In only the first week of voting, more than 35,000 South Dakotans have picked their favorite design in a contest to select the new South Dakota quarter.
Although a local coin shop owner does not have a favorite design for the new South Dakota quarter, he is in favor of featuring Mount Rushmore National Memorial because South Dakota is known for the famous monument.
"It should be representative of our state," said Jack Meyer, owner of Silver Mountain Coins located aptly on Mount Rushmore Road in Rapid City.
There are five design choices for the new South Dakota quarter that citizens may vote for on the Internet (at www.sdquarter.com), and at banks and credit unions until April 15. The winner will be announced April 20. Gov. Mike Rounds' office announced the high number of votes cast on the Internet and urged service clubs to assist citizens who may not be able to vote, such as senior citizens.
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The South Dakota quarter will be released in November 2006 by the U.S. Mint, part of the 50 State Quarters Program, a 10-year initiative (1999-2008) changing the face of the U.S. quarter five times per year. Each state quarter is created in the order that they joined the union. Production of the "Eagle" quarter is on hiatus until the 50 State Quarters Program ends.
The first three South Dakota designs feature Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the American bison or the Chinese ring-necked pheasant. The two other designs depict a combination of the bison or the pheasant with Mount Rushmore. Each design is framed by two stalks of wheat. The Kansas quarter already features a bison, Meyer said.
Inez Cardamon of Hill City, an avid coin collector, does not have a preference for South Dakota's quarter design. She simply enjoys collecting all the state quarters.
Cardamon began collecting the quarters in a special folder with cut-outs for each coin in 1999 when the program began. When she heard about the program, it piqued her interest, she said. Cardamon expanded her collection to include a 90 percent commemorative half dollar and two American Silver Coins, sealed coins she receives from a Mint in North Canton, Ohio.
"I got interested in it and so I thought, 'What the heck.'"
Coins depict our nation's history, Meyer said. Coins also represent various parts of the country. For example, silver dollars were once extremely popular in the west, where, in various silver mines, many of the coins were made.
"With coins, you can learn the history of our country and what was going on at the time. They reflect different attitudes in our society."
Each coin has a story. The Delaware quarter, now selling for about $3.95, depicts a man riding on his horse, a man many people assume is Paul Revere. But it is actually a man named Caeser Rodney, Meyer said. Rodney, a congressman, was sick at home during a crucial vote. The vote was tied, prompting Rodney to ride his horse to the session and vote, making his state the first to be inducted into the union.
The Arkansas quarter portrays diamond mining, wildlife and rice - a small history lesson that can be held in the palm of the hand. The South Dakota quarter should also be representative of our state, Meyer said.
There are different types of coin collectors, Meyer said. The state quarter program is a fairly popular one, but Meyer believes the state quarters will not appreciate in value as much as other coins, first because of the high mintage - about 300 million are made. To be considered more valuable, circulation should be at 1 million or less, he says. Also, some of the special edition coins are gold or platinum-plated, which defaces the coin, he said.
"To me, that ruins it. Altering the coin isn't how the older collectors would want it," he said.
Older collectors strive to complete sets, he says. Younger generations buy coins as investments.
When Meyer began collecting, people collected coins to save money.
"You'd teach Johnny to put the coin into a little book instead of giving it to him to buy a candy bar."
There is nothing behind a $5 bill except society's faith in it, the local coin shop owner said. But an 1876 $20 gold piece is actually worth its weight, and more. These days, it sells for about $500.
Coin material has changed over the past 100 years. According to the U.S. Mint Web site, coins were composed of silver when minting began in 1796. The U.S. Mint decided in 1873 that the coin was not heavy enough, and extra weight was added. Coins were modified again during the Mint Act of 1965, when an alloy of copper and nickel replaced silver.
Because of a coin's inherent value, which depends on the condition of the coin, Meyer values coins of all kinds. Meyer, a shop owner for the past 26 years, began collecting in high school when he inherited a coin collection from his deceased uncle. He later used his collection as stock for the store he bought in Rapid City. Now, he travels to various coin shows - six to 10 exhibits per year.
Of his passion for coin collecting, Meyer said, "Silver and gold have been valuable since the beginning of time."
Minting coins involves six steps
Here's how your pocket change is made:
Before coins reach your pants pockets, they go through a six-step process.
To produce nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar and dollar coins, the U.S. Mint buys coils of metal, about 1,500 feet long and about 13 inches wide, according to the U.S. Mint Web site, www.usmint.gov.
-- Blanking: Each coil travels through a blanking press that punches out circular discs. The leftover strip, or webbing, is chopped and recycled. In order to make the penny, the Mint buys blanks ready made for stamping after supplying fabricators with copper and zinc.
-- Annealing, washing and drying: The blanks are then softened in a furnace and run through a washer and a dryer.
-- Upsetting: Next, the blanks travel through an upsetting mill that raises a rim around the coin edges.
-- Striking: The blanks then move on to the coining press where they are stamped with designs and various inscriptions.
-- Inspecting: Using magnifying glasses, press operators inspect each batch of new coins.
-- Counting and bagging: A machine then counts the coins and drops them into bags that are sealed shut and taken to the storage vaults.
Trucks ship the coins to Federal Reserve Banks and finally, to your local bank.
On the Net: www.sdquarter.com