By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for CoinWeek …..
 

The end of the road is just around the corner for the America The Beautiful (ATB) Quarter series, a 12-year-long program in which 56 different national parks and monuments were showcased on the reverse of the Washington quarter.

Since 2010, each of the 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., and the outlying United States territories, have had their 15 minutes of numismatic fame by way of the ATB series, which followed the wildly successful 50 State Quarters program that launched in 1999 and ran through 2008; a one-year-only series in 2009 honored D.C. and the five United States territories.

But now we stand at a crossroads. The last of the America The Beautiful Quarters, honoring Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama, is to be issued in early 2021. Then what?

That’s the question for which even the United States Mint is seeking answers, as no new law has been signed that authorizes yet another long-running quarter reverse design program to step in where the ATB Quarters leave off. For many years, the idea was floated that following the issuance of the last ATB Quarter in 2021 a reprisal of the same series would kick in honoring new landmarks from national parks in each of the 50 states. But that initiative never received the necessary seal of Congressional approval.

Now, with the last handful of ATB Quarters scheduled to be released over the next 18 months, the Mint finds itself facing a multitude of possibilities for the quarter heading into the third decade of the 21st century and beyond.

For a time, many thought the Washington quarter would revert back to its original heraldic eagle reverse as seen from the debut of the type in 1932 until 1998, the year before the first 50 State Quarter coin was unveiled.

Others have even pulled for a complete overhaul of the Washington quarter as we know it, swapping out the John Flanagan/William Cousins obverse bust for one designed by gifted sculptor-engraver Laura Gardin Fraser. Her proposed Washington bust for the quarter was originally selected for the 25-cent piece in 1932 but was supplanted by John Flanagan’s design upon an executive decision by then-Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon. Fraser’s Washington obverse design was finally coined in 1999 on a 1999 $5 gold commemorative marking the bicentennial of George Washington’s death.

While there appears to be no change coming to the obverse of the Washington quarter, there is a change — possibly several — slated for its reverse.

At this point, Chief of Corporate Communications Thomas V. Johnson confirms what we will see on the reverse of the 2021 quarter following the release of the Tuskegee Airmen ATB piece.

“We will be carrying the quarter the rest of that year with a reverse theme of Washington crossing the Delaware River during the American Revolution,” Johnson said.

However, he is unable to confirm if that will mean a new, original design or a reprisal of the Alfred Maketsky reverse as seen on the 1999 New Jersey quarter, dramatically capturing George Washington and the Continental Army crossing the Delaware River on a frigid night in December 1776 before the Battle of Trenton in the American Revolutionary War. While efficiency suggests the US Mint will revisit the Maletsky design, inspired by a famous 1851 oil painting by Emanuel Leutze, Johnson says the wording of the mandate is open to any design conveying Washington’s crossing of the Delaware.

Beyond 2021, the US Mint has to decide whether to keep the Washington quarter reverse static (as had been the case for most of the coin’s history) or to actively engage collectors — and the rest of the public — by having them look for new designs each year.

“We have done a number of focus groups—both with coin collectors and non-collectors, and what we have learned is Americans are interested in coins with animals and sports as subjects. These are themes that will also resonate with children, and it’s important that our coin programs appeal to youth. It’s also crucial that our programs appeal to a broad range of people,” Johnson said.

He also says that the philosophy of implementing new designs for the quarter is important for a variety of reasons.

“The benefits of our themed quarters programs are twofold,” said Johnson. “To create long-term growth for the hobby and generate revenue for the US Treasury.”

Yet, there is some evidence suggesting the public doesn’t want to wait a decade to finish a collection.

“We also want to implement shorter programs – programs that don’t necessarily take 10 or more years for collectors to complete.”

One particularly intriguing numismatic initiative may come in 2026, when the United States turns 250 years old.

“We are also researching ways that the nation’s 250th birthday in 2026 could be observed with a theme reflected on all circulating denominations,” Johnson said, suggesting a program similar to the 1776-1976 Bicentennial designs we saw on the United States quarter, half dollar, and dollar coins for the nation’s 200th birthday. He cautiously reminds us that “… all of these ideas are concepts that have not yet entered into the legislative process.”

