Officials from the U.S. Mint and the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park poured shiny new quarters into a bucket as the U.S. Mint officially released coins featuring San Antonio’s Spanish colonial missions Thursday at Trinity University.
The new quarter, part of the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful series of quarters, is the latest recognition of the historical importance of the five missions, which were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.
The quarter’s design is based on that of the Spanish Colonial real coin, with a cross in the center creating quadrants featuring four important symbols of the missions, said Chris Costello, who designed the quarter for the U.S. Mint. Wheat represents the farming that sustained the missions, a lion denotes the Spanish cultural influence on the missions, arches and bells symbolize the religious and community aspect of the missions, and ripples of water fill the last quadrant as a nod to the San Antonio River and the missions’ irrigation methods.
San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller called the new quarter design a wonderful recognition of the cultural and historical treasures that the missions are, not only to the city but also to the world.
“They are still a haven of culture and history,” he said. “We especially value that they continue as active parishes of the archdiocese, where hundreds of families on the city’s South Side continue to gather for prayer within the original walls, which many dedicated persons have worked to preserve over the years.”
Mardi Arce, superintendent of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, spoke during the event about the long history that the people of San Antonio have with the missions, and recognized several audience members who trace their ancestry back to the original residents of the missions, established during the 1700s.
About 500 schoolchildren attended the coin unveiling, each of whom got one of the new quarters, eliciting a few gasps and smiles from the kids.
“So when you get one of these quarters,” Arce said, addressing the kids, “I know you’re going to be tempted to spend it the next time you’re 25 cents short at the soda machine. But what I hope you will do is stop and think and recognize that what you have in your pocket is a little history lesson that you will always have.”
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The new quarters can be ordered online through the U.S. Mint here. They also will be available at four Frost Bank locations beginning Sept. 12: downtown at 111 W. Houston St., 4202 S. New Braunfels Ave., 2703 SW Military Dr., and 515 SW Military Dr.
The America the Beautiful Quarters program honors 56 national parks and other national sites. The coin commemorating the missions is the 49th in the series.
After the official launch, audience members crowded into the auditorium’s lobby to exchange cash for anywhere from $10 to $100 worth of San Antonio Missions quarters, and then immediately lined up again to get Costello to autograph their rolls of quarters and snap photos with him.
Waiting in line with his dad and family was 10-year-old Jackson Plagenza of Simi Valley, California, who estimates he’s attended about 14 of the America the Beautiful Quarter launch events since they began in 2010 when he was only 1. His dad, Sid, said they attended one event the first year of the quarter launch and then decided they would try to make it to as many as possible.
Sid Plagenza even made it to Guam’s quarter launch event this summer, and San Antonio’s event marks the 33rd quarter launch he has attended.
“We were originally going for half, which would be 28 of the 56 quarters,” he said, “but we’re way past that now.”
Jackson hasn’t been able to attend as many of the launches because of school, and even though his dad said it gets harder each year, he tries hard to make it to as many as he can, viewing them as much-needed mini vacations from work. The family hopes to drive out to the launch of Idaho’s quarter in November this year.
“Depending on the weather,” he said, laughing. “We might end up flying.”