From the Sept. 22 Numismatic News E-Newsletter:
Have American coin designs improved in recent years?
Here are some answers sent from our e-newsletter readers to Editor Dave Harper.
No. The U.S. coin designs have not improved but have maintained a low level of modern non-artistic design. When you place the modern coinage with past coinage such as the Mercury dime, Barber series, Morgan dollar, Indian Head cent, even back to the Seated Liberty series, you find a very vast downfall in the beauty of the coins in your pocket, or that are ones you wish to collect. Collecting today is a pure drive to investment. Few people would admit to being a real and pure collector with little or no tie to making a profit. I do it for my pleasure not profit and have done so for over 60 years.
Mary Esther, Fla.
Methinks we are about the same age, and during the past 60-plus years have only seen a design change on the half dollar and the reverse of the cent. So if there have been no changes, how can there have been any improvement? The changes for Honest Abe’s 100th, the Corps of Discovery and the various quarter dollar programs have been interesting, but I wouldn’t call them design changes. Where are the likes of Teddy Roosevelt with ideas of making U.S. of A. coinage beautiful?
Kato Lehonia, Greece
In answer to your question, a resounding no! The lack of artistic value in both our coins and currency is depressing. Those in charge of designing our numismatic products are sorely lacking in any expertise. They lack in their ability to evaluate the designs of our currency and coins, they lack any expertise in selecting artistic designs and they rely on computers for the “artwork” on the final products, which totally destroys any attempt to create artistic pieces. The statehood and ATB quarters provide a clear example of their ineptitude.
Alan R. Anderson
The answer to your question is "No!" All we see anymore are the same designs just made from different metals. Now we have a palladium Mercury Dime coming out. Nothing has really changed. Zero input from the coin collecting community proves this time after time. I see better material coming from foreign mints.
Take a look at the 2017 Remembrance Poppy $5 coin from the Cook Islands with the coin actually looking like a poppy. Or the 2017 Canadian 150th Anniversary one kilo silver $250 coin with that awesome reverse which has a high relief showing 35 images of Canadian coins from their history.
These are just a couple of coins that I’ve seen where thinking out of the box has really shown how much the U.S. Mint lacks in imagination.
Palm Coast, Fla.
In recent years, some design changes are worthwhile. The designs on the quarters should shift to the half dollar at series end. On the reverse of the quarter, put the Washington Monument with a flying eagle. This may create interest for a newer series.
On the half dollar end, this may create enough interest in the denomination once again. Maybe even smaller, with five sides. With my prior suggestion, this may take off, as well as be a money saver for us taxpayers.
The cent, nickel, dime and half dollar have not changed in years. So no improvement there. The America the Beautiful quarter obverse design the last couple years have been ok (based on the five different quarters for each year as a group). The 2017 Native American dollar obverse design has been one of the better of the last three or four years. With a few exceptions (Mark Twain, National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Star-Spangled Banner), commemorative coin programs over the past five or six years have been good, but not great. This may have been due to the subjects selected.
I think the 2018 American the Beautiful obverse designs, as released a few week ago, may be some of the better designs since the early years of the program. Hopefully the 2018 Native American obverse design and 2018 commemorative coin program will be an improvement as well.
Some of the modern designs are downright ugly.
Look at the bullion coins – they go back to beautiful classic designs (Walking Liberty, the $20 gold Saint-Gaudens, Mercury, Buffalo).
(Note – I was never a big fan of the Buffalo Nickel – but the one-ounce Buffalo gold bullion is beautiful!)
Some of the state quarter designs are lovely, while many others are very unattractive, like the recent Effigy Mounds and the Frederick Douglass designs. And don’t get me started on the 2017 Black Liberty. You’d think they could have done a much better job there.
I’m not an engraver, but I understand there are limitations with what can and can’t be done in mass producing our coinage. But I look back at some of the truly beautiful coins this country has produced in the past and just can’t help wonder why, with all the modern technology available now, it seems like we can’t do better.
I believe that coin designs are getting better. However, design choice has been terrible. Also, design choice has been lazy. I refer to the three-denomination Baseball commemoratives and the upcoming four-denomination Astronaut commemoratives. Same design on all denominations. Boring! I firmly believe the gold Astronaut commemorative should honor the astronauts that have given their lives, in the name of science, for our country.
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