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Time for Liberty to return to coins

Coin collectors have long advocated an end to Presidential portraits on our circulating coins and a return to the allegorical depictions of Liberty.

In the five decades that I have been active, this thought has gotten precisely nowhere.

Sure we received a taste of what might be when bullion coins came back, but they simply resurrected the best art of a century ago.

The Augustus Saint-Gaudens Liberty is on the gold American Eagle bullion coin.

The silver Eagle borrowed the A.A. Weinman Walking Liberty.

The gold Buffalo raided the nickel cupboard.

But the circulating coinage goes on and on with past Presidents.

Perhaps attitudes will change.

The freedom rallies in Paris, France, after the murder of a dozen staff members at a French satirical magazine means that the very concepts of our rights are being thought about again.

What better way to further the discussion than to hold up American coin designs as exemplars of the freedoms we enjoy?

There are huge possibilities here if we would simply take them up.

Presidential portraits had their purpose.

Three of the five designs, cents through half dollars, were adopted when much or most of the population remembered the men on them and there was general agreement that these designs would be meaningful.

If we count the short-lived Ike dollar, that would be four designs of six.

Only George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were enshrined on our coins long after they had passed out of personal memories of the living.

Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea followed in this vein.

It might seem like a good idea to preserve portraits of one or more of the Presidents, but if we do that we will simply open up unanswerable arguments about who is most important.

This would serve no purpose.

It would be on a level of whether a leg is more important than an arm.

All of the Presidents on our coins were important in their own ways. That is why they made it to the coins in the first place. But they have had their day.

We need to get back to the basic concepts of what kind of society produces individuals of such great stature.

Liberty on coins would help further the discussion of those concepts.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

 

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