Arizona has long been represented in the minds of other Americans by the Grand Canyon and the saguaro cactus. Now, that’s the way the state will be represented in their pockets as well.
Gov. Janet Napolitano will announce today that she has chosen a design for the new state quarter that includes perhaps the two most recognizable features of the state. Never mind there are no saguaros near the canyon. The artist rendering takes a bit of license.
The scene on the quarter also includes a rising or setting sun: Not even members of the special commission that picked the design were sure.
And should anyone be unclear about whose coin it is, it will include the name of the state, the 1912 date it was admitted to the union, and the motto “The Grand Canyon State” emblazoned on a banner.
Napolitano’s choice also happens to be the top choice of the nearly 113,000 people who picked their favorite design in an online survey, by phone, fax, mail and a suggestion box at the Capitol. The winning design gathered nearly twice the number of first-place votes than designs featuring just the saguaro or just the Grand Canyon.
A fourth design commemorated the Navajo code talkers and their role in World War II. A fifth showed an illustration of John Wesley Powell’s expedition through the Grand Canyon.
But it will be a year before Arizonans will get to see the state’s coin. The U.S. Mint is planning a May 2008 release date.
All five finalists were selected by the Arizona State Quarter Commission, which reviewed various suggestions, both for content and, for lack of a better word, “drawability.” The coins had to be able to depict the scene with consideration for both the limited size of the quarter and the restrictions on how high or deep the stamping could be.
And some ideas were rejected for political or other reasons.
For example, one commission member suggested a Hopi Kachina might be an effective way to represent something unique to Arizona. But that idea was jettisoned, not only because it meant singling out one tribe but also because of the belief that there were still a lot of raw feelings about the partition of Navajo and Hopi lands and the tribes’ forced relocations.
And a suggestion to use San Xavier del Bac mission south of Tucson was dismissed because it remains an active Catholic church.
Even the decision to select Powell making his way down the Colorado River was fraught with concerns over political correctness. Committee members insisted the inscription should say that Powell was “exploring” the Grand Canyon, as American Indians might take offense at the suggestion he “discovered” what they knew was there all along. The U.S. Mint began issuing state quarters in 1989. The release dates are based on order of entry into the Union; Arizona, as the 48th state, was trailed only by Alaska and Hawaii.