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Ideas roll for motif of Oregon quarter.

Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard

SALEM - If the most popular themes from submissions for the Oregon quarter hold up, then a beaver may well grace the state's coin. Or perhaps a fir tree. Maybe a salmon fighting the current of an Oregon river. Or a pioneer family with its covered wagon and Mount Hood in the background.

Maybe a montage of all of the above.

State officials - with help from a Corvallis coin collector, a Beaverton high-schooler and a Coquille social studies teacher - will meet today to formally kick off their pursuit of the design for our quarter, which won't jingle in people's pockets until 2005.

But dozens of schoolchildren and adults couldn't wait that long to try their hands at designing a coin to commemorate the Beaver State. Since 1998, more than 100 drawings and letters have been submitted to state officials, who have forwarded them to Treasurer Randall Edwards' office for safekeeping until the state's Coin Commission begins its work.

Though none of the exact submissions will end up gracing the Oregon quarter, they will have a bearing on the handful of concepts the commission sends to the U.S. Mint, which will develop the design, pending the governor's approval.

Melanie Lessard, an Astoria stained-glass artist, decided she'd like to design the Oregon quarter shortly after the first state quarter, the one honoring Delaware, came out in 1999. Should one of her 12 submissions be chosen as inspiration for the Oregon quarter, Lessard said, she'd be more than pleased.

"It would be a childhood dream come true. I would just be walking on air," said Lessard, 49. "I just adore coins, and when the opportunity came up I thought, I've wanted to do this all my life."

After the notion of trying to design the Oregon quarter first occurred to her, Lessard said she spent a few years mulling the possibilities, reviewing some of the more interesting coins she'd collected over the years, and researching Oregon history at the local library. Her designs, submitted in 2002, included all the images most popular among submissions collected so far: fir trees, beavers, salmon, mountains and pioneers traveling by covered wagon. But hers also included explorers' sailing ships, reflecting her own community's heritage as Oregon's gateway to the Columbia River.

Springfield resident Karla Bigelow made the case for including a beaver on the coin. She noted in her letter to Gov. Ted Kulongoski that she'd learned through her research that before Oregon's statehood, traders stamped coins for use as currency with an image of the animal with the highly prized pelt on what was known as "Beaver Money."

Other less common images that showed up on some of the other early submissions: raindrops, a killer whale (Keiko, perhaps?), Lewis and Clark (who already appear on the Missouri quarter), Oregon's official bird (the Western meadowlark), and such natural attractions as Crater Lake and Smith Rock.

The bulk of submissions gathered by the state so far have come from elementary and middle school students who worked out possible designs as class assignments - in several cases using worksheets produced by Scholastic.

Even in this civic art exercise, some took advantage of a chance to lobby for their cause. Two members of the Covered Bridge Society of Oregon submitted a drawing that prominently featured a covered bridge, along with a covered wagon and a salmon. And John Hook of Salem, former archivist for the United Methodist Archives, wrote a letter suggesting the 19th century Methodist missionary Jason Lee for the Oregon quarter.

Plenty more submissions are sure to flood the Capitol as the state begins to actively publicize its call for Oregon quarter suggestions, said Kulongoski's chief of staff, Stephen Schneider, who is overseeing the project.

"There is a tremendous amount of interest," Schneider said. "The governor sees this as a historic event and a great opportunity for Oregon to showcase itself to the rest of the country and people from other parts of the world."

But the upcoming effort doesn't represent a chance for an individual to win the honor of designer of the Oregon quarter; state officials have made clear the commission isn't running a design competition or contest. Instead, the submissions will aid the commission in its development of the narrative design concepts.

Public submissions will be accepted until Nov. 1.

The U.S. Mint requires the initial design concepts from the states to be in "narrative form." The Oregon Coin Commission, however, will accept both written and graphic-design proposals in its development of three to five narrative design concepts. The commission will submit those proposals to the Mint, whose artists will render designs based on the "narrative concepts." Kulongoski will approve and recommend the final design to the Mint in 2004.

The panel includes the sorts of people who typically serve on such panels: current and former politicians such as former Lane County lawmaker Nancie Fadeley, historians and civic leaders. But to conform with membership criteria in the governor's executive order creating the panel, members also include Beaverton High School junior Laura Davis, Coquille High School teacher Caryn Connolly and numismatist (coin collector) Monte Mensing of Corvallis.

OREGON'S QUARTER

The Oregon Coin Commission holds its first meeting from 9 a.m. to noon today at the Labor and Industries Building on Salem's Capitol Mall. It is soliciting ideas until Nov. 1 for the Oregon quarter. Ways to submit ideas include:

E-mail: oregon.quarter@state.or.us

Mail: Oregon Quarter, Oregon State Capitol, 900 Court St. N.E., Salem, OR 97301-4043

On the Web: For more information, visit the governor's Web site (governor.oregon.gov) or the U.S. Mint (usmint.gov)

Drawn and quartered...

Here's a chance to make up your own design for Oregon's quarter. You've got your traditional beaver and covered wagon. But don't forget the New Carissa. And what about Roboduck and our notorious rain? The sky's the limit on our state claims to fame. Sketch your idea of what makes Oregon a great - and fun - place to live. We'll publish a sampling of the best.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:The state commission begins consideration of design suggestions for the 2005 coin; Government
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 10, 2003
Words:1008
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