My new Rosy Medal

Obverse of the 2018 Rose Bowl Commemorative Medal from the Highland Mint

It has been a few weeks since my Georgia Bulldogs lost the national championship game in overtime. It was a devastating end to a great season, one I had not experienced since I was a junior at the University of Georgia in 1980.

In 1980, it was a big deal to pack the Redcoat Marching Band into seven busses and travel to New Orleans for the sUGAr Bowl. We thought it was great to spend New Year’s Eve on Bourbon Street and then play in the Superdome, what we called the World’s Largest Mushroom.

I can only imagine what the current Redcoats felt like when they climbed aboard a chartered 757 out of Atlanta to fly cross-country to attend the Rose Bowl. In 1980 there were 300 total members including auxiliaries and support staff. Today, there are almost 300 musicians in the band.

Reverse of the 2018 Rose Bowl Commemorative Medal from the Highland Mint

The last bowl game I went to as a member of the Redcoat Marching Band was the January 1, 1983 sUGAr Bowl where we lost to Penn State. I was not happy then but time moves on. Now that we are 35 years later, age has caught up with me and my distance from Athens means I watch the games from the comfort of my living room. The last game I attended was Homecoming in 2012. I have to try to get down there for Homecoming this year!

But that Rose Bowl game was something else. No matter who I talk with about the game, it was the most exciting game they have seen, especially for a Rose Bowl. It was the first time a Rose Bowl went to overtime. Needless to say, I was happy with the outcome!

Previously, I mentioned I was interested in obtaining a copy of the coin used in the coin toss. In the video, it appeared to be silver in a plastic capsule with the school logos on either side. When I received an answer from someone associated with the Rose Bowl committee, I was told that it was indeed a silver coin, specially struck for the game. Only a limited number are struck and given to VIPs. The game-used coin is saved as part of a Rose Bowl museum. There are no extras struck and none are for sale.

I decided to find an alternative.

The Highland Mint, in cooperation with the College Football Playoff, struck souvenir medals for each of the games. Medals were struck in brass and placed in a plastic holder with the matchup. They also offer a silver-plated brass medal in a capsule and a velvet-covered case.

A medal in a case is pedestrian. It can be mistaken for just about any collectible, even those from the U.S. Mint. I would rather have the commemorative plastic holder with the information about the game. It makes more of a statement and can be displayed on my desk.

As I work to open my new business, I am planning on having this medal in my new office. It will remind everyone that if there is an early kickoff next fall, we will close on-time at noon so that I can rush home to my television and watch the game. Hopefully next year I will buy one that says National Champions!

HOW 🌹 BOUT 🌹 THEM 🌹 DAWGS!

U.S. Mint Bombs on WWI Commem Sets

World War I Centennial 2018 Silver Dollar

The U.S. Mint just announced the availability of the World War I Centennial Silver Dollar and the World War I Centennial Silver Dollar and Medal Sets will begin on January 17, 2018. But what they announced does not make sense for collectors.

Of course, the U.S. Mint will sell an uncirculated and proof silver dollar that will come in their usual display cases with a Certificate of Authenticity. These are the coins that are required under the authorizing law (World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, Public Law 113-212) that were designed by LeRoy Transfield.

The U.S. Mint will also be selling five silver medals that will be issued in conjunction with the 2018 World War I Centennial Silver Dollar. Each medal, composed of 90 percent silver, pays homage to branches of the U.S. Armed Forces that were active in World War I: Army, Marine Corps, Air Service, Navy, and Coast Guard. Medal designs were announced last October. However, the U.S. Mint will only be selling the medals as part of a set with the silver dollar.

World War I Centennial 2018 Silver Dollar and Army Medal Set

By not selling the silver medals individually or as a set, if a collector wants to add all five to a collection, it will cost $99.95 per set ($499.75 total) and will require the purchase of five commemorative silver dollars.

Since there are no more surviving veterans of World War I, one can only assume that the commemorative coin and medal sets are being marketed to those that want to remember the service of those veterans. Creating these sets in this context makes sense. It does not make sense for the collector or for someone whose family did not serve in World War I or wants to just collect the medals.

This short-sightedness by the U.S. Mint may hinder potential sales of the commemorative coin whose proceeds are to benefit the United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars, an organization responsible for making sure we do not forget those who served.

