2014 America the Beautiful Quarters mark the fifth year for a series of coins with annually changing designs that celebrate the beauty of the United States and its territories. The year’s five quarter-dollars in the order of their release include:
Tennessee – 2014 Great Smoky Mountains National Park Quarter
Virginia – 2014 Shenandoah National Park Quarter
Colorado – 2014 Great Sand Dunes National Park Quarter
Florida – 2014 Everglades National Park Quarter
While all of the 2014 quarters honor national parks, that is not always the case in the complete 56-coin series which started in the year 2010 and runs until 2021. The main stipulation in the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008, which authorized the series, only requires that the selected locations be "national sites." Accordingly, several national forests, military parks, national monuments, etc. are also featured in the US Mint coin program.
Another requirement of the act is that only one site be selected from each state as well as the District of Columbia and the five US Territories, which totals 56 locations giving us the 56 new designs that will be featured throughout the program.
The reverse of each new coin depicts a design emblematic of the chosen site, but the final design selections will probably not be released to the public until the first part of 2014. The obverse will still contain John Flanagan’s portrait of George Washington (as modified by William Cousins). Washington has been featured on the obverse of the quarter dollar since 1932.
The United States Mint also releases a companion series to the quarter dollars which it has dubbed the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin Program. These bullion coins will be extremely large in size relative to most other bullion coins issued. They will contain 5 ounces of .999 fine silver and be struck to a diameter of 3 inches. Each bullion coin will contain the same imagery as found on the quarter series.
More information on the 2014 America the Beautiful Quarters sites they honor can be found below:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Located in Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is said to be the most visited national park in the nation with approximately 9 million annual visitors.
Elevation in the park ranges from 800 feet to over 6,000 feet making the 800 miles of mountain trails in the park both challenging and rewarding. Visitors due need to take precautions for changing weather and the wildlife (an estimated 1500 bears reside within the park boundaries).
The location was added to the national park system in 1934 through the generous $5 million contribution of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Shenandoah National Park
Established in 1935, the park encompasses a narrow portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.
The most recognizable feature in the park is known as Skyline Drive which is 105 miles in length and runs mostly along the ridge of the mountains. With over 75 scenic overlooks, it is not hard to understand why the speed limit on the road is only 35 miles an hour allowing for plenty of safe viewing (of course the winding course of the road also adds to the enjoyment).
Most visitors to the park come in the fall to see the beautiful changing colors of the leaves.
Arches National Park
Located near Moab, Utah, Arches National Park consists of over 2,000 natural sandstone arches which have been created over thousands of years through the effects of erosion.
The area was originally designated a national monument in 1929 but was re-designated a national park in 1971 through an act of Congress.
Today, around 800,000 estimated annual visitors trek to the park to take in the natural beauty. Of note, over 40 arches have collapsed since 1970.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Containing approximately 85,000 acres, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado was designated a national park only in 2004, but had been a national monument since 1932.
The park claims the tallest sand dunes in North America with heights reaching 750 feet above the floor of the valley below.
Also included as part of the park are alpine lakes and several mountain peaks which reach heights of over 13,000 feet.
Everglades National Park
Encompassing the southern quarter of the everglades marshland in Florida, the park is touted as the largest subtropical wilderness in the Untied States. The park is also the third largest in the continental United States at 1.5 million acres.
Unknown to most, the everglades is actually a slow-moving system of rivers traveling at speeds well under 1 mile per day. As such, it makes an ideal habitat for hundreds of species of birds, fishes, mammals and over 50 species of reptiles including alligators and American crocodiles.