Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The (Totally Expected) Return of No Quarter (Part IV)

Ah, spring is in the air, the rhododendrons are blooming, and  it becomes once more, time to review this year's crop of National Park Quarters. Long ago and far away, I started examining the State Quarter series, and once that was laid to rest, a NEW series, called the "America the Beautiful" series, launched. The rules were similar - each state (and a handful of colonial properties) gets a coin to push one of their scenic national parks, forests, memorials,  or what-not. For some states this is a bigger challenge than others, but all have showed up with something.

As is usual, we rate this year's crop of National Park coins on design - Here's the rating system.
Cool = A
Not Bad = B
Kinda Lame = C
Very Lame = D
The Wyoming State Quarter = E
Bonus points given for scenes that make sense, are easily recognizable, and have a good feel to the touch.This year's crop is OK, but not really spectacular. Let's dig in.

White Mountain National Forest  - New Hampshire

Yeah, it's a mountain. And it IS white (well the drawing is - I suppose the coin would be silver. So we at least have truth in advertisting going on.

And the carving is not particularly BAD - in fact, the bracketing birch trees could give the coin a good feel against the thumb, a ridge for the center white space of the view of the mountain. But the subject matter? I mean there feels like there are a bunch of states that do the forested-view-with-large-landform thing both in the previous series and in this one. All that is missing is some form of native wildlife in the foreground to give it a feel of animation.

And New Hampshire is probably hedging its bets. Its state quarter had the Old Man On the Mountain, which then COLLAPSED. I think they're just taunting the mountain here to fold in on itself.

Rating: B (Not Bad).

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial - Ohio

Did anyone think of Lord Nelson when they saw this one? I know I did. Guy in naval uniform. Tall Doric column. I mean, if this was a contest of Pictionary, the answer would be - Nelson's Column.

But no, this is Admiral (well, Master Commandant) Perry, who is OUR admiral for the age of sail, whose middle name literally WAS Hazard, and who gave us a victory on Lake Erie during the War of 1812, facing off against the mightiest navy in the world, primarily because a) the mightiest navy in the world was busy fighting Napoleon  and b) the mightiest navy in the world couldn't GET to Lake Erie because NIAGARA FALLS was in the way.

But hey, a win's a win.

And though we are in the bicentennial period for that war (and the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie is September 10th, so get you Battle of Lake Erie card orders in NOW). We aren't talking a lot of about the war. which sort of indicates who we really thought won it. Canada on the other hand is excited about it, and they weren't even a nation yet. I'm kind of interested to see next year if anyone even mentions the burning of the White House (except FOX, of course, which will blame Obama for not keeping us safe).

And the coin is celebrating mixed messages - Perry's Victory AND the Peace Memorial. Military Victory AND the fact we've had a long, relatively peaceful border ever since. And it is ironic to note that this is set in Ohio, which doesn't HAVE a land border at the present with Canada.

So it is a coin dripping with irony, right down the fact that the visitor center for this island-based park (reachable by ferry or airplane, when Jet Blue is flying) is delayed to open because of the sequester. But quarters they can afford.

Rating: C  (Kinda Lame).

Great Basin National Park - Nevada

OK, Nevada doesn't have a lot to work with here. I would have thought that Hoover Dam would be in contention, since it IS a National Historic Landmark, but then maybe they would have had to share it with Arizona if they did. So they have the Great Basin, which is notable for being miles and miles of miles and miles.

And yet, they've done very nicely. The choice of the bristlecone pine looks a bit like it is going with Treebeard to take on Saruman at Isengard, but the use of different textures is going to be nice for the feel of the coin, and pushing it one side makes the static object more dynamic. 

So yeah, in a modest year, this is one of the better ones.

Rating: (Way Cool).

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine - Maryland

Another entry in the War of 1812 theme of this year, this one commemorating the crystal entity from Star Trek attacking the Fort, before being scared off by the Omega Glory (double geek points for getting that one). 

OK, it really the shelling of Fort McHenry by the British, though its not. From the notes it REALLY is showing traditional fireworks going off during the "Defender's Day" celebration of the fort. So you get the flashiness, when really the fort and the British Ships were shelling each other at long range.

So this is another win from the Wo12 - the British, fresh from burning Washington (Thanks, Obama!) moved onto Baltimore, sailing up the Chesapeake. They were foiled by land batteries, a line of sunken ships, and the fort. Neither side got close enough to do significant damage to each other, but the British were foiled, and in the process we got a poem that was later welded to an earlier drinking song to become the Star Spangled Banner. 

The coin itself, despite the fireworks, feels a little flat at first blush. The explosions work from an eyes-half-closed sort of look, and while the flag is good (indeed, when was the last time you saw a flag on the coin - some old bicentennial quarters?) the buildings are just sort of squatting there. 

Rating: C (Kinda Lame)

Mount Rushmore National Memorial - South Dakota

So here's a challenge - what do you do when the state quarter bogarts the killer view of your most memorable feature? Arizona pulled things off nicely by shifting the view of the Grand Canyon entirely delivering a superior coin. South Dakota, on the other hand, gave us this.

Jefferson's nose. 

They gave us a close-up of Jefferson's Nose. Actually, it is an in-process shot of carving Jefferson's face (working on those baggy eyelids) while the scaffolding behind supports the almost unrecognizable face of Washington. The carving of the monument is a cool thing, but the series is America the Beautiful, not Nostrils of the Founding Father.

This one is honestly WORSE than the State Quarter, with its giant pheasant flying over the classic view of the memorial, and that takes some doing. It takes a recognizable icon and hides it entirely. That takes work.

Rating: D (Very Lame)

That wraps this year's batch, and next year has a whole heaping helping of natural features. I predict we will see trees, mountains, and the occasional local wildlife. 

More later,