Thanks to the clumsy efforts of the state's Commemorative Quarter Committee and the seeming indifference of Governor Taft, Ohio may be saddled next year with a quarter that is not only a disgraceful work of art but one which totally ignores the early history of the first state to emerge from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
That ordinance is America's most important document after the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and since Ohio was the first state carved out of the Northwest Territory - public land shared by all Americans - Ohio's coin should reflect its historical significance.
Instead we get a design that features the Wright Brothers' first airplane and looks remarkably like North Carolina's coin, which has been in circulation since earlier this year.
It's clear the people driving the design choice for Ohio have no feel for Ohio's history. By contrast, any thoughtful examination of the quarters issued so far shows how determined most of the states have been to recognize their role in the nation's formation.
The first coin in the series, Delaware's, shows the historic horseback ride of Caesar Rodney, a delegate to the Continental Congress, who set off on an 80-mile journey through rain and summer heat to cast the deciding vote in favor of independence.
Connecticut's coin shows a stately white oak tree. It was in an oak tree that Joseph Wadsworth hid the Connecticut charter from the British in 1687. The tree became known as Connecticut's “charter oak.”
Massachusetts' coin salutes the Minutemen who helped defeat the British in the Revolutionary War. Maryland chose to feature its first statehouse, which also served as the new nation's first peacetime capitol. Virginia's coin honors Jamestown, America's first permanent English settlement. New Jersey's shows Gen. George Washington crossing the Delaware.
Ohio's coin is not in that spirit at all.
Ohio is a great state named for a great river, the main transportation artery for pioneers seeking new land on the frontier which was then known as the Ohio country. For 60 years, this state, including the Lake Erie shore and the Maumee River basin, was the center of conflict among the French, British, American, and Indian peoples who occupied this land that long has been recognized as the American heartland.
So it should have not been rocket science to figure out that Ohio deserved a pioneer theme, one which reflected the westward movement in America as well as the links with the 13 original states.
The Blade offers two designs for such a coin (see below), one showing a keel boat making its way along the waterways of the Buckeye State, the other incorporating a sketch of the pioneer family depicted on the majestic Fallen Timbers Monument on U.S. 24.
A commemorative coin should be universal, simple, and symbolic. It should be closely related to the period of the state's founding. Using these criteria, Blade artist Jeff Basting produced a working sketch of a couple of options within a few hours. The aviation design drafted by the state quarter committee and amended by the mint after months of squabbling also is shown below.
What a shame if the bureaucratic bumbling sticks us with a coin that looks remarkably like North Carolina's and fails to capture the true essence of this great state.
Ohio will celebrate its bicentennial in two years. But why bother if this is the best we can do with our state quarter?