With the decline in silver prices and the market interest in investing in silver at its lowest since before the Great Recession, a short-sighted decision like this will limit the sale of silver medals. This will lower the income and seigniorage the U.S. Mint will collect after seeing a decline in the sales of bullion-related products.

If the U.S. Mint cannot get this right, then maybe they should have a more broad community discussion so they can better understand the potential collector market because on this, they bombed!

Images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

December 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

Each two-year term of congress is marked by sessions that begin every January 3rd at noon. When the House and Senate gavel into session on January 3, 2018, it will be the second session of the 115th Congress.

Political watchers have called the 115th congress everything from contentious to partisan to dysfunctional to names that cannot be repeated to a family audience. One thing they have not called this congress: boring.

For numismatists, Congress did pass The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (Public Law No. 115-65) making it the second commemorative coin program for 2019. The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemorative is the other. Also, two bills passed the House and have been sent to the Senate for their consideration:

  • Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act (H.R. 965)
    This bill redesignates the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, in New Hampshire, as the “Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park.”
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 1235)
    This bill creates the first commemorative coin program in 2020 in recognition and celebration of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In between the partisan wrangling, there were three bills were introduced in Congress last month. They are as follows:

H.R. 4539: Plymouth 400th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act of 2017
Sponsor: Rep. William R. Keating (D-MA)
Introduced: December 4, 2017
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Dec 4, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR4539.

S. 2189: Plymouth 400th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act of 2017
Sponsor: Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
Introduced: December 4, 2017
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Dec 4, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S2189.

H.R. 4732: National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. David G. Reichert (R-WA)
Introduced: December 21, 2017
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Dec 21, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR4732.

In the meantime, the nomination of David Ryder to be the next Director of the U.S. Mint is now 73rd on the Senate Executive Calendar, down from 70th last month. A few nominations for key administrative positions were added to the calendar in front of Ryder. It is possible that his nomination will be confirmed within the next two months.

PN1082: David J. Ryder — Department of the Treasury
Date Received from President: October 5, 2017
Summary: David J. Ryder, of New Jersey, to be Director of the Mint for a term of five years, vice Edmund C. Moy, resigned.
Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Oct 5, 2017
Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Hearings held. — Oct 24, 2017
Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Ordered to be reported favorably. — Nov 1, 2017
Reported by Senator Crapo, Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, without printed report. — Nov 1, 2017
Placed on Senate Executive Calendar. Calendar No. 458. Subject to nominee’s commitment to respond to requests to appear and testify before any duly constituted committee of the Senate. — Nov 1, 2017
This nomination can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-PN1082.

HAPPY 2018!

Happy New Year!
As we begin a new year, we should look forward to better times for our hobby, our nation, and our world. I wish you and yours a Happy and Healthy 2018 and hope that you find the key coin of your dreams!
Images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

October 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

It seems that when I write these posts about the monthly numismatic-related legislation reviews, I note how frustrating it is to follow the workings of Congress. Even though I work as a part-time political analyst and have some contacts I can leverage, even the insiders cannot explain why things happen.

Let’s look at recent legislation. Even though the House passed both the The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2519) and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 1235) on the same day and sent both the Senate at the same time, the Senate only passed one of the bills while the other is languishing in committee.

Commemorative coin bills are not a big priority for Congress. Most of the time, they are treated as favors for one member or another, along the lines of “you help me with mine and I will help you with yours.” These are not big issues but are used to win points with constituents back home.

Although nobody is sure of the reasons why the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act is being stalled in committee, it may be because of politics and personality conflicts. Usually, when one of these bills are introduced, a version will be submitted to the House and Senate hoping one will pass. The Senate version, S. 1503 was introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Sen. Warren is not a favorite amongst her colleagues on the other side of the aisle. My sources speculate that the Senate’s leadership could be using this as a future bargaining chip against some of her principled stances.

It does not matter what you think about Sen. Warren or her politics. This is the way Congress works. If you think that the Basketball Hall of Fame should have a commemorative coin to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2020, then let your senators know that you support H.R. 1235 that has already passed the House.

H.R. 965: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ann M. Kuster (D-NH)
Introduced: February 7, 2017
Summary: This bill redesignates the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, in New Hampshire, as the “Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park.”
Referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands. — Feb 23, 2017
Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by Unanimous Consent. — Jul 26, 2017
Placed on the Union Calendar, Calendar No. 197. — Aug 25, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Oct 2, 2017
Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. — Oct 3, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR956.

