‘State Quarter’ Questions? ‘Log Cabin’ Pennies, too!

Recently a local mom who was moving from a 3-bedroom home into a smaller domicile found a jar filled to the brim with State Quarters.  She added this to the contents of a dresser-drawer, and a box full of change in her bedroom.  She  shops nearly every day, and had saved-up three years’ worth of State Quarters. These are a nice addition to a strong box of hers which is also filled — with 1976 Bicentennial quarters!  There are also hundreds of Roosevelt dimes, Jefferson nickels and Lincoln pennies — but there was little interest in these ordinary coins.  Plus,  the value was definitely in the “2-bit” pieces.  (You’ve heard of an “o-bit”, haven’t you? There’s a column of ’em in every newspaper.  Why do some people have “o-bits”?  Because a person who dies no longer needs any money!)


I helped her count her quarters and found she had $157.25 in quarters, including a complete run of every single State Quarter, in uneven numbers.  In fact, she had nearly 4 full runs,  with just a couple of holes.  But now… a serious question settled over the room.  Was it worth saving all these quarters as future “collector’s items”, or should she take it all down to the bank and deposit it into her checking account?

This inspired me. I went home & looked in jars, boxes, and behind sofa cushions and in dresser-drawers in my studio and I found that I wasn’t a 25-cent mogul like she was, but I still had enough coins to make it worthwhile looking them up to see if any have become valuable, already!  After all, the first State Quarters came out in 1999, fully 10 years ago!  Could it be that some of the older dates are already showing some collectibility?

I Google’d up what I could. There was surprisingly little recent information, as if the downturn in the economy has scattered some State Quarter fanatics far & wide.  I don’t know what explains the lack of connectivity in some of the coin links, but a few of them may have been forced to spend their quarter collections to pay an important bill, or buy milk for the kids!  You can’t COLLECT coins if you are forced to SPEND them, just to live!

Sketchy values of some of the coins worth more than ‘face value’ (25 cents), are as follows. This is collated from several sources.  Prices given are for BRILLIANT UNCIRCULATED, so if your coin is even a little bit worn or damaged,   it counts as nothing but pocket change. The experts seem to be saying that keeping a coin that is LESS than uncirculated, even for 50 years,  won’t add much if anything to its value.  This is universally written about the 1976 Bicentennial quarters.  No power on earth, it seems, will ever make those quarters worth more than a quarter.  Well, let’s wait 50 years and see if that remains true, somehow I doubt it.  Nobody can totally predict the future… the ‘experts’ may have had the same disparaging things to say for Indian head Nickels when they first came out in 1913 or Standing Liberty Quarters in 1916!   Of course, now we know, an uncirculated ROLL of such coins, particularly from the Denver or San Francisco mints, would now be worth maybe $50,000+


1999  Georgia  $1.20. As you might remember, this one is a “peach!”

1999  Connecticut   .62 This one features a great, historical tree.

1999  Delaware  .40 Washington crossing the Delaware, of course!

1999  Pennsylvania  .40 Outline of the State, with statue of Ben Franklin.

2000  South Carolina  .40 I seem to remember a palmetto on this coin!

2002  Tennessee   .95 Three musical instruments make this a really “fun” coin.

2003 Illinois   .65  to  .68 Outline of the State, with a figure of Abraham Lincoln inside it.

And, here’s a link to someone actually selling uncirculated individual State Quarters:
UPDATED : Previous URL replaced (below) by one that works as of 10/11.  ALSO, PLEASE NOTE, values for individual coins have increased over those given above. The range this dealer has is from $1.00 to $2.00 apiece:



I also discovered a company is, or was, selling ROLLS of coins. This may give the best idea YET as to the true value of these coins.  If anyone is really a collector, they’ll probably be salting away rolls, not individual quarters, anyway!   Remember that a ROLL of quarters contains 40 coins — $10.00 in quarters!  We note that the most interesting dates range from the 2001 Kentucky, at $28.00 a roll, (2.8 X face value), to the 1999 Connecticut, at $36.00, and the 2003 Illinois, at the same price, $36.00,  (3.6 X face value),  to the 2002 Tennessee, with its musical instruments, which is at $48.00 a roll,  (4.8 X face value),  and, finally, the 1999 Georgia, with a big peach over the outline of the state map of Georgia, at $60.00 a roll, or $1.50 per coin, six times its original (.25) value. other rolls which I don’t mention here range, in the most recent years, from $17.00-$18.00 a roll, to $23.00 to $25.00 a roll for the older dates in the 10-year set.


Sadly, these are SALES prices!  If someone brings a coin dealer a bunch of State Quarters or State Quarter rolls, he or she is going to be shocked at how much LESS they are worth to the dealer, when he’s buying (IF he’s buying, and that’s a big if!), than to the dealer when he’s SELLING.  It is nothing to see a dealer refuse to pay anything for coins which he is selling at 10X face value or more, and that’s a dealer’s prerogative, but it makes it hard to view coins as  “liquid investment” if they can’t be sold on the wholesale end except nearly at face value.

