Did you know that there’s a new U.S. quarter obverse design this year? Unlike the familiar old design, which dates back to 1931, the new one shows George Washington facing to the right, instead of to the left.
According to this FastCompany article, leftward-facing profiles were fairly standard on U.S. coins and currency for many years. Indeed, think of FDR on the dime, Jefferson on the nickel, JFK on the half-dollar, and even Eisenhower on the dollar — all lefties. I’d never thought about that before (although it’s worth noting that Lincoln faces rightward on the penny, but maybe he’s the exception that proves the rule). And why were all these figures shown facing to the left? According to the FastCo article:
In the early 20th century, as marketing and branding began their development, the design of many logos was based in the centuries-old traditions of heraldry. One of these [traditions] was that figures on a heraldic shield should face the viewer’s left, because that was the shield-bearer’s right, and it was his perspective, not the eye of the beholder, that mattered.
Faaaascinating. I didn’t know that! The author of the FastCo article, James Bowie (who has his own website devoted to logo design), says the leftward-facing protocol began fading in the 1960s, when right-facing designs started coming into vogue. And now rightward has become the norm. At present, says Bowie, “Of the 62 Fortune 500 logos that can be said to be facing or moving laterally, 82% go right.”
The reason this all matters from a Uni Watch perspective is that fans often ask me about left- and right-facing logos. I wrote a piece about that about a year ago, and found that the NFL has only one team with a left-facing logo (the Eagles — this is actually mentioned in the FastCo piece), while the other Big Four pro leagues have more of a mix of lefties and righties. So the new right-facing quarter would be a particularly good fit for the NFL. Hell, throw a helmet on George Washington and you’re good to go!
Personally, I tend to feel more comfortable with left-facing logos and profiles because our culture reads from left to right, so I tend to equate rightward motion as moving forward. But there are several cultures in the world that read from right to left. Hmmm, I wonder about their logos — and their coins.
Additionally, the head is larger than before. This aligns with trends with football helmets: think Tampa Bay and Boise State.
It even cover a little of the “LIBERTY” script with the enlarged head. Apparently, even US mints are designed by Nike, now.
“the exception that proves the rule”
No, he was just the exception.
You are correct. This phrase is almost always misused because when you parse it, you see that it makes no sense. If anything, the exception refutes the rule, not proves it.
Back when this phrase was first used, one meaning of the word “prove” was “test,” and the saying meant, The exception tests the rule.
No, the exception proves that the rule EXISTS.
For example, let’s say you fly into a city you haven’t visited before. You rent a car, and then wonder if the city allows a right turn on red. Well, if you see an intersection with a “no turn on red” sign, that strongly suggests that you CAN turn right on red at intersections with no sign. The exception—you can’t turn on red here—proves the rule—you can turn on red elsewhere.
I’ve already heard conservatives complain the new design “has turned its back on God”. That its part of a big conspiracy to eliminate god or something.
And I saw on another post about this a leftist saying that he didn’t like it because he’s looking to his right,which on his opinion was looking backwards because that’s what the right does. And I cannot roll my eyes high enough at that one either. I mean, not everything had to be political does it? Because both theories sound insane.
I agree. Both sound insane.
That sounds like a troll job to me, but yeah, kooky.
Either way, “In God We Trust” shouldn’t be there in the first place, IMO.
I’m the most conservative person in the world and as long as it has “In God We Trust” on the coin, I’m fine with it.
Should we really be perpetuating such red-scare reactionism? It should be replaced with E Pluribus Unum.
Interesting. I was going to say that I think the left or right facing nature of a logo, specifically in sports, would have a lot to do with its placement on a uniform. Such that chest logos don’t really need to be going one way or another, whereas sleeve logos should be right facing. But that really doesn’t make much sense either unless you think of the right sleeve as the default “forward facing” sleeve. One way or another the logo on the alternate sleeve will have to be reversed so both sleeves have forward facing logos, so it really doesn’t matter. the Dolphins have to make a left facing alt logo for their left sleeve, the same way the Eagles do for their right sleeve. I think the simple answer with the right facing logos is probably we read left to right, so right facing is default forward facing for logos.
More coin posts!!
Uniforms and coins, two of my huge nerd-out topics!
Loving the site redesign btw! Great job!
Much the same reason in the presentation of the US Flag, the Field of Blue with Stars is presented to the Observers’s left.
Did all the left/right/left’s confuse my brain or did it switch midway through the post that right is the new to left is the new? My right or George’s right? Wait, Georg is sideways so right is middle and left is middle…..I need coffee……
No you’re right — I think there is an error. The first paragraph says, “[T]he new one shows George Washington facing to the right, instead of to the left.” Then, the second to last paragraph says, “So the new left-facing quarter would be a particularly good fit for the NFL.” I think Paul mixed up his lefts and rights (understandably so!)
Next-to-last paragraph now fixed.
How about non directional logos , Saints , Raiders , Colts and original Ravens shield
I just wonder why they would spend so much time, money, and energy to redesign a coin when so many people are going cashless. I don’t think used a quarter as payment in 3-4 years, and in the few instances where I’ve used cash and received them as change, they end up in a jar and/or washed with my laundry.
Yes, I was thinking the same thing.
