Put in our best two bits worth

Thursday, April 1, 2004

Over the past 20 or 30 years, Americans have given the U.S. Mint a lot of flak. We did so because we were astonished. How could the federal decision-makers be so out of touch that they would give us not just one, but two, quarter-sized coins which they passed off as dollar denominations. Even to this day, it's rare to see the Susan B. Anthony or Sacagawea dollar coins in use. The uneven edges of the Anthony coin and gold color of the Sacagawea dollars are not distinctive enough to separate them from the shape of quarters when we dig for pocket change.

But, while we shake our heads over the dollar coin screw-ups, we pay tribute to the U.S. Mint officials and other government leaders for coming up with the idea for quarters with designs from the 50 states.

Now that's an idea ... a wonderful idea.

In all the years the United States of America has been in existence, there is probably no other coin or currency that has received such warm and widespread acceptance. Many homes have large U.S. mapboards on the walls with places to put all 50 state quarters as they are released to the public. Other families have specially made coin books for the quarters, while almost everyone else takes pleasure in looking at quarters to see which state design they have.

Not only is the state quarter idea a good one, but the U.S. Mint has also been wise in the way it is releasing the quarters. Five states per year over a 10-year period, spaced in relation to the date of the state's admission to the union.

We're now entering the second half of that program, with Nebraska -- one of the younger states -- due for its state quarter release in mid-March of 2006.

To prepare for that occasion, Nebraska is searching for design ideas for the quarter. Not much time is left. Secretary of State John Gale, as chairman of the Nebraska State Quarter Design Committee, has announced that May 1, 2004 -- just one month away -- is the deadline to submit design proposals.

So -- if you have a brainchild for what the quarter design should be -- get hopping right away. To request a design form, you need to get in touch with Sharon Hambeck in the Secretary of State's office. You can call her at 402-471-6044, e-mail her at shambek@nol.org, or write her at P.O. Box 94608, State Capitol Room 2300, Lincoln, NE 68509-4608.

To be considered, the designs must be historically accurate, dignified and appropriate. So far, the state designs have done an excellent job of depicting the states. Let's follow in those footsteps. Just think how neat it would be if the idea for Nebraska's quarter design came from this area.

Let's honor Nebraska with an authentic and appropriate quarter design. It will pay off in promoting our state, as at least 500 million of the quarters will be circulated in the years to come.

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