The 50 state quarter program, the revolutionary project of the U.S. Mint to create a different quarter honoring each one of the 50 states, is presently more than halfway to completion, with 26 new quarters now having been released into circulation. 5 different quarters, each honoring a different state, have been released since 1999. The quarters have been placed into circulation according to the order in which the state that they represented was admitted to the union. Accordingly, Delaware was the first quarter released in 1999, and Hawaii will be the final quarter released in 2008.
The time has now come to begin thinking about the release of the 32nd quarter, which will be Minnesota’s. Minnesota will be the second quarter released in 2005, most likely in the month of March, meaning that we’re only one year away from being able to hold the final product in our hands.
Stage one of the multiple step process of creating the Minnesota state quarter has already been completed. This stage involved collecting designs depicting what the citizens of Minnesota think would be worthy of incorporation onto the quarter. The step after this, which has also already been completed, involved choosing 3 to 5 possible designs for the quarter and sending them to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C. After the Bureau turns the designs into actual coinage, which has not been done yet, the final products will be sent back to the state, so that the governor – or some other specially appointed committee in the state capital – can pick the final design for the quarter. The selected design is then minted onto millions of quarters and unveiled for everybody to see.
Pictures of the four designs that Minnesota sent off to Washington D.C. have been placed on a specially designed website commemorating the creation of the Minnesota state quarter. I thought it would be fun if I reviewed each of the four designs, offering my opinions of what I think of them, and their potential of becoming the quarter that represents Minnesota.
As far as state quarters go, this one isn’t too complex, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When working with a design space as small as a quarter, it can be difficult to get an exceedingly detailed scene on such a small area. The problems that I see with this design, though, have to do with the symbols that are used to represent the state of Minnesota. The loon is nice touch, since it is an animal that can be found in many places in Minnesota, and is also the state bird, but on something the size of a quarter, I doubt that many people will even be able to clearly recognize that the duck they see is a loon. It will merely be perceived as an ordinary duck, which is really not very interesting or appealing. I also have a problem with the snowflake. While Minnesota may not be the warmest habitat to live in, I think the snowflake just plays on the stereotype that Minnesota is a tundra wasteland covered with snow 9 months out of the year – every true Minnesotan knows that the correct number is 11.5 months out of the year. As is, no other state quarter, as of yet, has a snowflake on it, so it does get some creativity marks. Still, I don’t really think it’s the best thing to use to represent Minnesota. Finally, what can I really say about that thing on the bottom of the state? On a quarter, I doubt many people will be able to conclude what exactly it is. Overall, I can’t say that this design is terrible; I just think it’s rather boring and not very creative.
This design really manages to capture a true Minnesota scene. I like how the lake, the shore lines with pine trees, anglers, and duck all blend together. Looking at everything that goes into this scene, there aren’t really too many states that could use this same design on their quarter, which makes it very creative and original. I also like the "land of 10,000 lakes" slogan written on this design. Lack of some sort of motto or slogan is something else that the first quarter design is lacking. The only bad thing about this design, though, and it is quite a big flaw, I think, is the engraving of the state. It looks sort of awkward in the design, not only appearing as if it is something floating in the lake – an oversized buoy perhaps – but also something that the anglers are trying to reel in. The state of Minnesota has quite a unique shape, and I don’t really think it is necessary to point that out on the quarter. It is also simply not necessary on this design, as I think the woodsy scene depicted on this design is hurt more than it is helped.
Although maybe not quite as good as the second design, this design is very creative and original. After all, how many states can make the claim that they are the headwaters of the Mississippi River? Not even California can do that. There really aren’t any flaws that I can see to this design, making it really appropriate for use in representing the state of Minnesota. I like how the river goes from being essentially a small stream in the middle of a swampy marsh to a something that is wide and mighty downstream. This design mirrors exactly how the characteristics of the actual Mississippi River change as the river continues south through Minnesota from its Lake Itasca beginning. Along these lines, it’s also very appropriate that the ripples in the water are drawn in as the river gets to its widest point in the design. The only thing about this design that I would change is the drawing of the buildings as the bridge converges on them. Being that the Mississippi does flow through Minneapolis and St. Paul, it could have been more interesting if the skyscrapers of one of these cities were drawn in, instead of the rather small, short structures that are depicted. As such, the scene in this design still works out very well.
The scene in this design is a lot like the one in design 2, with the exception being that a scene involving fishing is given more prominence. Like design 2, I really think this scene portrays a true Minnesota scene. Although this scene may not represent what the southwestern and northwestern parts of Minnesota look like – due to the dearth of lakes in these two regions – I do think that this scene accurately depicts a true Minnesota scene for at least much of the state. There are plenty of lakes in Minnesota, and it is true that a scene such as this would be able to be seen in many different parts of the state. Because of the representative nature of this design, I think it is the best choice of what the Minnesota state quarter should look like.