- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2002

Some powerful Virginians are fighting a proposal to change the face of the 64-year-old nickel.
The U.S. Mint has proposed that the coin's image of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Charlottesville mansion, be replaced next year with that of a bald eagle and an American Indian to commemorate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
The changes are "part of a larger effort to redesign circulating coins," said Michael White, a spokesman for the U.S. Mint.
But Virginia congressmen say the image of Monticello should remain on the 5-cent piece because the plantation home in Charlottesville of the country's third president is revered and visited by millions of people every year.
"Monticello is a classic piece of architecture, a piece of American history, and a symbol people from around the world recognize as being thoroughly American and Virginian," Rep. James P. Moran, 8th District Democrat, said in a prepared statement.
U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, 7th District Republican, introduced a bill last week that would keep Monticello on the coin permanently. The measure is backed by all the members of the state's House delegation.
Mr. Cantor said Jefferson's home "is at the root of everything that this country has been founded upon."
He said he was upset that the U.S. Mint had not contacted lawmakers before proposing the change.
"I was informed that the mint was going to remove Monticello and without the consultation of the Congress of Virginia. That is not the way to proceed," he said.
Mr. Cantor met with U.S. Mint Director Henrietta Fore last week and said he had received an assurance from her that the change in the nickel's design would be only from 2003 to 2006, the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
"She said their intention was to have a few years of the different design and then return it to Monticello in the last year," he said.
The U.S. Mint has the authority to change a coin only once every 25 years, so Monticello would be removed from the nickel for at least that period, Mr. Cantor said, though Congress could pass legislation that would allow the design to be changed.
Mr. Cantor said he is not against the idea of a special edition running for the four years of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial, so long as the mint reverts to the Monticello design afterward.
In 1997, Congress passed the 50 States Commemorative Coin Program Act a 10-year program during which the mint will release quarters honoring each state with a unique design on one side. At the end of 10 years, the quarters will revert to the design that features an eagle.
Virginia congressmen say they do not have a problem with the images of an American Indian and a bald eagle that have been proposed to replace Monticello. But Mr. Cantor said he was not certain whether they clearly depicted the Lewis and Clark expedition, which was commissioned by Jefferson and opened the frontiers of the American West and Northwest.
Officials at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which operates Monticello, said they liked the idea of linking Jefferson with the Lewis and Clark expedition, but they did not want the historic house to be permanently displaced from the nickel.
"Monticello is the only home in America on the World Heritage List, in the good company of the Great Wall of China and the pyramids of Egypt," said Daniel Jordan, the foundation's president. "It clearly belongs on the coin, and what better coin than the nickel that features Jefferson?"
The image of Jefferson on the nickel also would be replaced with an 1805 portrait by artist Gilbert Stuart of the president without a wig "that was a favorite in the president's family," Mr. White said.
This would be the first change proposed in the nickel's design since 1938 when the "buffalo nickel," with the image of an American Indian on one side and a buffalo on the other, was replaced by the images of Jefferson and his home.


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