PORTLAND — A moose? A lobster? Perhaps a lighthouse.
Maine will be able to put just about whatever it wants on the tail side of the U.S. quarter, as part of a commemorative minting signed into law last month.
Each state gets a crack at the commemorative quarter, with the first five states honored in 1999. The Treasury Department will strike perhaps 400 million Maine quarters in 2003.
But before that happens, federal officials will ask Mainers how they want to be represented on the coin.
The image — to go opposite George Washington — can be just about anything except a head-and-shoulders representation of a person. (You can’t flip a coin and ask, “Heads or heads?”)
It also can’t represent any living person.
Anything else is fair game, though the Treasury says it doesn’t want “frivolous or inappropriate designs.” The selection process and deadline have not been decided. The first commemorative coin in the project will be minted in 1999 as part of a 10-year project to cover all 50 states.
Maine has plenty of leftover ideas from last year’s two big naming controversies.
The black bear, white pine tree and budding potato fields weren’t used on the license plate. Puffin, Red Serpent, Elizabeth Noyce and Joshua Chamberlain also are hanging around after being rejected as the name for the new bridge between Portland and South Portland.
Gene Michaud of Lisbon Falls thinks the flip side should depict Bob Elliot, the television personality who died last year.
Barbara Carpenter of Bangor suggests using either a moose or a picture of Margaret Chase Smith, the former U.S. senator, holding a rose. Melanie Alt of Gray wants anything except another lobster.
A lot of people say they are tired of the lobster.
The debate over what goes on the quarter is sure to be heated.