US Coins

U.S. Mint artists prepare to design end of series

The Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse in Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is one device suggested for Kansas’s 2020 America the Beautiful quarter dollar.

Image courtesy of

The U.S. Mint’s engraving staff and members of the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program have been tasked with executing proposed designs for the final six quarter dollars in the America the Beautiful Quarters Program.

The Mint’s Design and Management Team prepared design concepts and themes to be used as a guide when developing the proposed designs for the five quarter dollars to be issued in 2020 and the final coin to be issued in 2021, closing out the 12-year, 56-coin program.

Behind the scenes of the WWI silver dollar”Designer abandoned original reverse design late in the process Also in our Oct. 30 issue, Mike Diamond presents an interesting question in his Collectors’ Clearinghouse column: How many errors can one coin have?

The 2020 designs are to represent National Park of American Samoa, Weir Farm National Historic Site (Connecticut), Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve (U.S. Virgin Islands), Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (Vermont), and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve (Kansas).

The 2021 quarter dollar will represent Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama.

The quarter dollar program authorizes coins to reflect national parks and historic sites in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands and Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

The U.S. Mint provided the following guiding narrative:

In preparation for the design development of the 2020-2021 America the Beautiful quarters, the United States Mint worked with the official liaisons for each of the six sites to identify the concepts that best represent each location.  These concepts, as well as some background information on each site, will be presented today for discussion and comment and to gather additional suggestions the committee would like the artists to consider as they begin design development. 

2020, 2021 America the Beautiful coins site background information

National Park of American Samoa (American Samoa)

Located some 2,600 miles southwest of Hawai'i, the National Park of American Samoa is one of the most remote national parks in the United States. The national park includes sections of three islands —Tutuila, Ta'u, and Ofu. Almost all of the land area of these volcanic islands — from the mountaintops to the coast — is tropical rainforest. The park’s area totals 13,500 acres, of which 4,000 are underwater. You will not find the usual facilities of most national parks. Instead, with a bit of the explorer’s spirit, you will discover secluded villages, rare plants and animals, coral sand beaches, and vistas of land and sea.

The people and villages of American Samoa play an important part in helping to manage the park. This is accomplished thru the work of local partnerships and village chiefs. These members of Polynesia's oldest culture have been keenly attuned to their island environment, holding it to be precious and managing it communally. Samoans and their villages even offer a few guest facilities via the parks homestay program. Also, in keeping with the meaning of the word Samoa — “sacred earth” — the park helps protect “fa'asamoa,” the customs, beliefs, and traditions of the 3,000-year-old Samoan culture.

Here in the heart of the South Pacific is a world of sights, sounds, and experiences you will find in no other national park. On Tutuila, American Samoa’s largest island, lofty volcanic ridges overlook the deep blue waters of Pago Pago Harbor. Additionally on Tutuila, a scenic drive skirts the harbor and the southern side of the island, while the northern coast remains wild and rugged. The other two islands that the park extends to (Ta'u and Ofu) are less inhabited than Tutuila and have a more untouched quality about them.

The park preserves the only mixed-species Paleo-tropical rainforest in the United States which includes a unique habitat for flying fruit bats. Within the park’s waters are pristine Indo-Pacific coral reefs vibrant with a variety of fish species, sharks and sea turtles. Additionally, the park protects hundreds of plant species in five distinct rain forest communities: lowland, montane, coast, ridge, and cloud.  Among the fauna visitors can see are tropical birds and the endangered flying fox — a fruit bat with the wingspan of up to 3 feet.

Through discussions with representatives from National Park of American Samoa, we have identified the following possible devices for the quarter:

Special Natural Features

·       Indo-Pacific Coral Reefs

·       Paleo-tropical Rainforest

Cultural & Historic Features

·       American Samoans in traditional dress

·       Village Chief

·       Village Chief Talking Stick

·       Samoan Princess

·       American Samoans performing the Siva dance

·       Representations of community/village life as portrayed in recent art project at the site by village children

Animals (primary device)

·        Flying Fox/Samoan Fruit Bat

Animals (secondary device)

·        Sea Turtles

·        Colorful Kingfisher

Potential inscription

·        Sacred Earth Fa'asamoa

Weir Farm National Historic Site (Connecticut)

Weir Farm National Historic Site was associated with the development of American Impressionism during the height of the artistic movement at the turn of the 19th century. The park was home to three generations of American artists beginning with Julian Alden Weir who acquired the farm in 1882. Weir was a leading figure in American art and the development of American Impressionism. Here, amidst rocky fields and woodlands, he spent nearly four decades painting. His artist friends Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, Emil Carsen, and Albert Pinkham Ryder, amongst other luminaries of American art, often joined him at Weir Farm, which was a short train ride from New York City. In an era of rising industrialism Weir Farm provided ample natural landscapes to individuals interested in the movement to paint compositions en plein air.  Weir connected those individuals and together they experimented and created masterpieces of light and color on canvas that came to define American Impressionism.  After Weir, the artistic legacy was continued by his daughter, painter Dorothy Weir Young and her husband, sculptor Mahonri Young, followed by New England painters Sperry and Doris Andrews.

