With 2016 being the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, what better way to celebrate than with U.S. issued America the Beautiful 5 oz. Silver National Park Quarters! These large coins have become immensely popular and certainly have a place in any U.S. Coin collection or bullion stack.
As a result of the success of the State Quarter program, which ran from 1999 to 2009 and helped introduce millions of Americans to coin collecting, the U.S. Congress decided to create a second series of quarters with new reverse designs on each issue. Beginning in 2010, the America the Beautiful Quarter series has seen the release of five new coins per year that honor America’s National Parks, forests, and monuments. Unless extended, this series is scheduled to conclude in 2021.
The America the Beautiful quarters are also issued in a 5 oz. silver format with a three-inch diameter, making them the first and only U.S. silver coins ever issued that are larger than 1 oz. These silver coins come in two types: bullion coins with brilliant finishes that receive no special handling when produced, and vapor-blasted numismatic coins that have a matte finish, carry a “P” Mint mark for the Philadelphia Mint, and are produced with great care.
To this day some collectors of U.S. coins, especially those whose interests seldom stray from the classic coin series of the past, continue to dismiss these coins as large hunks of silver. But of much greater significance is the fact that interest in the series and demand for these coins have continued to grow over the years, and by now the America the Beautiful quarters are close to achieving what modern numismatic researcher Eric Jordan calls “series maturity.”
Interest in these coins has grown for several reasons, including especially: they carry some of the best and most intriguing designs of any coins issued in the modern period. The bullion coins often have deeply reflective fields that qualify them as proof-like and even deep proof-like (NGC) and deep mirror proof-like (PCGS) coins; and both versions are collected both raw or ungraded and increasingly also graded by NGC and PCGS. These certified coins sometimes come with special labels hand-signed by former U.S. Mint Director Edmund Moy or former Chief Engraver John Mercanti.
Another important aspect to the America the Beautiful quarters series is the fact that while the two versions are, in theory, aimed at different types of buyers (silver stackers for the bullion and coin collectors for the “P” vapor blasted coins), in reality those with an interest in these coins often buy both versions.
Moreover, the bullion coins, which in some cases such as those issued in 2012 and 2014 have very low mintages for bullion pieces, have emerged as widely collected coins in their own right. That has a lot to do with the fact that the coins are sold for about the same premium over silver melt value as the 1 oz. American Silver Eagle coins, yet carry a tiny fraction of the mintages. This means there is little risk in purchasing the bullion issues, and much greater long-term potential for appreciation beyond silver value than there is for recent Silver Eagles.
Silver investors continue to this day to prefer Silver Eagles as a bullion vehicle, and most of the demand for these coins continue to come from collectors. Both factors bode well for those who purchase the coins and hold them for the long-term, particularly at a time when silver is at what most precious metal experts believe is an attractive level. Moreover, graded examples of these coins, especially of many of the most desirable issues in SP-70 for the “P” versions and MS69 DMPL/DPL for the bullion coins, command substantial premiums.
2016 marks the seventh year of production for this impressive series of large silver coins.
Over the course of the past six years, mintage levels for the coins in this series have ebbed and flowed along with sales levels. Earlier this year the U.S. Mint announced that for 2016 the 5 oz. silver America the Beautiful Quarters will have an authorized mintage limit of 150,000 coins, which is the highest level since 2011 and appears to be based on rising demand for these coins.
The collector coins have an announced mintage of 30,000 coins, so if that level is reached the bullion coin mintage will not exceed 120,000 coins. However, based on demand levels, they may mint more than 120,000 bullion coins of each issue this year, provided that the overall total for both types does not exceed 150,000.
So far only the first 2016 coin has been released for Shawnee National Park in Illinois, which has sold 105,000 bullion coins and 15,445 of the collector version. It was the 31st issue in the America the Beautiful quarter series, which will eventually include 56 different coins. The Shawnee release features a reverse design by Justin Kunz showing a red-tailed hawk soaring over Camel Rock. It was engraved by Jim Licaretz.
The second coin, which honors Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, is slated to be available at the end of April in bullion and in May for the collector version. The bullion coins are currently available for presale. Featuring a reverse design by Barbara Fox and engraved by Joseph Menna, this coin pays tribute to a famous mountain pass in the Cumberland Mountains near the junction of Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. It served as a key passageway through the Appalachian Mountains into the Western U.S. during the 18th century.
The third coin for 2016 depicts Harper's Ferry, a historic town in West Virginia that is best known for the unsuccessful armed revolt by white abolitionist John Brown in 1859. He tried to start a slave revolt by taking over a military arsenal. The regular quarter for this coin will be launched at the park on June 8, and the 5 oz. silver coins are expected after that date.
The fourth release, which is expected to be the one that draws the most interest this year, honors Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. This coin features a great design of a young Roosevelt on his horse surveying land near the Little Mississippi River. It was designed by Joel Iskowitz and engraved by Phoebe Hemphill, two of the U.S. Mint’s most accomplished artists. The regular quarter will be launched at a ceremony on August 25 at the National Park, and the 5 oz. coins are expected sometime that month.
President Roosevelt played an instrumental role in creating the National Park system and some of the most popular classic gold coins of all time by working with the leading sculptors of his time. For both reasons and for his many other achievements, he is widely admired by all Americans and especially by coin collectors and nature lovers.
The final issue for the year features Fort Moultrie, which is part of Fort Sumter National Monument. It is part of a series of fortifications built to protect Charleston, South Carolina during the American Revolutionary War. The coin, which was designed by Richard Scott and engraved by Joseph Menna, depicts Sergeant William Jasper as he returns his regimental flag to the ramparts while under attack from a British ship. The quarter will be launched on site on November 17, and the 5 oz. coins should be available sometime that month.
The 5 oz. silver America the Beautiful quarter coin series is one of the most important, and also one of the longest-running modern U.S. coin series with changing reverse designs. Like its predecessor, the U.S. State Quarter coin series, this America the Beautiful quarter series has helped stimulate interest in numismatics. The series continues to attract new collectors and is a great way to accumulate silver while also developing a large collection of coins with interesting designs!
ModernCoinMart will carry graded and ungraded examples of all the 2016 bullion and collector issue coins released this year. They also have a very good inventory of back-date America the Beautiful quarters for any that are looking to fill any gaps in their collection!
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|