Quarter reviews, Iowa through Delaware

December 3, 2004

My good friend Amy From Jersey and I have been collecting all the state quarters. She sends me the Ps, and I send her the Ds from Seattle. Whenever I send one or she sends me one–whichever comes first–I send her a little capsule review of the design. Here are my reviews so far, in the reverse order in which I received these quarters, Iowa through Delaware.

IOWA: C                                                                                                              When I was young, I used to think that Iowa was the most boring state in the union, even though I’d never been there. Because I was a demonstrative and weird little kid, I used to pretend to fall asleep every time somebody said the word "Iowa" in conversation. That’s pretty much how I feel about this quarter.

TEXAS: A+                                                                                                             This quarter perfectly expresses the Satanic power that is Texas. Dark, wicked, barren, empty, and wrong…yet strangely attractive. Dubya. Waco 4-20. LBJ. A state food, chili, that rates best when it hurts you most. Tex-Mex. Barbecue. The Butthole Surfers. Ministry. The Reverend Horton Heat. SxSW. The 72-ounce steak challenge—eat the whole thing in an hour and it’s free. The Yellow Rose of Texas—yellow roses are only for funerals, see. Shiner Bock–the best hot-weather beer ever brewed. The West meets the Midwest meets the South. An independent country for nine years. Takes 24 hours to drive across it. Cactus. Oil. The Last Picture Show. "The stars at night, are big and bright—clap-clap-clap-clap—deep in the heart of Texas"—ever notice how evil those claps sound? Texas. The Lone Star State. A raised star, alone. A rope around the edge for roping steers. Or lynching outlaws, take your pick. Texas rules the world right now, and the world is not a pretty place. Texas. Goddamn right.

FLORIDA: D
How’s this for posterity: putting a nearly obsolete, sure-to-be-cancelled-by-2010 NASA boondoggle in the most prominent position on your quarter. I’m half expecting the damn thing to blow up every time I flip it. And another sailboat. I swear, the next quarter with a sailboat gets an F just on principle.

MICHIGAN: C
Boring map. Boring slogan. Michigan’s the only state in the lower 48 I’ve never really been to (except the Detroit airport), and this quarter changes nothing. Go Pistons.

ARKANSAS: B+
Shine on, you crazy diamond.

MISSOURI: B
Points off for predictability–the arch? Come on, everybody knew they were gonna do the arch. It’s like NYC doing the Statue of Liberty, or Boston doing the Boston Tea Party, or Louisiana doing Mardi Gras. And what’s this trying to capitalize on the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark? It says Corps of Discovery (like anybody even knows what that is) 1804-2004. But this quarter came out in 2003. There’s no connection with 2004 whatsoever. It’s a pure tourist trap moneygrab. I do like the weird trees on the side of the river, though. They look like broccoli. And I dig Kansas City, so I’ll give it a straight B and be done with it. But I’m being nice—Midwestern states just don’t know how to do quarters.

MAINE: B+
Love the clean lines of the design, the inspirational lighthouse pointing the way to the darkened souls of our nation. But why the sailboat? There are already far too many states with sailboats.

ALABAMA: A-
You got the weight of the union breaking your back. Your Cadillac has got a wheel in the ditch, and a wheel on the track. But Helen Keller is a national hero, and you are the first state to use braille on its quarter, which is a wondrous, miraculous, unexpected thing. You get an A- in quarters, but an F in life.

ILLINOIS: D
It’s official: there’s something about the Midwestern states that makes it impossible for them to come up with a logical, clean, attractive design that fits into a circle. Maybe it’s because it’s so flat there. First you had Ohio with that utterly ridiculous spaceperson moonwalking off on the lower-right hand corner. Indiana gave me some hope–the racing car and the stars looked fine, and the statement "Crossroads of America," if not exactly TRUE, was at least logical in context of the racing car. Then along comes Illinois with its confused mish-mash of images and more words than the first sentence of a Dickens novel. It seems to be trying to portray a bridge between past and future–a questionable concept in any event (didn’t do much for Clinton, anyway). On the left you’ve got some farmhouses and the state motto, "Land of Lincoln." Fair enough. In the middle you’ve got a picture of Lincoln as a schoolkid, although the details of his face are awfully indistinct (perhaps budget problems at the US Mint?), superimposed over the now-predictable state map (yawn). And what the hell is going on with the right-hand side? You’ve got a half-hearted attempt to depict the Chicago skyline, with a perfectly flat two-dimensional non-detailed thing that I think is supposed to be the Sears Tower and some other unrecognizable buildings, and the completely incomprehensible motto: "21st State Century." That’s right. Not "21st Century State," which would have made some sense. "21st State Century." I guess there’s supposed to be a little slash between them, "21st State/Century," noting that Illinois was both the 21st state and that it’s now the 21st century, or something. But the slash was impossible to implement because the words are split into three lines, so instead they put a little oval shape between the "State" line and the "Century" line and we’re supposed to figure out what this means. Leaving us where? With a post-modern puzzle indicative of confusion and despair. Not what we need in these turbulent times. Extra points off for the tiny little sailboat in Lake Michigan in front of the Chicago skyline. We’ve already got Rhode Island and Virginia–do we need another one? No. Oh, and Indiana already did the cirlce of stars thing, so you’re ripping that off as well.