Weir Farm is the finest remaining landscape of American Impressionism and provides a pristine setting where contemporary artists can connect to and paint in the same place that American Masters painted. Designed and preserved by artists, the park is a singular crossroads of creativity, art, and nature. The Americans like the French, painted out of doors and used pure unmixed colors adjacent to each other to convey light and form when seen at a distance by the viewer. But the Americans typically used quieter tones and were more interested in the specific place than their French counterparts who became increasingly abstract in their landscape paintings.  For this reason, actual places where the Americans painted are of greater importance to an understanding of the work.  To this day the park considers the impact even small changes can have on a landscape that has been painted thousands of times.

Weir Farm includes a 60 acre cultural landscape consisting of 15 historic structures including houses, barns, studios, and outbuildings. The landscape features bedrock outcrops, historic gardens, stone terraces, specimen trees, orchards, fields, miles of stone laid walls, a pond and hundreds of historic painting sites – all expertly preserved. The artistic tradition at Weir Farm is kept alive through a variety of Art in the Park programs including an Artist-in-Residence program, free art supplies, large frames in the landscape to recreate paintings, night painting and art instruction.

Thousands of artists travel to the park every year to be inspired by the rare quality of painter’s light at Weir Farm and to paint and draw en plein air in the iconic and exquisite landscape. The rare light is believed to be a product of several factors: glow from the rock outcrops, tree canopy, altitude and qualities of reflection. Here, visitors find an experience that empowers and inspires them to connect with their personal creativity and enjoy the feeling of wellbeing that results from that discovery.

Through discussion with representatives from Weir Farm National Historic Site, we have identified the following regarding the design for the quarter:


·        Inspiration

·        Legacy of a landscape

·        Feelings of creativity

·        Connection to beauty of nature

·        Access to art, beauty and nature is a right

·        American Impressionism

Specific devices an artist might consider in their design

·        A painting

·        Rolling landscape with stone walls with an en plein air painter

·        Framing of a natural scene (potentially part of a painting)

·        Image of Julian Alden Weir

Potential Inscriptions

·        “What a beautiful world it is” – Julian Alden Weir

·        "My life is my art" – Julian Alden Weir

·        National Park for the Arts

Salt River Bay National Historical Park & Ecological Preserve (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve is a living museum on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.  Salt River Bay possesses an archeological and historical heritage over 2,000 years old that exists within a dynamic ecosystem which supports threatened and endangered species. In 1992, Congress created Salt River Bay as part of the National Park System to preserve, protect, and tell the story of its rich contributions to the nation’s natural and cultural heritage.

Salt River Bay uniquely documents the human and natural Caribbean world from the earliest indigenous settlements, to their clashes with seven colonial European powers, and through to the present day. One example is the 1493 encounter with Columbus which resulted in one of the first recorded violent interactions between Europeans and Native Americans.

The site’s blend of sea and land holds some the largest remaining mangrove forests in the Virgin Islands. In addition to the mangroves, the other vitally important ecosystems within the preserve are an estuary, coral reefs, and even a submarine canyon. Some of the flora within the various ecosystems are Mahogany, Black Olive, Seaside Mahoe, Sea Grape and Gumbo Limbo. The water acreage of the park, which makes up the majority of the park’s 1,015 acres, is home to 27 species that have been listed as rare, threatened, or endangered. The fauna of this park includes the coral reefs surrounded by the graceful sea life of Green Sea turtles, Hawksbill Sea Turtles and Blackbar Soldierfish.  Coral reefs form the basis of communities that are comparable to tropical rainforests for their biological richness and global significance.

