The state quarters that the US Mint started putting out in 1999 should have been a natural thing for me to collect. I love the history that is told in the order of the release dates, which weas the order in which the states joined the Union. I KNOW a good chunk of the statehood dates. Once won $1000 because I could put these in chronological order: Oklahoma statehood, California statehood, Nebraska statehood.
Yet, for a full decade, I resisted, and I knew why. It was because I used to collect as a child. I knew just about everything there was to know about 20th century coins, from the years people were represented on them (Lincoln-1909; FDR-1946; JFK-1964, but the latter was quite easy). I knew about the penny being made with steel during World War II because copper was needed elsewhere. I knew about the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints; in the day, the latter two were marked as D and S, respectively, but the Philly wasn't marked at all.
Then one day, when I was about 13 or 14, many of my coins disappeared. They were not lost; they were stolen. And I had a pretty good idea who took them, too - the son of friends of my parents from church. But I couldn't prove it, and my parents were afraid of falsely accusing the boy. Still, no one else outside the family could have had access. I had shown this kid, four or five years my junior, my collection of half dollars to keep him busy while our parents chatted.
The theft just sucked the joy out of coin collecting. Forever.
Well, until this year when my colleagues Mary and Alexis decided, just as the 50-state quarters were all released, to start collecting. Their unbridled joy with the process was contagious, and I found myself wrapped up in the process, especially when Alexis ordered online - we couldn't find them in stores anymore - the coin holders. Oh, my! It was the same navy blue cover with lighter blue on the inside that I used to keep my coins as a child, published by a company called Whitman. I didn't remember the brand name, but the look was unmistakable. First thing I learned in my new hobby: the S coins were only available as proof sets. Second thing was that I had to look carefully to distinguish the P quarters (now marked as such) from the D quarters.
In relatively short order I was able to complete my P set, since the Philly mint distributed its quarters to the banks east of the Mississippi. The D quarters were a bit trickier. Even after my sister, who lives in San Diego, mailed me 19 D quarters as a birthday present, I'm still missing 7 D quarters: PA, MO, AR, TX, WI, WA and HI.
I also have not yet seen any 2009 quarters of either variety; the DC coin is already out, with the Puerto Rico coin due out later this month. I will continue to empty my pockets seeking these elusive coins.
Oh, California statehood took place in 1850, the year after the Gold Rush. I can still recall this map in fifth or sixth grade. States were green and the territories brown; there was a big brown gap north and west of Texas, but California was an oasis of green. Nebraska statehood. I knew it was after the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854; didn't specifically remember that it was 1867. Why I remember the Kansas-Nebraska Act, I just don't know. Oklahoma was the easiest. From the Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musical, I knew it was in 20th century. But it had to be before New Mexico and Arizona in 1912, the latter which I remember because of Barry Goldwater running for President in 1964 and the questions about whether he was a natural-born citizen. Oklahoma statehood turned out to be 1907.