Monday, January 28, 2008

No Quarter (Part X and Last)

Long-time readers of this blog know that I've spent the past few years following the development of the Fifty States Quarters program. The project, from the US Mint, gives each state the back of a quarter to promote their chunk of the country. The various quarters range from lame to not bad, but raise desperate hopes that state lawmakers are better at lawmaking than at graphic design. Their previous efforts have been mocked here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

So as a reminder, here are the rules that you may have a lame quarter:
If you have to remind people what your state looks like, you may have a lame quarter.
If you use a variety of different-sized objects, you may have a lame quarter.
If one of those objects is produce, you may have a lame quarter,
If you have to label the illustration, you may have a lame quarter.
If, after you label the illustration, people still think it is something else, you DEFINITELY have a lame quarter (I'm looking at YOU, Delaware!).

The rating system will be, from top to bottom
Cool = A
Not Bad = B
Kinda Lame = C
Very Lame = D

So we go out with a whimper, not a bang, with the last five quarters.

So actually, after all this time, here is a strong recommendation for showing your state's outline on the coin. The state bird ("Swallowtail Flycatcher"), flying over the state wildflower ("The Indian Blanket") against the state backdrops ("Whole Lotta Nothing"). Some enterprising soul at a TV station in OK City is going to take a bag full of these out on the street and ask passersby to identify what they're looking at. And not get many correct answers. This was your shot, Oklahoma! We weren't expecting Rogers and Hammerstein, but we had such hopes!

Rating - C - Kinda Lame

New Mexico
Now New Mexico screws up in the opposite direction - they go for the old reliable "Shape of the State" approach, which is a pity because a) their shape is that of a rectangle drawn on an Etch-a-sketch, and b) because it minimizes the REALLY COOL symbol from the state flag. Let's be honest, with its "Zuni Sun", New Mexico has the coolest state flag, hands down (plus, it fulfills the true purpose of state flags - it can be drawn by school children - Not like, say, PA or WA).

But they blow it by dropping it on their lumpy square state-shape. And to make matters worse, toss in the state motto - "Land of Enchantment". Since this came out, Wisconsin wants to be known as the "Land of Abjuration", and Arkansas as the "Land of Invocation/Evocation".

Rating - C - Because you have a REALLY COOL state flag, and you blew it!


For the five of you out there that have never visited the Grand Canyon, let me tell you the secret of this natural wonder. If you arrive in the late afternoon, when the sun is just at the right angle to pick out every outcropping and set ablaze every layer of sandstone, it is one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

If you arrive ten minutes before that, it is a flat and dull as a postcard. And this shot was taken twenty minutes before that magic time.

Now, shrinking an entire canyon onto a coin is a challenge, but they make matters worse by reinforcing the myth that the desert runs all the way up to the edge. Actually, the northern side (the "tourist side") of the canyon is dominated by scrubby little pines. You have to go further south for saguaro and barrel cactus. Separating with a banner telling us what we're looking at (remember the rules above), doesn't really help.

Rating = C - Kinda Lame, so take off those rainbow shades.


Alaska produces the nicest coin of this year's collection, which is sort of like saying the Seattle Seahawks are the best team in the NFC West. They get all the pieces right - single image, something that is connected with the state involved, and it can be forgiven if they put their forgettable slogan on the coin, because it needs the exposure. I mean, "The Great Land" sounds like something on a D&D map from 1983.

But I will notice Washington's state coin has a big salmon on it, while Alaska's coin has as an EVEN BIGGER bear, EATING the salmon. And you thought the whole Ted Stevens/Maria Cantwell thing had blown over.

Rating = B - Not Bad


Celebrating the 20th Century, the Hawaii quarter shows King Hominahomina, first and greatest of the Klingon Emperors, and the traditions Klingon greeting "Your State Motto Has No Honor".

Actually, this is a wonderfully subversive little coin, because while the first coin in the series highlights Delaware's contribution to freeing ourselves from the British King, this coin actually puts ANOTHER King on the coin. In fact, I don't think we've PUT any royalty on our quarters yet, and this opens the door to more monarchs in the future. Good going, Hawaii!

Rating - B - Not Bad

And so the long national nightmare has at a last come to a close, and for those who are interested - no, I'm NOT going to do it with the Presidential Dollars series, if only because all the carvings so far give the presidents these empty, soul-dead eyes.

So you're on your own. Have fun,

More later

More later,