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Helen Keller & the 2003 Alabama Quarter


By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez - June 27, 2023

United States author and disability rights activist Helen Keller is seen on the 2003 Alabama 50 State Quarter. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

June 27 is a special holiday in the United States, recognizing political activist and author Helen Keller. An American icon of hope and resilience, Keller was just 19 months old when an illness led to her losing both her sight and hearing. Born in Alabama in 1880, she grew up at a time when there were few public accommodations for individuals like her, yet she forged ahead to become one of the most prominent disability rights activists our nation – or the world – has ever known.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Radcliffe College of Harvard University and worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for more than 40 years beginning in 1924. She wrote more than a dozen books and traveled the world, spreading her messages of social justice and advocacy for the disabled, the poor, and others in need of greater societal visibility.

She was eventually named among Time magazine’s 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century – one of many accolades she received during her lifetime. She passed away in 1968 at the age of 87, with many posthumously memorializing her, including inductions in the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame and Alabama Writers Hall of Fame. However, one of her most widely known tributes was seen in 2003, when the Alabama 50 State Quarter featured her prominently upon the reverse of the coin.

She is surrounded on the coin by various symbols and inscriptions, including her name spelled in both English and Braille, sprigs of Alabama long-leaf pine and magnolia, and a banner reading “SPIRIT OF COURAGE.” The Alabama 50 State Quarter reverse depicting Keller was designed by Norman Nemeth.

The Philadelphia and Denver Mints struck a cumulative total of more than 450 million business strikes, with 225,000,000 hailing from Philly and 232,400,000 produced in the Mile High City. The San Francisco Mint also struck millions of proofs, with 3,408,516 clad strikes and 1,125,755 silver specimens.

While the 2003 Alabama Quarter featuring Helen Keller can still be found with ease in circulation, collectors seeking better examples for their PCGS Registry Sets will need to turn to a PCGS Authorized Dealer for premium specimens. As is par for the course with clad business-strike quarters, uncirculated examples are typically found in the grades of MS65 to MS66, with those in MS67 scarce and pieces grading MS68 exceptionally rare. As for the proofs, expect a run-of-the-mill proof to be graded PR68 to PR69 – Deep Cameo is the rule with these modern proofs. PR70DCAMs are considerably more difficult to find.

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