Welcome coinfans, here we go with more tails-to-tails first-round competition on the road to the title of America’s Most Awesome State Quarter! You can catch up with all the action at Quarter Central, but the Swayze Region boasts such juggernauts of jing, I’ll go out on a limb and say that whoever survives this numismatic brawl will dominate from here on in! Here we go:
California comes ready to play some coin with a three-pronged attack, and proves the adage that if you’re gonna boast about your state, first have something to boast about, and second have a backup. Boom! John Muir, the hoary misanthropic envirophile is hard to top, but then – Boom! we’ve got Half Dome, one of the crown jewels of Yosemite, daring coin-thumbers to climb, for a better view of – Boom! The California Condor, the Randy Johnson of state birds, ugly as a custard apple but unbeatable in straight-up competition. But now what does West Virginia bring? A bridge?! You have got to be kidding me! Every state in the union has a bridge – hell, Arizona has London Bridge but they’re not crazy enough to put it on their quarter! West Virginia, stumbling out of the gate with a weak boast, and a confusing one at that. What’s supposed to catch our eye, the gorge or the bridge? I hate to see a state stumble like this, but what are ya gonna do.
Winner: California, walking away.
On to a classic New England matchup. Our fifth state, Connecticut, makes an unusual move – A Tree? But wait, this is no prissy Vermont Sugar Maple, my friends, this is the legendary Charter Oak, the only tree to take part in the founding of our nation, concealing as it did the precious Connecticut Charter from the clutches of the British. Don’t know about it? Jeeminee, crack a book, people! Now Massachusetts, State Number Six, brings it to it with the iconic Minuteman – Wow! You gotta be impressed! Not only do they hold back their star power – Your Paul Reveres, your Sam Adamses – but they lead with the icon, the legend, the first American foot soldier. Folks, this bench has depth, this is a quarter with confidence, and it’s the only quarter to carry a gun. Yeah, I’m going back, to Massachusetts!
Winner: Massachusetts, by a rifle-length.
One of the most unlikely pairings you’ll see in this round, and not surprisingly, it’s a real letdown on both ends. New Hampshire pretty much blows it with its depiction of their traditional tourist trap The Old Man in the Mountain. It’s a natural formation that’s supposed to look like an old man – me, I say it looks like an old lady. I once bought a potato that looked like Walter Cronkite, but did I run to put it on a coin? NH wastes its strongest card, the undisputed Most Awesome State Motto: “Live Free or Die.” But just when you think it can’t get worse, along comes Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s a dream-team of images – the great displaced Indian nations, massive cattle drives, Conestoga wagons, the land run, and above all, America’s favorite beverage – oil! So does this big brawny state choose? A bird. But not an eagle or a hawk, it’s the Scissortail Flycathcher. And what bold motto do they bring in to save themselves? “1907.” It’s enough to want to send this quarter-back down to the dimes.
Winner: New Hampshire. Enjoy it, Old Man, it’s your last victory.
Now here’s a match worth seeing! David and Goliath slug it out in a battle that pits boasting, natural beauty and actual accomplishment against one another. North Carolina, the Barbecue State, is one of the teams to beat in this entire competition, and they walk it like they talk it with the Wright Brothers’ first flight, a claim that no other state can step up to. First car? who cares? First balloon? that was in France. The first airplane speaks for itself, takes on all comers, steps up on the mountain and says “knock me down!” But young Montana’s no slouch, and this big lumbering state might move slow but it moves with grace and dignity – cattle skull hovering over the Bridger Mountains puts me to mind of beef and skiing, two of my favorite pastimes. It’s a strong showing, but is it enough? Montana’s youth and inexperience as a state pose a liability, and no matter what your resources in this competition, going up against the first airplane is gonna cause injuries early in the rounds. Montana shows dignity, rising above its Hannah’s and fast-food sandwich brand namesakes.
Winner: North Carolina, but a tip of the coin to Montana. Maybe next century, Big Fella.
Wow. Some true titans of coinage today, and the weak cheese has been blasted out of the arena. Watch your back, Indiana and Nebraska, best you come ready to play.