In 1971, Woody Hayes' good friend Richard Nixon nixed (do ho ho) the Bretton Woods system, which had tied the value of US currency to the gold standard, and instead made US currency a fiat currency that was tied to various governmental policies and laws. Essentially, you could no longer legally exchange your money for its stated value in gold. ...Well, unless you count just straight up buying gold, and that's pretty much the same thing now that I think about it.
You know what, I'm not an economist (although I am technically licensed by the state of Ohio to teach economics to 7-12th graders. Chew on that, parents of teenagers), but I did have one of those foldout maps of the United States with little slots where you could put the quarters of each state as they rolled out. Three things I want to point out about that:
1. Thanks grandma, you have an extremely nerdy grandson and know exactly how to pander to him.
2. I had a friend who actually completed one of these things. In 2000. Like 7 years before they finished the series. He accomplished this by putting regular quarters in for the states that hadn't been released yet, which is actually brilliant because the three seconds it would take to verify this ruse is about 2.5 seconds longer than the average person is willing to spend looking at a map of state quarters.
3. Value of said completed map is like 13 bucks, including the cheap cardboard.
Anyway, state quarters! Let's rank some, keeping in mind that the US mint has started a whole new series of quarters with flashier and presumably much sexier pictures, which I'll be taking into consideration. John Muir is hot and all, but maybe this go around they'll let Helen Keller show a little leg.
Maryland definitely wins the award for "most messed up perspective of what should be a relatively simple building." It also touts its status as the "Old Line State," which actually has nothing to do with the Mason-Dixson line, so put away the torches and pitchforks you Yankees. Maryland is a strong, upstanding state full of virtue and moral authority. For you see, "Old Line" refers back to when the male citizens of Maryland stood in a proud line on election day, shoulder to shoulder, to prevent women from voting after the passage of the 19th Amendment.
Then I think they started chanting something anti-semetic, I'm not sure. All I know is, the dudes started kicking dogs and making fun of the homeless and then things got really bad.
Still stuck on that "Crossroads of America" thing, huh?
Yeah cool, you added a racecar to your quarter. Guess what, we're not all five anymore.
Your cheap tricks will not impress me, state quarter of Indiana. Unless you added a dinosaur, or a sharknado or something. Then yeah, that'd actually be pretty badass.
BUT YOU DIDN'T.
"Oh hey guys, don't mind us, just inserting every single Midwestern stereotype into our sate quarter.
"No, we do not have any sense of dignity or self-worth. Look, cow, cheese, corn, crippling depression, meth, a strong moral foundation of not being a douchebag, football, the thousand yard stare that comes from a lifetime of manual labor and the knowledge that crippling arthritis and five back surgeries was just BARELY worth making sure that your children only are inheriting five thousand dollars in debt rather than seven thousand dollars in debt. Wait, we're only allowed three?
"Well can you at least give the cow a creepy smile? Okay good."
Wow, Chimney Rock. Mother Earth's gross calcified mole we're not supposed to look at because she gets mad. Also an Oregon Trail location, and since I don't know too much about it personally, maybe we can ask the locals for help.
Sweet. Hey, do you have any wagon axles you can trade?
On one hand, as a teacher I really enjoy that Iowa decided to illustrate its important educational history to the country via currency. There's a neat little statement to be made in the idea that knowledge equals value more than cash money does, no matter what Wu-Tang says. The Midwest has historically had a somewhat unusually strong adherence to education, especially secondary and post-secondary education, so this is pretty cool.
But wait, who's that Grant Wood guy?
Well guess what, turns out that he's the dude who did American Gothic, and while that's a great work of art that I enjoy, this quarter has nothing to do with education at all. Instead it's supposed to be a representation of Wood's artwork, which is even dumber because I don't think there are that many hills in the entire state. Very disappointing.
Once again, Minnesota sells itself short by claiming to be the land of 10,000 lakes, when in fact is has 11,842 lakes that are 10 acres or larger.
Maybe "Land of 11,842 Lakes" doesn't quite roll off the tongue as well, but dammit, it's accurate.
Plus, Wikipedia says that means the state has more shoreline than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined. Which is awesome as long as you don't think too hard about which of those beaches you'd rather eat some fish tacos on.
Nice try, jerks.
A confession: I just got back from a vacation in Michigan. Yes, try-hards, I spent money in that state up north and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Lake Michigan at this time of year is fantastic, and coupled with a little canoeing and a lot of go-karting, it was a pretty baller time overall. So honestly, after giving in to the exhortations of Tim Allen and experiencing Pure Michigan, I get why they're so pumped about those lakes.
But Lake Erie is ours.
STAY OUT OF LAKE ERIE.
"Land of Lincoln" is a pretty great state nickname, which the Illinois state quarter took to its logical conclusion by depicting a gigantic Abraham Lincoln striding across the state, on his way to court to defend a 50 foot tall woman who in a fit of rage crushed her abusive husband to death under a comically oversized pickle jar.
This quarter is great for more than a few reasons. First, it recalls Pennsylvania's Civil War heritage which honestly I feel it should be trumpeting just as hard as it does its Revolutionary War heritage. The Keystone State was one of the Big Three states that really contributed the lion's share of the effort to defeat the south in the Civil War, right up there with Ohio and New York.
Secondly, it totally looks like that soldier is going to bludgeon someone in the head with the butt of his rifle. No fancy pants bayonet for him!
Thirdly, this year is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, meaning that the quarter is in high demand for short sighted/elderly coin collectors, a demographic that unsurprisingly intersects with Civil War buffs. So if you happen to have a bunch and live near old people... well, watch your pockets. Decades of lenient court punishments have given the elderly some sticky fingers.
2. New Jersey
It's pretty easy to forget that Trenton, New Jersey, is the location of one of the more important events in US history. You know, because it's such a craphole.
But before it was a craphole George Washington crossed the Delaware River there so surprise some Hessian mercenaries to win his first battle in the Revolutionary War, which is depicted in both a famous painting and in this quarter (a pocket sized-version of said famous painting).
After completing the crossing on that frozen night in 1776, Washington was heard to remark "Man I really hope this place doesn't end up being one of the most dangerous and segregated medium sized cities in the United States and turns into a big craphole."
I had a hard time deciding between the old coin and the new one. The old coin is pretty cool, because it includes no small amount of trolling of North Carolina (tl;dr version: North Carolina calls themselves "first in flight," which is like the canvas taking credit for the Mona Lisa) by depicting both the Wright brother's plane and an astronaut.
But being the history guy that I am, I have to go with Perry's Victory quarter here. The Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 was huge for Ohio because not only did it turn back a British invasion of our precious soil, but it was the first time in the entire history of the British Navy that a whole squadron had been forced to surrender.
Oliver Hazard Perry earned both a Congressional Medal of Honor and that awesome strut shown on the quarter, not in the least because the dude was all of twenty-seven years old when he faced down the best navy in the world and won.
And that does it for this week. We are getting precariously close to football season, so maybe it's time that we started getting a little more sports-centric. Next week we'll look at the best athletes by state, which more accurately will be "best athletes by state assuming I find them on Wikipedia." See you then.