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Art medals gain support

Scientists, humanitarians and heroes are honored on medals produced by the U.S. Mint, as are our national values of liberty and freedom.

But imagine the possibilities if artists and sculptors were given the artistic freedom to create medals sans legislative mandates as to inscriptions and designs.

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The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee has proposed an annual arts medal program that would provide opportunities for innovation in design techniques and a platform for artistic expression.

“We want to offer artists the ability to express their art unencumbered by anyone telling them what we want,” said CCAC member Donald Scarinci.

The program, which the CCAC endorsed unanimously on Sept. 24, would feature two medals each year.

The first medal would depict a new American Liberty on the obverse and an American eagle on the reverse. It would be produced in .999 fine silver as a 1 ounce, 40.6 mm diameter medal. There is also the option of producing it as a bronze or silver 3-inch medal.

CCAC Chairman Gary Marks proposed the medal be packaged with the 1 ounce silver Eagle and offered as a double Liberty set to the collecting community.

“I believe that would be a huge homerun for the Mint and medallic art,” he said.

The second medal would feature an American theme of the artist’s choosing. It could depict any non-living person, place, thing or event. Artists will be encouraged to use innovative materials and techniques including the use of patina and high relief.

“Research and development is part of this,” Marks said. “It requires folks to step back and be willing to accept that some things will be produced here that may not make a lot of sense in sales, but the bigger contribution is that through experimentation discovery can take place in what does and doesn’t work in medallic art. That will help with the coins and national medals that are produced.”

During separate discussions about designs for the 2015 and 2016 platinum coin program, CCAC members agreed that one of the designs would be a good candidate for the art medal program.

“I think this is a wonderful design, completely different, in the vein of the art medals idea,” Marks said.

“I think this is a wonderful design, completely different, in the vein of the art medals idea,” Marks said.

The design features a male figure holding a sword in defense of our liberties while offering an olive branch of peace to the world. It also includes the inscription “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

“I think this is a wonderful design, completely different, in the vein of the art medals idea,” Marks said.

The CCAC wants artists to use daring designs and innovative techniques when creating the art medals. They may even incorporate different shapes.

“This is outstanding and really opens a palate of freedom for our artists,” said CCAC member Tom Uram. “It sets a new path and direction for opportunities the Mint and us have down the road.”

The Mint has already met the challenge of producing an ultra high relief coin on a 27 mm planchet, Marks said. Now it’s time to meet other challenges.

That means more collaboration between artists and manufacturing, but it is a collaboration fostered by U.S. Mint Acting Director Richard Peterson.

“Our previous Mint director said all the right things, but Dick Peterson has done all the right things,” Scarinci said. “While he’s modest and doesn’t accept praise, those who write history will give Peterson the credit, kudos and praise he deserves.”

The recommendation will be forwarded to the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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