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Marks talks art

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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It was a bit of numismatic “show and tell.”

The point was to show Congress examples of proposed United States Mint coin designs that were deemed unacceptable and tell why they failed to get support from the Citizens Coin Advisory Committee.

CCAC Chairman Gary Marks was on Capitol Hill to share the message.

Of specific concern:

• The lack of design quality has been evidenced in designs that are cluttered and lack focus;
• Design devices are used that are so small they cannot be readily discerned by the naked eye; and
• The use of “storyboard” depictions that attempt to illustrate design themes in literal terms.

“Historically, some of this nations most acclaimed coin designs have been achieved through the effective use of allegory and symbolism,” Marks told Congress last month.

Sometimes the CCAC is given just one design for a medal and asked to make a recommendation, Marks said, allowing no time for revisions because of tight production schedules.

Other times it receives multiple designs that are strikingly similar.

“When the choices we are asked to make become nearly meaningless for the lack of variation or because only one design is proposed, the ability of the CCAC to effectively administer its advisory role is severely diminished,” Marks  said.

And then there are the designs that contain inaccuracies.

Take the 2011 United States Army commemorative coin for example, Marks said. The CCAC was presented a design showing a U.S. soldier pointing a rifle in the direction of an Army helicopter as if it was trying to shoot it down. Another design included the Army emblem with inscriptions reversed.

That is not what the CCAC was hoping to see in response to Mint Director Edmund Moy’s call in 2007 for a renaissance in U.S. coinage design, Marks said.

“I know that many of my fellow members on the CCAC share the same or similar convictions and desire to see a true modern revival of excellence for the designs of our nations’s coinage, Marks said, “yet nearly three years after the director’s call for design excellence, members of the CCAC continue to express dissatisfaction with the Mint’s design proposals.”

The next step, he said, is to identify what must happen to bring about positive change. But don’t expect an overhaul of the Mint design staff.

“Let me also be very clear that the Mint’s art staff is highly skilled and very capable of producing high quality designs,” Marks said. “I have seen moments of genius from these artists and I believe the answer will be found when we discover what changes need to be made to liberate them to perform at their full potential.”

Marks addressed the House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology on July 20.


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