How does humanity recognize and communicate its fascination with creation—the universe and everything in it? There are abundant means to perceive, recapture, and communicate its wonders. Many Scripture references to the wonders of creation cite vision. We are encouraged to visually observe the beauty of creation. The Bible also refers metaphorically to other sensory experiences: the voice of the Lord (Ps. 29:3), taste (Ps. 34:8), and touch (Matt. 14:36). We recapture and celebrate creation’s wonders with many forms of visual depiction—for example, photography, sketching, painting, and sculpting utilizing various media. Calling attention to multiple features of our creation environment brings focus to the reality of the Creator of All Things.
A unique product of a US government bureau, the US Mint, visually calls attention to many wonders of creation on our “coin of the realm.” Below we will review the subject matter of 112 different designs on US quarters produced sequentially by the US Mint from 1999 to 2021. Every calendar year featured five new designs. It was an inexpensive bonanza for coin collectors! The designs fascinate admirers of plant life and animal life, as well as students of geography, geology, history, and science in general. But first, a little historical background…
Early in the US Civil War in 1861, a movement to recognize God on our national coinage was motivated by wartime religious sentiment. Finally, a motto was approved and placed initially on the two-cent coin in 1864: “In God We Trust” appeared sporadically on US coinage from 1864 to 1938. Since then it has appeared on all denominations of coins. Congress approved the phrase as our national motto in 1956. Beginning 1966 this motto has also appeared on all specimens of US paper money.
Between 1999 and 2009 fifty states and six territories were recognized on coin designs submitted by committees from each state. The coins were known as “statehood” and “territory” quarters. Following that series, from 2010 to 2021 each of the fifty states and six territories were able to recognize a “site of natural or historic significance.” Coins in this series were called “America the Beautiful” quarters. All told 112 different designs were produced during the two coin programs. In total, almost 35 billion statehood quarters have been issued. America the Beautiful quarters have been minted to the tune of 18.5 billion.
Each of the billions of coins of all denominations minted from 1938 to the present has the inscription “In God We Trust.” Although the United States is not a theocracy, the national motto bespeaks respect our founding fathers possessed for God the Creator. If our coin of the realm and paper currency all bear this motto, we may take heart in this age of declining spiritual values, praying that we would return to a more traditional appreciation of faith in the reality of a divine Creator.
Almost 50 plants, including trees, grains, and flowers appear on the two series of quarters. Twenty bird species are highlighted, almost all of them different. About fifteen animals appear, including bear, elk, deer, mountain goats, dall sheep, bison, cattle, bats, tree frogs, and fish. In the world of the non-living, startling geological features appear several dozen times. In the area of geography, we counted fifteen state outlines in the statehood series. For those interested in national history, transportation, music, aviation, or infrastructure there are a number of depictions. Curiously, one may notice the almost total absence of insects, save for one regal fritillary butterfly on the “Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve” Kansas quarter of 2020.
The series communicates multiple reasons to exult in the beauty of creation. It provides support for a positive perception of our dynamic planet and in particular, the blessings God has bestowed upon the United States of America. The New Living Translation of I Timothy 6:17 reminds us our trust should be in God, “….who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.”
Talented United States Mint metallurgists, engravers and technologists have helped us to celebrate creation and to enjoy the natural world which surrounds us. Whether deliberately or not, our secular officials have called attention to the beauty of divine creation originating in the mind of God.