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Eagle or Lady Liberty for platinum?

One group prefers the eagle, the other prefers Lady Liberty for the reverse designs on the 2015 and 2016 platinum proof coins.

Thirty-one designs were reviewed in September by the Commission of Fine Arts and Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

The CFA chose images of eagles for each proof coin, No. 9 for 2015 and No. 22 for 2016.

The Commission of Fine Arts like design No. 9, left, for 2015, and No. 22 for 16.

The Commission of Fine Arts like design No. 9, left, for 2015, and No. 22 for 16.

The CCAC instead chose designs that focus more on the symbols of liberty and freedom, No. 6 for 2015 and No. 7 for 2016.

The CCAC picked Design No. 6, left, for 2015 and No. 7 for 2016.

The CCAC picked Design No. 6, left, for 2015 and No. 7 for 2016.

But prior to making its final selections, the CCAC discussed at length a design that stood apart from the rest with a Greek male figure holding a sword in defense of our liberties while offering an olive branch of peace to the world. The incused inscription, which appears chiseled into the coin, reads “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is included.

“No. 17 is a Coin of the Year winner,” said CCAC member Erik Jansen.

“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.

With the theme of the Preamble to the Constitution ending for the platinum program, this coin would be an appropriate follow-up design as it declares the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, said CCAC chairman Gary Marks.

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

But in the end, the Mint determined it was too different.

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” said Mint engraver Don Everhart. “It’s a great design, but I’m very concerned about our ability to fill the letters. There’s a lot going on here and it’s extremely hard to move platinum.”

The Mint staff then announced that the design should not be considered for the platinum program, but the CCAC agreed it would be considered for its proposed art medal program.

So, the recommendations of the CFA, designs No. 9 and 22, and the CCAC choices, designs No. 6 and 7 follow.

No. 9 depicts a bald eagle grasping an olive branch in its talons to symbolize peace. The eagle’s wings are outstretched to represent its boundless spirit of freedom. The stars in a circle above the eagle’s head represent the 13 original colonies.

No. 22 features an American Bald Eagle, a symbol of strength and freedom.  The eagle is depicted in the heraldic tradition with an olive branch clutched in its right talon to symbolize peace and thirteen arrows in its left talon to symbolize strength and the ability to protect.

No. 6  depicts Liberty and an American bald eagle representing Freedom, with Liberty offering the eagle a bowl of food as a symbol of Liberty continuing to nurture and sustain Freedom. Rays shine in the background.

No. 7 portrays Liberty with flowing hair and robe waving in the winds of freedom. She holds a torch of enlightenment in her right hand and an olive branch in her left to symbolize peace. A bald eagle with its wings outstretched, represents its boundless spirit, as it clutches an olive branch in its talons.

“I love the texture of the rays, the focal point of the hand and the bird, and the interaction of Liberty and Freedom,” said CCAC member Heidi Wastweet.

But there were details of the design that concerned her and other CCAC members.

Although the committee supported design No. 6, it formally asked the Mint to remove the bowl from Liberty’s hand, establish eye contact between the eagle and Liberty, remove the inner band below the text, reposition the earth that the eagle stands on so North America is showing, and remove the branch the eagle is holding.

The committee noted that since it is the American Eagle platinum series it makes sense to have an eagle on the coin, but member Donald Scarinci said he hoped these last two coins in the series would end a desire to revisit the renaissance of the early 20th century and create new images of Liberty for the 21st century.

“Let’s mourn the death of Saint-Gaudens and Weinman and start in 2017 with something new,” he said.

The platinum American Eagle is the official platinum bullion coin of the United States. Consisting of .9995 fine platinum, it is produced in proof collector and uncirculated bullion versions. Lady Liberty is featured on the obverse of both versions. The bullion version has a flying eagle on the reverse. The reverse of the proof changes annually.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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