Austin Riddle, a rising high school senior in Alabama, has taken this time to mine the coins for content. He created a TikTok series in 14 parts titled “Ranking State Quarters,” in which he provides commentary on every state quarter to a soundtrack of songs like the Super Smash Bros. theme. The videos amassed a total of 600,000 views in late March.
“I thought quarters were kind of boring so I thought it would be funny to rank them,” he wrote in a direct message on Instagram in April. His justifications are brief and tend to accentuate the positive. No. 38, Utah: “I like the golden spike.” No. 47, Kansas: “It’s just a buffalo, but the sunflower is nice.” No. 2, Ohio: “This astronaut is everything!”
Mr. Riddle joins a comedic tradition of dunking on state quarters. In the early 2000s, Conan O’Brien had a continuing bit in which he compared collecting the coins to being a die-hard Dungeons and Dragons player and spoke of them in an exaggerated nerd drawl. But he also seemed genuinely jazzed to present over-the-top fakes (“Florida: home of the crabs-infested Donald Duck costume”).
Starting around 2005, a coin designer named Daniel Carr created a parody series of state quarters, called “State Carrters,” which he forged in his home mint and sold at craft fairs around the American West. Mr. Carr, 62, said he got the idea after submitting the winning designs for New York’s and Rhode Island’s state quarters. For the Rhode Island quarter, he was proud to receive Numismatics Magazine’s award for best trade coin of 2001, an honor he likened to winning “the Emmy Award of coins.”
Others have felt inspired by the visuals of the coins. In the fall of 2019, Charlotte Clark, 21, started painting intricate details onto state quarters and posting her creations on TikTok while living in her native Britain. She said the quarters inspired her to learn about the U.S. states she had never visited, like Wyoming. She now lives in New York.
Chanel Glenn, a 30-year-old marketing producer in Atlanta, is a lifelong state quarter collector who said she is attracted to the unique, artistic designs. She is constantly on the lookout for interesting coins, she said: “Any time I see a quarter and it looks like one I don’t have, I keep it. Period.”