ROSEVILLE (AP) -- Members of a state commission put their heads together Wednesday to begin designing the tail of a Minnesota quarter, one of 50 commemorative coins depicting enduring symbols of each state.
The 15-member panel of elected officials, teachers and coin enthusiasts agreed to set up a state Web site by Sept. 15 to solicit ideas from the public. By mid-November, the commission must forward as many as five narrative descriptions to the U.S. Mint, which will do the artwork.
The final design will be selected by next fall and the quarter will be in circulation sometime in the spring of 2005. The 10-year program started in 1999, and five quarters are released each year in the order of when states joined the union. Minnesota is the nation's 32nd state.
"Everyone has an idea. I've heard everything from loons to moose to mining shovels," said Rep. Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm. "I want it to be unique."
Sertich and other commission members are sure to hear many more suggestions before the window for submissions closes Oct. 31. Drawings will be accepted, but written descriptions are encouraged.
Gloria Eskridge, the associate director of sales and marketing for the U.S. Mint, said the Mint prefers ideas in narrative form because it doesn't want to limit the process to people with artistic talent.
Eskridge and another Mint official came to Minnesota to discuss the ground rules. The designs must be dignified, historically accurate and simple enough to put on the back of hundreds of millions of coins. They should steer clear of commercial logos, head-and-shoulders depictions of any living or dead person and specific civic, religious and sports symbols.
While the average commercial life span of the coins is about 30 years, Eskridge reminded the panel that "people will be looking at these forever."
Eskridge's advice is to keep it simple.
"Some of the most beautiful designs have been the ones with a single focus element," she said. "Otherwise it becomes a collage."
Mark Meffert, an Eagan resident who has been collecting coins for 30 years, wants enough detail to make it identifiable, but not too much that the coin appears cluttered.
"It should be something where you look at it and say, 'That's Minnesota,"' he said.
Once the Mint returns its designs, probably in January or February, the public will have a chance to sound off on them. Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke, who is leading the commission, is tossing around the displaying the finalists at next year's Minnesota State Fair. Gov. Tim Pawlenty will have the final choice.
On the Net:
The Web site should be accessible by Sept. 15 through the Department of Education home page at http://education.state.mn.us
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