By Tom Michael
Our Thirty-Sixth Annual Coin of the Year Awards Ceremony took place Feb. 2 in Berlin at the World Money Fair.
From the thousands of coins produced in a year, only a hundred make the cut for nomination.
These 100 are then sorted by category for our Judges Panel to consider. Out of 10 category winners, one is chosen for overall COTY honors.
To open the COTY ceremony this year, we had remarks from both of our sponsors: the World Money Fair, represented by Gitta Künker, Managing Director of the World Money Fair Holding GmbH, and Michael Chou, Publisher of the Journal of East Asian Numismatics.
I followed this with some background of this year’s advancements in process and small changes to the system.
Our first award, for Most Historically Significant Coin, went to the Austrian Mint for their silver 20 Euro commemorating the 175th Anniversary of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Accepting this award was Andrea Lang, Head of International Marketing and Sales for the Austrian Mint. She would later rejoin me at the podium to collect a second award for the Austrian Mint’s lovely gold 50 Euro featuring the Vienna Schools of Psychotherapy – Sigmund Freud, which won in the Most Artistic Coin category.
For this and several other winning coins, our graphic presentation elicited a rustle of approval from the crowd. I found this to be a very satisfying sound of endorsement. It’s nice to know that everyone can appreciate a beautiful coin design!
The same reaction was received by the South African Mint silver 2 Rand from the South African Inventions series. This coin depicted The Heart Transplant and was designed by Richard Stone, who accepted the award. He explained that he worked with heart surgeons to develop this coin design with exacting anatomical accuracy. Within the nominating committee, there was debate over the category placement of this coin. Though Artistic and Silver were proposed, in the end we decided to place this coin in the Best Contemporary Event category, where it achieved the win.
The United States Mint returned to the World Money Fair this year to accept two COTY awards. New director David J. Ryder is a true “coin guy” who plans to push his staff in innovative ways in years to come. He explained this from the podium as he accepted the award for Best Gold Coin for the 100 Dollar Gold American Liberty 225th Anniversary coin. Truly gracious in design, this coin stood out for both its unique depiction of Liberty and its classic image of an eagle in flight. The second award for the United States went to the silver Dollar Boys Town Centennial Commemorative, a perfect design for commemoration, for which it won the Most Inspirational Coin category. Ronald Harrigal, a 30+ year member of the U.S. Mint, joined Ryder at the podium for this acceptance.
A few days before the COTY awards ceremony, I had the pleasure of meeting Dennis Lorenz, Head of Marketing for CIT Coin Invest AG of Liechtenstein, and found we had some geographic background in common, both having spent time in Wisconsin. It was a pleasure to invite him to the stage to accept the Best Crown Coin award for their silver 5 Dollar Red Scarab design from the three-coin Scarab collection. Though not a traditional crown coin, the Red Scarab did fit all the category criteria, and I suspect that the Judges Panel must have seen in this Cook Islands issue the basic character of a crown with the charm of many more modern features. It was a surprising win for a beautiful coin.
Another surprising win was experienced this year in the hotly contested Most Innovative Coin category. An amazing project begun by Antonello Galletta, Director of Power Coin, to depict the Birth of Venus in micro mosaic form on a coin was first brought to my attention by Luca Golisano, graphic designer for the piece. He was very enthusiastic, as was Galletta when he accepted the COTY trophy. Galletta graciously shared the complete journey from concept to completion, giving credit to his partners in the project, CIT Coin Invest AG and B. H. Mayer Mint. Issued by the Republic of Palau, this coin is just the beginning for the Power Coin group, as they have already refined the process of micro mosaic design and construction for a gorgeous Mona Lisa issue currently in their product line for 2018.
If you are counting, you will note that we have covered seven awards, leaving three more category awards, the overall COTY award, and our coveted annual Lifetime Achievement award in Coin Design. In an amazing sweep, the Monnaie de Paris, who are clearly experiencing a true renaissance in coin design, had a hand in all five remaining awards. This is a distinction I cannot ever recall happening before. Kudos to our friends from France.
The first category win for the Monnaie de Paris came in the Best Circulating Coin category, on a project they completed for the Central Bank of Mauritania of the large denomination tri-metallic 20 Ouguiya. This coin features the Mauritania arms and two camels and is a perfect circulating design, both practical for use and representative in nature. Nathalie Pasquet, Export Director for Central Banks, accepted the award for the Central Bank of Mauritania. This was a first-time win for Mauritania and illustrated that any issuing entity can win the COTY. All you need is a well-designed and well-constructed coin.
The second two category awards won by the Monnaie de Paris were for their 2 Euro color ribbon Fight Against Breast Cancer coin and the French Excellence Series – Guy Savoy 50 Euro silver “egg” coin. Taking the very competitive Best Bi-Metallic Coin and Best Silver Coin categories respectively, these coins each presented graceful designs that carefully and clearly represented their themes. In particular, the Guy Savoy coin brought a great reaction from the crowd, just as this coin had for me when I first saw it in person. It’s a stunning design achieved through designer Joaquin Jimenez and Chef Guy Savoy working together to best convey the fine art of cooking. I was pleased to have Marc Schwartz, President and CEO of the Monnaie de Paris, accept the Best Bi-Metallic Award and delighted for designer Joaquin Jimenez to share his experience while accepting Best Silver Coin award.
With ten winners accounted for, that leaves the overall Coin of the Year. This is the most coveted award in the field of modern coin production. From the ten best category coins, a single coin is chosen by our Judges Panel as the best or the best. As foreshadowed earlier, the Monnaie de Paris won this award also when the Judges voted for the stunning silver 50 Euro French Excellence – Guy Savoy coin as the finest Coin of the Year. An outstanding and emotive representation of one of the basic elements of life, this coin connects those who cook professionally and those who cook for their family. Simple and yet tremendously powerful, this design is truly mesmerizing. We were very pleased to have a good number of the Monnaie de Paris staff join us on stage to accept this award.
Through an amazing bit of serendipity, our final award of the day, for Lifetime Achievement in Coin Design, was presented to Joaquin Jimenez. He made his first big splash in coin design by winning a competition for his design for the obverse of the first circulation 1 and 2 Euro coins for France in 1997. Today, Jimenez is the Director of Engraving Creation and Artistic Director of the Foundry at the Monnaie de Paris. His is a monumental story of success through hard work, enthusiasm, and artistic vision.
In his acceptance speech, translated by colleague Julien Sabouret, Jimenez said “I am often asked what is my favorite coin design. After a moment of thought, my answer is always ‘The next one.’”
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