Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The story of Michigan's state quarter

From 1999 through 2008, the United States Mint produced a series of fifty quarters, each representing one of the nation's fifty states. The Mint released five new quarters every year, basing their order on the date each state entered the union (or, in the case of the thirteen original colonies, the order each state ratified the Constitution). Michigan's turn came in 2004, when, as the 26th state, its quarter became the 26th design the Mint released. This post is about the Michigan quarter---who designed it, how it was chosen, and what it symbolizes about the Great Lakes State.

Michigan's state quarter

The Mint let each state select the design for its quarter, but released a series of guidelines for designers to follow. No living person could appear on a state quarter, nor could logos or symbols for businesses, organizations, religious groups, or sports teams. Because coins typically circulate for thirty years, each design would have to be just as relevant to people in the 2030s as it was to people in the early 2000s. The design also had to represent the experiences of all of a state's inhabitants, not just those of a few, and, of course, it could not be inappropriate or controversial.

Michigan began the design process in 2001, three years before its coin's release. Governor John Engler established the Michigan Quarter Commission, which solicited designs from state residents. The commission received 4,300 submissions, which it narrowed down to designs that represented five themes. Each theme featured an outline of the state of Michigan, but also included elements that set it apart from the other options. Ultimately, the governor would choose which design appeared on the quarter, but state officials conducted an unofficial poll to determine which design Michiganders liked most. The designs and poll results (as well as my unsolicited opinions) appear below.

 Michigan State Outline with Great Lakes and State Icons: 14,333 votes.
This quarter received the most votes, which surprises me; the design is okay, but it seems a little cluttered.

Michigan State Outline with the Mackinac Bridge and Automobile: 10,141 votes.
This design is my favorite, as it seems the most "balanced" out of all five themes.

Michigan State Outline with Great Lakes and Automobile: 7,641 votes.
I like this one too, but that is one big car.

Michigan State Outline with Great Lakes: 6,298 votes.
The eventual winner; it's not bad, but seems kind of boring.

Michigan State Outline with Great Lakes and the Mackinac Bridge: 2,166 votes.
 This looks scary, like the bridge is overtaking the state.

Governor Jennifer Granholm eventually chose "Michigan State Outline with Great Lakes" as the winning design and, after some minor tweaking, the coin was released on January 26, 2004---the 167th anniversary of Michigan's statehood. The design commemorates the fact that Michigan is the only state to touch four of the five Great Lakes, as well as the fact that so much of Michigan's history and economy has been tied to these "inland seas." No matter where a person goes in Michigan, he or she is never more than 85 miles from a Great Lake, so despite the fact that residents preferred other designs, the simple "Great Lakes" theme probably does the best job of portraying something that's an important element in the lives of most Michiganders.

No comments:

Post a Comment