Soon consumers will be walking around with a little piece of Georgia in their pocket.
The U.S. Mint on Monday is slated to introduce a quarter into circulation that honors Cumberland Island National Seashore.
On the front is the iconic silhouette of George Washington in profile that has festooned the coin since 1932. On the back is where the Peach State leaves its mark.
Perched at the center is a snowy egret, a year-round fixture at the site and all along the Southeast’s Atlantic shore, with its wings spread as if it’s about to take flight. It stands in front of salt marshes, another prominent feature of the barrier island.
The Mint and National Park Service are hosting a launch event Thursday in Kingsland to commemorate the new coin.
“It’s beautiful,” Jill Hamilton-Anderson, the chief of interpretation and education for Cumberland Island National Seashore, said of the quarter. “It certainly brings a lot of recognition and attention to the park, and it’s really special.”
Part of the Mint’s America the Beautiful series, the Georgia quarter was years in the making.
Congress in 2008 passed a law directing the Mint to strike five new quarters a year representing a national park or site in a different state or territory. Georgia’s comes at the tail end of the 12-year rollout.
The Mint consulted with the governor’s office to identify national parks or sites they would like to honor, as well as the U.S. secretary of the interior. Once Cumberland was approved by then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, a team of artists pitched designs for the quarter that sought to capture the spirit of the site.
Those designs were reviewed by the staff at Cumberland, as well as a pair of federal artistic advisory committees. The groups eventually settled on the egret design, which was composed by Indiana-based artist Donna Weaver.
Weaver, who has no personal ties to Georgia, said she sought to “interpret the essence of the park” and prompt people to visit it.
The scenes featured in the America the Beautiful coins are supposed to showcase “dignified designs of which the citizens of the United States can be proud” that are also distinctive to the site. But finding images that translate well onto a quarter’s 24.26-millimeter diameter isn’t necessarily easy.
Intricate, all-over landscapes tend not to look good on coins because they’re too busy for the eye, said Weaver, who worked as a sculptor and engraver for the Mint until her retirement in 2006. And the scene has to be easily legible on metal once it’s stamped at the Mint’s facilities in Denver and Philadelphia.
Weaver settled on the egret and worked on the design for several weeks in 2016, first sketching the scene out on paper and then scanning it into Adobe Photoshop so she could tweak the different elements.
“I wanted him big with his wings outstretched because I thought it would be dramatic,” she said of the egret. “Then you have to set him on something, so I got some curved branches that I kind of liked. The shape of that picks up on the shape of the coin.”
Established in 1972, the 9,800-acre Cumberland Island National Seashore is known for its undeveloped beaches, marshes, sea turtles and feral horses.
“This is art in your pocket,” said Megan Sullivan, who managed the Georgia project for the Mint. “It’s not just a simple design. A lot of time and effort goes into it.”
The quarter is the Mint’s second honoring Georgia over the past 20 years. It struck a coin in 1999 as part of its 50 State Quarters program that featured a peach, a silhouetted outline of the state and Georgia’s motto.
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