Presented with 33 designs for a $1 silver coin and $5 gold coin honoring “The Star-Spangled Banner” national anthem, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee on July 26 decided to step outside the box and consider the designs as a whole, rather than as specifically presented for a silver or gold coin.
In the end, it selected three designs intended for the silver coin and one design intended for the gold coin as its recommendations.
“When I received all these designs ahead of the meeting, it was apparent to me that the way the designs had been assigned between gold and silver coins wasn’t the best assignment,” said CCAC Chairman Gary Marks. “There were gold designs that in my mind made mores sense as silver and vice versa.”
So, they mixed it up a bit.
“I asked the committee not to look at just gold designs for the gold coin and just silver designs for the silver coin,” Marks said.
“Let’s look at every obverse design and decide which is best for the silver obverse and which is best for the gold obverse.”
That meant that for the $1 silver coin, the committee selected gold obverse design No. 8, which depicts Liberty with flag in hand and Fort McHenry in the background. It’s the same design the Commission of Fine Arts selected for the obverse of the $5 gold coin.
“We felt for the larger size silver coin that this was a spectacular design,” Marks said. “And to allow this design to have the pop that it could have, it needs to be on a bigger coin. On a smaller coin it would lose a lot of its spark.”
The design received 17 of 24 possible points from CCAC members.
For the reverse of the silver $1 coin, the committee chose silver reverse design No. 6, which depicts a modern flag.
“The idea was then and now, the flag still endures,” Marks said. It goes along the same theme of the national anthem: ‘Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, that the flag is still there.’”
Marks said the white stripes and white stars will have a mirror-like finish, while the other elements will be frosted.
“We believe this will be a spectacular reverse design for the silver dollar,” he said. It received 13 of a possible 21 points.
In the spirit of “mixing it up,” Marks said, the CCAC chose the silver obverse design No. 5 for the $5 gold coin. It shows the bow of an American ship coming on the right side of the coin with a British ship in the background with smoke billowing from it running away from the fight.
“We felt this design was simple enough that it would present well on a coin that is about 7/8-inch diameter,” Marks said. “It will strike up very well, especially the proof version.” The design received 15 of a possible 24 points.
CCAC chose silver reverse design No. 3 for the gold coin reverse. It depicts two flags, a modern flag and a flag of 1812.
“We felt that this design is clean and simple enough that it will look very good on the small size gold coin,” Marks said. It received 13 of 21 points.
Marks said he was pleased with the overall quality of the designs and the fact that the committee had 33 to choose from.
“That is a tremendous improvement,” he said.
Marks acknowledged a number of improvements the Mint is in the process of making to enhance the artistic quality of coin designs. Among them:
• Hiring a chief sculptor and engravor to replace John Mercanti, who recently retired.
• Shifting responsiblity for design from sales and marketing to a new division.
• Looking to restructure the design process so the CCAC gets a look at designs earlier in the process.
• Moving the artists to a spot in the Philadelphia Mint building that has natural light and is more suited to artistic inspiration.
The action is in response to recommendations made by the CCAC late last year to improve artistic quality.
“I’m feeling good about what I’m seeing,” Marks said. “I want to cheer them on and work with them anyway we can to assure American coins are the best coins issued in the world from a design point of view.”