The West Virginia Quarter and the New River Gorge BridgeMarch 20, 2012
Few images define a state as well as the New River Gorge Bridge does West Virginia. The Bridge was an engineering marvel when it was built It was also a huge link in the WV highway system, helping make travel easier in this rugged mountain state.
Bridge builders had to span the 900 foot deep gorgethat is almost ¾ of a mile across. It was a massive undertaking. What the bridge means for commerce and tourism in West Virginia is hard to quantify.
The Process and the Stats
The West Virginia quarter was part of the 2005 US Mint releases. West Virginia was the 35th state admitted to the Union, so the WV quarter was the 35th design. The coin selection process involved the states; the governor of each state recommended and submitted a design to the US Mint for review of coin-ability.
In West Virginia, over 1,800 designs were submitted from around the state. Then, the Governor’s School for the Arts students narrowed it down to five finalists. Suggested designs included the Appalachian Mountains, Bridge Day, Mother’s Day, and River Rafting.
Governor Joe Manchin selected the New River Gorge Bridge design out of the finalists and after approval from the Mint, over 700,000,000 WV quarters were produced. The New River Gorge Bridge quarter had the highest mintage of all the quarters produced in the 2005 series. It was engraved by engraver John Mercanti.
Why The Bridge
There are a few likely reasons why the Bridge became the design for the quarter.
First, when it was built in the mid 1970’s, the Bridge was the longest and second highest of its kind in the world. This led to a lot of folks discovering WV and its beauty for the first time. Second, it’s such a recognizable design that its hard to mistake the image of the Bridge for any other structure. The New River Gorge Bridge is highly iconic in the state.
This is a Bridge that people come to photograph, raft under, and enjoy. Bridge Walk now offers tours of the catwalk under the Bridge. The Bridge Day Festival is the largest single day event in WV. BASE Jumpers from all over the world have it on their list of structures to jump from. Many of them make the journey every year to take part in the event.
The Bridge is such a special structure, in such a special place. No other image would represent WV quite as well.