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Arkansas State Quarter

The Arkansas state quarter was the twenty-fifth of fifty state quarters to be issued by the U.S. Mint under its 50 State Quarters® Program. The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the program in 1997 in order to honor each of the fifty states. Five commemorative state quarters were issued each year for a period of ten years in chronological order according to when each state was admitted to the Union.

The Arkansas state quarter, designed by Dortha Scott of Mount Ida (Montgomery County), was issued in October 2003. The design features a diamond flanked by depictions of rice and a mallard duck with a background of trees and a body of water. The release of the Arkansas quarter was the culmination of a design process that began in January 2001 with a statewide competition challenging Arkansans to submit proposed designs for the coin.

Under guidelines provided by the U.S. Mint, Governor Mike Huckabee announced an open statewide competition in which Arkansans were asked to submit their design concepts to the governor’s office by March 31, 2001. The U.S. Mint allowed for the designs to depict natural and manmade state landmarks, landscapes, historic state buildings, the outline of the state, state resources, state flowers, and state trees. The rules prohibited the use of state flags and seals, as well as the depiction of any person, living or dead.

A total of 9,320 designs were submitted. After a committee narrowed these designs down to the top 100, those entries were displayed at the State Capitol in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Eleven judges who were selected by Huckabee from across the state reviewed those entries and chose what they believed to be the best twelve. The governor then chose three final designs to submit to the U.S. Mint for review.

The three artists whose designs were chosen as the finalists were Kathy Basler, a homemaker of Berryville (Carroll County); Ariston Jacks, a student at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB); and Dortha Scott of Mount Ida, who enjoyed drawing and sketching as a hobby. These artists received $1,000 prizes for having their designs chosen as finalists.

Basler’s design included an outline of the state, a pine tree, apple blossoms, ducks in flight, mountains, and a banner reading “Natural State,” while Jacks’s design featured the State Capitol with a mockingbird and pine branches in the foreground. Scott’s design included a diamond, ducks, lakes, mountains, and rice.

These final designs were modified by the U.S. Mint and returned to the governor, who made the final choice. On October 7, 2002, Huckabee announced that Dortha Scott’s design was the winner, and she was present at the official release of the coin on October 28, 2003, at Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro (Pike County).

The final modified design featured a large diamond, which represented Crater of Diamonds State Park as the central image. Stalks of rice, representing Arkansas’s status as the leading rice producer in the United States, were to the left of the diamond, and a mallard duck in flight above a body of water with a forest in the background represents Arkansas’s abundant natural resources and national reputation for outdoor sporting activities.

A total of 457,800,000 Arkansas state quarters were minted. No more will be produced.

For additional information:
Caillouet, Linda S. “Designs for Two-Bit Coin Worth $1,000 to Three.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. April 18, 2001, p. 1A.

DeMillo, Andrew. “Grandmother’s Design for Coin On the Money; Duck, Diamond, Rice On Arkansas Quarter.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. October 8, 2002, p. 1A.

Governor Huckabee’s Press Release, October 13, 2003. http://www.arkansas.gov/governor/media/releases/press/10132003-1.html (assessed January 29, 2005).

United States Mint 50 State Quarters® Program. http://www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/index.cfm?action=50_state_quarters_program (accessed January 29, 2005).

Jeff Bailey
Arkansas State University

Last Updated 12/15/2008

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