Jovita Idár quarter named best coin design of 2023

The coin is one of a series highlighting great American women.

By Michael MarksMarch 5, 2024 1:38 pm, ,

George Washington still has one whole side of every U.S. quarter to himself. But since 2022, the first president has shared the coin with some of our nation’s most prominent women.

These include people like Maya Angelou, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jovita Idár – a journalist and activist from Laredo. In the early 20th century, Idár worked for Latino rights, women’s suffrage, and justice for the poor.

The quarter features a traditional portrait of Idár with her hands clasped together in front of her. Her garment is made up of words that reflect her life, like El Progreso, a paper she worked for, and La Cruz Blanca, in which she served during the Mexican Revolution.

It’s a remarkable-looking coin, according to the staff of CoinWeek, which recently singled out the Idár quarter as the best coin design of 2023. Charles Morgan, CoinWeek’s editor and publisher, spoke to the Standard about the coin. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: You evaluated over 200 coins from all across the world that were released in 2023. What was the criteria you used to judge the designs?

Charles Morgan: Well, we look for a number of things when we’re looking at coins – whether the design is balanced, whether it has significant historical meaning for the people it’s produced for. We look at how inscriptions are laid on the coin, whether the coin had an artistic merit that went beyond just the normal designs that appear on coins.

When we’re looking at coins, we can’t necessarily judge them all based on the same criteria. Because, for instance, if you’re creating a coin for a collector market and you’re able to charge a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on whether it’s a gold or silver coin, you have a lot of flexibility about the design. You can make it very intricate. You can make it round. You could affix crystals to it. It could be colorized.

But if you’re creating a coin for circulation like the Jovita Idár quarter, the cost of the coin has to be less than the face value – so $0.25 coin. It has to be able to be mass produced by the hundreds of millions because it actually serves a purpose in our economy. And it’s not very often that you see a circulating coin have a tremendous amount of artistic merit, because that’s not the point of the coin. Really the point of the coin is to be spent. But this American Women quarter series that started in 2022 is one of the most exciting quarter series that the United States Mint has ever issued.

And as your listeners are probably aware, we haven’t had a consistent quarter design since 1998. 1999 started the 50 state quarters program, and for ten years there was five new quarters issued by the mint each year honoring each state and their order of admission into the Union. And it was an exciting program.

And for the first few years, every bank across the United States had a rush of customers that would come in when news broke that the latest quarter was released. But the problem with that series was that the designs were very cookie cutter. They sort of resembled clip art.

But when we get to this current series, this American Women Quarter series, what we see with Jovita Idár is not only is she a pioneering civil rights figure and a Texas icon, but she was somebody who was proudly American and embraced that Americanism to bring rights, freedoms and education to other Americans.

And when you look at her design, you see this proud, stoic-looking figure, and she’s wearing this blouse and inscribed in the blouse or all of these words. So you have Spanish words that relate to her career and her publications, but you also have what are legally-required words that are in English and also in Latin, “E pluribus unum.”

But those words appear on every quarter. And they were like “United States of America,” “quarter dollar,” “E pluribus unum” – as I said, our national motto: “out of many one.” But when you put it in the context of the way the artist put this together, it’s more than just something that we know by rote memory. These are these are like life principles that I think served Jovita Idár well and probably would serve all of us well today.

To remember another thing that we really liked about this quarter is that it has this dish-like, field. That’s the empty part of the coin. It doesn’t have the raised element. And that gives, I think, the design a lot of balance. And it gives the figure room to… for the design to breathe.

And so this quarter really has quite a deep significance. And I think it’s really a great moment in our history to have coins that represent the stories of so many Americans being able to circulate as money.

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