Wednesday, February 24, 1999

[coin designs]
Coin designers: Eric Ware, Cristine Barilleaux, Mara McCalmont, Jean Taylor Timme and Casey Walter
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Coin ideas show pride

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ask people to design the backside of Ohio's quarter and it unleashes the pride they feel for their family and where they live.

        I found this out after asking readers to send in sketches of what they think should be on the tails side of Ohio's 25-cent piece.

        The U.S. Mint plans to issue the coin in 2002. It's part of a series of quarters that includes a coin for all 50 states. Designs for Ohio's 25-cent piece must be ready and approved by Gov. Bob Taft in fall 2000.

        Since the man in the governor's mansion is a hometown boy and has other things on his mind, I figured he could use some help in the coin department. So I asked readers to come to the rescue.

        To sweeten the pot, I made two promises. Every entry would be forwarded to Ohio's Bicentennial Commission, keep er of all suggestions for the state quarter. And since I'm such a big spender — with The Cincinnati Enquirer's money — each of the top-10 designs would receive a bright, shiny new quarter.

        Sixty-eight entries rolled in from schoolkids, working stiffs and retired folks. I was amazed by the talent out there.

        But then, maybe I'm easily amazed. I can barely draw stick figures.

        Mara McCalmont, a Mount Adams graphic designer, became one of my top-10 prize winners with an intricate layout for a coin honoring the Underground Rail road Freedom Center.

        “During the time of slavery,” she told me, “Ohio was the land of freedom. What a great thing for a state to be known for.”

        Another winner, Betty Jo Hitchcock, a retired telephone operator from Winchester, Ohio, won her quarter with a pen-and-ink scene from Uncle Tom's Cabin.

        “I chose Eliza holding her baby and crossing the ice-covered river,” Betty Jo said. “She came to Ohio to be safe.”

        Casey Walter wants a surveyor's transit on the state coin. “Ohio is the site of the first public land surveys,” said the White Oak man who's earning his surveyor's license. Even though he admitted that his design “kinda borrows from the logo of the Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio,” he still gets a quarter.

        Those three winners aside, the most popular design fea tures came in one color, red. Either red-winged cardinals, the state bird, or scarlet carnations, the state flower.

        “I really haven't ever smelled a carnation,” Zach Katchmen told me. “But I thought it would look nice on the coin.”

        Zach lives in Montgomery. The fourth-grader is one of my top-10 prize winners.

        Like the design of another winner — Eli Patrice, a Milford fifth-grader — Zach's coin was dominated by a huge cheese coney.

        “With onions,” Zach noted. “But without mustard. I don't like mustard with coneys.”

        Buckeyes were almost as big as carnations and cardinals. Parts of the state tree appeared on 15 designs. Some used the whole tree. Others picked leaves, branches and twigs attached to the buckeye's hard, smooth seeds that look like some deer's eyeballs.

        Christine Barilleaux, a sixth-grader from Hamilton, covered all of her state bases. Her winning quarter carries Ohio's bird, flower, tree, map and motto, “With God, all things are possible.”

        She picked the motto “because it's true,” and, the official symbols “because Ohio is a pretty cool state.”

        Barb Stringer and her daughter, Rachel, a Loveland third-grader, “just knew everyone else was going to use the state bird or flower.” So they came up with a coin featuring the Wright brothers' first airplane putt-putt-putting by a rocket to the moon.

        “We went with something no other state has, Wilbur and Orville Wright and Neil Armstrong,” Barb said. “In just 66 years, from 1903 to 1969, these people from Ohio were first in flight and first on the moon.”

        Give those two Stringers a new quarter.

        Jean Taylor Timme of Monfort Heights capitalized on the Wright brothers and family ties for her prize-winning design. Her great-uncle, Charles E. Taylor, built the engine that put the Wrights in the air and into the history books. His image, handlebar mustache and all, plus a drawing of his history-making engine grace the coin.

        “My great uncle died a pauper,” Jean said. “But without him, the Wrights and the rest of the world would never have gotten off the ground.”

        Eric Ware wants to go to art school after he graduates from Withrow High School this year. “I need something that gets me recognized,” he told me. So he's hoping his winning design, with a bald eagle perched atop Ohio's great seal, lands on the state quarter.

        “If someone asks, "Can I see something you've done?' I can tell them: "Take some change out of your pocket and look at the back of the state quarter.'”

        If Alex Dabney ran the state, the flip side of Ohio's coin would have his quarter-winning design of a guy reading a book and leaning against a tree. The words “land of opportunity” hang from the tree's branches as if they were the boughs of a weeping willow.

        “I tried to keep it simple,” said the Anderson Township ninth-grader. “That way, people could get the point and realize they should take advantage of all the opportunities the state has to offer.”

        Alex put into words what I felt after looking after all of the entries. Each was drawn with pride — pride of self, pride of the state millions call home. That's worth more than any coin of the realm.

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