Coin to Circulate California Concept

Times Staff Writer

A new California quarter featuring images of conservationist John Muir will begin rolling into residents’ pockets next year.

Muir, with Half Dome in Yosemite National Park and a California condor, will grace the back of the new quarter, unveiled Monday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The quarter is part of a 10-year program begun in 1999 to commemorate all 50 states. Five times a year, a new state quarter is released, in the order in which the states joined the union. California became the 31st state on Sept. 9, 1850.

Eight thousand designs for the new quarter were submitted by the public between September 2002 and November 2002. The winning design was created by Garrett Burke of Los Angeles, a 42-year-old senior print designer for a Marina del Rey advertising agency. Burke designs logos, packaging materials and brochures, particularly for the video game industry.

Burke’s wife, Michelle, a coin collector, prompted him to submit an entry, he said. But Burke, who described himself as a “nature enthusiast,” said, “This has nothing to do with Garrett Burke. When someone looks at the back of that quarter, I want them to say ‘John Muir, what a great guy, I love his message,’ or ‘Who’s John Muir? I need to find out more about him.’ That’s the thrill for me, knowing that it’s educating people.”


The quarter will be minted for only 10 weeks beginning in January, forcing coin collectors to either buy sets from the U.S. Mint or find the coin in circulation. As many as 2 billion could be released, said state Librarian Kevin Starr, chairman of the selection committee.

At the coin’s unveiling in Sacramento, Schwarzenegger said he hoped the design would trigger children’s interest in Muir, a naturalist and conservationist who inspired conservation programs and co-founded the Sierra Club.

“Here in California, growth and progress and wilderness protection and the protection of the environment goes hand in hand,” Schwarzenegger said.

“I am proud that these three images will show California’s wildlife, our majestic landscape and our commitment to preserving our Golden State for future generations.”

From the thousands of design entrees, a state selection committee chose 20 finalists. Californians then were invited to comment on their favorites, and former Gov. Gray Davis presented the top five design concepts to the U.S. Mint for approval. The final five concepts were the Golden Gate Bridge, a miner during the gold rush, a redwood tree, a sun and waves, and Muir with Yosemite.

The mint returned revisions of the five designs to the state. Schwarzenegger, with help from his wife, Maria Shriver, and their children, refined and selected the Muir concept.

While the state quarters are minted, production of the “Eagle” quarter has stopped, representing the first change to the quarter since production of the Bicentennial Quarter in 1975-76.

Director of the U.S. Mint Henrietta Holsman Fore said the 50 State Quarters Program is the most successful coin program in United States history, with 130 million Americans now collecting coins.

“We are in a renaissance of coin collecting and coin design in the United States, and we owe most of that to the 50 quarters program,” Fore said. “It has captured the imagination of the country and transcends generations. Now the entire country will learn about California through its choice of symbols on its quarter.”