Monday, February 01, 1999

You can put your stamp on the quarter

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati's man in the governor's mansion faces an awesome task. Bob Taft must decide what to stick on the backside of Ohio's quarter.

        Thanks to our federal lawmakers, every state gets its own 25-cent piece.

        Beginning this year, a new quarter will be issued by the U.S. Mint every 10 weeks for the next 10 years. That works out to about five quarters per year. The coins go into circulation in the order the states were admitted to the union.

        The quarter honoring Delaware, the first state, is already out. Ohio is No. 17 on the list.

        My fellow Buckeyes, we need to get on the stick.

Simple cents
        By the Mint's timetable, the quarter for Ohio won't start showing up in pocket change until after April in the year 2002.

        Before it can be minted, however, the Ohio quarter needs a design for its backside. A big blank won't do.

        The governor has to submit several design choices, no fewer than three and no more than five, 18 months before the quarter comes out. So he must make his decisions by the fall of 2000.

        That may seem like an eon away. But the year 2000 is just around the corner. The first fall of the new millennium will be here before we know it.

        “Relax,” said Steve George, executive director of Ohio's Bicentennial Commission. “We are quite a ways from that date. So, nothing official has been set up.”

        That means no commission has been appointed. No designs officially solicited. No entries judged.

        Some unsolicited designs have reached Steve George's desk. As he gears up for the state's 200th birthday in 2003, his office is also the repository for any and all ideas for the Ohio quarter.

        So far, he has collected 225 designs, 224 from schoolkids. And one from a Springboro man. His round work of art includes a spaceship going around the moon in honor of Neil Armstrong, a riverboat, parts of the state's seal and a biplane the Wright brothers built to take mankind into the world of flight.

        “Most of the designs use the state bird, the cardinal, or the state flower, the carnation,” Steve George said. “And some are way too complicated.

        “What the mint is looking for,” he added, “is a design that's simple.”

Design your own
        The design of the first state quarter is pretty simple. The head of the Delaware quarter features George Washington's profile — as will all the states' coins. On the tail side, a man on horseback replaces the eagle. The rider is Revolutionary War patriotCaesar Rodney. He battled thunderstorms, cancer and asthma as he rode from Delaware to Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

        Four more state quarters come out this year. Pennsylvania put a woman standing atop an outline of the state on its coin. New Jersey's quarter features part of the painting“Washington crossing the Delaware.” Georgia has a peach, oak sprigs and the state motto. Connecticut chose a historic oak tree.

        We can do better.

        Ohio could have a cheese coney or a bar of Ivory soap, since symbols of industry are allowed.

        Landmarks like the Tyler Davidson Fountain are OK. So are architecturally significant buildings like Music Hall and Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

        The Wright brothers' plane could be on the back of the coin. But not a portrait of the brothers. The Mint prohibits two-headed coins.

        The heads of living people are out, too. Marge Schott, Pete Rose and John Glenn can't be on the Buckeye State's 25-cent piece.

        This is where you come in. Tell me what you want on the tail side of Ohio's quarter.

        Send me your entries. Mail or fax will be fine.

        I'm offering prizes. So please include your name, address and phone number. The 10 best entries receive a bright, shiny, new quarter.

        I'll reprint the best designs in this space within two weeks. Then all the entries go off to the Bicentennial Commission. So you can have a chance to make a real coin.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.