Ten years and 50 quarters later

Natalie Spence gets emotional as she reads the names next to the coins on the battered state quarters map in her Forts Pond Elementary School classroom.

"I hadn’t thought about some of these kids in a while," said Spence, a second-grade teacher at the Pelion school.

That’s the real value of the state quarter maps so many people bought in the first few years of the 10-year project. Unfolding their leaves is like opening a scrapbook. There’ll be lots of reminiscing this month as the last of the 50 quarters — Hawaii — finally reaches circulation.

For Spence, the questions — and the learning — were all on the second-grade level.

"Second-graders don’t know much about states," Spence said. "When you bring this (quarters map) in and start talking about how it all comes together as a United States, they start to understand."

Spence started collecting quarters for her classroom map in 2000 at the recommendation of her husband, who already had a map at home for their children. She asked children to search for state quarters, and the first ones to bring in certain states got to sign their name on the map beside the quarter.

Some required Spence to give them a replacement quarter in return. "A quarter is a lot of money to a second-grader," she said.

Matt Wise, now a freshman at Pelion High School, proudly points to his name next to the South Carolina quarter. (He went by Eddie, short for his middle name Edward, back then.)

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