The 2002 Ohio quarter dollar was released 10 years ago this spring.
I stumbled across the press packet from the coin’s March 18, 2002,
release ceremony while cleaning out a bookcase the other day and was
struck by how much things have changed.
The U.S. Mint Information Kit contained a 3.5-inch floppy disk of
coin images. The floppy technology has been superseded at least twice
since then. I couldn’t make it work if I wanted. I’ve bought three
computers since 2002 and none will accept a floppy.
Coin dealer Tom Noe, chairman of the committee that chose the
coin’s design, sits in prison now, convicted of a numismatic-related
crime. Then Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, the man who appointed Noe, avoided
prison in an unrelated violation of Ohio’s ethics laws.
Hundreds of ordinary people, at least one notable artist and
countless schoolchildren submitted designs for the Ohio quarter dollar
in 2000. A committee that included Noe was appointed by Taft to manage
the process. The committee decided early on that Ohio’s coin would say
something about the state to future generations.
Artist John Ruthven’s drawing of Ulysses S. Grant and his horse,
Cincinnati, didn’t make the cut. Neither did one showing Perry’s
Victory and International Peace Memorial on South Bass Island in Lake
Erie. Aviation was a natural for the Ohio quarter dollar. The state is
home to the Wright brothers; John Glenn, the first American to orbit
the Earth; and Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong, the first man on
The committee approved a design that showed a 1905 version of the
Wright Flyer and an astronaut in a spacesuit superimposed on an
outline of the state. While the astronaut’s face is not visible, it
was generally understood the image is based on a photo Armstrong took
on the lunar surface of fellow astronaut Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr.
When Ohio sent the design to the U.S. Mint, the legend BIRTHPLACE
OF AVIATION, appeared on the design. When it came back, it read
BIRTHPLACE OF AVIATION PIONEERS.
Ohioans thought North Carolina, the site the Wrights chose for
their first flight because of favorable winds, pulled strings to get
the change. U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White said at the time that
North Carolina had nothing to do with it. The addition of the word
“pioneers,” he said, was a grammatical decision.
“Technically, aviation can’t have a birthplace,” White maintained.
“People can have birthplaces, but things can’t.”
Things have changed, too, for the rejected Battle of Lake Erie
monument. That 352-foot-tall Doric column will get its moment in the
numismatic sun next year as part of the America the Beautiful quarter
Gerald Tebben is editor of the Central States Numismatic Society’s Centinel.