First and Second American Coins for Women

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The obverse of the Maya Angelou 2022 quarter – and all in the American Women Quarter series – was designed by Laura Gardin Fraser. Maya Angelou’s reverse design is by Emily Damstra. This is the first time a coin has been designed entirely by women to honor a woman. (Images courtesy of the United States Mint.)

The exit of American quarterback Maya Angelou 2022 represents several firsts and seconds for women.

It is the first U.S. coin issued for circulation designed entirely by women. The obverse was designed by Laura Gardin Fraser, for use on the forthcoming 1932 Washington Quarter. The 1931 George Washington Fine Arts Commission and Bicentennial Committee approved her design for appearance on a new US commemorative half dollar. However, the coin became the next quarter in circulation.

Then Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon chose John Flanagan’s obverse design for this coin instead. (This was certainly not an anti-woman or anti-Fraser reaction, as Mellon had already endorsed several earlier Fraser designs that appeared on U.S. commemorative coins in the 1920s.) This obverse design finally appears on the quarter Maya Angelou and all succeed. 19 quarters to honor prominent American women.

Piece designer Emily S. Damstra.  (Image courtesy of the United States Mint.)

Piece designer Emily S. Damstra. (Image courtesy of the United States Mint.)

The inverted design was created by Emily S. Damstra, who has 10 US coin designs to her credit, including the new inverted design on US silver Eagle dollars that first appeared in mid-2021.

Another first is that this coin is the first American coin to be designed entirely by women to honor a woman.

As for the seconds, Fraser’s obverse design is used for the second time on a US coin. It was first used in 1999 during the gold commemoration of the bicentennial of George Washington’s death at $5. The Maya Angelou Quarter thus becomes the first American coin adapted from a commemorative coin issue.

Maya Angelou is also the second woman to appear on an American quarter. The first was Helen Keller on the 2003 Alabama Statehood quarter.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Damstra is also the second person from the state of Michigan to design a US coin. (The first was Steve Bieda, who created the reverse design for the 1992 Olympic Half Dollar Commemoration.) Damstra attended Forest Hills Northern High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Scientific Illustration from the University of Michigan. .

Damstra’s reverse design of Neighborhood Maya Angelou is his first new American coin design of 2022. Later this year, his second New American coin design of 2022 will be the reverse of Neighborhood Anna May Wong.

Also, Damstra’s reverse design for the Maya Angelou quarter is her second US coin design to honor a specific American woman. His first design honored teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe on the 2021 commemorative silver dollar. Note, however, that his first U.S. coin featuring a specific person was the reverse of the 2019 Native American dollar, which figuratively ( because he is still alive and theoretically ineligible to be depicted on a US coin) featured the first Native American astronaut. – John Herington.

When Damstra began creating coins under the US Mint’s Art Infusion Program, it became the second nation for which she designed coins. Since 2012, she has designed 33 different coins for the Royal Canadian Mint.

With all of these first and second pioneers for women involved in American coins, it is only fitting that the Maya Angelou district would receive Ventris Gibson appointed by President Biden in December 2021 to serve as Director of the Mint of United States. If confirmed by the US Senate, she would be the first African American of either gender to hold the position. His current titles are Deputy Director and Acting Director of the United States Mint.

Patrick A. Heller has been honored as a 2019 FUN numismatic ambassador. He is also the recipient of the American Numismatic Association’s 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, the 2017 Exemplary Service Award, the 2012 Harry Forman National Dealer of the Year Award, and the 2008 Presidential Award. Over the years, he has also been honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild (including in 2021 for Best Investment Newsletter), the Professional Numismatists Guild, the Industry Council for Tangible Assets, and the Michigan State Numismatic Society. He is the communications manager for Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Michigan, and writes Prospects of freedom, a monthly newsletter on rare currencies and precious metals. Past issues of the newsletter can be viewed at www.libertycoinservice.com. Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That You Don’t, and Important News You Need to Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which broadcasts in live and is part of the audio archives published on www.1320wils.com).

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