H.R. 2519: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Timothy J. Walz (D-MN)
Introduced: May 18, 2017
Summary: This bill requires the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue commemorative coins in recognition and celebration of the 100th anniversary of the American Legion.Surcharges received from the sale of these coins shall be paid to the American Legion for costs related to promoting the importance of: (1) caring for those who have served, and those who are still serving, in the Armed Forces; and (2) maintaining patriotic values, strong families, and assistance for at-risk children.
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — May 18, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Sep 25, 2017
Received in the Senate. — Sep 26, 2017
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Sep 29, 2017
Presented to President. — Sep 29, 2017
Became Public Law No: 115-65. — Oct 6, 2017
This new law can be viewed at http://bit.ly/115-HR2519.

H.R. 4044: 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Introduced: October 12, 2017
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Oct 12, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR4044.
PN1082: David J. Ryder — Department of the Treasury
Date Received from President: October 5, 2017
Summary: David J. Ryder, of New Jersey, to be Director of the Mint for a term of five years, vice Edmund C. Moy, resigned.
Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Oct 5, 2017
Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Hearings held. — Oct 24, 2017
This nomination can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-PN1082.

Breast Cancer coin design announced on NYC television show

Design of the 2018 Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Gold Coin was announced today on Fox 5 New York featuring interviews with New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D), the sponsor of the authorizing legislation (Public Law 114-148) and Myra Biblowit, President of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the organization that will receive whatever is collected from the surcharges.

No additional details were provided including the name of the winning designer or whether the silver dollar and clad half-dollar will have the same design.

Here is the video segment from “Good Day New York:”

Still frame of the reverse design also from “Good Day New York:

Still frame of Breast Cancer Awareness commemorative coin reverse from Fox 5 NY

Summary of the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Program

  • Commemorative coins issued in 2018
  • Design, emblematic of the fight against breast cancer, selected from a juried competition with no less than $5,000 going to winning design
  • “The Secretary shall encourage three-dimensional designs to be submitted as part of the proposals”
  • 50,000 $5 “pink gold” coins with an alloy of at least 75-percent gold with a $35 surcharge
  • 400,000 one-ounce silver dollars made with not less than 90-percent silver with a $10 surcharge
  • 750,000 clad half-dollar coins with a $5 surcharge
  • Surcharges will be distributed to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of New York, to further breast cancer research funded by the Foundation.

Pink gold can be more commonly described as “rose gold.” Rose gold is an alloy of 75-percent gold with 20-percent copper and 5-percent silver. The color can be adjusted by changing the ratio of copper and silver.

All media courtesy of WNYW — Fox 5 NY.

LeRoy Transfield Interview — PART II

NOTE: I reached out to LeRoy Transfield, the winner of the design competition for the World War I Centennial Commemorative dollar coin to ask about his experience with the design competition. Yesterday, I posted a write-up he provided to me. Today, are his answers to additional questions I had.
Coin Collectors Blog: I see from your website that your expertise is sculpting larger works, such as statues. Were there techniques you have used in the past that helped you with the design process?
LeRoy Transfield: I haven’t done that many low relief sculptures before although I have had many years of experience in high relief. I mostly do the figure but from my early training in college I learnt that basic elements and principles of design plays a big role.
CCB: Did you have interaction with the selection committee? Did they ask for modifications, specifically based on their ability to strike a proper coin?
LT:   I didn’t have any interaction with the committee other than when I spoke to them when they called me to say I won. They made some modifications to my submission such as making the rifle more accurate and the helmet more covered. The drawing they presented is actually not mine. I think there are problems with it such as around the eyes, proportions a little off on the soldier. But I think the final coin sculpted by Don Everhardt will look a lot better than that.
CCB: How were you notified that you won the competition?
LT:   I was in Hawaii working on a project there which is a nice place to receive good news. They emailed me saying they wanted a conference call with me. It was 4 officials from the mint, The director, the head sculptor Don Everhardt, Meagan the project manager and one other can’t remember that one: sorry:8. I was informed I won and that the judging was unanimous that my design was outstanding among the entries. Don was very nice and said I did very nice figure work and that I had ‘nailed the design.’ I understand the project was his last sculpture before he retired. It was a very exciting time and a little stressful considering what it meant for the future and that I didn’t really think I would win since it was my first coin attempt. The $10,00 prize was also a great bonus and justified the summer I spent staring off into space, doodling and sitting around looking at war movies (Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iowa Jima and Band of Brothers were my favorite).
CCB: Now that you won your first design competition for the U.S. Mint, would you consider entering another? Would you consider becoming a member of the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program?
LT:   I am a finalist for the Apollo 11 coin which we have already submitted our entries to. I as in my WW 1 coin design, I am pleased with what I came up with and whether it does well or not, I am happy to have to judged and my initials to the coin if it does win. I think this competition will be interesting because they said they will post the entries online but the committee will make the final decision. I didn’t enter the Breast Cancer Awareness coin because at the time I couldn’t think of anything that would say that in a coin. I could have thought of some cool designs but nothing (appropriate) to say oh yes that coin is to do with breast cancer.
I would become a member if they asked. I think sometimes the coins the mint puts out are too illustrative and rely too much on technology (such as Z brush). Coins are very hard to design especially in low relief since there are so many rules and so many things that look bad when translated to low relief. In the end I would use the ultimate test I do on any sculpture I make, to stand well back and be as objective as possible and say-does it look any good?
I would like to thank LeRoy Transfield for his time!

