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What Is the History of the Wisconsin State Quarter?

By Ray Hawk
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Wisconsin state quarter was produced by the US Mint in 2004 as the 30th state quarter to be issued out of 50 states. In the same year, the US produced state quarters for Michigan, Florida, Texas, and Iowa, and Wisconsin's was the last of the group of five to be made in October of that year. The back side of the Wisconsin state quarter features images of a dairy cow, a round block of cheese with a wedge taken out of it, and an ear of corn. These have been staple agricultural crops since the period of its founding as a US state in 1848.

The state animal for Wisconsin is the badger, and it is commonly known as the Badger state since it has remained largely rural and forested as of 2011, with a significant badger population. The animal was not featured on the quarter, however, as Wisconsin has gained a name for itself as the Dairy State or America's Dairyland. In the early 1890s, Wisconsin farmers began to switch from wheat to dairy production as the land was more effectively suited to dairy cattle farming, with terrain that is largely hilly and grass-covered.

Among US states, Wisconsin remains the largest producer of cheese, second only to California in dairy products overall, which account for 54% of its agricultural profits as of 2011. The Wisconsin state quarter focuses on the most prominent features of a dairy cow and block of cheese, therefore, due to these agricultural facts. There are estimated to be about 1,250,000 dairy cows in Wisconsin, which is about one cow for every five people that live there. The state produces 24,000,000,000 pounds (1,088,621,688 kilograms) of cheese annually, making up 26% of the US national cheese production. This includes 350 different varieties of cheese made by over 1,200 licensed Wisconsin cheese makers.

State emblems on the specialty quarters released by the US are generally designed to reflect the major products that the states produce. Corn is also featured prominently on the back of the Wisconsin state quarter, as it produces feed corn for cattle and other livestock, as well as corn for the human food supply. It is ranked fifth overall in corn production nationally. In the issuance of commemorative quarters, the Wisconsin state quarter had a flaw in some samples where an extra husk or two appeared in the minted image for the cornstalk. These rare mistakes in the minting process made quarters with extra husks fetch prices on the rare coins market of 2,000 times greater than the actual value of the quarter itself.

The rear side of the Wisconsin state quarter also displays a banner with the word “Forward,” which is the state motto. The engraver who supervised the production of the quarter was Alfred F. Maletsky, an official engraver for the United States Mint, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He worked on a design that had been chosen from over 9,000 different possible designs submitted by residents of the state, which were narrowed down to six finalists by a 23-member Wisconsin Commemorative Quarter Council. Though the number of quarters minted for Wisconsin was the lowest for all five quarters produced in 2004, 226,400,000 were minted in Philadelphia and 226,800,000 were minted in Denver, Colorado.

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