(NEXSTAR) – Between 1999 and 2008, the U.S. Mint produced some of the most commonly collected coins – the 50 State Quarters.
Just as the name implies, a separate quarter was minted for every state during the program, according to the U.S. Mint. Every year, five new quarters were issued, following the order in which the states ratified the Constitution or were admitted into the Union.
On the reverse of each is a unique design of state features or iconic moments in history. The Kansas quarter, for example, features a buffalo and sunflowers – the state animal and state flower, respectively. New York’s quarter features the state, the Statue of Liberty, and the slogan “Gateway to Freedom,” a nod to Ellis Island.
But what about California?
The California state quarter was released in 2005 along with that of Minnesota, Oregon, Kansas, and West Virginia. The quarter features naturalist and conservationist John Muir (often credited with creating the National Park System) viewing the Yosemite Valley’s granite headwall and an endangered California condor. At the top of the coin is 1850, the year California became a state.
California, like many others, turned to its residents for help designing the quarter. More than 800,000 participated in the process, according to a report from the Mint.
Initially, 8,000 designs were submitted, according to the Sierra Club. Twenty, selected by the California Quarter Selection Committee, were posted on then-Governor Gray Davis’ website for Californians to vote on.
You can likely guess what many of the designs included: grizzly bears, the Golden Gate Bridge, mining, references to Hollywood, Sequoias, farming, and mountains were among the most popular.
Five designs were selected by Davis as semifinalists. Among them was a concept featuring Muir overlooking Yosemite Valley created by Garrett Burke, a Pennsylvania native that moved to California in the 1980s, according to the Sierra Club. Burke, a graphic designer, had created movie posters, logos, art, and brochures for various studios in Hollywood, like Warner Bros. and Disney, and used a real picture of Muir to create his concept.
The Mint revised many of the images, including Burke’s design. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – who had replaced Davis in a recall election – asked the Mint to simplify the revised Muir design.
Specifically, Schwarzenegger asked for the addition of the California condor and for Muir to be enlarged in the design, SFGate reports. The design the Mint returned was ultimately selected.
“This, basically, is a design that tells the whole story,” Schwarzenegger said during a 2004 unveiling of the quarter design. He explained it reminds of “California’s wildlife, our majestic landscape, and our commitment to preserving our golden state for future generations.”
Burke told reporters he felt “the final image is wonderfully iconic, soulful and respectful of California’s heritage.”
John Hanna, one of Muir’s two grandsons who attended the quarter’s launch event, told reporters his grandfather “would be really proud” of the design.
Over 520 million California state quarters were produced and distributed. They were among the top revenue-generating, according to the Mint, as were those for other highly populated states like Texas, Michigan, New York, and Florida.