Thursday, July 26, 2007

First 12 State Quarters

State Quarter’s Scorecard

MASSACHUSETTS Date Quarter Released: January 03, 2000 (6th) Statehood: February 06, 1788

As much as it may pain me to say so, Massachusetts did a pretty good job with their quarter. I don’t think you can go wrong if you depict an icon of the Revolutionary War, the Minuteman, and base the design on the famous statue in Concord. Perhaps the reason the design is so good on the quarter is because the governor only took submissions from children and kids are not likely to delve in nuance. Massachusetts’ proudest moment was the battle of Lexington and Concord, and the children showed to good sense in commemorating that moment in their design. The rest of the design that includes the state in relief and the state nickname is not bad, although I quibble a little with choosing the nickname over the state motto because Massachusetts has such a cool motto: “Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem.” “By the sword we seek peace, but only peace with liberty.” Motivational! Too bad they didn’t use it.

Since the “Minuteman” on the reverse of the quarter is actually a representation of a statue that is itself not meant to depict any one person, I will not add him to the list of actual people appearing on the quarter. But I would sure like to.

NORTH CAROLINA Date Quarter Released: March 12, 2001 (12th) Statehood: November 21, 1789

I am writing these in order of the date of the quarter’s release. So, of the first 12, it is a toss up between this one and the one from Massachusetts as to which is best. I eventually opted for the Minuteman, not because I think it is aesthetically more pleasing, but simply because the Minuteman is more Massachusetts than Orville and Wilbur are North Carolina.

Notwithstanding, the design on the back of the quarter is spare but quite powerful. The design of the picture is based on a picture taken by John T Daniels on 17 December 1901 at Kitty Hawk as the Wright Brothers made their first flight. Orville’s feet are depicted (barely), with Wilbur standing on the beach watching. Above the airplane are the words “First Flight.” Very well done, overall.

There is nothing wrong with this depiction. My only problem with North Carolina is that flight is what the governor decided that regardless of all the history and beauty of North Carolina, his state would commemorate a couple of Ohio boys who settled on North Carolina as a place to fly their aeroplane because of the sand dunes and favorable winds. For me, it is a little disappointing. Having lived in North Carolina, and with my folks and sister living there now, I have seen pretty much the whole state and I am here to tell you, North Carolina is a remarkable place. It has beautiful beaches, incredibly rich farmland, stunning mountains and wonderfully cosmopolitan cities. It also has history from the settlement of the continent, the Revolution and the Civil War. There is a lot in North Carolina, I wish they could have captured some of that.

NEW JERSEY Date Quarter Released: May 17, 1999 (3rd) Statehood: December 18, 1787

Busy, but not bad. New Jersey is an exception to the rule that spare is better because this quarter appropriates the image from Emmanuel Leutze’s painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” A good, patriotic, historic painting makes for a good design. Interesting note about the depiction on the reverse, the painting is a depiction of Washington Crossing the Delaware River, which serves as the boundary of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Although Leutze used the Rhine as the model, Washington is presumably some place on the river. Depending on where the boat actually is in the Delaware, Washington may actually be in Pennsylvania at the moment of the depiction. Another interesting note about this one: Washington is on both the front and back of this quarter, along with Monroe, making this a true two headed quarter.

VIRGINIA Date Quarter Released: October 16, 2000 (8th) Statehood: June 25, 1788

It is hard to go wrong when you depict the founding of the first permanent English settlement in the New World as your state’s claim to fame. The three ships on the quarter brought the first settlers to Jamestown, a small garrison built on an island in the James River, just north of what is now Norfolk. The ships and those who rode in them displayed incredible courage, faith and belief in their own abilities. This truly is a fitting scene to commemorate on a quarter.

The design itself is outstanding. The ships are handsome but the most striking thing about the design is how it manages to encapsulate all of Virginia’s history with a few words and numbers. Across the top is the date of statehood. At the 10 o’clock position is the date of Jamestown’s founding 1607 with the word “Quadricentennial” engraved underneath the ships. 400 years, Virginia still in existence after a founding borne of incredible fortitude. And all that captured neatly on the back of a quarter.

DELAWARE Date Quarter Released: January 04, 1999 (1st) Statehood: December 07, 1787

Delaware’s quarter is somewhat misleading. Looking at the design of a galloping horseman, one immediately thinks of Paul Revere’s ride. However, after reflection, one remembers that Paul Revere rode through the Massachusetts countryside, a feat, though historic and full of important for the nation as a whole, probably would not be an event that Delaware would pick to commemorate itself.

So who is the galloping colonial on the Delaware quarter? He is Caesar Rodney, Delaware patriot, who as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1776, rode all night of July 1 to reach Philadelphia in time to cast the deciding vote for independence.

The design itself is simple, with just enough lines to portray Rodney, without seeming busy. There is plenty of still space on the top side of the quarter which enhances the aesthetic appeal. Spare is a quality to be desired in a quarter.

CONNECTICUT Date Quarter Released: October 12, 1999 (5th) Statehood: January 09, 1788

Connecticut chose a representation of an oak tree where their charter was hidden from the British 100 years prior to the Revolutionary War. The hiding of the charter was one of the first acts of defiance in the face of British authority and the Charter Oak is a worthy symbol of the American commitment to self-determination and freedom. But then again, it is just a tree. It just stands there, and it looks like every other tree. Now, cut down that tree and build a canoe and explore, you have something. Cut down that tree and build a rampart to repel an attack, natch. But a tree? Please don’t be offended if I stifle a yawn.

