CCAC swaps gold for silver - in commemorative designs

Selects gold design for use on silver dollar, silver designs for gold $5
Published : 08/05/11
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In one of its most dramatic design recommendations, the Citizens Coin Advisory Committee has urged flipping designs proposed for 2012 Star Spangled Banner gold and silver coins.

Meeting in Washington, D.C., on July 26, the panel recommended an obverse showing Lady Liberty holding the U.S. flag above Baltimore’s Fort McHenry for the silver dollar instead of placing the image on the gold $5 coin.

It also recommended that a proposed silver dollar obverse, showing the bow of an American warship plowing after a burning British ship during the War of 1812 become the obverse of the gold $5 coin.

CCAC Chairperson Gary Marks pressed the committee to approve the change, arguing that the Lady Liberty design would not work on the small gold coin. But, he promised, it would be “an absolute home run on a silver dollar.”

Turning to representatives of a Maryland 1812 Bicentennial Commission that stands to make millions from surcharges on the two coins, Marks said he was confident collectors will love the silver dollars. “I will buy many of these,” he said, predicting that the collectors will be delighted with the coin.

The best designs should be placed on the silver dollar, not the gold coins, he told the Maryland 1812 Bicentennial Commission.

“Your flagship coin in the set is the silver dollar,” he told Bill Pencek, executive director of the commission. Especially in the current economic times, the silver dollar sales will far outstrip those of the gold coin, Marks said.

Noting that his committee is composed of many coin collectors, he added: “We’re telling you what is going to sell.”

Some members of the CCAC initially were reluctant to follow Marks’ suggestion, fearing that the changes might be so out of step with the thinking of U.S. Mint officials that they might not be taken seriously.

Kaarina Budow, a Mint official, sought to assure the panel that its suggestions are always taken seriously. “Your comments are seriously considered,” she said.

With those assurances, the panel agreed to Marks’ proposal for how to find the best pair of designs for each of the coins.

Instead of first voting on the gold coin’s obverse and then on the gold reverse, followed by votes for the silver dollar’s obverse and the silver reverse, Marks had the panel first select the two top designs from all 33 designs offered by the Mint for both coins.

Under a voting system allowing each coin to receive up to three points from each CCAC member, two of the three proposed Lady Liberty images emerged tied. Each had 17 points out of a possible 24 points in preliminary voting.

Marks then called for a show of hands, which gave five points to the design that shows Lady Liberty with the fort in the background to three votes for one that shows an aerial outline of the fort next to Lady Liberty.

The committee then unanimously agreed that the design gaining five points should be on the silver dollar obverse, not the gold coin as the Mint had recommended.

The design recommended for the obverse of the silver dollar showing Lady Liberty proved a popular one.

Arthur Houghton, former president of the American Numismatic Society, called the design “big, bold, beautiful, even inspiring.”

Seattle sculptor Heidi Wastweet said she found the design “a nice marriage of the country’s iconography.”

The initial balloting also revealed 15 points being accorded to a silver dollar obverse that shows the bow of an American ship with the image of a burning British ship in the background. The committee then voted to recommend that for the gold coin obverse.

The CCAC then turned to the issue of reverses, urging that two of the nine U.S. Mint’s silver dollar reverse designs be used as the reverses of the two coins. That effectively rejected all eight reverses proposed for the gold coin.

The CCAC urged the reverse of the silver dollar be a modern close-up of a billowing U.S. flag.

For the gold reverse it urged a design showing two flags, one the American flag as it was in the War of 1812 and the other a contemporary 50-star flag, with the inscription long may it wave appearing on a scroll.

Each design received 13 points out of a possible 21 points. The remaining votes were scattered among other designs, Marks said.

The action places the CCAC at odds with the Commission of Fine Arts (see related article, Page 5), and the Maryland commission.

The Maryland commission had favored the Lady Liberty image for the gold coin obverse and a design showing Francis Scott Key penning the poem “Star Spangled Banner” for its reverse.

For the silver dollar the Maryland commission had favored a design showing sailing ships at war and for its reverse it favored the Fort McHenry flag.

Marks expressed confidence as the meeting concluded that the committee had lived up to his hopes of selecting two good pairs of designs for the coins.

The meeting was the first for Michael Bugeja, a new appointee to the CCAC as a numismatic expert. Acting Mint Director Richard Peterson swore him into office at the start of the meeting.

Bugeja is director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University of Science and Technology. Bugeja is the author of 20 books and a Coin World monthly column, “The Home Hobbyist.” ■

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