Through discussions with representatives from Salt River Bay National Historical Park & Ecological Preserve, we have identified the following possible themes or inscriptions for the quarter:

Special Natural Features

·        Mangroves (Red, White and Black)

·        Coral Reefs


·        Sea Turtles (Green and Hawksbill)

·        Queen Conch

·        Northern Palua Warbler

·        Mangrove Cuckoo

·        Blackbar Soldierfish


·        Mahogany

·        Black Olive

·        Seaside Mahoe

·        Sea Grape

·        Gumbo Limbo

Potential inscriptions

·        First Encounters, Enduring Connections

·        Between Land and Sea

·        Where Europe and America Meet

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (Vermont)

Nestled among the rolling hills and pastures of eastern-central Vermont, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is the only national park to tell the story of conservation history and the evolving nature of land stewardship in America. The boyhood home of George Perkins Marsh, one of America's first conservationists, and later the home of Frederick Billings, the property was given to the American people by its most recent owners, Laurance S. and Mary French Rockefeller. The park was created in 1992 with the purpose to:

·        Interpret the history and evolution of conservation stewardship in America;

·        Recognize and interpret the contributions and birthplace of George Perkins Marsh, pioneering environmentalist, author of Man and Nature, statesman, lawyer, and linguist;

·        Recognize and interpret the contributions of Frederick Billings, conservationist, pioneer in reforestation and scientific farm management, lawyer, philanthropist, and railroad builder, who extended the principles of land management introduced by Marsh;

·        Preserve the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller mansion and its surrounding lands; and

·        Recognize the significant contributions of Julia Billings, Mary Billings French, Mary French Rockefeller, and Laurance Spelman Rockefeller in perpetuating the Marsh-Billings heritage.

Today, the park seeks to engage visitors in exploring the evolving concept of stewardship, defined broadly as the act of people taking care of the special places in their communities and beyond. Visitors can tour the mansion and gardens and learn more about land stewardship and conservation by hiking in the managed forest.

The park’s forest is one of the oldest scientifically-managed forests in the United States. In walking the park’s carriage roads and trails, visitors can see examples of some of the earliest practices of reforestation with plantations (tree plantings) dating to the 1870’s alongside more modern approaches to hardwood management. The National Park Service continues the tradition of active forest management to maintain this nationally unique cultural landscape.

Nearly twenty miles of carriage roads and trails crisscross the park offering views of the forest, farm fields, an upland pond (the Pogue), and the surrounding countryside. Built by Frederick Billings, the carriage roads were designed to integrate “the beautiful with the practical.” Once completed, they were immediately open to the public for enjoyment and to provide opportunities to explore and learn about the conservation practices of the estate.

The Mansion is maintained as a historic museum to interpret the life and legacies of the generations of families that called this place home. Most notably, the mansion contains one of the largest collections of Hudson River School paintings in the National Park Service. Through their artwork and advocacy, Hudson River School artists called attention to the importance of America’s vast and diverse landscapes and played a critical role in advancing the conservation movement in the United States.

The park operates in partnership with the adjacent Billings Farm & Museum, a working dairy farm and outdoor museum of agricultural and rural life. The Farm interpreters present farming and rural Vermont life, all in the context of the legacy of forest and farm stewardship left by Frederick Billings.

Through discussions with representatives from Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, we have identified the following possible devices for the quarter:

Primary Devices

·       Conservation/Land Stewardship

·       The story of conservation history and the evolving nature of land stewardship

·       “People taking care of places”

·       A commitment shared across generations

·       Working Lands: Forestry

·       Variety of European single species plantings and mixed hardwood species (large diameter trees)

·       Cutting and thinning stands that utilize modern equipment.

·       Horse logging

·       Carriage Roads and the Pogue

·       Characterized by framed views, stone bridges and features

·       The Pogue, a 14-acre pond in the heart of the park

·        Mansion and Gardens

·       The gardens and grounds represent a model gentleman’s farm of the “country place” era

·        Hudson River School paintings, art and conservation

·       The art was an integral part in advancing the conservation story nationally

Secondary Devices

·        The Billings Farm & Museum, a working farm of Jersey cows, draft horses, and chickens

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve (Kansas)

Encompassing nearly 11,000 acres, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is located in the heart of the Flint Hills – the largest expanse of tallgrass prairie left in North America. It is the only unit of the National Park Service dedicated to the rich natural history of the tallgrass prairie. Authorized in 1996, the enabling legislation for the preserve also tasked the Park Service to interpret the region’s ranching legacy; a portion of the preserve is still grazed by cattle.

Tallgrass prairie once covered more than 170 million acres, from Canada through Texas and as far as Ohio in the east.  Rich prairie soils made the region prime for agricultural development. Most of the tallgrass prairie was converted to cropland within just a couple of decades, making this once expansive landscape North America’s most altered ecosystem, in terms of acres lost. Of the roughly 4 percent that remains today, most (about two-thirds) survives in the Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma.

Alternating layers of chert (flint) found in the limestone gave the Flint Hills region its name. The preserve and surrounding Flint Hills were spared from the plow because it was too rocky. Because the land couldn’t easily be farmed, homesteaders soon found that the region was best suited to cattle ranching. Ranching continues to dominate the local economy and is the primary agricultural use of the Flint Hills.

