DENVER (AP) - Sparkling coins rushed down a chute behind the smiling first family of Oklahoma on Wednesday, moments after they took turns pushing the button that stamped out their state's first commemorative quarters at the Denver Mint.
I've been waiting a long time to say, I'm ready to make some money,' Gov. Brad Henry said before the ceremony began Wednesday.
After the Henrys and several other Oklahoma officials struck their coins, the hum of the machine got louder as the press began spitting out 750 quarters a minute. The target for the day is 5 million to 8 million coins, said Guillermo Hernandez, a U.S. Mint spokesman.
Those coins will become pocket change eventually, but not for the people who struck the first quarters.
I'm going to keep mine, Henry said. It was one of the first three off the press. It certainly has sentimental meaning to me. I don't intend to spend it.
The Oklahoma quarter is the first to be struck in 2008 in the 50 State Quarters Program, which concludes later this year with the release of the New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii quarters.
The program began in 1999, and coins are released in the order that the states joined the union.
It is very exciting, said Henry, who struck a quarter after his daughter, Baylee, and wife Kim. Wearing protective plastic glasses, they smiled as they posed for photos with the quarter amid the rumbling machines.
This is Oklahoma's chance to shine throughout the country, and the world, frankly, Henry said.
Between 300 and 500 million Oklahoma quarters are expected to be produced, Hernandez said. The coin is scheduled to go in circulation on Jan. 28.
The tails side of the Oklahoma features a scissortail flycatcher, the state bird, flying over the state wildflower, the Indian blanket. The coin is also inscribed with 1907, the year Oklahoma became a state.
Henry asked Oklahomans for design suggestions, and about 1,000 submitted written ideas. About a half-million Oklahomans then voted for their favorite design, Henry said. The U.S. Commission on Fine Arts selected the design from the voters' top five choices.
The coin will be placed in circulation Jan. 28.