But my goodness, the Mint minted almost 1.4 BILLION of these things! Why could they not have chosen the Texas quarter or the Delaware quarter? The Mint says they mint coins on the basis of need regardless of the state or the design. It just happened that in late 1999, the US needed a freaking LOT of quarters. Oh well, now every time you get a Coke out of the machine, you are likely to get the tree or the Virginia quarter. It gets old, I tell you.

NEW HAMPSHIRE Date Quarter Released: August 07, 2000 (9th) Statehood: June 21, 1788

This quarter shares a distinction with the one from Connecticut in that it depicts something in nature that was, but no longer is. But while Connecticut chose a historical tree that had been long destroyed, at least New Hampshire’s rock formation, the old man of the mountain, was at least still in extant when the coin when to mint. However, a little less than three years after release of the coin, the rock formation broke away from Mt Cannon, and slid down the mountain on 3 May 2003.

The design is not bad, and a state can’t go wrong putting a motivational motto on their quarter. Here, New Hampshire chose “Live Free or Die” which is the best state motto in the country. The nine stars representing New Hampshire’s status as the ninth state are a nice, classical touch.

NEW YORK Date Quarter Released: January 02, 2001 (8th) Statehood: July 26, 1788

I think that New York began to get the message after Pennsylvania and Georgia tried the overlapping-accumulation-of- state-symbols approach to designing their state’s quarters. On the downside, could they have been any more obvious in the selection? The Statue of Liberty? Come on. I was also a little puzzled by the inscription “Gateway to Freedom” that heretofore had not been used in conjunction with anything New York. The best I can tell, “Gateway to Freedom” is actually the motto of a county in Indiana. So, how did “Gateway to Freedom” end up on the quarter? Apparently, some 4th graders near Albany submitted it as part of their class project and the design committee took a liking to it. Now, that made-up motto is on 1.2 billion of these things. Listening to 4th graders has consequences. Maybe the design committee rejected the actual state motto “Excelsior” for the same reason the Marine Corps rejected berets: as a symbol, it is effeminate and foreign. Although that did not stop Georgia from putting fruit on their quarter, as you will soon see.

GEORGIA Date Quarter Released: July 19, 1999 (4th) Statehood: January 02, 1788

Good design, poorly executed. This one is in the Pennsylvania School of Design, lots of elements, all over-lapping, although marginally less busy than that of the Keystone State. The Georgia quarter has the unfortunate inclusion of the state icon, a peach. Hard to make a peach heroic and compelling, and the good people of Georgia do not really succeed. Live oak garland gives the peach some measure of majesty, and the scroll containing the Georgia motto of “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation” is certainly inspiring, but, at the end of the day, its just a peach.

PENNSYLVANIA Date Quarter Released: March 08, 1999 (2nd) Statehood: December 12, 1787

Too busy. There are four elements in the design, one of which is the complicated statue of “Commonwealth” that sits atop the State Capitol building in Harrisburg. She wears a flowing toga and is holding the eagle staff of justice, garlanded with ribbon. To her left is the state motto, “Virtue, Liberty, Independence,” stacked one on another. The motto’s words are all fine things, however, the motto’s inclusion serves to clutter the design. To the statue’s right is a keystone to symbolize the keystone state, and all the elements overlay an outline of the state itself. Whew. Any one of these things (or perhaps two of them, since I am feeling generous), would have been splendid. I think having the keystone overlaying the state outline would have been spare and classic. But alas, instead, we have a design that can only be the product of a series of committees.

MARYLAND Date Quarter Released: March 13, 2000 (7th) Statehood: April 28, 1788

Could Maryland have picked a duller design for their quarter? The statehouse rotunda and some white oak boughs? And the least recognizable state motto there is? Yes, I know the state rotunda is the oldest statehouse still in use, and that it was built without nails. Those facts are interesting as trivia, but hardly seem to be worthy of depiction on a quarter. And don’t be confused into thinking the “Old Line State” has something to do with the Mason-Dixon Line, rather, the nickname refers to Gen Washington’s compliments to Maryland’s troops during the Revolution. Surely, this nickname is something to be proud of but it is so obscure as to be more puzzling than enlightening.

Maryland had one shot at a commemorative quarter, and completely whiffed.

SOUTH CAROLINA Date Quarter Released: May 22, 2000 (8th) Statehood: May 23, 1788

This one is just miserable, considering what they have to work with in South Carolina. The quarter design is busy and uninspiring. The design features two plants (palmetto tree and yellow jessamine flower), a bird (the Carolina wren) perched on the flower, the state nickname, (the Palmetto State) that refers to the tree already in the design, all in front of the state outline. Busy, redundant and dull, the trifecta of design by committee.

What makes this design all the worst is that the seal of South Carolina is round, has a palmetto tree on it, depicts the defeat of the British fleet at Sullivan Island and has some motivational Latin! (Who will separate? While I breathe I hope. Hope. Prepared in Mind and Resources.) That is good stuff. If South Carolina’s politicians had had any imagination and courage, they could have used that design already on their state seal to gain the respect and admiration of Americans everywhere.

List of People on the Reverse of the First 12
Caesar Rodney (DE)
George Washington (NJ)
James Monroe (NJ)
10 other Revolutionary War Soldiers (NJ)
Orville Wright (NC)
Wilbur Wright (NC)