The snow and bitter cold could not dampen the excitement of the crowd that was filing into the Capitol on Monday, January 26, 2004. From the serious coin collectors to the casual history buffs, it was a day that had been anticipated for years. Michigan, the 26th state to enter the union, was going have the Michigan Quarter unveiled on her 167th birthday. Two heated tents mysteriously guarded the entrance to the Capitol. Visitors wondered out loud about their purpose. They would have to come inside the Capitol to find out.
The Capitol rotunda was the scene of the Michigan Quarter unveiling. Groups of schoolchildren crowded around the small stage set up on the glass block floor. Adults surrounded the school children, cameras flashing at the pre-ceremony happenings. The United States Mint Eagle and two costumed reenactors from the Mackinac Island State Historic Park mingled with the crowd. Crowds of children and adults peered over the two balconies above the main floor and watched the activity below. The first murmurs of “There’s the Governor” came from their bird’s eye view.
After a wonderful rendition of the National Anthem by the Hayes Middle School Select Ensemble, Dr. William Anderson, director of the Department of History, Arts and Libraries opened the formal program. “Today is something to be remembered,” Dr. Anderson told a crowd of about 400 as they waited for the unveiling of the new Michigan Quarter. He reminded the crowd, “You can all say ‘I was there’ when a new chapter of Michigan’s history began.”
Dr. Anderson went on to introduce several guest speakers. David O’Leary, secretary, Capitol Bancorp expressed the great pride that Capitol National Bank-the event sponsor-had in being part of this event. Richard Watts, president, Michigan State Numismatic Society gave a brief history of money in Michigan and the significance of the “first strike” Michigan Quarter to coin collectors. Michigan storyteller and author, Larry Massie held the crowded spellbound as he told tales highlighting the spirit of the Great Lakes that surround Michigan-the most prominent feature on the Michigan Quarter.
U.S. Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore spoke of the 50 States Quarters program, “It is the most successful coin program in the history of the United States’ coin history. One hundred and thirty million Americans are collecting the state quarters. That’s almost one in every household.” When asked by a student how Michigan’s theme compared to the other state quarters unveiled to this date, Henrietta replied, “Discovery and innovation are the top themes. Then the natural richness of our country and natural beauty. The third theme is liberty. Michigan’s coin is about the natural beauty of the land. It’s a wonderful lesson in topography.”
Joining U.S. Mint Director Fore on the podium was Governor Jennifer Granholm. As governor she made the final decision in choosing the recommended design. With a unique bit of fanfare-the sound of bagpipes from the costumed interpreters from Mackinac State Historic Park-the Governor and the U.S. Mint Director unveiled the Michigan Quarter. Governor Granholm placed it with the other state quarters in the large map of the United States that served as a back drop for the podium. She then took a roll of shinny new quarters and showed them to the school children in the front row. She explained to the children and the crowd that Michigan’s quarter features a textured map of the state along with the outlines of the five Great Lakes and the motto “Great Lakes State.” “If I must say so, this is the best looking quarter I have ever seen,” Granholm said. “Pretty soon people across the globe are going to reach into their pocket and pull out a Michigan Quarter.”
The official program ended with several songs from the Hayes Middle School Select Ensemble, recently selected as one of the top three middle-school ensembles in the state. Voices from the crowd could be heard in agreement that the singing of these junior high students lived up their billing. As the last song ended, the crowd started filing out into the five-degree temperatures. The formal part of the program had ended, and the interactive part of the program was just beginning. In the huge heated tents outside the capitol adults could purchase the “first strike” quarters and all children who attended the ceremony received a quarter at no charge-thanks to the event’s sponsor Capitol National Bank.
Those in line took time to stare at the armored truck butted up closely to the 40′ x 60′ tent. Inside the tent the noise of children mixed with the hum of the heaters to make it feel like a truely festive atmosphere. Once inside, even the most casual coin collect felt like a member of the Michigan State Numismatic Society. On the north side of the tent, officials from Capitol National Bank sold rolls of new Michigan quarters at $10 per roll-sorry only one per person! They were extremely efficient and you had the impression they had rehearsed. On the south side of the tent, Department of History, Arts and Libraries staff members handed out the free quarters to school children. It was a Christmas-like atmosphere with smiling faces on both sides of the long tables.
With the formal ceremony over and the distribution of the new “first strike quarters” completed, the crowd started making its way over to the Michigan Library and Historical Center for the remainder of the Michigan Quarter celebration. The educational program started with the showing of the History Channel’s Modern Marvels: U.S. Mints, Money Machines at 12:30 p.m. Those who viewed the movie remarked how well it told U.S. history from the Revolutionary War to the present through the vehicle of money. Many commented that it was hard to believe that paper money was not a national currency until the Civil War.
A portion of the award-winning “Historic Mackinac on Tour” was presented in the “Two-Cultures” gallery on the second floor of the Michigan Historical Museum. Costumed interpreters Dennis Havlena and Jim Evans taught the history of fur as Michigan’s first money. Music was provided by the bagpipers and their lessons were the hands-on variety. Visitors lingered extra-long as they handled and investigated artifacts that Dennis and Jim had set out. Meanwhile on the first floor, visitors were also involved in an interactive program of storytelling with Larry Massie, a storyteller and one of Michigan’s most prolific Michigan history authors. Larry engaged visitors as he told tales about Michigan wildcat banking of the 1830s. Visitors at each program came away with a new perspectives on money’s role in Michigan history.
The day’s program ended with the 2:30 p.m. presentation by members of the Quarter Commission as they recounted their experiences in helping design the new quarter. Their presentation featured the various aspects of the design process. One slide showed the five final choices for the Michigan Quarter. Members of the audience learned that the Michigan Quarter was not the final design choice of all the members. The members explained that the Michigan quarter took more than two years to develop. A 25-member quarter commission, coordinated by HAL chose designs from among more than 4,300 submissions.
The program pointed out that the Michigan Quarter is the 26th coin to be released by the U.S. Mint’s 50 State’s Quarters Program, which began with Delaware in 1999 and will end with Hawaii in 2008. Members of the audience also learned why a “first strike” coin is so important to coin collectors-as the coin is minted, the dies wear slightly and the end runs of coins tend loose that extra-sharpness. The average person would not notice the difference, but a serious coin collector will always seek a “first strike” coin whenever possible. The program ended with the members of the commission sharing with the audience on how proud they are of the Michigan Quarter. With its clean outlines of the Great Lakes and textured map of the state, the Quarter Commission is confident that the Michigan Quarter design will stand the test of time and remain a source of Michigan pride as millions of Michigan Quarters circulate throughout the nation and the world.
For another article, see Zlati Meyer, “Michigan’s quarter unveiled on state’s 167th birthday”, Detroit Free Press, January 25, 2015.