Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Art of Money (Multilingual Quarters)

Commemorative quarters for Hawaii, DC, and other US territories, photo taken mid-2009.

Early in 2009 some media outlets were reporting on the release of new quarters commemorating Puerto Rico; these coins contained the words "Isla del Encanto" (Island of Enchantment) in Spanish on one side. As a follow up to the 50 State Quarters Program, the US Mint launched the DC and US Territories Quarters Program in 2009, with Puerto Rico receiving its own quarter. To see a diagram of the Puero Rico quarter (not in the above photo), see this website.

Many reports were treating the use of Spanish on US coins as novelty, but the presence of non-English inscriptions on US coins isn't a really a "new" thing. First of all, every US quarter bears the unofficial Latin motto E pluribus unum ("out of many, one"). Second, the state of Hawaii had already used Hawaiian in addition to the standard Latin motto on its quarter in 2008 (read more about the Hawaii quarter here). UA MAU KE EA O KA 'AINA I KA PONO = "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."

As you can see above (click to enlarge), DC and the US Virgin Islands have mottos in English (DC = "Justice for All" and Virgin Islands = "United in Pride and Hope"). The Northern Mariana Islands have no additional motto aside from the standard Latin. American Samoa has a motto in Samoan: SAMOA MUAMUA LE ATUA ("Samoa, God is First"). Guam has a motto in Chamorro: "Guahan I Tanó ManChamorro" ("Guam: Land of the Chamorro").

(For the US quarter that includes a Braille inscription, see the previous posting.)

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