The United States Mint officially honored Utah’s most famous landmark last week with the release of a new Delicate Arch quarter, drawing an estimated 400 people to a June 6 ceremony at Arches National Park.
The tail-side image, which was designed by Donna Weaver and sculpted by Charles L. Vickers, is the latest addition to the America the Beautiful program. The U.S. Mint is releasing five new designs each year, based on the date when 56 selected national parks and other sites were formally created.
National Park Service Southeast Utah Group Superintendent Kate Cannon said she hopes the sight of the new coin will inspire Americans to protect and cherish the park’s unique landscapes. It should also remind past visitors of their experiences there, while encouraging others to visit Arches for the first time, she said.
Cannon might not have known it at the time, but her hopes were already being fulfilled.
Simi Valley, Calif., resident Sidney Plagenza timed his family’s first-ever visit to the park around the ceremony. As soon as his sons finished their last day of school on June 5, the Plagenza family hit the road for Arches.
They made it all the way to the town of Green River that same night, and they arrived at the park bright and early the next morning.
“We came just for this,” Plagenza said.
His family planned to spend the next two days exploring Arches and the surrounding area, but they got down to business first.
After the ceremony, Plagenza joined dozens of others who lined up to get their hands on the coins.
Once he reached the next available cashier, he traded five crisp $100 bills for a hefty box that contained $500 in quarters.
He then handed the box over to his wife and got back in line to pick up a second box. This one was for coin-collecting legend Chuck Taylor, who couldn’t make it to the ceremony.
“It’s the first one that he’s missed,” Plagenza said.
According to Plagenza, collectors travel all over the country to attend America the Beautiful events.
Plagenza said he has been to 12 of the 23 launches to date, and he’s planning to attend the next one at Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve later this summer.
However, his next stop would be the U.S. Post Office in Moab, where he planned to have an employee stamp individual rolls of quarters with the date.
According to Plagenza, the stamps add value to the quarters. So will commemorative coin packages from Zions Bank, whose employees also distributed quarters to event attendees.
“We were honored that we were asked by the Treasury Department and the U.S. Mint to coordinate this event,” Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson told The Times-Independent.
Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison also called the U.S. Mint’s selection of Delicate Arch “an honor.”
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox drew boos from the crowd when he admitted he’d never set foot inside Arches until several years ago.
Ever mindful of his role as one of the state’s leading tourism boosters, Cox egged them on.
“That’s right, you should boo me,” he said, to laughter from the crowd.
Cox said he thought he’d be disappointed by Delicate Arch when he finally saw it up close. But he had the same experience so many others have had during their first hikes down the trail, he said.
“You turn the corner. Whoa. That’s what happened to me,” he said. “I had never seen anything that majestic in my lifetime.”
He said the park has now become his “happy place,” where he draws closer to his family, nature and God.
As for those who picked up the first available Delicate Arch quarters, U.S. Mint Deputy Director Richard A. Peterson advised them to tuck the coins away for safe keeping.
“You’re really the first in the country to receive these quarters, which means you’re the first in the world to receive them,” Peterson said. “Which means: don’t spend them.”
On June 12, the U.S. Mint will begin to offer a special 5-ounce version of the coins on its website at: usmint.gov/catalog. The 3-inch diameter coins are 99.9 percent pure silver. Limited supplies of uncirculated collectible coins will also be available through the mint’s website.