A Coin Collector‘s Guide to the 2022 Quarter Redesign

As an avid coin collector and numismatic scholar, I‘ve been eagerly awaiting the release of the 2022 American Women quarters. This exciting new series not only provides a fresh artistic take on a classic coin but also marks a major milestone in the representation of women on U.S. currency. Let‘s dive into the history, details, and significance of this pivotal change in quarter design.

The Evolution of the Quarter Dollar

To fully appreciate the 2022 redesign, it‘s important to understand the quarter‘s journey through the centuries. The quarter dollar was one of the first coins authorized by the Mint Act of 1792, but the first quarters weren‘t struck until 1796. Here‘s a timeline of major design changes:

Years Design
1796–1807 Draped Bust Quarter
1815–1838 Capped Bust Quarter
1838–1891 Seated Liberty Quarter
1892–1916 Barber Quarter
1916–1930 Standing Liberty Quarter
1932–1998 Washington Quarter (left-facing bust)
1999–2008 50 State Quarters (rotating reverse designs)
2009 D.C. & U.S. Territories Quarters (rotating reverses)
2010–2021 America the Beautiful Quarters (rotating reverses)
2022–2025 American Women Quarters (rotating reverses)

The iconic Washington quarter designed by sculptor John Flanagan debuted in 1932, on the bicentennial of George Washington‘s birth. With the exception of the dual-dated 1776-1976 Bicentennial quarter, it remained largely unchanged for over 60 years, until the start of the 50 State Quarters program in 1999. This began a new era of rotating reverse designs and paved the way for the American Women quarters.

Honoring Trailblazing Women

In January 2021, Congress passed the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act, which included provisions for the American Women quarters. This four-year program calls for up to five new reverse designs each year from 2022 through 2025, featuring accomplished women from diverse fields and backgrounds.

The women being honored in 2022 are:

  • Maya Angelou – Celebrated poet, author, and civil rights activist
  • Dr. Sally Ride – First American woman in space
  • Wilma Mankiller – First female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation
  • Nina Otero-Warren – New Mexico suffragette and educator
  • Anna May Wong – Groundbreaking Chinese American actress

Each design portrays the honoree in a unique and symbolic way. For example, the Maya Angelou quarter shows her with arms uplifted in front of a bird in flight and rising sun, inspired by her poetry and activism. The Nina Otero-Warren design depicts her dressed elegantly with the Spanish words "Voto para la mujer" (Votes for Women), honoring her work in the suffrage movement.

These choices reflect a commitment to showcasing the breadth of women‘s achievements. As Ventris Gibson, deputy director of the U.S. Mint, stated in a press release:

"These inspiring coin designs tell the stories of five extraordinary women whose contributions are indelibly etched in American culture. Generations to come will look at coins bearing these designs and be reminded of what can be accomplished with vision, determination and a desire to improve opportunities for all."

A New Face for Washington

In addition to the rotating reverses, 2022 marks another major change for the quarter – a new obverse portrait of George Washington facing right. This is the first time Washington has faced right on the quarter since 1932.

Interestingly, the new obverse isn‘t really new at all. It‘s based on a 1931 design by Laura Gardin Fraser, one of the most prominent female sculptors of the early 20th century. Fraser‘s design was originally recommended for the 1932 quarter but ultimately passed over in favor of Flanagan‘s.

Using Fraser‘s obverse for the American Women quarters is a poetic choice that aligns with the goal of honoring historic women. It‘s a chance to finally use the work of this pioneering artist in conjunction with celebrating female figures on the reverse.

The Mint‘s director, Alison L. Doone, spoke to the significance of this pairing in a coin launch ceremony:

"Laura Gardin Fraser‘s obverse design paired with the new reverse designs exemplify the breadth and depth of the accomplishments of the phenomenal women who have shaped this country. The extraordinary women celebrated in this coin series come from ethnically, racially and geographically diverse backgrounds. This coin series proudly displays what we do as nation – uplift and honor extraordinary women who have made a significant impact in America."

The Public‘s Response

Coins bridge the worlds of history, art, politics, and daily life. As such, coinage redesigns often spark strong public reactions, and the American Women quarters are no exception.

Many have praised the series as an overdue step in representing women‘s contributions. Some are excited to learn about lesser-known figures being honored. As acclaimed numismatist Q. David Bowers described in a Coin World article:

"I believe this series will be very popular with the public, and inspire interest in diverse disciplines, from poetry to space exploration, from suffrage to Native American leadership. Each new quarter released will bring an opportunity to discover a story of American achievement."

