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Designs give reviewers a workout

If you do not believe the nation’s coin artists are busy, perhaps this issue of Numismatic News will persuade you otherwise.

Pages are chock full of potential and recommended coin and medal designs as reviewed by the Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee at their September meetings.

Unfortunately, there were so many images, there was no possibility of all of them being published within these pages.

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I wonder how much good work can be done by the members of these two advisory bodies to the Secretary of the Treasury.

I like to look at coin designs as much as the next collector, but I have to wonder whether a point comes when a group wants to reach a consensus simply because there is so much work to get through in a short period of time.

Five major programs had to be reviewed at once. This involves hundreds of designs.

Perhaps the key to good judgment is to treat designs like some sort of Rorschach test. How do they make you feel in that split second when your brain realizes what it is looking at? Thumbs up or thumbs down; go on to the next one.

Even at such a pace, there is little time for discussion. Debbie Bradley and I were doing our own version of running this race in preparing the news stories. She did the writing. I was playing art critic and processing images.

I wasted some valuable time in discussion with Debbie over designs for one of the First Spouse coins to honor Lady Bird Johnson. For the two obverse designs in this issue, it got down to which hairstyle we each remembered the First Lady wearing. The artwork for each is just fine, but Debbie remembered one hairstyle and I remembered the other. There is no right or wrong answer as far as I can tell between these two portraits. I pity the poor members of the committees trying to pick a design on that basis.

Some designs can evoke in me an immediate sense of wonder at what amazing pieces of art they are and other designs just make me wonder what on earth was in the mind of the artists.

But I am told that real art will play on emotions this way. I hope so. I do know that in the past some designs that startled me I came to like. The oak tree on the Connecticut state quarter is an example of this. When I receive this design in change nowadays I think it is a success as coin art. That was not my view originally.

Most collectors wanted to see more effort put into creating new coin designs and I think this process with the CFA and the CCAC is proving that this wish is being fulfilled.

That doesn’t mean we will all like every design. I will still love some, hate a few and be indifferent to others. We all come to a point like this in the end. That’s what opinions are all about.

But after this issue, I hope we have come to the end of new design proposals for a little while so that I can catch my breath and be ready to dive back into the artwork pool again.

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