WASHINGTON – Flip a coin.
If Julian Leidman’s wish comes true, the back of that coin could feature a blue crab, his favorite symbol of the state of Maryland and his suggestion for the state’s version of a new set of quarters to be issued by the U.S. Treasury.
“I wish there was a way to put a crab on it. I just love crabs,” said Leidman, manager of Bonanza Coins in Silver Spring. “If not, I guess I’d settle for the Chesapeake Bay, the state capital or the state seal. I’ve always liked the state seal.”
The crab is one of more than 300 suggestions the Maryland Commemorative Quarter Design Selection Committee has received for the design on the quarter representing Maryland in the U.S. Mint’s 50 State Commemorative Coin Program. The quarters will still have George Washington on the front, but will have historical and regional symbols representing the states on the back.
Five new quarters will be issued each year for the next decade, beginning next year, in the order of each state’s acceptance into the union. Maryland, the seventh state, will have its coin distributed in 2000.
“We’ve gotten all kinds of suggestions, from crabs to blue herrings to the top of the capitol and the State House,” said Michelle Byrnie, a spokeswoman in Gov. Parris Glendening’s office. “We even got a suggestion for soap from a elementary school student. Apparently, soap is manufactured in Maryland.”
The committee will accept ideas through Friday, after which it will select three to five designs to be reviewed by the governor and sent to the Treasury for approval. The governor will select the final design to be submitted to the mint in April 1999.
Montgomery County Coin Club members hope the final design will be the Wye Oak, the state tree. After considering Fort McHenry, an oriole and a raven — in honor of Edgar Allen Poe — club president Kenneth E. Swab said the group decided to submit the Wye Oak. But Swab, a member of the state’s selection committee, said he is open to all ideas.
“One of the things the committee will have to take into consideration is that Connecticut has already submitted and had approved an oak design. We will have to consider whether there would be any confusion between the two,” he said.
“But I’m pretty open to hear people’s thoughts on the subject,” said Swab. “Someone suggested a skipjack and another something related to Francis Scott Key and the Star-Spangled Banner and there’s something there to consider.”
The program’s guidelines allow state landmarks, landscapes, historic buildings, symbols of state resources or industries, official state flora and fauna and state icons for the design of the quarters. State flags, seals and inscriptions are prohibited, along with symbols of private, educational, civic, religious, sports or other organizations that do not have universal membership.
Besides Swab, the 16-member committee appointed by the governor includes the state comptroller and treasurer, legislators, the state archivist and directors of several cultural organizations.
Edward C. Papenfuse, the state archivist, said he thinks Maryland’s design might ultimately represent the state’s role in helping to form the nation.
“It might be something that really and truly symbolizes Maryland’s role in the federal government and the forming of the Constitution,” he said. “A good representation of that would be the State House. It’s a good representation of the people, that was in place when the Constitution was ratified.”
Peter Boyer is partial to sailing ships. The president of Coins of the Realm Inc. in Rockville said Maryland’s design should be unique and that Chesapeake Bay sailing ships fit the bill.
“There are going to be 50 different designs so we should pick something that unmistakably represents Maryland,” he said.
Leidman said he is not promoting the value of the new Maryland quarter, but he thinks it will be part of an interesting new collection of coins.
“If the mint does a good job of distributing the coins during the long 10-year program, all of the coins could have a good collectibility,” he said. “It’s going to be a great 50-piece set.”