Golden State's 15 minutes on 25-cent piece

There's still time to put in your two cents -- er, make that two bits -- on the design for the California Commemorative State Quarter.

In 2005, California becomes the 31st state to be represented on the 25-cent piece as part of the U.S. Mint's 50 State Commemorative Coin program. You've missed the deadline to submit a design -- but 20 finalists from the more than 8,000 drawings received between Sept. 9 and Nov. 9, 2002, can be viewed on Gov. Gray Davis' Web site, Visitors to the site have until Jan. 20 to pick one favorite.

By the end of the month, Davis will select five of the Top 20 to submit to the U.S. Mint -- but he plans to make his choice based on the "collective mind of the state" according to Kevin Starr, state librarian of California, who is heading the selection process. It's up to the Mint to select and render a final design based on the five gubernatorial favorites.

There were bears, California poppies, trees, Spanish mission and Gold Rush motifs, Mickey Mouses (rejected because of trademark concerns) and "lots of Yosemites," Starr says. Most designers took the challenge seriously, with nothing "obscene or derogatory or weird," though there were some humorous entries, including one featuring Queen Califia -- the fictional Amazon ruler of an island rich in pearls from a 1510 book, after which our Golden State was named -- as a bikini-clad surfboard babe.

But the two preponderant images were the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hollywood sign. Starr offers that the U.S. Mint just might create a composite of the S.F./L.A icons, forever uniting California's foggy/smoggy archrivals.

-- Diane Haithman

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