Perfection. That’s what the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee sees in its design selections for a 2015 high relief gold coin and companion silver medal.
The CCAC made unanimous choices. For the obverse, Liberty standing, crowned with leaves and holding the American flag, and for the reverse, an eagle in flight carrying an olive branch.
“Never before have I seen the committee so united and so excited for a program,” said CCAC Chairman Gary Marks.
“We see this as a launching pad for the ability of the Mint to bring forward modern designs for Liberty and the American bald eagle. It’s something collectors have been asking for for decades.”
The Mint’s plan is for the coin to be 1 troy ounce of gold, comparable to the 2009 UHR Saint-Gaudens double eagle gold coin, though it will have a larger diameter and not be as thick.
The coin’s diameter is expected to match the Kennedy half dollar’s 30.6mm. The 2009 UHR Saint-Gaudens was 27mm.
The same design will be placed on a silver medal. It will be larger than the companion gold coin – the Mint proposes a 36mm planchet – providing the opportunity to showcase the intricacy of the design features and the beauty of the artwork.
While the CCAC is fine with the size of the gold coin, it wants the silver medal on a 40.6 mm planchet.
Marks noted that the Mint has dropped the world “ultra” from its description of the high relief gold coin.
“The committee is interested in finding a balance between relief and the size of the medal,” Marks said. “The larger the medal, the more the artwork is allowed to have ‘eye blast’ or pop.”
Typically, when you go for the impact of high relief you go for a smaller, thicker planchet so the metal can fill in the design higher, he said.
“We’re telling the Mint to do the best you can with research and development to get the best relief possible,” Marks said.
The CCAC would also like the Mint to reconsider the $75 denomination it has used as a placeholder on the proposed coin designs. It would like the coin to carry something new.
Marks said that historically in U.S. coinage, the eagle is $10 and the double eagle is $20.
But in the 1870s, the Mint looked at producing a $50 coin and called it a “half union.” It conducted test strikes, one of which is in the Smithsonian and one in the American Numismatic collection.
The Mint has also created $50 and $100 coins in its bullion program, but it never used the half union or union denomination.
“The CCAC felt it would be a source of interst and excitement if the denomination of ‘one union’ would be used for this coin, so we recommend that along with the ‘$100’ designation,” Marks said.
It would also like to see the coins and medals produced at the San Francisco and West Point numismatic minting facilities so collectors would be able to collect both the “S” and “W” mintmarks.
And although the Mint generally doesn’t put a reeded edge on medals, the CCAC is asking that the edge be placed on this silver medal.
“We felt it would dress up the medal and collectors would find it attractive,” Marks said.
So attractive that the CCAC wants the Liberty-themed silver medal to be an annual offering.
“We felt it would be good for the Mint and collectors to have a companion to the silver Eagle coin,” Marks said. “It would be similar to the Chinese Panda where the design changes every year.”
The proof silver medal would have no denomination and would be the same size as the silver Eagle, but with different designs each year.
“The committee felt there would be great interest in a Liberty themed silver medal that would appear on the silver Eagle planchet as a companion medal to the proof silver Eagle,” Marks said.
Before reaching its unanimous decisions on the obverse and reverse designs, the CCAC reviewed 25 possible obverse designs for a new Liberty and 16 reverse designs for a new eagle. Its selections were the same as those made by the Commission of Fine Arts, although the CFA also endorsed an obverse design of a face and head of an African-American Liberty.
The standing Liberty design chosen features a full-length Liberty holding a flag that runs off the edge.
“She’s beautiful,” Marks said. “And we want Liberty to be beautiful because it is.”
In the design, Liberty stands in the middle, similar to Saint-Gaudens’ forward walking Liberty. Her face is multi-ethnic, “inclusive for today’s society,” Marks said, and liked a lot by the committee.
The CCAC asked that the sculptor raise up Liberty so she would pop off the coin with the flag sculpted down low so it would appear to be behind Liberty.
“This is a wonderful design for this program,” Marks said. “It fits well with our desire to use the 40.6mm planchet.”
The eagle design chosen for the reverse was first presented by the Mint in March in a portfolio of possible designs for the commemorative coins honoring the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service. Marks said the CCAC was so taken with the design that it recommended it for the reverse of the silver Eagle.
“Changing the designs on the silver Eagle has been a goal of the committee for about three years,” Marks noted. “In 2011 the coin reached its 25-year status, which allows for a change in the design. The CCAC called for a modern rendition of Liberty and freedom portrayed by the American bald eagle.”
Later it became clear that the Mint wasn’t going to change the design on the silver Eagle, Marks said, but would instead propose a 24-karat gold Ultra High Relief coin paired with a silver medal.
“And I was excited about that,” Marks said, noting that the 40.6 mm planchet is the same size as the silver Eagle planchet.
Required inscriptions for the gold coin are “United States of America,” “E Pluribus Unum,” “1 oz.,” “.9999 Fine Gold,” and the denomination. The corresponding silver medal may optionally depict the inscription “United States of America.”
The CCAC and CFA recommendations now go to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew for consideration.