In the history of American coinage, the list of women who have designed coins has remained few. While Emily Damstra and Jennie Norris join that list with their stunning American Silver Eagle and American Gold Eagle designs, another woman is also finally being honored by having her design on circulating coinage: Laura Gardin Fraser.
On Christmas night in 1776, General George Washington and his army executed a surprise attack on Hessian forces that was as an early turning point of the Revolutionary War. Known famously as “Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware,” this attack saw Washington lead 2,400 soldiers across the partially-frozen Delaware River into Trenton, New Jersey, where a large portion of British troops were stationed.
In 1976, our country celebrated one of its most important dates yet: the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which formally marked the Thirteen Colonies as their own nation. After two hundred years, our glorious nation had overcome hardships ranging from the Civil War to the Great Depression. Despite these challenges, the United States of America still stood strong and continued to espouse the belief that all men and women had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In 1932, our country celebrated the bicentennial birthday of perhaps the most important man in its history, George Washington. Along with the countrywide celebrations of the first president to lead our nation, the bicentennial was marked with a very special occasion: the introduction of a new quarter design featuring Washington’s likeness. While originally intended as a one-year-only commemorative coin, the Washington Quarter has gone on to become one of America’s most popular and enduring coins.
Over the past two decades, the quarter has seen a variety of innovative new designs due to a series of government programs, including the 50 State Quarters Program and the America the Beautiful Quarters Program. The most recent quarter redesign came this year in the form of the 2021 General Washington Crossing the Delaware quarter.
With the end of the America the Beautiful Coin Program coming in 2021, the design of the quarter has been a topic of debate for the past year. As indicated by Public Law 110-465, also known as the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008, the new quarter design will depict “an image of General Washington crossing the Delaware River prior to the Battle of Trenton.” For fans of the State Quarter program, this scene may be familiar, as it was exhibited on the 1999 New Jersey State Quarter. The new design, however, had very specific recommendations from the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee in order to ensure that it would be unique.
Due to the increasing price of silver during the 1960s, the intrinsic value of silver coins became higher than their face value. The sky rocketing price of silver coupled with new restrictions imposed on holding gold by Executive Order 10905 caused the public to begin hoarding silver coins. As result, the amount of silver coinage in circulation began to drastically decrease at an alarming rate. In fact, during this period of time, about $700 million worth of silver coins, or about one third of the total circulating silver coinage of the United States had been permanently removed from circulation. This left the United States with a severe shortage of coins.