I was blown away when I had the opportunity to hold a Cumberland Gap quarter in my hand at the Central States Numismatic Society convention this past week.
It was an ordinary uncirculated clad quarter of the kind that you eventually will get in change.
It is not silver. It is not proof. The coin I held was not in a slab.
For me it was a personal encounter of a kind I most enjoy. I held it by the edge and took my glasses off to get a good look at the detail.
The design is of a pioneer with a long rifle cradled in his arms. He has a broad brimmed hat on his head. He is not wearing ruffles or some other costume of leadership, but ordinary clothes that the brave individuals who settled the West wore.
“First Doorway to the West” is emblazoned in a gap in the mountains that are depicted.
Is it permissible these days to be proud of our history? Is it permissible to like an ordinary coin? Is it permissible to like a design that was created recently and not 100 years ago?
Those men and women who traveled through the Cumberland Gap all those many years ago faced more difficulties and hardships in life than I ever have or ever will.
I think the artist nailed it.
Hope, danger and the indomitable American spirit are embodied in a tiny little coin that too few ordinary people will actually bother to glance at.
That is why I hope collectors will do what they are so good at doing and take a good long look at it.
Whether you like the design or not is less the point than actually examining a real coin honoring real people and absorbing its message.
Here is the link to the Mint website.
You can buy one now or do what I am doing and just look at it and then wait for it to reach you in circulation.
The Cumberland Gap quarter is my idea of the best of America's coin programs.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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