The impasse over how to design a quarter dollar reverse that would
honor the Maryland fort that inspired the Star Spangled Banner may be over.
The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee broke with the Commission
of Fine Arts over the proposed designs for the American the Beautiful
quarter dollar for the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic
Shrine, recommending a controversial design showing rockets exploding
over the historic Baltimore harbor fort.
Meeting in Washington Feb. 28, the committee also endorsed a
design for another 2013 quarter dollar, commemorating the Perry’s
Victory and International Peace Memorial on Lake Erie. The panel
recommended a design showing a statue of U.S. naval commander Oliver
Hazard Perry with the 352-foot-high Peace Tower in the background.
At a Feb. 16 meeting, the Commission of Fine Arts had opted for a
design showing the tower on a small island in the lake off the Ohio shore.
But the commission had declined for the second time to select a
design for the Maryland coin, asking the U.S. Mint to give it yet
another design, one that would show the five-pointed, star-shaped fort
from an overhead aerial perspective.
With the CCAC’s recommendation in hand, it will be up to Deputy
Mint Director Richard A. Peterson to decide whether to send Mint
artists back to the drawing board for a third attempt to satisfy the commission.
He ordered the second effort after both review panels rejected all
the proposed designs for the two coins in separate November meetings.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has the final word on what
designs will be selected for the coins, a decision he typically makes
with advice from the two coins advisory panels.
At times in the past, the Mint has said that because of its
production schedules it didn’t have time to allow for yet another
Maryland quarter dollar
The CCAC’s recommendation for the Maryland quarter dollar provoked
a sharp debate between Gary B. Marks, the committee’s chair, and
several committee members over whether the selected design will
Marks told the committee he didn’t think the attempt to
recreate the bursting bombs over the fort would work. He cited a
similar device that is to appear this year on another quarter dollar
in the series. It is an exploding volcano from the Hawaii Volcanoes
National Park coin.
Mint officials have produced a Proof version of the quarter dollar
and will produce a 5-ounce silver version of the Hawaiian park coin.
Some committee members countered that the Hawaii coins show that
the explosions will work.
“It’s a giant step in the direction of better coin design,” said
Donald Scarinci, a New Jersey medals specialist who is in the
forefront of pressing for more contemporary designs.
“I don’t think it works,” countered Marks, noting that he also had
favored the Hawaiian volcano design.
He predicted collectors would look at the Maryland quarter dollar
and wonder “Are we on a planet with two suns?”
But the design was a popular one with the committee.
Under a voting scheme that allows each member to give up to three
points for a design, the exploding bomb design drew 16 points,
outdistancing the second-place recommendation, a design showing an
aerial view of the fort with a Star-Spangled Banner in the foreground.
It drew 11 points.
Ohio quarter dollar
In the balloting for the Ohio quarter dollar, the favored design
of Perry and the Peace Tower drew 14 points.
Peterson took the unusual step of sitting with the committee as it
debated the Ohio quarter.
The deputy director said he wasn’t attempting to influence the
panel’s action. He said that he had learned of Perry while a plebe at
the U.S. Naval Academy.
He described the naval leader in the War of 1812 as “one of our
first heroes.” Peterson wasn’t in the room when the committee’s votes
on the coin were announced.
The committee also recommended designs for two congressional gold
medals. One will honor 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus
and one will salute the Montford Point Marines, who formed the first
all-black unit in the Marine Corps in 1942 to 1949.
Muhammad Yunus gold medal
For Yunus, the committee endorsed the economist’s recommended
obverse design, a smiling image of him set against a colorful textile
from his native Bangladesh. It received a perfect high score of 24
points. For the reverse, the panel voted for a design showing a woman
with a basket of vegetables and two other women Yunus has helped under
the inscription BANKER TO THE POOR.
The CFA had endorsed another design for the obverse, which also
showed a smiling Yunus. The commission favored Yunus’ recommendation
for the reverse, selecting a blooming lotus blossom with the words
“Let Us Send Poverty to the Museum” in his native language.
The use of foreign language on a U.S. metal troubled some
committee members. They said they wanted an English translation of the
words on the medal.
Ron Harrigal, the acting chief engraver, said that option had been
explained to Yunus, who rejected it.
Harrigal said U.S. medals have used foreign language previously.
The CCAC’s favored reverse drew 15 points, while the design with
the lotus came in second with 12 points.
Montford Point Marines medal
The committee also followed the wishes of the Montford Point
Marines for the obverse of their medal.
The recommended obverse is a design that shows the images of three
Marines and a group of three other Marines jumping over logs, taken
from an iconic photo at their North Carolina base. That design drew 21
of a possible 24 points.
The panel selected a design showing an eagle with outstretched
wings for the reverse. The eagle appears under the inscription FOR
OUTSTANDING PERSEVERANCE AND COURAGE THAN INSPIRED SOCIAL CHANGE IN
THE MARINE CORPS. It drew 16 points.
Second place for the reverse went to a design showing a marching
unit of Marines at the base with a water tower in the background, a
design the Marines favored. It drew 12 points.
The CFA had preferred an obverse design that showed the same three
Marines, but had advised other changes to the obverse and reverse
Code talkers medals
Much of the CCAC meeting was filled with a discussion of how the
Mint should continue honoring Native American tribes whose members
served as code talkers during World War I and World War II.
After Congress issued a gold medal honoring the Navajo Nation’s
World War II code talkers in 2000, other tribes sought recognition for
their members who served the same roles in the military.
Thus far the Mint said it has identified 21 other tribes.
It was ready to honor eight of the tribes and had created a series
of common reverses it was recommending for the medals.
The tribes to be honored in “Round 1” are the Cherokee, Choctaw,
Comanche, Cheyenne River Sioux, Kiowa, Oneida, Pawnee and Tlingit.
Those plans were suddenly placed on hold by the committee after
several members complained that the series of medals were not well
conceived and incompatible with the Navajo code talker medals.
“Some obverses look like they ought to be reverses and some
reverses look like they ought to be obverses,” Marks said.
His comments came after sculptor Heidi Wastweet called for tabling
the entire issue until the panel’s April meeting. She called it “the
most difficult project” she had seen on the panel and urged the Mint
to take more time to study the implications of the medal series.
“We’ve got a jumble on our tables,” Marks agreed.
The committee then agreed and urged the Mint to develop “unique
design for each tribe” in the series.
That was the only way, Marks said, that the committee could ensure
that the medals for each tribe are the equal of what the Navajo were given.
2013 First Spouse coins
The committee also agreed to delay a discussion of the proposed
paper outlining the interests of the four First Ladies to be honored
in the 2013 First Spouse Coin series.
The committee’s resident historian, Michael A. Ross, said he had
spotted “some flaws” in the items on Ida Saxton McKinley, Edith Kermit
Carow Roosevelt, Helen Herron Taft, Ellen Axon Wilson and Edith
Bolling Gault Wilson.
He did not elaborate, but said he needed more time to review the
papers, which are designed to be given to artists for use in composing
designs for the coins.
A crew from the National Geographic channel taped the committee’s
coin discussions for use in an upcoming program that will discuss the
federal government’s coin programs. ■