A bill recently introduced by Rep. Melvin Watt [D-NC] proposes a 40-coin, eight-year series of circulating quarters to commemorate and be emblematic of "prominent civil rights leaders and important events that have advanced civil rights in America."
H.R. 6701, "Civil Rights Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008," was introduced July 31, and has an already large cosponsor list of 99 representatives.
Most collectors are now familiar with the H.R. 6184, "America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008," which the House passed July 9 and would continue circulating quarters commemorating national parks and sites for at least 11 years. Like it, H.R. 6701 would authorize a large silver version of the coin measuring 3 inches in diameter and weighing a 5 ounces.
These "super-sized" coins seem to be a new trend in congress, as the latest Senate version of the park quarters bill (S. 3290) includes language for a 3 inch diameter, 8 ounce silver coin.
The Civil Rights designs, as is typical in coin legislation, are not fully defined. But the bill does include recommendations for the following individuals and events portrayed on the reverse of quarters:
- Martin Luther King, Jr.;
- Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad;
- The Little Rock Nine;
- Rosa Parks;
- Cesar Chavez;
- Antonia Pantoja;
- Dionisio (Dennis) Chavez;
- Patsy Mink;
- Philip Vera Cruz; and
- Thurgood Marshall
The Treasury Secretary would determine each final design after consulting with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Commission of Fine Arts.
Also unclear is when the quarter-dollar coin series would begin circulating. The legislation simply states "upon the completion of prior program," and that five quarters a year would be issued and the series is to end after 40 quarters.
Should this legislation pass and the national parks quarter bill get thrown aside, the series would likely begin in 2010 and after the D.C. and U.S. Territories quarters retire.
Congress returns from its several weeks of vacation on Monday, September 8. For a bill to become law, it must pass both houses and be signed by the President.