HONOLULU – Still reveling in the election of the first Hawaii-born U.S. president, the islands marked the issuance of its state quarter — the last in the 50-state quarter program.
Hawaii's banks began distributing the quarter Monday to hundreds of coin collectors in lines snaking down Bishop Street, the heart of the downtown business district.
Adults had to buy the coins in $10 rolls, but Gov. Linda Lingle and U.S. Mint Director Ed Roy handed out free coins to children.
"We ask each of you to take the Hawaii quarter with you around the world and be ambassadors of aloha," said Jonathan Johnson, head of the Hawaii State Quarter Commission.
Don Horner, president of the Hawaii Bankers Association, reassured waiting collectors that the banks had enough coins for everyone. The U.S. Mint plans to make 520 million Hawaii coins before it ends the program.
The quarter shows King Kamehameha the Great, the Hawaiian warrior who united the Hawaiian islands under his rule in the early 1800s, standing with his left arm outstretched.
Underneath is a map of the main Hawaiian islands and the state's motto in Hawaiian, "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina I ka pono." The motto translates to "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."
Horner explained the motto means people doing the right thing allows the people and land to endure. "That's a beautiful message of aloha to send out to all of the people in the world," he said.
The design was the overwhelming favorite of the 26,000 people who voted online for their preferred design. Design possibilities that were rejected included a surfer and a hula dancer.
Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said it was important that the coin featured Native Hawaiian culture.
"It's very, very critical that people remember Hawaii begins with indigenous, native people," Apoliona said.
The ceremony had lots of Hawaii flavor: participants wore ceremonial flower leis, and eight elementary school-age dancers from Halau Olapakuikalai O Hokuaulani of Kaneohe performed the hula.
Speakers, including Roy, shouted loud greetings of "aloha" to the crowd.
Last week, much of Hawaii celebrated President-elect Obama's victory. He won 72 percent of the vote in his native state. Only the District of Columbia gave Obama a higher percentage of the vote.
Edmund C. Moy, the U.S. Mint director, said it was bittersweet day because the Hawaii quarter marks the end of the wildly popular 50-state quarter program.
The congressional program, started in 1999, circulated new quarters honoring a different state every 10 weeks in the order the states joined the union. The program began with Delaware.
Moy said 147 million people were collecting the coins from each state.
The Mint plans to follow the current program with coins for the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.