Quarter designs a big challenge

Editorial by Beth Deisher - bdeisher@coinworld.com

For all the would-be coin designers, it's not too early to begin conceptualizing, even though your state's design in the 50 State Circulating Commemorative Quarter Dollar program may be several years away from issuance.

The first five states - Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia and Connecticut - are well on their way to selecting designs that will grace the five quarters to be issued in 1999.

When you look at the template provided by the U.S. Mint with the state's name centered at the top and year of ratification of the Constitution or entry into the Union directly below and the portion reserved near the bottom for inscriptions required by law, you begin to understand the nature and size of the challenge. Communicating a significant message in a small amount of space is a big challenge.

Before putting pen to paper, take a quarter from your pocket or purse. Look at the current reverse and imagine your idea in approximately the center portion of the coin. This little exercise helps bring home just how small the available area for your design really is. (For linear thinkers, the quarter's diameter is 24.26 millimeters or 0.96 inch.)

Very quickly one is likely to deduce that a simple image conveying the thoughts, deeds or vistas associated with one's state is the most likely to succeed. At this point only the truly dedicated and determined venture on. A refresher course in your state's history may help. Or, perhaps, a summer vacation to become reacquainted with your state's natural wonders. (Don't forget to take your camera along and use it.)

As often is the case, the fun of bringing forth a design concept is in the research, contemplation and selection. Although it may be satisfying to translate your concept into a finished drawing or sculpture, it is not necessary. If the concept finds favor, skilled artists at the U.S. Mint will translate it into coinage art.

This week Coin World begins coverage of the concepts from Delaware that have risen to the top. While the Citizens Commemorative Coin Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts have had an opportunity to "advise" and "recommend," the final decision as to which topic/image will get the nod and be recommended to Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin is up to the governor and people of Delaware.

The selection process and the methods used by the first five states to select their designs may or may not establish a procedural template. But observing closely, those states to follow can gain valuable insight as to which designs strike up well, are visually appealing, and achieve the level of communication desired.