Currency redesign, including the redesign of coins, is a regular occurrence. Changes in design, engraving, and even printing of ‘money’, occur for several reasons; either the intent is currency security, but the valid reasons also include prevention of counterfeiting, the government’s ability to monitor money, and of course, changes in regard to cultural questions or are or cultural/political significance.
One such change in design occurred recently, and maybe you’ve noticed it as well. The change in question regards the quarter coin, and people are wondering why did this particular design change happen. In the following paragraphs, we’ll explain everything you need to know, and share some interesting information with you. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Why Did The Quarter Design Change in 2022?
The quarter also referred to as the quarter dollar, has been a part of the U.S. currency/denomination for several centuries. Prior to its current history, the American Quarter came in different forms and designs. From the 1820s to the 1920s, the quarter changed from a Capped Bust design, Liberty Seated quarter, to a Standing Liberty quarter in the early 20th century.
The American quarter, as we know and love it today, commenced in the early 1930s. The U.S. government, alongside the U.S. Mint, came to a decision that the new quarter design should be created to honor George Washington; the Founding Father and one of the most important personalities in the history of U.S. From 1932, up until 1998, the new Washington coin was designed by sculptor John Flanagan. For decades the coin depicted George Washinton facing left, with words like LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST above and under the head. The obverse depicted an eagle with spread wings and a bundle of arrows below two olive branches.
The Washington Quarter was minted in 90% silver composition up until 1964. That was the year of the so-called ‘silver act’, or the ‘coinage act’ where rising silver prices forced the government to change silver coin composition into the present-day clad-copper composition.
With the Washington Quarter began the so-called ‘commemorative quarters’ program, which was meant to modify the coins so that they honor George Washington, for each state respectively. In 2008, America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act was introduced and signed. This Act lasted until 2021, and it was meant to have the quarters depict natural and historic sites for each state and territory, rather than George Washington. A year later, we’ve seen new changes to the quarter design, so let’s keep exploring them.
The 2022 Quarter Design
In May 2022, social media users started sharing images of the supposedly new quarter coin, depicting George Washington. However, instead of facing the left side, the depiction of George Washington was now facing the right side. Many got confused and interested in the reasoning behind this, or if it’s even real. People specifically noticed that G. Washington is facing away from the coin’s inscription IN GOD WE TRUST, which made people suspicious about the country’s change in modern religious views, or rather drifting away from such views.
So, why did this happen?
Let’s start with something called American Women Quarters Program. This program, or rather initiative was set to run between 2022 and 2025, with the intention to have quarters change in design each year, in order to honor the accomplishments and contributions in a variety of fields by women in America.
The U.S. Mint released a statement where they explain the women in question, for the 2022 quarter, are Dr. Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Maya Angelou, Nina Otero Warren, and Anna May Wong. It has been agreed that George Washington’s profile will be featured on the obverse side of the new quarters, despite the coins honoring the women. Nevertheless, the U.S. Mint decided, as stated in their press release, to use a right-facing Washington image, which was created by Laura Gardin Fraser.
She was one of the best-known female sculptors in the 20th century, which was definitely in line with the initial initiative to honor great American women. A list of distinguished American women has been set and released, and these women are to be featured in the upcoming editions of the Washington Quarter, every year until 2025.
While the public supported the initiative, especially in the wake of the ‘Me Too’ movement and the Women’s March aftermath. However, the public was also highly critical of the fact that the new quarter design depicted a right-facing George Washington, as in, he was facing away from the In God We Trust inscription. This, however, isn’t the first time a right-facing George Washington was depicted on a coin. There was also a case from 1999, where a right-facing George Washington was depicted on a Commemorative Gold Five-Dollar coin.
Why Change a Currency Design?
Despite valid reasoning and explanations, or even highly commendable initiatives behind said currency design changes, many still question the reasons why a country would just change its currency design. To make it more understandable, let’s go over the most common reasons a country makes such a move;
- Commemoration of significant events and people in American history – this has been, throughout history, the most common reason why the U.S. Mint and U.S. government introduced changes to currency design. Commemorating, or honoring specific and highly significant events and people is a way for the country to express gratitude and respect, as well as have a nationwide awareness of these events and people. It is a great tactic to create greater public attention, respect, and love for one’s nation.
- Addressing counterfeiting – by changing currency design from time to time, the U.S. Mint and the government are able to prevent or fight the problem of currency counterfeiting. As technology advances, counterfeiters in the country and across the world are able to reproduce even the most intricate details and create fake coins. It is getting harder to detect fake money, so to combat this, U.S. quarters feature updated security features which makes the more difficult to replicate (including the new designs).
- Miscellaneous – the U.S. Mint can introduce design changes for many practical reasons as well, including improving durability, ensuring easier stacking and transport, or even generating interest among collectors, numismatists, and historians.
Regardless of the reasoning behind a design change proposal presented by the U.S. Mint, it is Congress that approves the final decision. The process of introducing new currency designs comprises multiple hearings, consultations with stakeholders, consultations with professional coin collectors and historians, etc. Congress also takes into consideration the potential public response. Once everything’s approved, the minting commences and the coins are released into circulation. To be more precise, here’s how the process of design selection looks exactly;
- Appointing Liaisons – the U.S. Mint initiates the process by contacting professional individuals to serve as liaisons for the Mint coining program. The liaisons are usually officials within national institutions who are specialized in specific national history.
- Developing designs – in accordance with the consultations and consultant opinions, as well as the representatives of federal institutions (National Archives or Academy for Science, for example), the U.S. Miny develops a pool of design concepts.
- Formal Concept Recommendation – this is the part where, in consultation with the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, the Mint will develop a formal design concept recommendation. The Director of the U.S. Mint submits the final concept recommendation to the Secretary of the Treasury, for approval.
- Producing the design – upon Secretarial approval, the Mint proceeds to produce original designs, taking into consideration the aesthetic appearance, historical accuracy, appropriateness, and coinability of the new coin.
- Candidate design review – this is the part where potential modification of the final design happens. Legislated consultants share opinions, comments, and recommendations regarding potential design improvements.
- Final design selection – the U.S. Mint presents the final designs to the Secretary of Treasury for a final design selection. Upon selection and approval, the U.S. Mint commences the coin minting process.
What started as a social media curiosity, turned out to be a rather compelling story about American history and the great American women that helped shape the United States that we know and love today.
Hopefully, we’ve managed to bring the story and the insight regarding the quarter design change a bit closer to our readers. For more information, you can always check out the United States Mint’s official website, as well as other coin-related websites that are recognized on a national level, including PCGS and CoinTalk forums.