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2009 Quarters

The Program

You may be familiar with the 50 State Quarters® Program, which began in 1999.  To cover all 50 states, five quarter designs were produced for each of 10 years.  Well, thanks to the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program, there were six design changes within 2009!

Image shows the front of a quarter, with a portrait of George Washington facing left.

The image of George Washington remained on the front of all six quarters in the new program. 

On the back, six different images honored the district or territories of the program.  These coins were issued about 2 months apart in the order listed below.  Versions were also made in 90% silver, but for collecting, not for general spending.

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District of Columbia

Coin image shows Duke Ellington seated at a piano.

The first quarter in the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program honors the District of Columbia.  This district was created in 1790 especially to serve as the nation's capital, and became the capital on December 1, 1800.  President George Washington chose the 10-square-mile site from parts of Maryland and Virginia, though the Virginia portion was later returned to the state.  As a federal district, it is not part of any state.

DC's mayor and residents chose to feature Duke Ellington in their quarter design.  This world-famous composer and musician was born in the District and often visited there to perform with his big band after he moved to New York.  The District's Latin motto, "Justitia Omnibus," is translated "Justice for All" in the design.

During his 50-year career in music, Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington recorded with some of the greatest musicians of jazz.  He performed in countries around the world, won several Grammy® awards, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 at the age of 70.  Born in 1899, Ellington died in 1974, leaving behind hundreds of recordings, songs, and instrumental pieces and his unique and lasting mark on American music.

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Puerto Rico

Coin image shows a fortress guard tower overlooking the sea and two hibiscus flowers.

The Puerto Rico quarter is the second in the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program.  In 1493, explorer Christopher Columbus arrived at Puerto Rico (this Spanish name means "rich port").  The island soon became a Spanish colony and remained one for hundreds of years.

Although other nations tried to conquer Puerto Rico, Spain maintained its rule until the Spanish-American War.  The island was ceded to the United States in 1898, and its residents became American citizens in 1917.  This territory has had its own constitution since it became a commonwealth in 1952.

Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, is well-fortified to protect it from attacks by sea.  The city is surrounded by massive stone walls with sentry boxes built into the walls where guards stood watch.  A major element in Puerto Rico's quarter design is a sentry box overlooking the sea.  This box reminds us of Puerto Rico's rich history, defensive strength, and strategic location in the Caribbean Sea.

The other main image on the Puerto Rico quarter is the hibiscus flower.  This symbol speaks of the island's natural history and tropical beauty.  The island's motto, "Isla del Encanto," is also inscribed.  This Spanish phrase means "Isle of Enchantment."

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Coin image shows the island of Guam, a flying proa (boat), and a latte (stone pillar).

The Western world first learned about Guam when explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed there in 1521.  The Spanish ruled the island until the 20th century, using it as a port for ships traveling between Mexico and the Philippines.  American troops took over during the Spanish-American War. Japan held it for two years during World War II, but the United States regained control. The people of Guam became American citizens in 1950 and set up their own government under the US Secretary of the Interior.

The Guam quarter is the third in the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program.  In the Guam quarter's design, a relief map of Guam takes center stage.  The southern part of the island is mountainous while the northern part is flatter, surrounded by cliffs dropping to the sea.  Guam's motto, part of the quarter's design, translates to "Guam, Land of the Chamorro."

The design also features a latte and a flying proa.  A latte is a large goblet-shaped stone that has been used for centuries in Micronesia to hold important buildings up.  The latte has come to symbolize the culture of Guam's native people, the Chamorro.

The flying proa is a type of canoe with a sail.  Chamorro craftsmen used to build these swift but stable boats, able to change direction without turning around by shifting the sails.  As a symbol, the proa speaks of Chamorro history, invention, and discovery.

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American Samoa

Coin image shows an ava bowl, fly whisk, and rod and a tropical shoreline.

American Samoa is a group of five islands and two atolls in the South Pacific Ocean.  (An atoll is an island made of coral surrounding a bay.)  Europeans began to visit this area in the early 1700s.  English missionaries and traders arrived in the 1830s.

The United Kingdom and Germany turned the islands over to the United States in 1899 and it officially became a United States territory in 1929, the only US territory south of the Equator.  Today, the people elect their own governor and a representative to the United States Congress.  West of these islands is Samoa, a separate nation.

The American Samoa quarter is the fourth in the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program.  The design on this quarter includes an ava bowl (or "tanoa"), a fly whisk, and a staff.  The ava bowl is used to make a special drink for island chiefs and guests during important events.  The whisk and staff symbolize the rank of the speaker at these gatherings.  The ava bowl, whisk, and staff also appear on American Samoa's official seal.

In the background of the design, a coconut tree stands on a tropical beach.  The territory's motto is also shown, which translates as "Samoa, God is First."

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US Virgin Islands

Coin image shows tropical trees, a bird, and flowers as described, plus the three main islands.

Christopher Columbus explored the US Virgin Islands in 1493.  The islands were first inhabited by the Arawak, the Taino (taEEno), and then the Carib Indians.  Denmark began to colonize the islands in 1666 and named them the Danish West Indies.  Just west lies Puerto Rico; to the east, the British Virgin Islands.

The United States purchased the group of three main islands and about 50 islets from Denmark in 1917 for $25 million.  In 1927, those who lived in the US Virgin Islands became American citizens.  In 1954, a territorial government was set up there with three branches, much like the branches of the federal government.

The design on the US Virgin Islands quarter shows some of the territory's symbols:  the yellow breast (also called the banana quit), the official bird of the US Virgin Islands; the yellow cedar (or yellow elder), the official flower; and the tyre palm, the official tree.  All three symbols speak of the islands' beauty, a fact that helps to make tourism the islands' main industry.  Most of the jobs in the US Virgin Islands are related to tourism.

Also on this quarter, fifth in the series, is an outline of the three major islands (St. Croix [CROY], St. Thomas, and St. John).  The territory's motto, "United in Pride and Hope," completes the design.

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Northern Mariana Islands

Coin image shows a stone latte on a tropical shore, a canoe with sail, and two birds flying overhead.

The Northern Mariana Islands quarter is the sixth and final quarter in the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program.  The quarter's design uses images from the islands' wealth of history and natural resources.

Near a tropical shore stands a large latte, a limestone column that supported the buildings of the Chamorro people in ancient times.  A canoe of the native Carolinians speaks of the people's ability to travel vast distances by sea.  Two white fairy terns fly overhead.  A string of flowers worn around the head underlines the design.  The Carolinians call this crown of flowers a "mwar."  It symbolizes the virtues of honor and respect.

These islands were ruled by Spain for centuries until Spain sold them to Germany in 1899.  Japan seized them in 1914 and American forces occupied them during World War II.  After the war, the group was included in the US Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.  This status ended in 1986.

Residents chose to make the islands a commonwealth in 1975 and President Gerald Ford signed the covenant to establish the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands the next year.  The southernmost island in the Mariana chain, Guam, had a separate path to its status as a US territory.  Guam's quarter is third in this series.

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