Proposed reverse for the 2015 Ultra High Relief gold coin

Proposed reverse for the 2015 Ultra High Relief gold coin

This afternoon, the Citizens Coin Advisory Committee approved a proposal by the U.S. Mint to produce an ultra-high relief or just a high relief gold coin whose design has not been determined. The coin will comply with all applicable design laws but the obverse will be a more modern interpretation of liberty and the reverse inspired by previous submissions to the committee. The CCAC recommended that the planchet be similar to that of the one-ounce gold coins and not smaller like the 2009 coin.

Along with the gold coin will be a companion silver coin struck on the one-ounce planchet that is used for the American Silver Eagle. Although it was not specifically addressed, it is assumed that silver coin will be of the same or similar relief of the gold coin.

This afternoon I was able to break away from my daily activities to attend the CCAC meeting via conference call. This is the first time I attended one of their meetings and came away a little surprised and a little appalled.

What surprised me with the meeting is how in lock-step the committee is on everything. There appears to be no disagreement or questioning of what the U.S. Mint had proposed. Granted the committee members may have history with the issues beyond this meeting, but I was surprised that alternatives were not recommended or discussed.

The committee was excited because the proposal was somewhat in alignment with a motion they passed last April to create a Liberty Medal series. According to Gary Marks, chairman of the CCAC, the Liberty Medal Series would be an arts medal produced by the U.S. Mint to foster new design and innovation. It is to encourage the artists to have artistic impression beyond what they are allowed to do as part of the coin programs.

I do not know if it was previously discussed but according to the authorizing law for the American Silver Eagle bullion program (31 U.S.C. § 5112(e)(3)) the coins must have a design “symbolic of Liberty on the obverse side” and “of an eagle on the reverse side.” The law does not say that the obverse must be Adolph Weinman’s Walking Liberty design and it does not say that the reverse must be a heraldic eagle. Why has the committee not considered using the existing American Silver Eagle program to create a Liberty design program?

In discussing the overall medallic arts program, the CCAC decided to create a study group to come up with a plan to recommend to the U.S. Mint. Aside from the “American Liberty Silver Medal Program,” as described by Marks, he also proposed Freestyle Medal of an American theme. This would be one medal per year that would be artistic representations.

CCAC Member Heidi Wastweet said that the arts medal will allow for experimenting; allow the artist and designers to “expanding our wings” for future projects. As a result, it will let future stakeholders know what is possible so that it would inspire better designs.

While a medals program is a good idea, what seems to be missing is the subject matter. If the Liberty design can be leverage through the American Eagle bullion program, why not have medals used to honor history? Why is it when nations around the world issued commemorative coins honoring D-Day, the United States, whose mint is overly regulated by intransigent politicians, did not issue any commemorative item on the 70th anniversary of an event that changed world history?

Expanding the medals program in this manner would be the perfect way to honor history when congress has failed to remember they represent a country rather their owners… I mean donors!

Where I was appalled was what I saw as over-the-top cult-like patriotic gushing by some of the members over the proceedings. I thought the CCAC was supposed to be an oversight organization; at least that is how it appears to be described in the authorizing law (31 U.S. Code § 5135). There should not be a problem with supporting the work of the U.S. Mint and support the artists whom everyone agrees should be treated better. However, there were some comments that sounded more like members were wrapping themselves in the flag rather than working on an oversight committee.

As part of his closing remarks, Chairman Marks said, “I believe that this is the single most impactful idea that the Mint can pursue at this point in time in the United States.” Unfortunately, I wish this was the case. It appears to be another missed opportunity by the CCAC similar to previous missed opportunities by this committee.

I will have more commentary in the coming days.

Background from the U.S. Mint

Potential Products
2015 24-karat Gold Ultra High Relief Coin
2015 Silver Medal
  • As a result of the success and popularity of the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin, the United States Mint (Mint) is considering producing a 2015 24-karat Gold Ultra High Relief (UHR) Coin.
  • The CCAC recommended a new eagle design for the reverse of the American Eagle Silver One Ounce Coin, a change the Mint is not pursuing, opting instead to consider showcasing the beauty and intricacies of the recommended design on a 2015 24k Gold UHR Coin.
  • To compliment such a reverse, the Mint would consider featuring a new, modern rendition of Liberty on the obverse of the 2015 24k Gold UHR Coin.
  • If developed, a 2015 24k Gold UHR Coin would be comparable to the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin, in that it would also be one troy ounce. The denomination would also have to be determined.
  • To make such a design accessible to various ranges of collectors, the Mint is considering the possibility of producing a medal, struck in silver, bearing the same design as a 2015 24k Gold UHR Coin. Striking these medals in silver would provide an additional opportunity to showcase the intricacy of the design features and the beauty of the artwork.
  • If this concept is pursued, the United States Mint would seek Secretary of the Treasury approval to strike this gold coin under authority of 31 U.S.C. § 5112(i)(4)(C).
  • If this concept is pursued, the United States Mint would seek Secretary of the Treasury approval to strike this silver medal under authority of 31 U.S.C. § 5111 (a)(2).
Design History
  • In 2009, the United States Mint fulfilled the original vision of Augustus Saint-Gaudens with the release of the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin; closing one chapter of American coin design and beginning a new one.
  • If produced, 2015 24k Gold UHR Coins could be viewed as a follow up to the 2009 Double Eagle UHR, contrasting classic American coin design with modern American coin design.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

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