Legends may move on state commemorative quarters

by Michele Orzano, Coin World Staff

Legislation authorizing a rearrangement of mandated inscriptions on the 50 states circulating commemorative quarter dollars is now pending in the House, and the Mint is providing design templates to the first five states whose coins are due to make their debut in 1999.

Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., the principal author of the 50 States Circulating Commemorative Quarter Dollar program, introduced H.R. 3301 March 2.

Castle's legislation would give the Secretary of the Treasury "greater discretion with regard to the placement of the required inscriptions on quarter dollars issued under the 50 States Commemorative Coin program."

By law, the reverse of the quarter dollar denomination requires three inscriptions: the denomination, "United States of America" and "E Pluribus Unum," while the obverse must display the date, "In God We Trust" and "Liberty."

Castle's legislation would authorize flexibility in placement of the inscriptions only on quarter dollars struck under this program and doesn't call for the elimination of any of the inscriptions.

Beginning in 1999, every year for the next 10 years, the Mint will produce a redesigned reverse on quarter dollars to honor states in the order they ratified the U.S. Constitution or were admitted to the Union. The coins will be issued in sequence at approximately 10-week intervals. If new states join the Union before the end the 10-year period for example, Puerto Rico a state quarter dollar could also be issued for them.

A portrait of George Washington will remain on the obverse of the coin.

The law requires the governors of each state to recommend designs to the Secretary of the Treasury. Then U.S. Mint engravers will execute a series of actual designs that will be submitted to the Secretary of the Treasury for selection, after review by the Citizens Commemorative Coin Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts. The approved selections will be sent to the governors, who will select the final design.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Mint has provided each state selection commission with a "template" for the new designs on the quarter dollar.

The template shows the name of the state centered across the top of the coin and directly below that is the date it entered the Union or ratified the U.S. Constitution. At the bottom of the template there is an area reserved for inscriptions required by law.

The area in between is where each state's design must fit.

The quarter dollar only has an overall diameter of 24.26 millimeters (0.96 inch), so Mint engravers have a limited amount of space available for each design selected by the states.

Production of the Delaware commemorative quarter dollars is expected to start in September with release into circulation in January 1999.