In a fitting tribute to the rollout of the latest coin in the
America the Beautiful Quarter series, a gentle rain fell steadily as a
hula troupe performed three ancient kahiko dances that date to before
Western contact, on Aug. 29 in Volcano, Hawaii.
The coin honored, the 2012 Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park quarter
dollar, features on the reverse an eruption of Kilauea volcano’s Pu‘u
Rainfall fits ceremony
Many kahiko hulas have religious significance in ancient Hawaiian
culture. Invited guest Sen. Daniel K. Inouye reflected on this
religious significance in his brief address to a crowd of some 300
unfazed by the constant rainfall, by saying “ua [rain] is a blessing
of the gods.”
Inouye’s invoking the Hawaiian pantheon of gods and goddesses,
with nary a mention of any other religion, hewed closely to the
traditions of a land and its indigenous people that existed long
before Capt. James Cook’s arrival on Jan. 18, 1778.
“This is a great achievement,” Sen. Inouye said. Now in his ninth
six-year term as a U.S. senator, Inouye is the most senior senator in
Congress and president pro tempore.
“This was where Hawaii was born,” Inouye said. “Pele was our mother.”
Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. Hawaiian cultural
practitioners are permitted to conduct religious ceremonies in the
park and leave offerings to Pele and other Hawaiian gods. No others
are permitted this activity. The park surrounds the active Kilauea
volcano, and extends to the 13,600-foot summit of the massive Mauna
Loa volcano. The summit of Kilauea is at a 4,000-foot altitude.
The park’s Kilauea volcano has been erupting since 1983, one of
the world’s longest eruptive phases of any volcano.
The pouring of $500 in newly minted 2012 Hawai‘i Volcanoes
National Park quarter dollars marked the end of the official
ceremonies. Sen. Inouye, Denver Mint plant manager David Croft and
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park superintendent Cindy Orlando each held
traditional bottle gourds, one of the world’s oldest domesticated
plants. Each gourd was partially filled with the new coins. The three
dignitaries simultaneously emptied the gourds onto a 4-foot-long
acacia koa platter of the type used at big luaus.
The reverse of the 2012 Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park depicts
the Pu‘u O‘o cinder cone blasting out a fountain of lava. The reverse
was designed and sculptured by U.S. Mint sculptor-engraver Charles L.
Vickers. His initials, CLV, are located on the lower right flank of
the Pu‘u O‘o cinder cone.
Experienced volcano watchers have noted that the design compresses
inward the sides of the cinder cone as it actually appears in numerous
photographs taken in the 1980s. However, the design’s use of various
sizes of blobs and dots to represent flying lava corresponds closely
to photographs of the flight of lava bombs in an actual eruption event.
Reverse inscriptions are HAWAI’I VOLCANOES, HAWAII (the latter
without the diacritical okina), 2012 and E PLURIBUS UNUM.
The coin’s obverse features the 80-year-old design of John
Flanagan’s portrait of George Washington. The U.S. Mint states in its
official press kit that the design has been “restored to bring out
subtle details and the beauty of the original model,” a tacit
admission that the “spaghetti hair” design used in Washington’s
portrait in recent years is not widely admired by collectors.
Obverse inscriptions are UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, LIBERTY, IN GOD
WE TRUST and QUARTER DOLLAR.
The Denver and Philadelphia Mints were scheduled to each strike an
estimated 34 million circulating 2012 Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
Lining up for quarters
After the ceremonies, virtually everyone in attendance lined up to
exchange cash for $10 rolls of 2012 Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
Quarters. The constant rainfall did not dampen enthusiasm for the new
coins, several people told Coin World.
Volcano Village resident Colleen Aviles purchased five rolls with
her grandchildren Maddix and Lindsey Heller. Lindsey is a preschooler;
Maddix is a kindergarten student. “I got him out of school so he could
attend,” she said. Aviles has been collecting State quarter dollars
and assembling maps with one coin for each state for her grandchildren.
It is a tradition she said she plans to continue with the “America
the Beautiful Quarters Program.”
HSF Credit Union employees staffed eight work stations at the
exchange program, which took less than an hour to complete. People
initially were limited to 10 rolls each. But several people went
through the line several times; and some had assistants also going
through the line.
After everyone in the line had gone through once, dealers began
buying rolls in bulk.
The HSF Credit Union staff dispersed approximately $24,500 in new
2012 Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park quarter dollars, said Alexander
R. Kay-Wong, marketing specialist for the credit union. “The demand
was a great deal bigger than expected,” Kay-Wong said.
Inspecting the coins
Close inspection by the author of a random sample of 440 of the
2012 Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park quarter dollars revealed a range
of strikes from mirrored Prooflike surfaces on both the obverse and
reverse, to several weakly struck obverses showing excessive weakness
on the inscriptions surrounding George Washington’s portrait, to a
surprising number (32 coins) showing what appears to be clash marks
from clashed dies. On these latter strikes, the obverse portrait of
Washington bears “flame-like” rough patches on his neck that match
elements in the lava fountain on the coin’s reverse.
Most of the reverses in the 440-coin sample were relatively free
of contact marks. None of the coins had obverses free or even nearly
free of contact marks.
This observation squares with dealer Dan Tegtmeyer’s experience.
Tegtmeyer said he’s attended every ceremony of the 14 “America the
Beautiful Quarters” released to date. None of the release 25-cent
coins were of high quality, Mint State 65 or above, he said. Tegtmeyer
bought 60 rolls of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park 25-cent coins.
Most in attendance bought five rolls or fewer, like Hilo Medical
Center registered nurse Michael Froebel.
“I bought my coins for when friends come over and for Christmas
cards,” he said. “They’re an inexpensive way to share Hawai‘i.” ■