MISSISSIPPI: B
I don’t know why everybody else loves this one. I mean, flowers are pretty, they smell good, but in this particular context they don’t look like magnolias, they look like a bunch of lumps. At first I thought it was some kind of map, then I thought it was a plate full of sweetbreads. I had to read the motto, "The Magnolia State," to figure out what it was. At least they get points for keeping it simple and uncluttered, and for worshipping nature rather than technology or industry.

INDIANA: A-
This one always gives me a little pick-me-up when I see it. It’s the racing car. When I get this one in change for my coffee in the morning, I think "vroom, vroom." The eighteen stars denoting Indiana’s place as the eighteenth state, also a cool idea. "Crossroads of America" is a bit grandiose, though—who the hell goes to Indiana? By choice, I mean.

LOUISIANA: C
What nerve! What chutzpah! The little old state of Louisiana wasn’t enough for the people living there—they had to claim the entire center of the country as their own! What’s next? Will Oregon depict a quarter with the entire Oregon Territory stretching through Washington and Idaho? Will Texas and Hawaii hearken back to the times that they were independent countries? These expansionist tendences are dangerous. Plus, the trumpet’s a rip-off of Tennessee.

OHIO: D
I like Ohio. Really I do. I like people from Ohio, and it seems like it’s just East enough to avoid being a total Red State hellhole. So, nothing against Ohio, but isn’t this just about the worst quarter so far? Maybe Maryland is worse ("The Old Line State"—what the fuck?), but this one has the icky feel of a committee decision or some kind of compromise. Really—all they could think of was "Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers"? Which ones? Did the Wright Brothers emigrate from Ohio to North Carolina? I don’t think so. And even if they did, couldn’t you accept that N. Carolina already beat you to the punch? I mean, I was sad enough that Rhode Island copied Virginia’s sailboat motif, but at least RI was graceful and modèrne (and it has some legitimate claim, being the original home of the America’s Cup), whereas Virginia is faux-historical. Different sized ships, too. But now we’ve got two quarters with the exact same fucking airplane on them, like Ohio is some faint, pathetic echo of a real state, North Carolina. Like the NC quarter started to get up and fly away and then the Ohio quarter took a snapshot as it receded into the background. That’s bad enough. Don’t even get me started on the astronaut. I mean, is this totally 1950s Mission to Mars or what? He’s just standing there in his little spacesuit doing nothing—not spacewalking or tripping on the moon or anything. Like a bad Man or Astroman album cover. Who is it, anyway? John Glenn? Was Neil Armstrong born in Ohio? Does anybody care?

TENNESSEE: A-
The first state to incorporate music on its quarter. Check out that guitar, dude. Suh-weet! I took a little bit off for the stupid motto, "Musical Heritage." You don’t have to justify it, Tennessee. Just let it fly!

KENTUCKY: B
My niece loves horses. She always gets happy when she sees this quarter. I’m somewhat troubled by the fence, though. It seems to symbolize a lack of freedom, a sense of feeling enclosed. Those folks in Kentucky need to loosen up. Don’t they make Jim Beam there?

VERMONT: B+
Maple syrup tastes good.

RHODE ISLAND: C-
Strongly derivative of Virginia, and pretentious to boot—"Oh, dahling, let’s take the yacht out for a spin, we’re so special living here in RHODE ISLAND." Pussy ass state could almost fit inside the Oklahoma City limits.

NORTH CAROLINA: B+
I’ve always been fascinated by the Wright Brothers, and I like the way the airplane’s barely off the ground. You can almost see it swaying, unstably, in the cross-breeze, and that guy on the ground’s thinking "Is it really going to work, oh Jeez, I don’t know!" Drama. Tension. On a quarter.

NEW YORK: C+
Statue of Liberty. Yawn. How predictable. I also resent the attempt to add topographic texture to the map of New York. Why couldn’t you just be satisfied with a simple outline like North Carolina and Pennsylvania and Georgia, or even a flat relief like Massachusetts? (At least they avoided picking the pre-9/11 Manhattan skyline—lucky!)

VIRGINIA: B
This one made me happy when I first saw it, I don’t know why.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: B
This was a nice idea, but the "old man" just looks like an undifferentiated lump when you actually stamp it into a piece of metal. Extra points for the coolest motto in the U.S., though. "Live free or DIE!" Fuck yeah!

SOUTH CAROLINA: C
I acutally like this one quite a bit, the palmetto and the map and the bird are aligned in a nice triangular shape, but I took points because South Carolina had a 100-year-old senator, which makes a mockery of our representative system of government.

MASSACHUSETTS: B
That Minuteman’s kind of amibiguous in his sexual orientation, isn’t he? I mean, look at the cute retro outfit, the jaunty little chapeau, the sharp angle of his "gun" emerging from his lower torso. Even the motto, "The Bay State" is subliminally misreadable as "The GAY State." Points for enlightenment.

MARYLAND: F
Boring logo, stupid motto. Is this really all you could think of for your place in posterity? Don’t you realize people will be handing this piece of shit around for a hundred years? I’m ashamed to have been born in Maryland.

CONNECTICUT: A
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

GEORGIA: A-
Didn’t like this one until my friend Mike pointed out that the peach looks an awful lot like a woman’s ass. Thanks, Mike!

NEW JERSEY: B-
Nice idea, but too cluttered.

PENNSYLVANIA: B
I like the woman, it looks like one of her boobs might be flopping out. And what’s that she’s holding? Makes you look twice.

DELAWARE: B-
Nice horse, but who the fuck is Rodney whatever his name is?