Md.'s Capitol dome is in Mint condition

Annapolis landmark is winning design for official U.S. quarter

June 02, 1999|By Michael Ollove and Sarah Pekkanen | Michael Ollove and Sarah Pekkanen,SUN STAFF

Heads or ... domes?

George Washington's solemn profile, traditionally paired with a spread-winged eagle on the flip side of the U.S. quarter-dollar coin, will soon have a new partner -- at least temporarily.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced yesterday that the back of a new Maryland-themed commemorative quarter, due out next spring, will feature the state's Capitol dome, a design by a 32-year-old White House graphic artist from Crofton.

The sketch by William Krawczewicz triumphed over about 280 other entrants, including drawings of crabs and schoolchildren's crayoned depictions of the Bay Bridge.

In making the announcement yesterday, Glendening's office said he chose the dome because of its unique stature among state Capitols -- the only statehouse that was also once the nation's Capitol.

With his design of the dome appears the slogan "The Old Line State," which was George Washington's reference to the First Maryland Regiment during the defense of New York in the Revolutionary War, according to State Archivist Edward Papenfuse.

"They represented the old line," he explained. "They were always reliable."

Glendening's decision should cause Krawczewicz to rejoice. He had peppered the governor's office with phone calls in recent weeks to assess his chances of winning the competition.

But as of last night, any celebrating was likely on hold. The governor's office said the artist is apparently on vacation and couldn't be reached.

Krawczewicz told The Sun earlier this year that he was anxiously awaiting the decision.

"It's great to be able to have that opportunity to do something that the state will actually use," he said in January.

A spokeswoman for the governor's office lamented last night that he could not be informed immediately of his triumph. "He's going to be so disappointed," she said.

The lavish praise being heaped on his design should help.

Standout design

According to William Stratemeyer, president of the Maryland State Numismatic Association, Krawczewicz's pen-and-ink drawing of the Capitol dome was a standout among the often-repetitive coin design entries.

Stratemeyer was part of a panel that winnowed the original crowd of entries to five finalists, which were sent to the U.S. Mint for consideration.

The Mint sent back four for Glendening to choose among.

Glendening picked the dome design over another version of the Capitol, a design featuring the Star-Spangled Banner, and a fourth entry depicting the Ark and the Dove -- the ships that carried the first settlers to Maryland.

The Maryland quarter will be minted starting in March 2000, pending final approval by the U.S. Treasury Department. The Maryland quarter will be the seventh commemorative state quarter minted.

All 50 states will eventually have their own commemoratives, introduced into circulation in order of their admission to the union.

First change since 1932

The coins are the first variation on the Washington quarter since it was introduced in 1932, when it replaced the last of five versions of a coin featuring Lady Liberty.

Coin expert Stratemeyer said Krawczewicz, who hand-delivered a portfolio containing several entries to the governor's office, "really did his homework" in designing his coins.

"He had some very quality entries and he put a lot of effort and time," Stratemeyer said.

"It wasn't something that was done overnight."

In his job at the White House, Krawczewicz produces everything from anti-drug posters to White House Easter Egg Roll brochures.

Coin design is something of an avocation, and over the years he has won several design contests, including a commemorative series for the 1994 Olympics.

While that victory earned him more than $4,500, he won't get even a quarter for this latest honor.

Papenfuse also was enthusiastic about Krawczewicz's design.

"In terms of what we're trying to do on the coin, it's the best possible choice," he said. "It symbolizes both state and national unity."

The Capitol dome, Papenfuse noted, is the largest wooden structure of its kind in North America. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison climbed to the catwalk near the top of the dome to survey the city of Annapolis.

Obverse opinion

The winning design did not draw universal acclaim, however.

"I thought it would be the [Baltimore] oriole or some kind of state flower or Fort McHenry," said Don Clark, owner of a coin shop in Brooklyn.

"You see so many domes on so many quarters."

But Clark added that whatever people think of the design, the Maryland quarter, like others in the state commemorative series, is creating a frenzy of activity in the coin-dealing market.

He said he is having a hard time keeping any kind of holder or sleeve for quarters on hand in his store.

A quarter worth 25

Michael A. Merrill, owner of a coin shop in Timonium, warned that collectors should not delude themselves into believing the new quarters are a smart investment.

"The 50 state quarters have zero value [above 25 cents] today, and 100 years from now they will have zero value because the Mint is turning them out in such quantities," he said.

The Mint struck nearly 800 million Delaware quarters.

Two other state coins, those representing Pennsylvania and New Jersey, were also scheduled to be in circulation by this month.

Coins featuring Georgia, Connecticut and Massachusetts designs are due out before the Maryland quarter is released.

Pub Date: 6/02/99

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