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Making Cents - All the news that's fit to mint! - What's news at the United States Mint!

Welcome to the fall 2000 issue of Making Cents, the online newsletter that tells you what's new and striking at the United States Mint.  Be sure to check back every 3 months for a new issue.

About Commemorative Coins (with a Teacher Feature!)

Back in Greek and Roman times, special coins were produced for celebration rather than commerce.  Today, our commemorative coins continue this tradition.  The Mint's commemorative coins can be used for commerce—though few collectors usually spend them.  Check out current, past, and future commemorative coins.

Every year, the United States Mint issues new commemorative coins.  They honor important people, places and events.  Each limited edition issue is a beautiful work of art, a result of high craftsmanship and design.  Some commemorative coins include:

  • The Olympic Games
  • The Smithsonian Institution
  • The Bicentennial of the U.S. Capitol
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Dolley Madison

What determines who will be featured on a commemorative coin? Congress determines the people, places and events to be honored by commemorative coins each year.  The Commemorative Coin Reform Act of 1996 states that the Mint may produce up to a maximum of two commemorative coins per year and in limited quantities only.

Organizations wanting their cause on a coin submit ideas to Congress.  It votes to approve a commemorative coin, and then depending on the legislation, the selected sponsoring organization works with the Mint towards possible design concepts.  The Mint prepares design proposals, and again depending on the legislation, the appropriate sponsoring organization, the Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Commemorative Coin Advisory Committee can all have input.  The Secretary of the Treasury selects a final design.

It's a win-win situation.  The public gets the opportunity to purchase a beautiful, long-lasting coin. Since part of the money generated from the sales of commemorative coins is intended to go back to the sponsoring organization, various causes can benefit.  Past commemorative coins have benefited Yellowstone National Park, the National Park Foundation, the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial and various Olympic programs.

Teacher Feature

Olympic Games Commemorative Coin
Olympic Games Commemorative Coin

Olympic Games Commemorative Coin.
Smithsonian Institution Commemorative Coin

Dolley Madison Commemorative Coin.
Dolley Madison Commemorative Coin

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50 State Quarters® Program

The United States Mint issued five new quarters during 2000.  The last quarter of the year was recently issued in October, honoring Virginia, The Old Dominion State.

Susan Constant?  Godspeed?  Discovery?  Who are they?

If you guessed Pilgrims, you're on the right track.  But these aren't people, they're ships!

That's right.  Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery are the vessels that transported the first English settlers to Jamestown, VA, in 1607.  You'll see these three ships on the new Virginia quarter's reverse (back).  The quarter honors our nation's oldest colony, Jamestown, VA, and its 400-year birthday (quadricentennial).  Read more about it on our Web site.

If you haven't found a Virginia quarter yet, keep checking your pockets.  Virginia is the 10th quarter released under the 50 State Quarters® Program.  It hit the streets in October 2000.  So if you haven't seen one yet, you probably will soon!  The other quarters released this year were Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina and New Hampshire.  Find out more on our Web site.

Virginia Quarter—reverse.
Virginia Quarter—reverse

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Collector's Corner

Have you ever thought about starting a coin collection?  Maybe you're already a numismatist (pronounced: new-miss-ma-tist).  [This tongue twister of a word makes a rich addition to your vocabulary.  It means "someone who studies and collects things that are used as money, including coins, tokens, paper bills, and medals.]  Well, so is United States Mint employee, Patrick McCluskey.  Here's how he feels about coin collecting, in his own words:

My name is Patrick McCluskey.  I'm currently the Master Production Scheduler for the United States Mint Numismatics division in Washington, D.C.  Talk about a dream job for a coin collector!  My job is to schedule the striking of investment grade and collectible coins at all four United States Mint facilities.  I get to live and breathe in the coin environment everyday.  I've learned all about manufacturing U.S. coins—from old coins struck over 208 years ago to new ones going into circulation today.

(Editor's Note: The United States Mint first began minting coins 208 years ago, in 1792.  Find out more).

I was about 6 years old when I received some coins for my birthday from my grandfather.  He gave me a Barber quarter and a Barber half-dollar from the early 1900s, which he had collected.  The coins were not in very good condition by today's standards, but I was totally fascinated by their age and beauty.  I can still recall the day I put them away in an old watch box and hid them in my sock drawer.  To me, they were the most valuable things in the world.  From that day forward, for the past 30 years, I have been a coin collector.

Coin collecting is truly a great hobby.  Collectors collect for different reasons.  I collect because when I display my coins, I view a small piece of history, time, and somebody's life story.  If only my collection could talk—the pockets these coins have been in!  Primarily, I collect quarters and half dollars of all types but, to this day, my most prized coins are the ones my grandfather gave me many years ago.

Barber Half Dollar.
Barber Half Dollar

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Who Makes Change?

An interview with United States Mint engraver, Tom Rogers

Engraver—the person who cuts the design into a coinage die.  (F.Y.I.: There used to be a time when engravers hand-cut the steel dies directly.  However, they now produce a plaster model that is reduced to a steel hub—or die—approximately six to eight times smaller than the original.)

Check out the reverses of the Massachusetts, Maryland and South Carolina quarters.  United States Mint employee Tom Rogers engraved all of them.

With skilled hands, Rogers took design ideas provided by the governors of each state and adapted them for coins.  Some were easier to do than others.  "Some symbols lend themselves more from drawing to plaster," says Rogers.  "They need to be recognizable when they're reduced in size."  Here are some of his secrets:

Massachusetts—An idea from two elementary school students formed the basis for the quarter's Minuteman reverse.  Using his artsy instincts, Rogers selected from several statues of minutemen, decided which one to portray, then textured the state outline and received approval to include Massachusetts' nickname, The Bay State.

South Carolina—Rogers asked the state governor's office if certain state symbols on the quarter's reverse could be included—the palmetto tree, the Carolina wren and the yellow jessamine.  The governor's office agreed, so Rogers designed the reverse, and also engraved it.

Artistic Background—A country boy who grew up sketching animals, Rogers particularly enjoyed working on the South Carolina quarter and Golden Dollar reverses.  Why?  Because they both have birds!  An avid animal lover, and from his earliest days as an artist, Rogers enjoys drawing animals.

Think you'd like to become an engraver?  "Start as an artist," Rogers advises.  "Practice drawing shapes and practice composition."  Challenge yourself by asking, "could I have done this better?"  Rogers challenges himself to do well and is continually excited by the prospect of "designing American history that is carried around in our pockets."

Massachusetts Quarter—reverse

South Carolina Quarter—reverse.
South Carolina

Golden Dollar.
Golden Dollar

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National Geographic Update

In the last edition of Making Cents, we told you about the United States Mint sponsoring the National Geographic World's 25th Anniversary contest and bus tour.  Entry rules for the contest required kids to write an essay entitled "What's Great About My State."  Contestants described all the things that make the particular state where they live so special.

Here's an update:  over 8,600 kids submitted essays to the contest.  And twenty-five of those who entered have been awarded the Grand Prize.  Each winner will receive a visit from the WORLDmobile, a bus with a geography-theme, transporting a crew of surprise guests.  Those surprise guests will present an entertaining program for the winner's entire school.  Which states are the Grand Prizewinners from?  Here's a list:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Delaware
  • D.C.
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington

The contest is over, but:  Can you think of some reasons that make your state great, too?

U.S.A Map.

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