Editor's Note: Following is a letter sent to David Ryder, director of the United States Mint, from columnist Patrick A. Heller. A response had not been received as of press time.
February 10, 2021
Dear Director Ryder:
Whenever there has been a major change in a nation’s coins or currency, that event has prompted a surge of interest in the numismatic hobby. When the 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar debuted, many members of my family and I joined millions of others beginning collections. After the Statehood Quarter series debuted in 1999, the US Mint issued a statement that 100 million people were collecting the coins.
At the US Mint Numismatic Forum in October 2019, you and your staff laid out a “wish list” for coin design changes over the coming decade. I was thrilled to see that enactment of The Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020 last month incorporated much of the wish list presented at the Forum.
The introduction next year through 2025 of US quarters depicting up to 20 individual prominent American women is almost certain to spark another round of new collecting interest among the American people.
To maximize widespread interest in these coins, I encourage as much public involvement as possible. The legislation’s section on the process of selecting the 20 prominent American women includes a section that states in part, “after soliciting recommendations from the general public for prominent women designs for quarter dollars.” This language does not make it clear as to whether the general public will be included suggesting which women to honor or will limited to only have input on the actual designs.
When I checked with Michael White at the Mint’s press office, he indicated that this was an issue that may not yet be resolved. While the legislation does name the Smithsonian Institution American Women’s History Initiative, National Women’s History Museum, and the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus as being involved in selecting the 20 women to honor on the quarters, my hope is that any citizen or resident can contribute their suggestions.
I served on the Michigan Quarter Commission appointed by our state’s governor to come up with ideas for what should appear on Michigan’s 2004 Statehood Quarter. As part of my involvement, I contacted area schools to ask teachers to conduct class projects to obtain student ideas. From my own efforts, almost a thousand students submitted their suggestions. For the forthcoming quarters recognizing prominent American women, I think this would be another wonderful opportunity for coin and currency collectors, dealers, and local to national numismatic organizations to solicit the names of those worthy of being recognized on such coins.
In determining which women might be eligible to be depicted on these coins, I would like to share the guidelines on who might be considered. For instance, for the Presidential dollar series, a president could not be depicted until two years after death. Another potential guideline might have to do with whether the women need to have been born in what is now the United States of America. In my communication with Michael White, he indicated that such guidelines might not yet be settled.
The guidelines that are provided in the legislation state, “The design on the reverse side of each quarter dollar issued under this subsection shall be emblematic of the accomplishments and contributions of one prominent woman of the United States, and may include contributions to the United States in a wide spectrum of accomplishments and fields, including but not limited to suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and arts, and should honor women from ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds.” To this list of categories, I consider economic empowerment as also deserving of consideration. As an example, I would consider entrepreneur Sarah Breedlove (popularly known as Madam C. J. Walker) as being a worthy candidate to appear on one of these coins.
I realize that costs and logistical difficulties may present challenges for the US Mint to seek suggestions from the general public as to which women should be honored on these coins. If it could be of any help, I am confident that coin organizations from the American Numismatic Association and possibly regional, state, and local coin clubs may be willing to help shoulder the burden.
In hopes of soliciting even more ideas on stimulating interest in the coin and currency collecting hobby, I plan to publish a copy of this letter as a forthcoming column in Numismatic News.
From your past communications I understand that you also have an interest in fostering the numismatic hobby, subject to the legal and financial constraints imposed on the US Mint and your position. Please push for the maximum public involvement in this exciting new series of US quarters. If you have any questions on the points raised in this letter, you are certainly welcome to send me an email at email@example.com. Keep up the good work and thank you for your attention.
Patrick A. Heller
Liberty Coin Service
400 Frandor Ave.
Lansing, MI 48912