Mint produces D.C. quarter

The D.C. quarter officially went into circulation last month after a year-long debate over what the coin should look like.

The quarter features jazz legend Duke Ellington, whose likeness won a public contest over depictions of Frederick Douglass and Benjamin Banneker. It also bears the inscription “Justice for All” – the District’s official motto.

Many have suggested that the new quarter is a symbol of recognition of the city’s parity with the 50 states, all of which have a commemorative quarter. D.C. government officials and residents have long lobbied Congress for a vote in the House of Representatives, and the quarter’s release comes at a time when D.C. residents are hopeful they might soon get those rights.

“This is a week for history because I have in my hand a quarter, a proof of your citizenship,” Del. Eleanor Homes-Norton, D-D.C., told members of the Foggy Bottom Association two weeks ago.

“I am very pleased to have Duke Ellington on the quarter,” added Norton, who was involved with choosing the design.

The D.C. Quarter Design Advisory Committee said that the design process – which began about a year ago – should focus on the cultural aspects of the District rather than the governmental aspects. The new design reflects that decision, as Ellington is often cited as one of the largest cultural figures in D.C.’s history.

The design process was not without controversy. In February 2008, the U.S. Mint rejected a design that included the phrase “Taxation Without Representation.” The design was the most popular suggestion made by D.C. residents, but the mint deemed the slogan “too controversial.”

“The quarter design was selected by the people of the District,” U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White said. “The ‘taxation without representation’ slogan was an issue that came up a while ago, but they’ve moved forward from that.”

The U.S. Mint estimates they will produce about 159 million D.C. quarters this year, White said. That number is lower than the production of quarters in previous years because of the economic downturn and the fact that Mint is releasing six new quarters this year – one more than usual.

The U.S. Mint is working with the Mayor’s office to coordinate a launch event for the quarter.

-Lindsay Gordon contributed to this report.

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