By Chris Bulfinch for CoinWeek …..
With the close of the America the Beautiful Quarters Program earlier this year, a new, legislatively mandated quarter design has been introduced as a stopgap until the beginning of the American Women Quarters Program next year. The George Washington Crossing the Delaware quarter is a one-year subtype that is being struck for circulation at the Philadelphia and Denver Mint facilities. The quarters from these facilities were released into circulation in April. Examples struck at the Philadelphia Mint have been appearing in tills and rolls in the eastern parts of the country.
This coin may be the last to sport John Flanagan’s bust of Washington which has appeared on the quarter’s obverse, in one size or another, since 1932.
The American the Beautiful (ATB) Quarter Program, which saw 56 quarters honoring national parks and historic sites in all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia, came to a close earlier this year with the January 4 release of the quarter honoring the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama. The program’s authorizing legislation, Public Law 110-456, mandated that the quarter’s obverse design “shall revert to the same design containing an image of President Washington in effect for the quarter dollar before the institution of the 50-State quarter dollar program,” while the reverse design adopted after the conclusion of the ATB program would depict George Washington crossing the Delaware River to attack British forces at Trenton on Christmas Day, 1776.
17 proposed designs for the new reverse were submitted for review by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) and the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), numbered GWD-01 to GWD-12. Washington and the American troops crossing the Delaware appear from a number of angles, mostly viewed from outside the boat bearing the general across the river. Two of the designs only depict Washington.
The CCAC reviewed designs for the new quarter at its October 15, 2019 meeting and “overwhelmingly recommended” the design designated GWD-12. Two of the CCAC’s members, Robert Hoge and Dr. Dean Kotlowski, “both commented on the historical accuracy of the clothes, lantern boat, etc.” according to the Committee’s meeting minutes.
On October 17, 2019, the CFA reviewed the proposed designs and agreed with the CCAC, recommending GWD-12. The CFA’s meeting minutes noted that Washington crossing the Delaware was the 1999 New Jersey State quarter’s theme, and that “the Mint has therefore asked the submitting artists to avoid repeating this imagery and instead develop a new artistic concept for this historic event.” Some CFA members expressed support for design 2, but 12 was ultimately selected.
In the letter submitted to the United States Mint on October 24 with the CFA’s recommendation, Committee Secretary Thomas Luebke explained that the CFA selected GWD-12 “in order to avoid the perception of duplicating his [Washington’s] portrait on the obverse.” Luebke also said that the CFA also “suggested adding more dramatic ice floes to the depiction of the river.”
Staff at Mount Vernon, Washington’s home in northern Virginia, were also consulted and recommended designs 1, 1a, 2, and 12, according to the CFA’s meeting minutes.
The Washington Crossing the Delaware quarter will also see John Flanagan’s obverse design returned to its pre-1999 size, and the return of the inscriptions that occupied the obverse until the start of the 50 State Quarters Program. Flanagan’s bust was shrunk 15% for both the 50 State Quarters and American the Beautiful Quarters programs to allow “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and the denomination to be moved to the obverse beginning in 1999. Both inscriptions were restored to the reverse on the Washington Crossing the Delaware quarter.
George Washington appears at left in (apparently accurate) period garb, pointing a sword across the Delaware River with one of the boats plying the icy waters in the background. Text reading “CROSSING THE DELAWARE” appears to the right of Washington, while “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” wrap around the upper rim, while the denomination arcs around the bottom.
The new reverse was designed by U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program artist Benjamin Sowards and was sculpted by U.S. Mint medallic artist Michael Gaudioso. Sowards has designed a number of coins and medals for the U.S. Mint since 2015. Sowards’ initials appear on Washington’s cape at left, while Gaudioso’s appear at right, on a sheet of ice near the shore.
The Washington Crossing the Delaware quarter is identical to its predecessors, consisting of a copper-nickel clad exterior bonded to a core of pure copper. It weighs 5.67 grams and has a diameter of 24.26 millimeters.
The Mint released the Washington Crossing the Delaware quarter into circulation on April 5.
The Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020 outlined the quarter’s future after 2021. The American Women Quarters Program, which will honor five notable American women with commemorative quarters each year, will run from 2022 to 2025 and the common obverse design will not feature Flanagan’s long-serving bust of Washington. Laura Gardin Fraser’s bust, favored by the Commission of Fine Arts in the design competition in 1931 and which appeared on the obverse of the Washington Bicentennial $5 gold half eagle in 1999, will replace it.
Gardin Fraser went on to design a number of the issues in the classic commemorative coin series. Her husband, James Earle Fraser, designed the Indian Head nickel.
In 2026 a new design honoring the 250th anniversary, or semiquincentennial, of the signing of the Declaration of Independence will be introduced, bookending the American Women Quarters Program.
A new quarter series honoring youth sports will be introduced in 2027 and will run until 2030.
Listings for the 2021-P quarter began appearing on eBay shortly after its release. Prices for an individual coin generally sit between $1 and $2.
Collectors and others interested in the new quarters should be checking their change or buying rolls; a 2021-P Washington Crossing the Delaware quarter will probably appear after some diligent searching.
2021’s second quarter may not be a sought-after rarity but is notable because it is a one-year type, features Flanagan’s bust at full size for the first time in more than 20 years, and it might well be the last to feature that bust.