Remember the pet rock?

Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

It’s interesting how we Americans seem to embrace some far out fads or inventions.

Some are just a flash in the pan, like pet rocks. Does anyone really remember what function a pet rock had?

Others like the Hula Hoop or Slinkies seemed to have passed the test of time.

Last Friday, while covering the Lunch With Moms event at the Caledonia Area Elementary School, wet weather forced the youngsters and their mothers into the school gym for their after lunch recess. Many of the young students, and their mothers, were gyrating their midsections in an attempt at keeping the large, colorful, plastic hoop rotating around their midsections.

Kids of all ages have been enjoying that recreational invention for nearly 60 years.

And then there’s the Slinky. Invented in the late 1940’s, the makers of the spring-like spool of metal have sold more than 300 million Slinkies. Just this past weekend, I watched a TV commercial for some product that escapes me now, where Slinkies were bouncing all over the place.

I decided to write about interesting fads or inventions because of something I came across in our home this past weekend.

Our daughter will be graduating from Mabel-Canton High School this spring. And like most red-blooded American families, when there’s a graduation, wedding or other significant family event, the remodeling bug strikes.

Luckily, my wife didn’t insist that we remodel the entire house… just a few rooms. So we tackled the living room this past weekend.

While removing all of the items from a large moveable bookcase/entertainment unit, I came across a large red book that contained 50 quarters, one representing each of the 50 states. I’d almost forgotten about the commemorative quarter craze that began during the last millennium.

Launched in 1999, the United States Mint’s 50 State Quarters Program was a 10-year initiative that honored each of the nation’s states in the order that they ratified the Constitution or were admitted into the Union.

Each quarter was produced for about 10 weeks and never produced again. State designs are displayed on the reverse (tails) of the quarters, while the obverse design displays the familiar image of George Washington.

Megan was just five years old when the 50 State Quarters Program began. Like millions of other Americans, we got caught up in this collecting craze, primarily because of our daughter.

While conducting a little research on this program, I learned that the statehood quarters program was the most popular commemorative coin program in United States history.  The United States Mint estimated that 147 million Americans collected state quarters and 3.5 million participated in the selection of state quarter designs.

By the end of 2008, all of the original 50 states quarters had been minted and released. The official total, according to the U.S. Mint, was 34,797,600,000 coins. The average mintage was 695,952,000 coins per state, but ranged between Virginia’s 1,594,616,000 to Oklahoma’s 416,600,000.

Demand was stronger for quarters issued early in the program. This was due to weakening economic conditions in later years and the waning of the initial surge of demand when the program was launched.

So after spending nine years collecting the right quarters and putting them in their respective places on the map of the U.S., is there really any value to this collection?

$12.50, which is what a pocket full of 50 quarters would fetch.

Interesting how a fad that had held peoples’ attentions for nine years could become passe so quickly.  I wonder if Megan even remembers she has this collection. Maybe when she has kids of her own, they will enjoy the collection and maybe it will be worth more than $12.50.

I wonder how much those pet rocks are worth now, 40 years later?