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
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).
- 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.
Perhaps because this was your first meeting, you are unaware of some important background. The key point you did not mention is this meeting was really a follow-up to their April session when they recommended a new reverse design for the silver eagle program, the flying eagle design show above, which is not a heraldic design like the current reverse. There is authority to change both sides or one side but only once every 25 years and it applies to all versions of the silver eagle, but the Mint rejected the CCAC proposed design and chose not to change the silver eagle design at all. Instead, the Mint came up with this proposal which would use as the reverse design that very eagle they don’t want for the silver eagle. Second, the committee under its current chairman has repeatedly called for giving the classics a break and creating new and inspiring depictions of Liberty, which is what will appear on the obverse. Naturally there was little dissent today because the Mint proposed a coin and medal using designs and a concept the committee already favors. But it is not fair to suggest on the basis of one meeting that the committee is is “lock step” as I have heard members disagree plenty in the past. In fact, some members are very critical of some of the designs that have been approved and issued as coins like those on the Girl Scouts coins. Unanimity is not required to make a recommendation, only a majority, and the votes are by no means always unanimous. Finally, I am not sure why you think this is an oversight committee. Congress oversees the Mint, and the CCAC’s mission is only to review designs and make recommendations for coin programs and coin designs, which the Mint and the Treasury Sec, can reject.
Look at the first sentence of the 5th paragraph: “The committee was excited because the proposal was somewhat in alignment with a motion they passed last April….” I think I acknowledged the fact that this was a continuation. However, I also feel that it is a missed opportunity to do something different. The Mint is long past the 25 years for the American Eagle designs and can be changed without congressional approval. In fact, the dime and half-dollar are candidates to be changed since they have not been redesigned since their inceptions.
The CCAC is an advisory committee with oversight over the design functions of the coins. Of course you can point to the famous disagreement that Secretary Mellon had with the Washington Quarter design submitted by Laura Gardin Frasier in 1931, but there has been no recorded case where the Secretary went against the CCAC or CFA’s recommendations. They are oversight over design as per their roles as advisors under 31 U.S.C. § 5135. I want to see them act the part!
Also- I very much agree that it is odd that other countries issued D-Day coins, while we did not, but that is of course mostly the fault of the Congress. As far as wrapping themselves in the flag, I think you have to expect a group most of whose members are appointed by the top leadership of the U.S. Congress to be strongly patriotic Americans, and I don’t see that as a bad thing.
Only four of the members are appointed by Speaker of the House, the House minority leader, the majority leader of the senate and minority leader of the senate. Of the rest there is a numismatist, a medallic sculptor, historian, a museum specialist, and three from the general public. Seven people are not political appointees and should not be subject to the same considerations.
I don’t mind patriotism, but not when in an official capacity. I may be jaded because I have been working for the government for over 20 years and have had to suppress whatever political feelings I have to get the job done regardless of the source of the policies I was involved with. I just see it as unprofessional.
I have been listening to the committee’s discussions for four years, and I can attest that their comments on designs have not always been complimentary; on some occasions, they have purposefully not recommended a design to force the artists to produce new images. The members come from different viewpoints, and they do not always see eye to eye, but they do their best to act collegial towards each other.