On June 6, 2016, the U.S. Mint released the latest coin in the series of Quarters honoring National Parks and other national sites. The 33rd coin in the series that will eventually include a site in each state and overseas territory, it features Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia.
Harpers Ferry holds a special place in American history, most notably for abolitionist John Brown’s 1859 uprising of slaves. Brown took possession of the federal armory before being captured and hanged, but he became a folk hero through the song “John Brown’s Body” that was popular with Union troops in the Civil War. The song starts:
“John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.”
The armory in Harpers Ferry is now known as John Brown’s Fort; the fort is shown on the coin just released by the U.S. Mint.
However, the town of Harpers Ferry is known for more than just John Brown. The armory was the site of one of the first successful mass-production factories in the United States; it produced hundreds of thousands of muskets and rifles for the U.S. Army each year using interchangeable parts. What’s more, it saw the arrival of the first successful U.S. railroad – the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad – in 1834, and after the Civil War it was the home to Storer College, a pioneering center of education for former slaves.
Is This the Last Chance to Collect the National Parks Quarters?
The program of commemorative Quarters began with the original State Quarters series from 1999 to 2009. In that series, each coin represented the history and culture of a different state or overseas territory.
The new series began in 2010, and coins are issued at the rate of five per year. This means that each coin is made for only about 10 weeks, which is an exceptionally short minting period for any coin – let alone one that is made primarily for circulation.
We are already more than half-way through the series, and few people have had luck finding all the coins in pocket change. It’s sometimes possible to find nice examples of the newest coins, since these are the ones most recently sent out by the U.S. Mint – but once the initial release period is over, millions of coins immediately get pulled out of circulation by collectors … while most of the rest become damaged and worn out before being pulled out of circulation and destroyed by the Treasury.
Just try finding a nice example of the first-year 2010 coins issued for Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, or Grand Canyon National Park! And it’ll only get worse in the years ahead as we move towards the end of the series in 2021.
Completeness is the key to any collection, but it’s likely that complete collections of National Parks Quarters will be the exception rather than the rule. For anyone wishing to put together a complete collection, this may be the last chance to get on board.