LeRoy Transfield discusses designing WWI Commemorative

NOTE: I reached out to LeRoy Transfield, the winner of the design competition for the World War I Centennial Commemorative dollar coin to ask about his experience with the design competition. He sent me a copy of his story with permission to publish it here. The following is what he sent. I had additional questions. Those will be published tomorrow.

LeRoy Transfield

When I first heard about the world war one design competition by the United States Mint for a commemorative coin I was very excited. I was interested and inspired for many reasons. First off, ever since I was very little I was fascinated by war and war stories and comic books depicting war. The high light of my week was to watch the British Documentary World at War. Since then I still enjoy many aspects of history, not just war. But war is a big part of our world because the way that things are now came about from those wars.

Secondly, I was excited because I am a sculptor and love sculpture of all kinds. My specialty is sculpture in the round, figures, people. I have done very few low relief sculptures and no coins. Despite this, I enjoy looking at well-sculpted coins and even have a small coin collection of my own. My favorite American coin is the Standing Liberty quarter by Hermon MacNeil.

Thirdly I have done a number of war memorials for local towns in the area including the city I live in. During these experiences, I have gotten to know many veterans and people that fought in most of the major wars of the 20th century. Many of them including people I worked very closely with are now gone. But I often think of them and how their lives have touched mine.

Last, I was inspired by my own family. Both extended and immediate. I have been supported and helped over the years and always feel grateful for their support. Also, my Great Uncle on my mother’s side actually fought in World War One as part of the Maori Battalion. The Maori Battalion were part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to aid the allies. The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand.

All this excitement and energy flowed through me when I first got the news that I was a finalist. I so wanted to create a great design! Even though I had seen many WW I movies already and new the history, I review many pictures, books, films and documentaries to focus on the American role in the war.

I also looked at great coins. Not so much as to get an idea for a design or copy them, but to dissect those good coins and figure out what made them so good compared to average coins and what rules helped them achieve such inspiring results. I wanted an original design but one that followed those lines of greatness.

I thought about the poem, In Flanders Fields and thought Poppies would be a good thing to put in there somewhere. I also thought of the armistice and how excited everyone was when the hour came. A peace that may well not have happened without American support.

With all these thoughts, I started drawing images. I drew for two weeks. Ideas and designs of mostly soldiers in different poses that could easily be accentuated in a relief coin design. After this I started making clay versions of my sketches and quickly realized the drawings were useless and didn’t help me see problems in the design once it was built up in clay.

After about 4 or 5 weeks I was hitting a wall. No really good design was standing out from the numerous changes and trials I had done. The mint offered a conference call to all 20 participants to go over any questions we might have. This was of great help. In the call, I asked, what is the most common mistake made by beginning coin designers. The person, I forgot his name, said the most common mistake was adding too much detail to the 8-inch mock-up because one has to keep in mind that the final will be only 1.5 inches and much of the detail will be lost. Even though I already knew this it sank in even more. The other impression I got from the call was that the mint is really leaving things open to the finalists and wants to see what we can come up with, and not worry a whole lot about whether the design is right for coining as they have sculptors would fix those problems. They just wanted to see what we could come up with.

