Friday, December 26

State Quarters: The Critique

Years ago, I started to review the aesthetics of those state themed quarters. I haven't given it much thought since then. But I just noticed Montana's which made me realize that perhaps it was time to cover them in more detail. Then I realized that they all have been released now that Hawaii is out there. So I am going to tackle them year by year is a series of posts.


About as dull and traditional as they get. Oh-so-colonial. Given that they chose to celebrate Caesar Rodney... Wait a minute. Who the hell is Caesar Rodney? Oh, right signer of the Declaration of Independence. How very New England of you, Delaware. Anyway. Given that they chose to celebrate Caesar Rodney, they placed him on a horse... which makes him so tiny he could be anyone. Okay, fine. Then put the horse the least attractive position possible. A horse just standing could have been majestic (perhaps alluding to Rodney's position as President of Delaware during much of the Revolutionary War). A horse running could been exciting (playing off Rodney's military position during the war). But they froze the horse in that awkward all legs forward pose, making it appear the horse is about to fall on its ass (calling forth allusions to Rodney's poor health).

The phrase "THE FIRST STATE" makes Delaware out to be an internet forum poster on Ain't It Cool News. "F1RST!!!1!!"

Grade: D+

A bit of a yawner. I do appreciate the quarters that utilized the smooth blank cleanness of the metal. What we get here is the classical image of the statue that sits atop PA's state capital dome. (Note: The ribboned mace symbolized "justice." It comes from the old saying "May justice be swift as a ribbon dance.") It's at least a nice image. The composition holds up with the addition of the state outline... which many quarters ended up doing... which I find ridiculous. If you are trying to celebrate your state, is the 'shape' the best you can do? Especially if you are basically a lumpy rectangle like PA? "Come to Pennsylvania! We've got a nubbin in the northwest corner!" As said, it the state shape at least had a nice composition what with the lady centered and all... until they cluttered it up with (1) the Keystone and (2) the words. I realize the Keystone is PA's grand symbol and all but in this design it looks like it was slapped on after the fact by a committee. It also makes it look like an product packaging button, as if it should say "NEW & IMPROVED!" or "NOW WITH MORE FIBER!" I appreciate the motto or whatever of the "Virtue, Liberty, Independence" on the right except that those are the such boring hyper USA mottos. Yeah yeah. I realize they are cliché American because PA was right there in the beginning. It is like saying "In the beginning" is a clichéd way of starting the Bible.

Grade: C-

New Jersey
While the composition lacks a bit, the over all simplicity and directness is excellent. Chose a recognizable image (Washington crossing the Delaware River) and don't clutter it up much. And "Crossroads of the Revolution" is much catchier than "The First State." What bothers me about the composition is more of an issue with the size of the phrase. Made slightly smaller it wouldn't dominate the whole image... although it would make an awesome album cover the way it is. I might have not kept the unconnected chunk of ice below the right end of the boat. It looks like a random dump in the river. Sidenote: I'd guess that if you asked most folks what they first thought of when they thought about Delaware, they'd say this image of Washington. Of course Delaware couldn't really have used it on their coin since it was about Washington crossing to fight on Trenton, NJ, and then Princeton. Sucks to to be Delaware.

Grade: B+

Okay, Georgia gets points for getting away from the historical. But let's first discuss the motto. I love that they illustrated it instead of just using whatever the quarter font is. The ribbon is a bit hard to read and looks like it should have two doves holding it up, but they at least went a different way. I also like "Wisdom, Justice, Moderation" for being so nicely pragmatic. "Smart, fair and not too extreme." The live oak springs don't do tons for me but it is the first quarter to utilize the circular nature of the medium. Georgia also when with the state shape thing ("Look! We have a nubbin in the southeast!"). Yawn. Now to the central image: The peach. Admittedly, it is the first thing I think about when I think about Georgia. (That or Atlanta... which immediately makes my thing ting of the Atlanta Olympics... which makes me think of Richard Jewell... which would probably be a poor choice of quarter image.) There's not much you can do with the image of a peach. The problem is the similarities to a well formed rear end. It does not come across greatly just looking at a picture, but when you have one of these coins in your hand and can see the raised gentle slope and the sharp cleft... Anyway, may be the most erotic of the quarters. The over all effect of the design is a bit slapped together.

Grade: B-

This as always been on of my favorites. Simple, dramatic and uses the form and medium extremely well. The Charter Oak has an interesting story that most people don't know. Its shape fills in the circle. The fine work of the branches creates a fascinating texture in relief making it more than just image (and doesn't invoke butts). It doesn't try to do too much. No slapping on of the state motto (which is "Qui transtulit sustinet" - He who transplanted still sustains... okay, I definitely understand why they didn't). Great quarter.

Grade: A