Coin collectors say design could have been better

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 11, 2002

Mark Richter, president of the Vicksburg Coin Club, points to some of the state quarter designs that fellow club member William Mathews submitted to the Governor’s Office. Richter said the magnolia design selected for Mississippi’s state quarter does not reflect the history of the state or its people. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[03/10/02]With the Mississippi state quarter due to come out later this year, some local coin enthusiasts say they are not happy with a design selected by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

Mark Richter, president of the Vicksburg Coin Club, said the 50 State Quarters Program sponsored by the U.S. Mint is an opportunity for Mississippi to educate the rest of the nation about the state, but that the selected design doesn’t say anything about the people of Mississippi.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“I guess we’re trying to educate people about our nickname,” Richter said.

Mississippi’s quarter will be the fifth released this year and is expected to be in circulation in October. The design depicts the blossoms and leaves of two magnolias with the inscription “The Magnolia State.”

Mississippi adopted the magnolia as the state flower in 1952.

“It’s nice if that’s what you want on your quarter,” Richter said. But, “I just wanted something that said we were here.”

The Mississippi quarter will be the 20th in the series of quarters featuring depictions of images from each state on one side of the coin. The program began in 1999 as a way to honor the history, traditions and symbols of each state.

Richter said members of the local coin club decided to get involved in the selection of Mississippi’s design in April 2000, but couldn’t find a way to get their ideas heard.

“The Governor’s Office was besieged by the flag controversy and I believe he viewed the quarter the same way,” Richter said.

The selection process set forth by the U.S. Mint names the Governor’s Office of each state as the contact for submitting ideas.

In the process, governors are invited to submit design concepts or themes that represent their states. Drawings of the various concepts are reviewed by the U.S. Mint, a Citizens Commemorative Coin Advisory Committee and the Fine Arts Commission. The designs are then sent to the secretary of the treasury for final review and approval.

The treasury secretary then selects three to five designs that are forwarded to the governor for final selection through a process determined by the governor. The treasury secretary gives the final approval for the selected design for each state.

A spokesman for Musgrove said three designs were sent to the Governor’s Office and that Musgrove selected the magnolia.

“This quarter will be here a century from now,” Richter said. “It will go to the four corners of the world.

“It was an opportunity to tell the rest of the world about us,” he said.

Richter said the local coin club submitted several ideas but never got a response. Ideas submitted by William Mathews, a member of the club, included the Sprague, the Robert E. Lee and Natchez steamboats and renderings of various Mississippi architecture including the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg, the Mississippi Capitol and the Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson.

“All of those would have been superior to me,” Richter said.

Other quarters due to be released this year are Indiana’s, which has a race car and an outline of the state; Louisiana’s, with a pelican and an outline of the nation with an outline of the area in the Louisiana Purchase; Ohio’s, showing an outline of the state, an astronaut and the Wright Brothers’ plane, and Tennessee’s, with musical instruments.

Guidelines established by the mint prohibit a portrait or bust of any person, state flags and state seals.

Considered appropriate are state landmarks, landscapes, historically significant buildings, symbols of state resources or industries, official state flora and fauna, state icons and outlines of the state.

“Most people were more involved in the flag, but I bet the quarter will outlast the flag,” Richter said.

Last year, Mississippi drew national attention during a vote on whether to replace the state flag. A committee appointed by Musgrove had selected a new flag design to replace the Confederate battle emblem that has been part of the banner for 108 years.

Mississippians voted to keep the traditional state flag by a margin of nearly 2-1.

“I guess every design has the potential for controversy,” Richter said.

Born in Walnut, Mo., Richter moved with his family to Vicksburg when he was 4 years old. He joined the Vicksburg Coin Club in 1990 when he became interested in coin collecting.

The U.S. Mint will release a new quarter about every 10 weeks until 2008. The quarters are released in the same order that the states joined the union.