Tallgrass prairie is an incredibly diverse ecosystem. The preserve is home to over 500 species of plants. Prominent grasses such as big bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, and little bluestem appear to dominate the plant community; however, they are far outnumbered by the diversity of herbaceous plants (wildflowers). Fauna ranges from large grazing animals like deer, bison, and cattle to a multitude of insects, amphibians and reptiles and other animal life. Grasslands birds, like greater prairie-chicken (a type of grouse) which has lost much of its native habitat, are of particular interest.

The preserve is also designated as a National Historic Landmark because the ranch “…outstandingly represents the transition from the open range to the enclosed holdings of the large cattle companies in the 1880’s.”  The historic Spring Hill Ranch includes numerous limestone buildings, including a 3-story barn, a mansion, and Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse. Dry-stacked limestone fences are present throughout the preserve.

Through discussions with representatives from Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, we have identified the following possible devices* for the quarter:

Primary Devices

·       Vast, expansive and unobstructed views (may include the Lower Fox Creek schoolhouse if desired, but not necessary)

·      Grassland birds, like the Greater Prairie-Chicken

·      Grasses

·      Big bluestem (reaches 6 to 8 feet)

·      Indiangrass

Secondary Devices

·      Hand-stacked limestone fences

·      Cattle ranching

·      Geology – alternating layers of limestone and shale, with chert (“flint”) found in the limestone. Eroding shale has exposed the limestone giving the region its name (“Flint Hills”)

·      Fire – a fundamental part of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem; fire burns away old growth and grazing animals follow the fresh plant growth after burns

·      Shorebirds – upland and buff-breasted sandpipers

*Please avoid inclusion of bison and trees in designs.

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Alabama)

Established in 1998, the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site commemorates the heroic actions and achievements of the famous Tuskegee Airmen. The term “Tuskegee Airmen” pertains to both men and women of diverse nationalities, and was composed of nearly 1,000 pilots and over 15,000 support staff (including navigators, bombardiers, and mechanics). Flying in the Mediterranean theater of operations during WWII, the Tuskegee Airmen completed 15,000 sorties in approximately 1,500 missions, destroyed over 260 enemy aircraft, sank one enemy destroyer, and demolished numerous enemy installations. Several aviators died in combat. The Airmen were awarded numerous high honors, including Distinguished Flying Crosses, Legions of Merit, Silver Stars, Purple Hearts, the Croix de Guerre, and the Red Star of Yugoslavia.  With the support of civil rights organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s), the Tuskegee Airmen Movement became known as the “Double V” campaign — meaning victory in fighting both racism at home and fascism abroad.

Immediately following World War I, the United States military began investing in aviation education for civilians. Laws of segregation in the United States excluded African-Americans from enrolling in Civilian Pilot Training Programs (CPTP).  Litigation brought forward by the NAACP, on behalf of Howard University student Yancey Williams, resulted in African-Americans being permitted to train as military pilots. In 1939, six HBCU’s were selected to begin CPTP training. The highest performing program was at the famed Tuskegee Institute, founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington.

Due, in part, to the academic excellence at Tuskegee Institute’s CPTP and a historic flight with Tuskegee flight instructor Charles “Chief” Anderson and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Tuskegee was selected in 1941 to host the first African-American training facility for an Army Air Corp unit. This became the nucleus for several fighter squadrons, technical units, and bombardment units associated with the Tuskegee Airmen.

As a group, they became an important voice for equality by:

·        advocating for equal access in the military and civilian society

·        promoting equal opportunity for all Americans

·        beginning the breakdown of racial barriers to ignite what would become the Civil Rights Movement

Their achievements proved conclusively that the Tuskegee Airmen were highly disciplined and capable fighters. They earned the respect of fellow bomber crews and of military leaders. Having fought America's enemies abroad, the Tuskegee Airmen returned to America to join the struggle to win equality at home.

The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site preserves five historic structures used during primary flight training in World War II. They are Moton Field (the primary field), Hangar I (built in 1941), the bath and locker building, the All Ranks Club (also known as the Skyway Club), and Hangar II (including the control tower), built in 1945.

Through discussions with representatives from Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, we have identified the following possible devices for the quarter:

·        Use of symbolism & devices that communicate the mission of the Tuskegee Airmen

·        Hangar II with Control Tower (original building/control tower, not rebuilt version)

·        Aircraft

·        J3 Piper Cub (training aircraft)

·        PT-17 Stearman, P-51 Mustang (“P” aircraft were used overseas. P-51 is the iconic aircraft used)

·        Overhead view of Airfield

·        Historic entrance gate

Potential inscriptions

·        Double V

·        They Fought Two Wars

·        Cradle of Black Aviation

Community Comments