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. "Let the striking begin."
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.