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The Alaska Quarter


The fourth quarter released by the United States Mint in 2008 commemorates the State of Alaska. It is the 49th coin to be issued in the Mintís 50 State Quartersģ Program. On January 3, 1959, Alaska became the 49th state to be admitted into the Union. The reverse of the Alaska quarter features a grizzly bear emerging from the waters clutching a salmon in its jaw. The coinís design includes the North Star displayed above the inscription "The Great Land" and the inscriptions "Alaska" and "1959."

 The grizzly bear and salmon symbolize Alaskaís natural beauty and abundant wildlife, with the bear representing strength and the salmon representing the nutrition that provides for this strength. The grizzly flourishes in Alaska and can be observed in places such as Denali and Katmai National Parks, Kodiak Island and Admiralty Island. More than 98 percent of the United Statesí grizzly population is found in Alaska.

The word Alaska comes from the Aleutian word "Alyeska," meaning "The Great Land." Populated by Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts for centuries, Alaska was not explored by Europeans until 1741. Russia established a colony in Alaska to protect its lucrative fur-trading interests, but sold Alaska to the United States in 1867 for $7.2 million, or two cents per acre, when it could no longer afford to maintain the colony. Although the purchase was derided by many in the United States at the time, its worth became apparent following late 19th century gold rushes and the discovery of oil in the mid-20th century.

The 11-member Alaska Commemorative Coin Commission, appointed by former Governor Frank Murkowski, invited Alaskans to submit design ideas for the Alaska quarter. From the 850-plus submissions, four concepts were forwarded to the United States Mint for consideration. These concepts were developed into design candidates by the United States Mintís Sculptor-Engravers and artists in its Artistic Infusion Program. On April 26, 2007, Governor Sarah Palin announced her selection of the grizzly bear and salmon design following a statewide comment period.

The Department of the Treasury approved the design on May 25, 2007. The other designs considered include "Polar Bear," featuring a polar bear with the inscription "Land of the Midnight Sun;" "Dog Musher with Denali (Mt. McKinley)," featuring a dog musher, Denali, and the Big Dipper; and "Gold Panner with Denali," depicting a gold panner with Denali in the background.

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