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Update: Women on U.S. Quarters Series

Women’s Suffrage Centennial silver dollar. (Image courtesy U.S. Mint.)

Women’s Suffrage Centennial silver dollar. (Image courtesy U.S. Mint.)

Two weeks ago, I sent a letter to U.S. Mint Director David Ryder. It urged the maximum possible public involvement in selecting which American women deserve consideration to individually appear on the 20 circulating quarters that will be struck from 2022 through 2025.

I have since received more details from the U.S. Mint’s Press Office on their process of selecting the women to be depicted on these coins, the guidelines as to who may qualify for consideration, and further details on the coin designs.

As specified in the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020, which became law on Jan. 13, 2021, the concept for this coin series specifies:

“(C) SINGLE PROMINENT AMERICAN WOMAN ON EACH QUARTER DOLLAR.—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.

“(D) ISSUANCE OF QUARTER DOLLARS EMBLEMATIC OF UP TO FIVE PROMINENT AMERICAN WOMEN EACH YEAR.—The designs for the quarter dollars issued during each year of the period of issuance described under paragraph (4) shall be emblematic of up to five prominent American women.

“(E) SELECTION OF PROMINENT AMERICAN WOMEN GENERALLY.—The selection of a prominent American woman to be featured under this subsection shall be made by the Secretary—

“(i) in accordance with a selection process developed by the Secretary;

“(ii) after soliciting recommendations from the general public for prominent women designs for quarter dollars; and

“(iii) in consultation with the Smithsonian Institution American Women’s History Initiative, National Women’s History Museum, and the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus."

The selection process for which women might appear on these coins has now been defined.

The three organizations named in (E)(iii) above are assigned to come up with a preliminary list of women who might be featured on these coins. So far as I know, there is no requirement that this preliminary list be limited to 20 names. It is not specified how long this process will take. However, since the first quarter will appear in 2022, it is obvious that this is likely to be ready within a few months. Relatively quick action is necessary in order to allow time a) to finish the process of identifying the 20 women to be honored on the quarters, b) for Mint staff to prepare possible designs, c) for the candidate designs to be evaluated by the U.S. Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, the US Commission of Fine Arts and potentially the general public, d) for the final designs to be selected and e) for Mint staff to prepare the master dies to strike the coins.

This preliminary list of names provided by these three organizations will be published in the Federal Register. At that time, the public will be welcome to submit any comments, which could include suggestions for names of other women who might deserve consideration to appear on these coins. Assume that this public comment period will last perhaps a month.

The final decision as to which 20 women will be honored on these coins will come from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. She has discretion on whom to consult in making this decision.

The information on which women might be considered for these coins is that, by statute, U.S. coins cannot feature any living person. Therefore, any woman who could be depicted would have to have died before Treasury Secretary Yellen announces her decision a few months from now. It is true that a handful of living people have previously appeared on U.S. coins in the past (such as then Alabama governor T. E. Kilby on the 1921 Alabama Centennial Half Dollar, then Senator Joseph T. Robinson on the 1936 Arkansas Centennial-Robinson Half Dollar, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver on the 1995 Special Olympics World Games Silver Dollar), exceptions are not planned for this series.

When the designs are created, again by statute, they may not be that of a head and shoulders portrait or of the bust of the women.

I sent emails to all three of the designated organizations to learn how the public might contact them to suggest women that might be selected for these coins. As this is being written, I only heard from the spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution American Women’s History Initiative. The reply acknowledged that the organization would be involved in preparing the preliminary list of women to appear on the coins but did not suggest any way for the public to contact them. Instead, the response suggested that people contact the U.S. Mint with their ideas of which women merit consideration.

The Bipartisan Women’s Caucus is made up of all female members of the U.S. Congress, both Senators and Representatives. Therefore, if you so choose, you may wish to contact any one of 146 women who are current members of Congress to suggest names for consideration to be featured on this coin series.

Already, there have been 52 specific females who have been recognized on a total of 54 U.S. coins or on the 1980-1984 American Arts Commemorative Gold Medallions. Out of these, 36 were on the 2007-2016 and 2020 First Spouse $10.00 half-ounce gold bullion coins that were issued in conjunction with the release of the corresponding U.S. Presidential dollars. In this series, suffragist Alice Paul appeared on a 2012 issue where Chester Arthur was not married while serving as president, and Frances Cleveland appears on two different 2012 issues to correspond to Grover Cleveland’s non-consecutive terms as president.

The other specific females who have already been honored on U.S. coins or the American Arts Medallions were:

1893 Queen Isabella on the Isabella Quarter

1937 Ellinor Dare and her daughter Virginia Dare (first Caucasian born in British North America) on the Roanoke Half Dollar

1979-1981, 1999 Susan B. Anthony on the Susan B. Anthony Dollar

1980 Marian Anderson on the Half-Ounce Gold American Arts Medallion

1981 Willa Cather on the Half-Ounce Gold American Arts Medallion

1984 Helen Hayes on the 1-Ounce Gold American Arts Medallion

1995 Eunice Kennedy Shriver on the Special Olympics World Games Dollar

1999 Dolley Madison on the Dolley Madison Dollar (who in 2007 also appeared on a First Spouse issue)

2000-date Sacagawea on the Sacagawea/Native American Dollar

2003 Helen Keller on the Alabama Statehood Quarter

2019 Mary Golda Ross on the Native American Dollar

2019 Annie Jump Cannon on the American Innovation Dollar for Delaware (name only, no portrait)

2020 Elizabeth Peratrovich on the Native American Dollar

2020 Septima Poinsette Clark on the American Innovation Dollar for South Carolina

2021 Christa McAuliffe on the Christa McAuliffe Dollar

I do not have any information as to whether any of the females who have previously appeared on these coins or medallions might merit appearing on any forthcoming quarters or if they might not be considered since they have already been honored.

When the preliminary list of women appears in the Federal Register, I will pass along that information so that more people will know they have the opportunity to contribute the names of other females who may merit recognition on the forthcoming quarters.

Patrick A. Heller was honored as a 2019 FUN Numismatic Ambassador. He is also the recipient of the American Numismatic Association 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, 2017 Exemplary Service Award, 2012 Harry Forman National Dealer of the Year Award and 2008 Presidential Award. Over the years, he has also been honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild (including twice in 2020), Professional Numismatists Guild, Industry Council for Tangible Assets and the Michigan State Numismatic Society. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at www.libertycoinservice.com. Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio archives posted at www.1320wils.com).