Tuesday, June 03, 2008

US Mint releases Arizona quarter with Grand Canyon, Saguaro cactus featured in design

By Paul Davenport Associated Press

– The U.S. Mint has released the Arizona state quarter, with Mint and state officials staging a ceremony at the State Capitol that drew thousands of people to get some of the first coins publicly available.

“It’s awesome. It represents Arizona, definitely,” said Chandler barber Douglas Morales.

Gov. Janet Napolitano and Mint Director Ed Moy gave free quarters to children, while many adults purchased rolls of quarters and special commemorative packages, some of which Wells Fargo transported to the Capitol via stagecoach.

“It’s a big day with the issuance of the new quarter and we do collect them. We’ve got to add to our collection,” said Ed Phillips, a meteorologist who was at the Capitol with his wife and two sons.

The Arizona quarter is the 48th in the 10-year series featuring all 50 states. The coins are issued in order of statehood, and quarters for Alaska and Hawaii will complete the series later this year.

Moy said the design of the tail’s side featuring the Grand Canyon and a Saguaro cactus should be instantly recognizable as representing Arizona and popular with collectors and others because of the nature features.

“It’s beautiful,” said Julie Collums, a high school history teacher from Mesa. “I like that it captures the whole essence of Arizona and not just a part of it.”

Collums, waiting to purchase quarters for friends of her mother, was near the head of a line that grew to include more than 1,000 people.

Capitol Police estimated that 5,000 people attended the event, with 2,500 or so there at any one time, said Sgt. Hollis Korey.

“It’s a great endorsement of the design that we have,” said public relations consultant Farrell Quinlan, a former Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry official who served on the state’s quarter commission.

Napolitano picked the design from among five finalists recommended by the commission, which sifted through 4,200 of written ideas submitted by state residents. Mint artists converted the ideas into visual representa­tions, and Moy on Monday presented Napolitano with the artwork for the chosen design.

The combination design was the overall favorite on 112,830 entries submitted to an online poll conducted by Napolitano’s office.

Moy said 500,000 Arizona quarters will be produced. Production for previous quarters have ranged from 416,000 (Oklahoma) to nearly 1.6 million (Virginia), according to the Mint’s Web site.

The other designs considered for the Arizona quarter showed just the Grand Canyon, 19th Century explorer John Wesley Powell boating down the Colorado River through the canyon, a Saguaro-dominated desert scene and Navajo Indian “codetalkers” serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.

Officials said rolls of quarters would be available at Wells Fargo banks - the bank was a sponsor for the quarter’s launch - starting Monday and at other locations in coming weeks.

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