Others have raised critiques, whether disagreeing with the choice of honorees, expressing political objections, or calling for even greater diversity. The Mint has reiterated that the women were selected through an open and collaborative process with input from the public and multiple stakeholders.

Among collectors, reactions have been largely positive. Many are excited by the fresh designs and the chance to collect a series with both artistic merit and social significance. There‘s particular buzz around key coins like the first issues and the scarcer West Point Mint (W) quarters.

Some speculate that the series could drive an influx of new collectors, much like the 50 State quarters did. In a CoinWeek podcast, dealer Robert Oberth predicted:

"I think this series has the potential to be even more popular than the states. The designs are attractive, the concept resonates with people wanting to see more diversity in our culture and on our coins. I wouldn‘t be surprised if this inspires a whole new generation of collectors, especially young women who see themselves reflected in these coins."

Design Selection Process

To fully appreciate the American Women quarters, it‘s helpful to understand the intensive process behind their creation. Coinage redesigns are closely guided by law, Mint protocol, and input from key stakeholders.

U.S. Coin Design Process Infographic

After Congress passed the authorizing legislation, the Mint invited the public to submit recommendations for women to be honored. The Mint also consulted with the Smithsonian Institution American Women‘s History Initiative, the National Women‘s History Museum, and the Congressional Bipartisan Women‘s Caucus to develop a list of candidate honorees.

Once the final honorees were selected, the Mint worked with subject matter experts to develop design concepts and historically accurate details for each coin. Several artists then created proposed designs for each honoree.

The Secretary of the Treasury selected the final designs based on the recommendations of the Mint, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), and the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). The Mint sculpture-engravers then sculpted the designs for coin production.

Each step involved careful consideration of the artistic merit, coinability, historical accuracy, and symbolic power of the designs. CCAC member Dr. Dean Kotlowski summed up the responsibility, stating in a meeting:

"Our task is to help select designs that will stand the test of time, that will connect with the American people, and that capture both the spirit of each woman and the spirit of the nation. These coins will endure in our culture, and we have a duty to get it right."

A Historic Moment for American Coinage

The 2022 American Women quarters represent a milestone in U.S. coinage. They mark the first time women (other than allegorical figures) have been featured so prominently on circulating coins.

Women have historically been underrepresented on American currency. Prior to the 2022 quarters, only a few women had ever appeared on circulating U.S. coins:

Year Coin Woman Honored
1979-1981, 1999 Susan B. Anthony dollar Women‘s suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony
2000-present Sacagawea dollar Sacagawea, Shoshone interpreter and guide
2003-2020 First Spouse $10 gold coins Presidents‘ wives and other significant women (collector coins)

In contrast, the American Women quarters will put female faces in the hands of millions of Americans every day. This representation matters. As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated:

"Each time we redesign our currency, we have the chance to say something about our country, what we value, and how we‘ve progressed as a society. I‘m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America‘s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou, Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren, and Anna May Wong."

Beyond representation, this series creates space for education and reflection. Each coin sparks curiosity to learn more about its subject‘s life and historical context. The diversity of fields and backgrounds represented underscores that greatness takes many forms.

The American Women quarters are also a chance to engage new audiences in coin collecting. They may attract more women and girls to a hobby historically dominated by men. More broadly, they provide an accessible entry point for anyone interested in the arts, women‘s history, or simply high-quality coinage.

Conclusion

In summary, the 2022 quarter redesign honors the past while looking to the future. The American Women quarters series celebrates barrier-breaking women who paved the way for progress. At the same time, it exemplifies a broader movement towards more inclusive and representative coinage.

As a coin collector and scholar, I believe this redesign will be remembered as a defining moment in numismatic history. The pairing of Laura Gardin Fraser‘s right-facing Washington with the richly symbolic reverses is both artistically powerful and culturally significant.

Of course, coins are just one small facet of a society‘s identity and values. There is still much work to be done in advancing gender equity and historical representation. But these quarters are an important step – one that will circulate for generations to come.

So next time you find a 2022 American Women quarter in your change, take a moment to appreciate its design, reflect on its subject‘s legacy, and consider what it means to who we are as a nation. These small pieces of metal carry the story of how far we‘ve come, and the hope of where we‘re headed.

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