US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Sept. 21, 2020: Next year's quarters

The America the Beautiful series will end in 2021 with the release of a single quarter dollar commemorating the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama. A "permanent" design of Washington crossing the Delaware will be released later in the year, unless Congress intervenes.

Original images courtesy of the United States Mint

As I write this, Labor Day has passed and half of the month of September is gone. A new year, 2021, is just three-and-a-half months away, which, for the U.S. Mint, means getting ready for next year’s circulating coinage.

One of questions that remains unanswered (publicly, at least) is what the 2021 quarter dollars will look like. The America the Beautiful quarter dollars program ends in 2021 with a single release — the coin for Alabama, commemorating the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. Under the provisions of the act that authorized the America the Beautiful quarters program, the production of multiple quarter dollar designs will cease and a single design will be introduced, showing George Washington crossing the Delaware River on the night of Dec. 25–26, 1776, before the Battle of Trenton. The Commission of Fine Arts and Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee reviewed candidate  designs for the 2021 quarter dollar in October 2019. Mint officials should be revealing the approved design soon.

The obverse of the coin would revert to its pre-1999 appearance, bearing the portrait of the 1932 to 1998 quarters.

However, Congress still has time to approve a replacement for the America the Beautiful program, which would upend the Mint’s 2021 planning.

Two bills are before Congress, H.R. 1923 and S. 2427, both called the Women’s History and Nineteenth Amendment Centennial Quarter Dollar Coin Program Act. If either piece of legislation passed, it would authorize a replacement program very similar to the State, U.S. Territories and America the Beautiful quarter dollars programs that preceded it. “This bill requires the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue quarter-dollar coins in commemoration of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote. The design on the reverse of each coin shall be emblematic of the accomplishments and contributions of a prominent woman who was a resident of a state, the District of Columbia, or a U.S. territory,” according to the text of the House version.

The proposed program would begin in 2021 after the end of the America the Beautiful series and would supplant the Washington Crossing the Delaware design.

The House bill has 167 co-sponsors; the Senate version, 13. Those numbers suggest that the originators of the bills have not found a lot of support for the measures.

Mint officials have floated their own ideas for a future circulating quarter dollar program. Mint director David Ryder has touted a 10-year program starting in 2022: four coins issued one a year through 2025 bearing design depicting animals; a 2026 coin celebrating the 250th anniversary of the founding of the nation, with commemorative designs also used on the other denominations; and starting in 2027, another four quarter dollars, one annually, bearing designs representing youth sports, would be issued. A 10th coin with an animal or youth sports theme would also be issued under this proposal.

Ryder’s plan would require congressional approval to enact.

The 116th Congress will end its session in December, so little time remains for legislators to act on the bills. For those collectors who have grown tired of multiple designs every year, letting the bills die in December sounds like a good conclusion. For those who support the congressional bills, there is still time to contact your members of Congress to ask for their sponsorship.
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