It almost seems like a foregone conclusion what's going to be on this one: the Golden Gate Bridge. What else are you going to go with? The Los Angeles smog? A giant redwood, shrunken into insignificance? That bridge is an American icon. It ranks maybe fourth or fifth in the list of bestselling brands of America Sauce to serve on your flag-shaped apple pie for Fourth of July.
The worst selling brand of America Sauce is Confederate Flag; reviewers complain, "This tastes like some bland, failed experiment in non-America" (Source)
So lay it on us, California. The Golden Gate will look great! Sure, it'll upstage the bridge on the West Virginia quarter a bit, maybe even two bits. The Rhode Island quarter is just going to look stupid by comparison. But you've earned it, with an engineering triumph that has become a source of pride not just for your state, but for this great nation.
Or...yeah, just go with some guy. Who's about to get his eyes pecked out by a condor.
Somehow, the Golden Gate Bridge didn't make it as the final design. There are other instances where major icons were excluded in the final design, but...you know what, no. There aren't. New York has the Statue of Liberty, Arizona has the Grand Canyon, South Dakota has Mount Rushmore. What are you, too good for glorious patriotic symbols? Why do you hate America so much, California quarter?!?
Fittingly enough, there was pretty much a 50-50 chance that the bridge would be the final choice. In an Internet poll of submitted designs, 10 of the 20 finalists had it in there and five of those were pretty much fully devoted to the span. When the Mint drew up a few options for its top five, however, only two of them had the Golden Gate in its design.
Sure, the Golden Gate Bridge design isn't perfect. They shoehorned in some redwoods, so it looks less like the actual site and more like the bridge would appear after The Fall, when man fell back into pre-industrial times and nature crept back into the cities. They could put in a tiny dying Ish lying against an abandoned car on roadway if they really wanted to complete the picture.
So who does this choice fall to?
Oh. The exercise enthusiast from Austria. Well, that might explain why we got a picture of a Scottish immigrant climbing a mountain. You could have gone with one of the pinnacles of American civil engineering, but no...
All things considered, though, the scene - dreamed up by Garrett Burke and engraved by Alfred Maletsky - isn't too bad of a design. John Muir was a dedicated conservationist, helping to establish the Yosemite National Park and serving for many years as the president of the Sierra Club. The minimalism works pretty well, with the detail of Half Dome and the ledge upon which Muir stands inviting you to imagine the majesty and splendor of this vista. It's a rather fitting tribute to Muir and his work.
If only they could have built the Golden Gate Bridge into the scene, maybe as an easy way to go to Half Top. Muir really looks like he wants to get over to that mountain, and I'm worried he's going to try to hop a ride with that bird.