March 26, 2004 — It may not be long before the Virgin Islands and the other U.S. territories join the 50 states on the back of the quarter dollar, government officials said Friday.
The U.S. House of Representative passed a bill Wednesday to add the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands — in that order — to the 50 State Commemorative Quarter Dollar Coin Program in 2009.
"The state quarter program, which reached the halfway mark at the end of December, has dramatically increased general knowledge of the historical contributions of our 50 states," said Rep. Michael Castle of Delaware, who introduced the bill as well as the initial state quarter bill in 1997. "The legislation passed today would do the same for the District and the territories."
The U.S. Treasury started pressing quarters with state logos on the back in January 1999. Delaware was first and Hawaii is scheduled to be last in October 2008. The Florida quarter is next to be minted, scheduled for circulation March 29.
If the legislation to extend the program passes the Senate, the U.S. Treasury could save $1 billion because the coins are prized by collectors.
The coins cost only 5 cents each to make, but are worth 25 cents. When collectors take them out of circulation, the government makes 20 cents a coin, said Jeff Dayton, spokesman for Rep. Castle. The program has saved the U.S. Treasury an estimated $4 billion, Dayton said.
"The success of the state quarter program has been overwhelming," Castle said in a press release. "The quarters have become one of the most popular collector's items in the United States and abroad."
Castle also said extending the program to include the U.S. territories would increase knowledge about the islands.
V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen agreed. "Many in the Congress agree that we should all be treated as Americans," Christensen said in a press release Friday, "and that passage would represent a wonderful opportunity to educate people around the country to the rich heritage and culture of the District and the territories."
More than 21 billion quarters have been minted since 1999.
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