The first thing I did was scrap the board I was working on. At 18 inches, it was way too big. I thought that in working larger than the required 8 inch casts to be submitted, I could make a good large design and boil it down to a really good 8-inch final. Instead, I went the opposite way and started to work smaller than the 8 inches to get a better feeling of a coin. I started sculpting on 4-inch wood discs. This really helped a lot. It made it way easier to make a quick design and

help me see if it was going to work. I finally came up with the soldier profile, collar up and a rifle slung over his shoulder. This was not the final design but a good starting point. As I had the soldier in profile worked up, I wanted to add to it but knew not what it needed. That night I had barbed wire going through my head. Soldiers charging barbed wire, wire in the dirt and finally somehow, wire on my relief sculpture. After dreaming about barbed wire, I went to the piece and add the two small strands of wire in opposition to the rifle and the soldier. The hands also seem a natural thing to add and just like that I had the design for the Obverse.

I was very demanding on myself and didn’t say, that’s it, that’s the one. What I said was that’s a good Obverse, now make another. Another one never came. I was running out of time so I decided then to make that my Obverse and put my thoughts into the reverse. I actually thought I had a good idea already, an eagle. It was going to be a diving eagle, in profile, with wings outstretched holding arrows and an olive branch. In the eagle’s beak would be a banner with the words e plurubus unum. In the background would be a map of Europe. I just knew it would look good. But when I fleshed it out it looked terrible!

I looked for another idea. It had to be as good as the soldier. The eagle didn’t work but I wanted to try a bird again and knew that carrier pigeons were used a lot in World War One so I decided to use a pigeon. I looked at many pigeons and pigeon photos and sculpted up something I thought looked ideal. This was good because the time for submitting was running out! I had only three days left.

With the pieces molded and cast to the 8 inch specifications I had the two designs. The soldier looked good. I had different thoughts about the pigeon. I sculpted the bird as best I could but the final reverse looked not near as good as the obverse. I was dumbfounded. I had to send the pigeon, time was up, I had no time to make another. But as I looked at the pigeon I became more and more alarmed to the point where my stomach ached to look at it. I was tired of the whole project.

I thought I should just send it and be done with it. But on more reflection, I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t send it!

Firstly, I thought of the embarrassment of the committee seeing this lousy pigeon. I wouldn’t be there, I reasoned, but that didn’t help. Sure, they might like the soldier, perhaps they will choose that and another reverse. Even so I just couldn’t send it. So, I did a thought conversation and said to myself if you don’t like it they make something else, in your style, that you do like. Even if the committee doesn’t like it at least you can be happy with what you send and no regrets. But then I would vacillate back to you have run out of time just send it and be done with the thing.

At that time, my daughter wanted to go on a 9-mile bike ride up Provo Canyon, a favorite summer activity and jump off a local bridge into the chilling Provo river. School was about to start so this would be one last activity with my daughter. The ride there took about an hour. In retrospect, this time away made all the difference in my final decision to send a different reverse. As I left and rode away from my work I had a greater perspective. I could see I had learnt a lot in the last 10 weeks about coin sculpting and may well be able to come up with a good design in two days. Halfway into my ride I convinced myself that the pigeon had to go and now, what was I going to do to replace it? As we got to the bridge I came back to the beginning, poppies. But poppies are a little uninteresting and not that good looking in relief coin sculpture. So, my next thoughts were how to make the poppies look better.

This was all going on while I was enjoying the summer weather and river water with my daughter. To jump into the river, one would climb up on a steel rail about 4.5 feet above the bridge, balance there and jump into the water 15 feet below. It was exhilarating. Standing on top of the rail is quite an inspiring thing. The beautiful canyon, trees, rocks, and water looked awesome. I often thought that on a stormy day a bolt of lightning could easily find its way to the person standing perched so high on the bridge. As I stood there I thought came to me of using the barbed wire again in contrast to the poppies. I’ve got it I said and jumped into water fridge water. I had it all now, in my mind.

All I needed to do was go home and put in down in clay. When I got home my wife to catch up with me on her day. We talked about the recent passing of my old sculpture teacher and some of the funny stories he would tell us students. All this time I was sculpting the poppies and the wire. In an hour, it was done. That’s it! I said. I was unsure if it was a winning design but it was a design I could put my name to and come what may, I wasn’t embarrassed.