My experiences with coin dealers have been almost universally disappointing over the years, and that’s why I am not “in” coins at all anymore.  Shake me upside down, look all over my house, my storage lockers, you won’t find any coins!   Old books?  Of course!  Coins?  Not a one! Why?  Because I bought a lot of coins as a kid at a San Jose coin shop.  I remember pretty well what I paid for them over the few years I was collecting.  I brought them back to this same coin shop about 20 years later…  doggone, but I kind of needed to liquidate to raise some cash at the time… and was offered far LESS than what I’d paid for them, 20 years earlier! The problem with collectibles comes, if we, the people, are forced to BUY at RETAIL (paying full price), and then, 10, 20, 30 years later, forced to SELL at WHOLESALE, or whatever lower figure the dealer is willing to toss at our feet in exchange for our little treasure-trove.  I am wary now of shiny, gilded collectibles that have an artificial, “collectors” value, which could go up or down like a barometer in a storm!   Nope!  I’ve migrated to the opposite camp, for the past 20+ years I’ve learned to BUY at SUB-WHOLESALE and then SELL at RETAIL, if possible. If not retail, then HIGH-WHOLESALE. If you buy an item cheaply enough, it WILL generate a profit.   Doubters can view my book in which I document buying an item for 10 cents which I later sold for $850.00.


In the coin world, that $850 find would be the equivalent of finding a brilliant uncirculated Buffalo Nickel or Mercury Dime from the 1920’s IN YOUR 2009 POCKET CHANGE…  It just ain’t happening anymore…  that’s why my collectibles now are books, art, & music, since I can still find these “cheap”.  No such luck in coins.  The only “really cheap” coins out there you or I might be able to find,  are probably stolen!


Looking still further into the world of State Quarters, I didn’t have far to go before I discovered the interesting theory that the population of each state is crucial to determine future value of each State Quarter.  Dividing number of quarters made for each state, into the number of people who live in that state, will determine its actual rarity,  so said the young author of the piece.

CALIFORNIA, by this measure, becomes the rarest State Quarter, only 14.4 quarters for each person living in the state. By this measure it is dozens of times scarcer than the quarters of states with low populations; there are 200 or 300 coins for each low-population state resident!

I see a flaw, here:  These coins are collected nationally or perhaps even internationally — NOT JUST by the persons in any given state!   Of course, if every person in the state wants to collect X-number of the quarters issued for HIS state…  there might be something to it, at that.   Here’s that LINK, if you like:


In further research I also found sites that show error coins in the State Quarter series.  Off-centered coins, ones with missing features, or all-blank in some cases — coins we are not likely to ever see — are worth money to error-collectors.   More likely we might find a Wisconsin Quarter which features an extra ‘leaf’ rising in a little arc from the left side of the ear of corn… This makes the coin worth $200.00 to $300.00 to collectors,  or it was at the time the article I saw first appeared!   So!  It is prudent and wise to check all your Wisconsin quarters for that extra little “leaf” (a flaw, perhaps from a chip in one of the original dies that was not caught until thousands had been minted.) If you find a Wisconsin Quarter with the error on it, cash it in for big money, and spend all your other circulated State Quarters as they are likely to not have a buck’s worth in profit for you to keep ’em rather than spend ’em!  I showed my research to the mom with the $157.25 in State Quarters.  I think she didn’t believe me!  She is going to hold on to her State Quarters until either the “Rapture” …or a budgetary “rupture”… intervenes!


To heck with the State Quarters, I and a hundred million other people have been fascinated by the arrival of the newly minted “Log Cabin Penny”,  something which in my mind resonated at least as much with Barack Obama as it does with Abraham Lincoln.  (Well, they’re both from Illinois!).  THIS coin REALLY MIGHT be of some value, since I think about 600 million were minted.  The minting has evidently stopped already.  There are only 2 or 3 of these coins for every person in the U.S.,  that’s MUCH LESS… one-seventh… than the quotient you get when you divide the number of California State Quarters into the number of people living in California!

This wonderful, bright little coin testifies to the working class, blue-collar origins of a number of our presidents, including Abe Lincoln.  It is not a sign of poverty — although the cottage looks ramshackle enough — as it is the best that could be done by the pioneers out on what were the frontiers 200 years ago — Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee — and anything on the far side of the Mississippi!  Backwoods carpenters, not architects, made these cabins, which is the striking comparison when viewing a Log Cabin penny alongside a Lincoln Memorial penny.  One is a multi-million dollar structure built in the Greek Revival style, complete with columns;  the other is a rude country shack, built with axe-hewed wooden planks held together by fifty cents’ worth of nails.  Come to think of it,  maybe you could make a cabin like that without any nails at all — the wood fits together like a puzzle and probably that’s all you’d need!  It reminds me of a childhood toy called “Lincoln Logs”, with which a kid could put together a log cabin! Good luck finding a kid who will willingly put together a model log cabin in these days of multiple viewing screens in every child’s room, and lots of interactive games, and the like!  But if your child DOES sit down willingly and put together a log cabin,  I think he or she deserves a prize! I know!  Give ’em a roll of Log Cabin pennies — before they go up in value, since everybody & their uncle is hoarding them!

Before I forget… the “sleeper” coins of the first decade of the 2000’s may be the Jefferson Nickels with the various Lewis & Clark Expedition images on  the back.  As they say:   “They’re not making those anymore!”   Best Wishes, —–Ed