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The Maine State Quarter

The Maine State Quarter - #23 in Series
United States Mint image
The Maine state quarter is the 23rd quarter to be released in the U.S. Mint's 50 State Quarters™ Program and the third to be released in 2003. The Federal Reserve System released the Maine State quarter dollars into circulation on June 2, 2003.

The design of the released quarter represents aspects of Maine's landscape tied to its maritime history.

The year that Maine became a state, 1820, is centered at the top of the quarter. Below are pictured a pine tree, a lighthouse, perched on a rocky cliff, and an Atlantic ocean-going sailing vessel accompanied by two sea birds.

The pine tree, positioned to the left of the lighthouse, represents Maine's official state tree, the white pine. The white pine represents Maine's forestry industries where mills make paper, pulp, toothpicks, and a variety of other wood products. It's also considered to be the largest conifer in the northeastern United States and some of the tallest trees in eastern North America grew in Maine. In the early days of colonization, the tall white pines of Maine were valued for ship's masts.

The white pine played an important part in the history of Maine and has been afforded appropriate recognition. In addition to being honored as Maine's state tree, the white pine also contributed its pinecone and tassel as the official state flower. It also shows up on Maine's state seal, the state flag, and in its nickname, the "Pine Tree State." Almost 90% of Maine is forested.

The Maine State Quarter - #23 in Series
United States Mint image
The lighthouse depicted on the coin is based on the Pemaquid Point Light located near Bristol, Maine. One of Maine's 65 lighthouses, the Pemaquid Point Light marks the entrance to Muscongus Bay and John Bay. In 1826, Congress made $4,000 available to build a lighthouse to ward ships from the dangerous shoals. The original stone tower, built in 1827, was replaced in 1835 by the 38-foot stone tower that stands today and continues to serve as an active aid to navigation. This lighthouse is a popular Maine attraction and is visited by around 100,000 people each year.

Windjammer, Victory Chimes
Courtesy of the Maine Windjammer Association
The schooner (large ship with two or more masts), depicted on the coin, is based on "Victory Chimes, " the last three-masted schooner of the windjammer fleet. A "windjammer" is simply a large sailing vessel. The term may have originated as a contemptuous term used by sailors on early steam vessels.

Built in 1900 in Bethel, Delaware to carry lumber up and down the shallow bays and rivers of the Chesapeake, the 132' schooner Victory Chimes is the last three-masted schooner on the East coast and the largest passenger sailing vessel (40 passengers) under U.S. flag. . She's registered as a National Historic Landmark, a reminder of the golden age of sail, and takes passengers on week-long cruises along the coast of Maine.

The process for choosing a design for the quarter began, in March 2001, when Governor Angus King established the seven-member Commission on the Maine State Quarter Design. The commission was headead by State Treasurer Dale McCormick.

The commission launched a design contest open to all full and part-time Maine residents and scheduled to conclude on May 11, 2001. Submissions were restricted to one, two-dimensional concept per person and were to be submitted to the Maine State Quarter Design Commission for review.

After the close of the competition, the commission examined about 200 concepts and drawings from the Maine public. Finalists were forwarded to Governor King for his review on June 6, 2001. King selected three of the five concepts presented to him.

One design featured the Pemaquid Point Light and a three-masted schooner navigating the rocky Maine coast. These elements reflected Maine's maritime history. Also included was a young white pine tree, the official state tree, representing the state's forestry product industries.

Another design featured Maine's Mount Katahdin, including the original Penobscot Indian spelling -- Ktaadn. Mount Katahdin, located in Maine's north woods, is the highest mountain in Maine (5,267 feet above sea level) and marks the northern end of the Appalachian Trail. Henry David Thoreau's The Maine Woods was written about Mount Katahdin.

A third design represented Maine as the first state in the continental United States to greet the morning sun each day. The design featured an outline of the state with the sun rising above a body of water with 16 rays emanating from the sun to indicate Maine's 16 counties. The North Star, a part of Maine's state seal, was depicted to the left of the rising sun.

Governor King suggested a fourth idea similar to the third but incorporating different design elements. It included the elements of the rising sun and white pine and a representation of the West Quoddy Head Light in Lubec, Maine. This distinctively shaped West Quoddy Head Light is known for its red and white horizontal stripes.

These four design concepts were submitted to the United States Mint.

The United States Mint then returned four candidate designs based on the concepts. They included "Nation's First Light," "Where America's Day Begins," Mt. Katahdin, and the lighthouse at Pemaquid Point.

Four Maine finalists
Four Maine finalists provided by the U.S. Mint

These four quarter candidates were offered to Maine residents for their approval and, with over 100,000 Mainers participating, the Pemaquid Point Light design concept was chosen by popular vote.

At 11:00am, on June 9, 2003, about 1,000 people gathered at the Pemaquid Point Light to celebrate the unveiling of the Maine state quarter. Among them were U.S. Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore; Maine Governor John Baldacci; Maine State Treasurer Dale McCormick; Tom Wilcox, executive director of the Maine Maritime Museum; Tim Harrison, president of the American Lighthouse Foundation; Tim Sample, Maine humorist; and Victory Chimes Captain, Kip Files.

Although she had planned to attend, windjammer Victory Chimes was at dock in Rockland, Maine. Inclement weather had kept her home but did not dampen the crowd's spirits as Governor Baldacci spoke to the crowd about the new quarter and its reflection of Maine's seafaring history.

Entertainment was provided by Tim Sample, the Lincoln Academy Band, the Bristol Consolidated School Choir and Handbell Choir, a bagpiper and the group Castlebay. Chocolate quarter replicas were distributed by the Friends of the Pemaquid Lighthouse.

Source: United States Mint,, June 17, 2003.
Source: Maine Windjamer Association,, July, 2003
Source: Governor's office, State of Maine,, July, 2003

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