The United States Mint has released the list of 56 sites to be featured in the upcoming America the Beautiful Quarters Program. The first five coins in the new series will be released next year. What locations made the list? There are some familiar names and perhaps a surprise or two.
First, why 56 sites? According to the U. S. Mint, the series will feature
circulating quarter-dollar coins with reverse designs emblematic of a national park or other national site in each state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Beginning in 2010, the designs on the reverse (tails side) of the United States Mint America the Beautiful Quarters will rotate five times each year, with the final (56th) coin in the series being released in 2021. The coins' obverse (heads) will feature a restored version of the familiar 1932 portrait of George Washington, including subtle details and the beauty of the original model.
The quarters will be issued sequentially each year, in the order in which the featured site was first established as a national park or site. This creates plenty of opportunities for park history buffs to continue the debate about the "first national park," but don't overlook the fine print in the selection criteria: "a national park or other national site." That solves the problem of what to do about states or territories that don't have a NPS unit.
So...which state—and "national site"—is first out of the chute?
The first five coins in the series will feature Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas), Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming), Yosemite National Park (California), Grand Canyon National Park ( Arizona) and Mount Hood National Forest (Oregon).
The remaining list features plenty of iconic national parks, including Glacier (Montana), Denali (Alaska) and Olympic (Washington). A few other sites are not quite as famous: Kisatchie National Forest (Louisiana), Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (Delaware) and El Yunque National Forest (Puerto Rico.)
Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner approved the list of sites recommended by the United States Mint, after consultation with the governor or chief executive of each host jurisdiction and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
"Since our Nation's founding, our coins have celebrated American ideals such as liberty and justice, our rich history and heritage, and the great Presidents and other leaders who have guided us," Salazar said. "I am pleased that these new quarters will now celebrate America the Beautiful, the spectacular natural wonders that are found in our national parks, wildlife refuges and public lands."
"From Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon to White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, America's landscape is blessed with unmatched beauty," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who oversees the National Forest Service, said. "Our national forests are national treasures and honoring them is an important step in preserving them for future generations."
There's been plenty of speculation about which locations would be selected, and the curiosity hasn't been limited to coin collectors. Local chambers of commerce, state tourism directors and others in the travel and business community have been awaiting the announcement—and look forward to the eventual release of the coins themselves.
What's their interest? For sites which are not as well known, perhaps it will be a case of "If you mint it, they will come." The Connecticut coin will feature Weir Farm National Historic Site, and a press release from Governor M. Jodi Rell noted,
“Weir Farm is an outstanding example of Connecticut’s natural beauty and historic past and it is an ideal spot to be honored in the Mint’s new series of quarters... Weir Farm is a treasure – long-hidden – that this program will give a share of the recognition it deserves.”
Perhaps these new coins will provide a bit or two of economic stimulus for each of the featured sites, although I hope financial recovery won't depend too heavily on this program, since the last coin in the series won't be available until 2021. It will showcase Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Alabama), which was established on November 6, 1998.
If you'd like to see the complete list of sites selected for the America the Beautiful Quarters Program, click here. Prices for proof sets and similar subscription orders for the series from the U. S. Mint haven't been finalized. Information on placing orders is available from the United States Mint (1-800-USA-MINT ) or on-line at the mint's website.