With a choice of two designs, there is an attempt in Puerto Rico to make a third choice for its territorial quarter.
With literally days to go before its 2009 territorial quarter design has to be finalized to go before the Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coin Advisory Committee, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is making a bold move to have the famous Arecibo Observatory as the distinguishing feature on the coin’s design.
It was not originally an option.
About 200 days from now, the new Puerto Rican coin of whatever design will go into production, and then into circulation following the Hawaii state quarter that concludes the 50-state series, which has been in continuous production since 1999. Designs on the quarter’s reverse have changed every 10 weeks for 10 years.
In 2007, Congress altered the formula and made good a promise to add the District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and four other insular territories: Guam, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico conducted a concept selection process that provided two different concepts. The U.S. Mint produced two original candidate designs for each concept, focusing on aesthetic beauty, historical accuracy, appropriateness and coinability.
The quarter from Puerto Rico has two designs, each of which uses a Spanish phrase. For the first, “Palacio de Santa Catalina,” the fortress that serves as the governor’s residence, is depicted. It is Puerto Rico’s most important as the oldest government building in continuous use in the Americas, dating to 1533.
The second design bears the phrase “Isla del Encanto” (the enchanted island), and shows a fortress parapet and Puerto Rico’s national flower, the flor de maga. The maga is closely related to hibiscus but unlike the common hibiscus, the maga is a tree.
The commission recommended alternative No. 2, commenting that “the sentry box from the fortifications of old San Juan provides the more simple and legible composition for a coin design and as a representation of the island’s history.”
With the two competing visions, the government of the island took matters into its own hands. The Senate of Puerto Rico approved a resolution on June 30 urging the U.S. Mint to select an image of the Arecibo Observatory for Puerto Rico’s commemorative quarter.
Support was widespread. The final design, whatever it is, should be public shortly.