US mint makes money by people hoarding coins and not putting them into circulation. Hence all the state/territorial/national park quarters over the last 20 years.
But what’s with his “hair”? Is that a phrenology map? A diagram of the GI tract?
Look at the Bank of Israel’s coins:
While they do not have profiles, the people are on the right side of the coin, supporting the theory of following the way people read influences coin design.
I count 3 languages on the back of Nina Otero-Warren U.S. Quarter (English, Latin, Spanish), that has to be a record for an American / North American coin.
There was a quarter that had Braille on it so that’s 3 languages right there.
What quarter had Braille on it? Or are you referring to the raised edge?
Braille isn’t a language. It is an alphabet.
What jumps out at me is the hair (or wig) – why so detailed around the ear, but then so “soft-focus” everywhere else? Also the queue (ponytail) just looks strange.
I definitely prefer the previous rending, for sure.
Looks like the new Washington has been aged: wrinkles and a less than firm throat.
New Washington looks bloated lmao; his weird back ponytail looks like Derrick Henry’s massive braid…pretty rough redesign
Agreed. It’s a little too real.
Ugh! This is disappointing. TOTALLY ruins the funniest numismatic joke ever!
Not So Fun Fact I Read Somewhere… the “new” design actually dates back to 1932, when the Washington quarter was conceived to commemorate the bicentennial of his birth. It was the choice of everyone in the selection process except the Postmaster General of the United States – who rejected it on the sole basis of its designer, Laura Fraser, was a woman.
The way I learned it, right-handed people more naturally draw faces facing left, and left-handers draw them facing right, so all the left-facing profiles on coins are because right-handers (a majority that almost never has to examine its privilege, by today’s standards) feel that they look more natural that way.
If you’ve ever studied linguistics and the International Phonetic Alphabet, the vowels are almost always arranged with the “front” vowels to the left and “back” ones to the right, as if superimposed on a giant left-facing head, and without any explanation that it’s oriented this way; readers are supposed to unconsciously grasp it.
I just don’t understand why this was even necessary. Has anyone complained about George’s direction over the past 90 years?
As explained in the article I linked to, the artist for the new design was a woman. Part of the U.S. Mint’s program to add more gender diversity to our coinage.
Point taken, but (and this “but” is not a attack on you, but the attempt at gender equality) may I say that this is ALMOST the bare minimum in terms of gender equity in our coinage?
Putting a woman ON the coin, would be much more significant. If that coin is designed by a woman, even better, but I would guess that very few people know who designed the previous iterations of our coins and bills and of those that do, an equally small percent take any pride or consternation in the fact that it was a man. And yet the physical coin is what we see (almost) every day and something that people would look at and perhaps think “oh yeah, that person was incredibly important to the history of our country!”
Now, if this is publicized enough, then sure for the obligatory 15 minutes some people will say “cool, a woman designed the new quarter.” But I suspect that, upon finding out that it’s essentially the exact same design as before only facing the other way, would be disappointed that said woman didn’t exactly get a chance to spread her wings creatively or make any sort of statement with the design. It’s almost as if they told her “we would love to have a coin designed by a woman but the parameters are thus: at a glance it has to look exactly like the old quarter.”
One step close to equality people!
Putting a woman ON the coin, would be much more significant.
They’re doing that as part of the program as well. It’s not an either/or thing.
The coin was designed 90 years ago or so based on the same bust of Washington, which is why it’d look the same. The reason why it wasn’t chosen in the first place was due to pure sexism. Also, five coins were/will be issued with this design with five historically significant women featured on the reverse. The program will run for several years.
This is temporary, like the altered Jefferson head a few years ago.
“the Mint is debuting a brand-new Quarter series that will run for four years”
It looks like a frog above George’s ear, with another animal’s tail. Kind of like they do with zoo logos.
A lot of the NFL right-facing logos might have to do with right-facing helmets on pennants. In the 1960s the AFL had left-facing logos with the Bills, Chargers’ horse head, Broncos, Texans and Chiefs logos
Related fun fact: In Canada the right-left direction on coins changes with each new monarch. All Queen Elizabeth II coins have her facing right.
For the record, in the past the US Mint has used minority artists and women to design their coins, I know this because I designed the GW Bush coin the white house makes to hand out to it’s VIP’s, big donors, etc. I also worked on the Golden Dollar, which featured a woman – full disclosure – I wanted to put Elvis on it, and the 50 state quarters program. By allowing states to pick the designs by a contest, several more women and minorities were selected. Just not promoted.
But that is not what I wanted to mention, for those of you who are not historians we know that George Washington did not wear a wig. He chose to powder his red locks to look distinguished. It worked. The old design depicted him in a wig, which I pointed out back in the day to my overlords at Treasury… and promptly got laughed out of the room.
As you can read here, link became a necessary piece of kit came in to use because of hygienic issues. Not to cure, but to hide.
Looking at Washington’s profile on the quarter makes me think that it would been a perfect replacement for the Native American image on the Commanders old helmets and logo. And then you could have kept the WFT name or just named the team “Washington.” Or you could had a reverse take on the Buffalo Bills and called them the “Washington Georges,” or just went for it with the “George Washingtons.” Omigod, plus the possibilities referring to the coin itself: The Washington Quarters, The Washington Two-Bits, The Washington 25ers. Or even the Washington Presidents!