On August 13, 2019, the US Mint revealed new designs for its America the Beautiful Quarters program, a series of new designs that would be applied to the reverse (tails) side of quarters released in 2020 and 2021. The unveiling took place at the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money held in Chicago in 2019. The designs included one of Weir Farm in Connecticut, Salt River Bay in the US Virgin Islands, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Park in Vermont, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas, and the Tuskeegee Airmen National Historical Site in Alabama.
The design for the National Park of American Samoa, however, has sparked the most reaction from Americans that now have the coins in circulation. The design, which features a Samoan Fruit Bat, is intended to promote awareness of the species’ threatened status due to habitat loss and commercial hunting, and the National Park of American Samoa is the only park in the United States that is home to that particular animal.
Although the designs were approved and revealed last year, the release in 2020 has triggered numerous conspiracy theories due to coincidental timing with the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. COVID-19 traces its origins to Wuhan, China, where the first reported cases emerged from a seafood market in the city, and later reports emerged of health experts suspecting the original source of the virus to come from bats.
The unfortunate timing of the quarter designs along with growing public concern surrounding the coronavirus and its origins has led to various conspiracy theories involving the “Deep State,” which promotes the existence of a second, shadow government behind the legitimate government that engages in conspiracies against the American people. So far, no evidence has emerged of an actual conspiracy, and all signs point to the theories to be the product of confirmation bias.