The plaster casts made it to the US mint the very last day of the deadline.

Portrait of the LeRoy Transfield taken from the artist’s website.

Interior Secretary Zinke has his own Challenge Coin

Secretary of the Interior Ryan K. Zinke

Stories abound regarding the quirks and foibles of some of the appointed members of the Executive Branch. Some are troublesome while others seem to be personality-based that seems different from what some consider the norm.

In an article that appeared in The Washington Post, it was reported that Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has the department fly a special flag on top of the agency’s building in Washington, D.C. when he is in the office. On days Zinke is not in the office, a flag is raised for Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt.

Zinke, the former Montana congressman, is a former Navy SEAL commander and may have adopted this tradition from his time in the service.

Zinke also commissioned personalized challenge coins to give to staff and visitors.

Challenge Coin commissioned by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

Challenge coins began as a military tradition during World War I when Ivy League students went to war and created these coins as an act of camaraderie. The challenge is that when a member draws his or her challenge coin and slaps it on the table, others must produce their challenge coin. If someone does not have their challenge coin, that person must buy a round of drinks for the group.

Typically, a challenge coin is a small medal, usually no larger than 2-inches in diameter, with the insignia or emblem of the organization. Two-sided challenge coins may have the emblem of the service on the front and the back has the emblem of the division or other representative services. Challenge coins are traditionally given by a commander in recognition of special achievement or can be exchanged as recognition for visiting an organization.

Receiving a challenge coin, especially from a high ranking official is supposed to be considered an honor.

Over the last 15 years, challenge coins became popular outside of the military as retired service members began to work in other areas of the government. The tradition has even been adopted by state and local governments and sometimes used to help raise money for municipal projects.

While most agencies have challenge coins, Zinke may be the only secretary to have one personalized. There was no report on the cost of the coins to taxpayers.

Although having a personalized challenge coin along with his flag ritual is unusual for a Cabinet-level official, there appears nothing wrong with him doing this. Zinke appears to have enthusiastically embraced his job at the Department of the Interior and if he uses the challenge coin to help reward department employees, then this is a good move on his part.

Credits

  • Official portrait of Secretary Zinke courtesy of the Department of the Interior.
  • Zinke Challenge Coin image courtesy of The Washington Post.

U.S. Mint announces WWI Centennial Commemorative Design winner

Utah sculptor LeRoy Transfield, right, poses in his sculpting studio in Orem.

In a rare Monday holiday appearance by government workers, the U.S. Mint announced that they selected a design for the World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin.

The winning design was submitted by LeRoy Transfield, a sculptor from Orem, Utah.

In an interview that appeared in the Desert News, Transfield said that he had two uncles that served as members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Native Contingent during World War I. This lead to his interest in learning about the history of the war.

For the obverse, Transfield titled it “Soldier’s Charge.” In the interview, Transfield said that he “didn’t want him to look like some model in an artist’s studio. I made his nose like it might’ve been broken. I wanted to give him a rugged looking face. … I wanted that feeling of combat”

Transfield said that the reverse was more difficult to for him to design. After several tried he came up with the “Poppies in the Wire”

Poppies are a fitting tribute since their use was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields.” The poem was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian physician following the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier who died in battle. It was published in 1915 and first adopted by the American Legion to commemorate the American Soldiers killed in the war. It was later adopted by veterans groups within the British Empire including Canada.

Transfield is originally from New Zealand but moved to the United States to attend BYU-Hawaii. After graduating with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree, he moved with his wife to Orem where he operates a sculpting studio in his garage.

Based on the line drawing, it appears that this is going to be an excellent design when struck on a 40mm silver planchet. This is one time where it appears that the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts got it right in picking the design.

The World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin will be issued in 2018. According to the law (Public Law 113-212) , the U.S. Mint is limited to selling no more than 350,000 silver dollars. Each coin will have a $10 surcharge (a maximum of $3.5 million) will be paid to the U.S. Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars to assist the World War I Centennial Commission in commemorating the centenary of World War I.

Given the texture in the both the soldier on the front and the poppies on the reverse, it will be interesting to see if the U.S. Mint comes up with an enhanced uncirculated version. It could be extraordinary!

Credits

  • Image of LeRoy Transfield in his studio courtesy of the Desert News.
  • Coin line art images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

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