin sets – Other US Mint numismatic products include National Park Quarters struck with uncirculated (satin finish) or proof finishes, as well as proof coins struck in 90% silver. The US Mint’s annual Proof Set contains each year’s quarters struck at the San Francisco Mint in proof quality. The Silver Proof Set contains the proof quarters struck in a composition of 90% silver. The annual Mint Set, contains examples of each quarter from the Philadelphia and Denver Mint struck with a satin finish. This year’s sets are priced at $31.95, $56.95, and $31.95, respectively.
Separate sets containing only the quarters are also available, known as the America the Beautiful Quarters Proof Set priced at $14.95 and the America the Beautiful Quarters Silver Proof Set, priced at $32.95.
The 2010 sets are all currently available for sale at the US Mint and can be ordered online here. The 2011 sets are expected to be available for sale starting in January 2011.
Other upcoming US Mint products – Several additional numismatic products containing the quarters were announced by the US Mint in mid-May. A three coin set issued for each quarter priced at $13.95 per set will include one uncirculated coin each from the Philadelphia and Denver Mint and one proof coin from the San Francisco Mint. The America the Beautiful Quarters Uncirculated Coin Set priced at $21.95 per set will include five coins each from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints struck with a satin finish. Finally, the America the Beautiful Quarters Circulating Coin Set priced at $9.95 will include five coins from the Philadelphia and Denver Mint in circulating quality.
Release dates for these products have not been announced, but subscription options are available on the US Mint’s website.
Coin dealers, mass marketers, and other secondary market channels – A final option is to purchase the National Park Quarters from secondary market sources such as coin dealers, mail order, television, or online auction sites. If you purchase coins from this category, you should be aware of the premium to face value you are being charged, any shipping and handling charges, and whether you are agreeing to any type of subscription or long term commitment. In all likelihood these sellers have purchased the quarters from one of the sources enumerated above, so you can evaluate whether it makes sense to pay any additional mark up they have added to their original cost.
Any additional known sources for acquiring the National Park Quarters are welcome in the comments section below.