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Groups want U.S. coin designs to be No. 1

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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It is a united goal. Create the best designed coins in the world.

“For me, simply attaining a state of ‘good’ coinage design is not good enough,” said Gary Marks, chairman of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

“Rather, it is my aspiration that the United States of America would attain a level of excellence in coinage design that is simply unmatched in the world.”

In the past month, both the CCAC and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts have called on the U.S. Mint to step it up a notch when it comes to coin design.

The CFA last month told Mint Director Ed Moy of its “overall disappointment” in recent coin designs presented for consideration.

“The commission has repeatedly voiced their concern about the quality of designs,” said CFA Secretary Thomas Luebke. “There is room to improve the process so we can actually produce medals that are commensurate with our position in the world.”

The CCAC established a subcommittee to review the design process and is asking the CFA to meet with it in November to discuss the issue of coin design.

“The commission is very interested in supporting the highest quality of  design for all symbols of our nation,” Luebke said. “The commission would look forward to productive dialog on issues of coin design with the CCAC.”

To make sure everyone understands the CCAC’s concept of what constitutes excellence in coin design, CCAC sculptor member Heidi Wastweet assembled a visual catalog of coins that members had deemed of excellent design.

“We talked about it, weeded some out and got to the point we were all comfortable with what was there,” Marks said. “We reached a collection of designs that we are all satisfied that they provide what excellence in coinage design looks like.”

Mitch Sanders, former CCAC chairman and a subcommittee member, said excellent numismatic art tells a story in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, and appropriate for a coin-sized sculptural object. 

“Collages and storyboards tend not to work well; single scenes or images are much more effective,” Sanders said. “I admire coins that present their subjects in ways that are evocative, without necessarily being literal representations.”

Sanders said that whenever possible, coins should take advantage of their medium, using available space in interesting ways, and using the three-dimensional quality of sculpture to convey depth. 

“Most of all, I think that creativity in composition and design are the hallmarks of great art – numismatic or otherwise,” Sanders said.

Luebke said the CFA would look forward to a productive dialogue with the CCAC on issues in coin design.

“It’s an entire process that begins with legislation and ends with production and everything in between, including selection of designs, engraving and metallurgic science,” Luebke said. “It would be fruitful to really look at every step and how it is affecting the outcome.”


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