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June release set for Arizona quarter

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – The U.S. Mint plans a June 2 release for Arizona’s state quarter, a design that features images of the Grand Canyon and a desert vista dominated by a saguaro cactus.

Mint and state officials are planning a ceremony that will include giving a free quarter to invited schoolchildren in attendance. The Mint also sells $10 rolls of quarters at state quarter ceremonies.

Arizona’s quarter will be the 48th issued in the state quarters program. New Mexico was the 47th state to be honored, with its quarter released April 7 during a ceremony in the state Capitol rotunda in Santa Fe.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano plans to attend a May 16 ceremonial strike of the Arizona quarter at the U.S. Mint in Denver, one of two Mint facilities where the quarter will be produced.

Mint spokesman Greg Hernandez said people invited to attend the ceremonial strike “actually get a chance to press a button and have a quarter made at that moment.” However, they don’t get to keep the quarter “because it’s not a circulating quarter yet,” he said.

The Mint anticipates releasing 500 million Arizona quarters, a production run that Hernandez said is typical for the state quarters. “They get manufactured for 10 weeks and never again.”

State quarters are issued in order of statehood. Both New Mexico and Arizona became states in 1912.

Napolitano chose the design last April from among five finalists, saying it represents Arizona’s diverse landscape.

Saguaros are an iconic image of southern Arizona deserts in particular and the Southwest in general, while the Grand Canyon, a chasm carved thousands of feet into the Colorado Plateau by the Colorado River, is an international tourist attraction that became a national park in 1919.

The chosen design, which includes a “Grand Canyon State” banner across the middle of the quarter, was the overwhelming favorite among 112,830 responses to an online poll conducted by Napolitano’s office.

Earl Quintel, a Peoria coin collector who served on the state commission that worked on Arizona’s quarter design, said he’s looking forward to the release.

Like many collectors, Quintel has an album of state quarters. “I have every one except the last three.”

The state quarters program began in January 1999 and has featured the release of five quarters annually. It ends this year with the release of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii quarters.

For each state, the local images appear on the “tails” side and George Washington’s bust on the “heads” side.

The Mint in 2009 will issue quarters in honor of the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.

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