GATLINBURG - In the eight decades since the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the term "two bits" has been mostly discarded as a specific monetary reference.
But your grandpa would know two bits represents a quarter, like the newly minted ones that will be released next week bearing an image of the park on one side.
Beginning today, the new coin, showing George Washington on the "heads" side and a Cades Cove-style cabin on "tails," goes into general circulation - shiny, new and worth, well, two bits.
The U.S. Mint will celebrate the issuance of the quarter with a public ceremony Wednesday, to be attended by hundreds of school-age children and a host of dignitaries at the Mills Auditorium in the Gatlinburg Convention Center. The program begins at 10 a.m.
The Smokies quarter is the 21st in the mint's America the Beautiful program, which will highlight 56 national parks and sites over a 12-year period, according to Michael White, a spokesman for the mint.
Each year five sites and parks will be honored with a quarter. The release of the coin coincides with the order in which the sites gained their national designation, White said.
The Smokies coin is part of a five-quarter set that also honors the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, the Arches National Park in Utah, the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado and the Everglades National Park in Florida.
The image on the tails side of the Smokies quarter shows a log cabin in a pastoral setting with a hawk circling overhead. Chris Costello is the designer, and Renata Gordon is the engraver, White said.
Today, bags and rolls of the coins will be available at park headquarters.
White said after the quarters are struck they are forwarded to the Federal Reserve, which manages their introduction into national circulation. No preference to this region will be given the Smokies coins, he said.
In terms of quantity, the America the Beautiful coins released last year ranged from 176 million quarters honoring the White Mountain National Forest to 504 million depicting Mount Rushmore.
The specific number of Smokies coins minted is not available, White said.
"We mint to demand," he said, "to fulfill orders from the Federal Reserve."
References indicate calling a quarter "two bits" dates back to the colonial period when Spanish currency was most common and which was divided into "pieces of eight," each known as a bit.
American currency, based on a 100-cent dollar, amounts to 12.5 cents when divided by eight. Thus a 25-cent quarter became two bits.