Hawai‘i quarter, last of 50, to be minted tomorrow

Just as Hawai‘i was the final territory to attain membership in the United States of America, the Aloha State’s quarter-dollar coin will conclude the 50 State Quarters Program when it is ceremonially struck tomorrow in Denver, Colo., according to an announcement from the United States Mint.

The official Hawai‘i Quarter Launch will be Nov. 10 in Honolulu, signaling the end of the 10-year program, which was started in 1999 in an effort “to promote the diffusion of knowledge among the youth of the United States about the individual states, their history and geography, and the rich diversity of the national heritage,” according to the Mint’s Web site.

Hawai‘i became state No. 50 on Aug. 21, 1959, and the near half-century since that event mark the longest stretch in American history without the addition of a new state.

The reverse of Hawai‘i’s quarter, designed and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart, features Hawaiian monarch King Kamehameha I stretching his hand toward the eight Main Hawaiian Islands, the announcement says.

Inscriptions on the coin include “Hawai‘i,” “1959” and “Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina i ka pono,” the state motto that translates to “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”

The 36-member Hawai‘i Commemorative Quarter Advisory Commission invited citizens to submit themes for the coin’s design, according to the Mint’s Web site. From the 400 ideas it received, the commission developed five narratives to be developed into design candidates by the Mint’s Sculptor-Engravers and artists in the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program.

An online poll was then conducted to determine citizens’ preference, with more than 26,000 votes cast. On April 23, 2007, Gov. Linda Lingle announced her selection of the “Hawai‘i, the Island State” design featuring King Kamehameha I, which was the recommendation of the commission and also the winning design of the online poll, the Mint’s Web site said.

Four other designs were considered, including “Hawai‘i — Diverse but Unified,” an alternate design depicting the eight Main Hawaiian Islands and King Kamehameha I; “Aloha Spirit,” featuring a traditional female hula dancer; “Diamond Head,” featuring the iconic O‘ahu landmark; and “Surfing – Hawai‘i’s Gift to the World,” the site said.

Almost 34 billion state quarters representing more than $8 billion in U.S. currency have been produced in the last decade, according to the Mint’s Web site.

In 2005, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the federal government had created $4.6 billion in profit from the program because collectors purchased the coins and took them out of circulation, a phenomenon called seigniorage.

The coins, all of which feature the same front, or “heads” side, are each adorned with a reverse-side design unique to the states they represent. A new state coin has been released at the rate of roughly one every 10 weeks since the program’s inception.

Delaware, which attained statehood on Dec. 7, 1787, and is nicknamed the First State, became the first to have a quarter minted in January 1999. Alaska, which became the nation’s 49th state on Jan. 3, 1959, saw its quarter released on Aug. 25.

In 2009, the United States Mint will commemorate the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories — the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands — by minting and issuing six newly designed quarters.

For more information, visit www.usmint.gov.

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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