Delaware Can Relax; The New National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Series Will Celebrate “National Sites” Too
On July 9, the US House of Representatives unanimously approved the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008 (H.R. 6184). An identical version of this bill (S. 3214), and bearing the same name, was introduced to the Senate on June 26 and has received strong support.
Having identical bills introduced with strong traction in both houses at about the same time is a signal denoting broad support and no serious opposition. Now that H.R. 6184 has sailed through the House, Senate approval seems a foregone conclusion. If you were a betting person, you’d be betting that this one is in the bag.
The proposed new commemorative coin series was inspired by, and unabashedly capitalizes on, the tremendous popularity of the 50 States Quarter® Program.
An attractive feature of the program is the large seigniorage (or profit) representing the difference between the face value of the coins and the costs of their mintage.The U.S. Mint estimates that the 50 States Quarters® Program will end up garnering about $3.7 billion more for the U.S Treasury than regular quarters would have. Substantial gains have resulted from public hoarding/collecting of coins placed in circulation as well as the sale of uncirculated proof and silver coins to collectors.
The 50 States Quarter® Program will end this year, and then the new six-quarter D.C. and U.S. Territories Quarter Program will begin and end next year. In addition to The District, the five territories to be honored with coins in this series include the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
After 2009, in the absence of a newly authorized commemorative series, the reverse (“tails”side) of the quarter dollar coin is scheduled to revert to its original design of 1998.
If the supporters of the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008 get their way, there won’t be any reversion to the 1998 design. Instead, there will be five new national park quarters issued each year beginning in 2010. There is even a clause in the bill that grants the Treasury Secretary (who has ultimate authority over the U.S. Mint) to mint a second round of national park quarters at his discretion. This means that new national park quarter designs could be coming out every year for 20 years, or until almost 2030.
Under terms of the proposed legislation, each state, each U.S. territory, and the District of Columbia would be represented in the series. The DC stipulation is something that the bill’s sponsors are quite proud of. The District was not represented in the 50 States Quarter® Program, but was instead relegated to the awkwardly labeled D.C. and U.S. Territories Quarter Program. This time around, The District is to be brought into the comforting embrace of a program that doesn’t “discriminate against” DC because it is not a state.
This will make lots of people in our nation’s capital very happy. You’d have to be living under a rock to be unaware that the District lusts after statehood and seeks every possible arena in which to be treated like a state.
What about poor Delaware, which has no national park? Not to fear, folks. You see, the proposed legislation – a copy of which you can see at this site -- doesn’t require a state to actually have a national park in order to qualify for an America’s Beautiful National Parks quarter dollar coin. This is Congress we're talking about, remember?
Here’s how the relevant specification of the bill takes care of a state or territory that has no national park (or which has, thanks to “park barrel politics,” nothing that actually deserves to be a national park):
The selection of a national park or other national site in each State to be honored with a coin under this subsection shall be made by the Secretary of the Treasury, after consultation with the Secretary of the Interior and the governor or other chief executive of each State with respect to which a coin is to be issued under this subsection, and after giving full and thoughtful consideration to national sites that are not under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior so that the national site chosen for each State shall be the most appropriate in terms of natural or historic significance.
Did you read that section carefully? I mean, did you pick up on the fact that what Congress really means by national park is “national site”? Senator John Barrasso [R-Wyoming], who introduced S. 3214, has referred to the legislation as the "park and sites bill."
Just for the fun of it, I’m going to ask a Congressional spokesweasel to explain just exactly what a “national site” is. I don’t care what he says. I just want to watch him squirm.
BTW, if Delaware wants to have a "real" national park to commemorate in the new coin series, there’s time for the state’s Congressional delegation to call in their political chips. Since coins are to be issued in the order in which the state's national park/site was established, Delaware’s turn should not come up for some years.
Wyoming, home of Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park (1872), will be the first state* honored with its very own national park quarter. Dick Cheney couldn’t be happier. I’ll bet he’s on the phone right this minute jawboning for S. 3214.
[* Update: First release honors will actually go to Arkansas, whose Hot Springs reservation (redesignated National Park in 1921) was established in 1832 , four decades before Yellowstone was established. Ed.]