Whether discussing the topics of animals, sports, or national birthdays, Johnson says feedback from focus groups has been integral to informing the US Mint’s general direction on coin designs moving forward.

“But it’s too early to say exactly how that input might fit into the process of advancing new themes forward. We certainly want folks to feel a sense of relatability and ownership when it comes to future programs.”

The key with these or any other designs is getting Congressional approval, a challenging task in a divided and contentious Capitol Hill.

“Thankfully, we have a strong legislative affairs team informing our decisions and helping us get the word out to lawmakers and their staffs on the Hill. There is a lot of proposed legislation competing for their time and attention on any given day, so taking these concepts to actual sponsored legislation will not be without challenges, but the excitement about where the Mint is going is palpable.”
 

13 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a shame you didn’t do the minimum work of reading the ATB legislation. it’s Crystal clear that the Secretary of the Treasury had the authority to do a second run of ATB quarters and identifies the design for the quarter at the end of either run.

    All the secretary would have had to do is send a notice to Congress and tell the mint to start the process for run 2 by the end of the ninth year of the program.

    `(B) SECOND ROUND AT DISCRETION OF SECRETARY-
    `(i) DETERMINATION- The Secretary may make a determination before the end of the 9-year period beginning when the first quarter dollar is issued under this subsection to continue the period of issuance until a second national site in each State, the District of Columbia, and each territory referred to in this subsection has been honored with a design on a quarter dollar.
    `(ii) NOTICE AND REPORT- Within 30 days after making a determination under clause (i), the Secretary shall submit a written report on such determination to the Committee on Financial Services of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate.

    And

    `(8) DESIGNS AFTER END OF PROGRAM- Upon the completion of the coin program under this subsection, the design on–
    `(A) the obverse of the quarter dollar 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; and
    `(B) notwithstanding the fourth sentence of subsection (d)(1), the reverse of the quarter dollar shall contain an image of General Washington crossing the Delaware River prior to the Battle of Trenton

  2. They need to go back to a retro design or a new old look if you will like a a washington obverse with a bust reverse or something along them lines give people something to collect , and some detail to a modern worn out design

  3. Personal opinion, they should open it up to the public for ideas in a competition-like format for new ideas/designs, no matter what they decide

  4. I love the 5 oz ATB Quarter series 5 state coins each year from 2010 -2020 and one coin in 2021.
    I would like to see it come to an end and move on to another 5 oz silver series/denomination. After 10 years i would like to see the completion of my series. I would not ever sell my SP70 set or my MS69 set I will cherish them to the day I die. GOOD JOB US MINT

  5. A new image for Washington would be welcome. A shorter time span for the series would be very good. The wide latitude on the state quarters program eliminated some options because animals, events and many random things were chosen. Maybe a new Washington image coupled with a patriotic event would work four times a year for a chosen number of years.

  6. This is a time when America needs to pull back together, with all the protesting and the virus we need unity, put something that stands for something, President Washington on the front and the American flag on the reverse, Things that stand for the United States of America, and unity, And maybe a motto like the Kentucky flag has on it, (United we stand divided we fall) Maybe the US needs to adopt this motto also and stand behind it. But never leave of (In God we trust) that’s what our nation was built on.

  7. I would like to see the Mint consider a 2021 5oz ATB Quarter series of the U.S Territories after the Tuskegee Airmen Historic Site role-out.

  8. I hope they start a new series soon! I really like the ideas of the flags or capitol buildings. However, I would like to get in on a competition too! State mottos are good, but so many have the same motto just like many have the same bird. I do think that a classic look would be good. Like, say, a state outline with flag, flower, and possible bird neatly arranged. Most people don’t know the shapes of states unless they live nearby them. Then again, most collectors would! A fun idea would be like an original food product that was “born” in each state! Coca-Cola, Little Debbie, etc. every state has something! Unfortunately, it would be a hard decision for some states. Maybe they could do a collage! I mean, how could Tennessee choose between Little Debbie, Lays, Maxwell House, and even cotton candy??

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