Delaware quarter designs step closer to final

Paul Gilkes, Coin World Staff

Designs for the first circulating statehood quarter dollar, representing Delaware, were reviewed April 16 by the Commission of Fine Arts, with a reverse design depicting Caesar Rodney selected as the commission's choice.

The recommended designs also take the liberty (no pun intended) of moving mottoes and legends from their legislatively mandated obverse and reverse positions in anticipation of passage of legislation granting authorization to the Mint to do so. Legislation to allow movement of the inscriptions - introduced by Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., who also sponsored the legislation that became the 50 States Circulating Commemorative Coin Program - passed in the House but is awaiting action in the Senate.

The recommended designs also move the date to the reverse and the denomination to the obverse, the first time a circulating U.S. coin will have the denomination on the obverse, although several gold coins have borne the date on the reverse.

The Rodney design is representative of one of the design concepts forwarded from the Delaware governor's office. Rodney is recognized for his historic ride to Philadelphia and vote that broke the tie in favor of independence from the British crown.

The Citizens Commemorative Coin Advisory Committee reviewed about eight reverse designs and pared the total to four following a conference call on April 9. Those four reverse designs and the modified obverse were forwarded to the Commission of Fine Arts.

In addition to the Rodney design, the commission also saw a design showing the blue hen and an outline of the state; a quill pen wrapped up within a scrolled document, presumably the Declaration of Independence; and a rendition of Liberty on the nation's shoreline, clutching an outline of the state of Delaware in her right hand and a flaming torch in her outstretched left hand, the sun rising in the background.

The four reverse designs and one obverse will be forwarded to Secretary of the Treasury Robert E. Rubin for his review, before being passed along to the governor of the state of Delaware, Thomas R. Carper, for him to make the final selection. That selection will be passed back to Rubin for the Secretary's final approval.

1998 is the last year the eagle reverse will be used on the Washington quarter dollar for the next 10 years. Starting in 1999, the reverse will bear a distinct design representative of each of the 50 states in the order they became a state. Five new quarter dollars will be issued each year for the next 10 years, beginning with Delaware, which became the first state on Dec. 7, 1787.

The reverse depicts Caesar Rodney on horseback, with DELAWARE and 1787 in two lines above. CAESAR RODNEY is inscribed in the field below the horse's neck. FIRST STATE in two lines, superimposed over a quill symbolic of Delaware's ratification of the U.S. Constitution, is to be inscribed in the field up and to the right behind Rodney's image.

The Commission of Fine Arts, according to their historian, Sue Kohler, recommended the addition of the word the above first state and making the lettering for CAESAR RODNEY somewhat smaller. Also, it was recommended the Mint engraver who designed the reverse restudy the anatomy of the horse's legs and modify the design accordingly.

The date, traditionally below Washington's portrait on the obverse, is recommended to appear on the reverse along the bottom border with E PLURIBUS UNUM below. E PLURIBUS UNUM is on the reverse above the eagle on the current quarter dollar.

The obverse would retain the Washington portrait with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, currently along the top border on the reverse, to move to the top border of the obverse. IN GOD WE TRUST would move from in front of Washington's portrait to the field behind the Washington portrait. LIBERTY, currently along the top border of the obverse, would move to the field just below Washington's chin.

The denomination, QUARTER DOLLAR quarter dollar, would move to the obverse below the Washington portrait from its current position along the bottom border of the current reverse.