Native Americans in the 1600s traded freely, canoes for copper tools and deer hides for blankets.
Their commerce, conducted over trade routes that cut across plains and swerved along rivers, was facilitated by the horse that made the long journeys possible.
And so the horse was featured in each of 13 designs presented by U.S. Mint engravers for the reverse design of the 2012 Native American $1 coin.
“The horse had everything to do with the trade routes,” said Gary Marks, chairman of the Citizens Coin Advisory Committee, which reviewed the designs June 27 at a meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The CCAC endorsed the same design the Commission of Fine Arts had selected earlier that month, featuring prominent images of a Native American in headdress and a horse.
That design garnered 17 of a possible 18 points from CCAC members, Marks said.
“I think this one has a pretty strong possibility of being the actual design,” Marks said.
It was a well-executed artistic design, he said.
“It showed the relationship between the horse and the Native American. The images were large so they should be readily interpretable by a casual observer,” Marks said.
The CFA chose the same design noting its stylistic consistency with the series’ obverse design,” said CFA secretary Tom Luebke.
But the CFA did recommend a few alterations, he said.
“They recommended simplification ... by removing the small horses depicted in the background, moving the denomination to the rim of the reverse, separating the text from the central emblems of the design and grouping it in the same circumferential zone as the other text that is proposed along the rim,” Luebke wrote in the CFA recommendation to the Mint.
Six of the 13 designs were depictions of ledger, a kind of line drawing. Marks said when Native Americans were captured and imprisoned by other tribes, they would be given stone tablets to write on. Often they would use this art form.
A design featuring two Native Americans on horseback received 16 points from the CCAC, only one vote shy of the winning design.
“Because of that, there was great interest by the committee to consider potentially using this art form, but in the end we went with the more conventional design,” he said. The design selected was also recommended by the Native American Congressional Caucus, he said.
Marks said a motion to recommend the ledger art design rather than the vote winner failed on a vote of 4 to 2 with one abstention.
In other action, the CCAC added the 9/11 medal to the CCAC Visual Definition of Coin Design Excellence.
“It is an absolutely gorgeous design,” Marks said, “one of the best pieces that has come out of the U.S. Mint for a long time.”
Marks suggested the 9/11 medal design be added to the definition of excellence, which was supported unanimously by the CCAC.
“At times there seems to be plenty of criticism of the Mint,” Marks said, “but in this instance we need to celebrate the U.S. Mint. They’ve done a superb job with that medal.”