This is a post that is quite different from my norm and also illustrates just how far into "crazy" I sometimes venture in an effort to tell a story with my coin collection. Hope you enjoy it!
In 1999, Hallmark Cards, Inc. - the greeting card and ornament company - launched its American Spirit Collection™. Per Hallmark, the Collection was intended to "help preserve the past, cherish the present and establish a legacy for the future." It was designed to make new Hallmark-branded products available for each of the individual quarters of the United States Mint's 50 State Quarters
program (1999-2008); Hallmark was to issue new products as the quarters were issued. Supplementary products such as folders and albums to store all 50 Statehood Quarters
, as well as several different cases/kits designed for young collectors were also produced.
For each State Quarter
issued, the Collection planned to release individually-packaged 'P' and 'D' quarters, two-coin packs featuring a 'P' and 'D' quarter, a "Quarter and Figurine" set that featured a miniature replica of a historical place or event associated with the state and a doll representing a historical figure from the state (for example, a Caesar Rodney doll was made available for the Delaware quarter).
A Keepsake ornament featuring each state's quarter was also released; the ornaments feature design elements that tie into each state's history. When all five quarters for a year were available from the Mint, sets of the five 'P' or 'D' coins were packaged together and sold as a unit. Overall, I have found the quality of the circulation-grade coins included in each product to be above average.
The Collection was launched with high expectations, but, unfortunately for Hallmark, it did not achieve its sales goals. Initially, this led to the discontinuation of the slow-selling historical figure dolls - they were released only for the quarters issued in 1999 and 2000. Ultimately, however, poor overall sales resulted in the entire American Spirit Collection being discontinued by Hallmark after the release of the final 2002 quarter (Mississippi).
At the time, Hallmark claimed they were discontinuing the Collection because they had "overestimated the popularity of coin collecting with the American public" and that "many people were only purchasing American Spirit products related to their own state" which significantly impacted sales of the other quarter products. Bottom line, the series was not profitable for Hallmark.
Personally, I believe a strong driver of the poor sales was the pricing of the individual products; the prices made collecting the State Quarters
through Hallmark far too expensive! For example, considering the quarters in the Hallmark products were uncirculated business-strike coins (not proof versions) and nice examples could be found in circulation at the time for face value, Hallmark faced an uphill battle in trying to sell their one-coin packs for $2.50 and their five-coin packs for $9.95 (10X and 8X face, respectively).
I believe that if Hallmark had stuck to its core business and limited itself to a Keepsake ornament for each quarter it would have seen success. A strong argument could be made that sales among its built-in ornament collecting audience would have been strong enough to support an ornament series for the full duration of the State Quarters
program. Instead, it appears Hallmark got caught up in the Mint's pre-launch media hype and believed that coin collectors would buy whatever was offered regardless of price. They learned a tough, expensive lesson in that most coin collectors are far more discerning!
This post showcases the Hallmark American Spirit Collection products released for the 2001 North Carolina State Quarter
(I wonder why I chose to highlight the NC quarter?):
Individual 'P' and 'D' quarter packs
'P' and 'D' two-quarter pack
Individual 2001 'P' and 'D' five-quarter sets that include the NC quarter
NC Quarter and Figurine Set featuring a mini replica of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
NC Keepsake ornament featuring design elements associated with NC and its history
None of the items presented here was purchased in 2001 from Hallmark - I wouldn't pay their asking prices! Each was bought on the secondary market between 2017 and 2019 at a far more realistic price. I put the set together not as a serious "investment" collection, but as an example of the many novel ways the Mint's 50 State Quarters
Program was packaged and marketed to attract new collectors. (And because I can go to extremes to tell a story with coins!)
As Hallmark learned, not all State Quarter
marketing methods worked!Single Quarter 'P' and 'D' Packs - $2.50 Two-quarter 'P' and 'D' Combo Packs - $4.95 Individual 2001 'P' and 'D' Five-quarter Sets - $9.95NC Quarter and Figurine Set - $18.95 / Limited Edition: 19,500
The set features a pewter miniature of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton, NC. The Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest in the United States - its light extends out 50 miles in the Atlantic Ocean to warn ships of potential near-shore dangers. NC Keepsake ornament - $14.95 / Limited Time Edition: Retirement 2002 And for those wondering...No, I haven't changed my view on the State Quarters. I still view them as a topical series rather than a commemorative series.