Members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee always have been
interested in the opinions of their colleagues on the federal
government’s older coin advisory panel, the Commission of Fine Arts.
But when the CCAC got word of what the CFA had
recommended for the reverse of a 2014 American Eagle platinum coin,
they were outraged and upset.
“I absolutely thought it was the worst,” said
Michael Bugeja, director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and
Communication at Iowa State University at a Nov. 22 meeting.
“It looks like something out of a gardening
manual,” he declared.
What angered the normally mild mannered Bugeja
and other CCAC members was the design that the CFA selected the
previous day to represent the constitutional phrase “to secure the
blessings of Liberty and Our Posterity.”
The CFA’s choice showed two hands planting an
oak tree seedling, one of 12 designs for the Proof 1-ounce $100
bullion coin that U.S. Mint artists had prepared. It will conclude a
six-coin series on phrases taken from the Preamble to the Constitution.
Sculptor Teresita Fernández had urged the CFA
to accept the seedling design the previous day, calling it “something
symbolic, something simple.” Her five colleagues agreed, with no debate.
But when members of the CCAC were faced with
the CFA recommendation, they exploded in disbelief. Some snickered.
“I do not like the design,” said Heidi
Wastweet, a Seattle sculptor who sits on CCAC. “It’s off target.”
“I simply don’t like this one,” said CCAC
Chair Gary Marks. “At the very least, it’s controversial.”
Several said the planting reminded them of an
Earth Day coin.
“The plant is not attractive,” complained Erik
N. Jansen, a Washington state collector.
Thomas Uram, a Pennsylvania collector, said it
could look like marijuana when placed on a coin.
Donald Scarinci, a New Jersey lawyer and
medals specialist, announced: “I’m going to vote for the ugly one.” He
didn’t in the end, and no one on the CCAC gave any support to the
Instead they backed a design that showed a
young girl holding a torch, with a background showing a winding road
and a rising sun. The CCAC recommended the road be removed. That
design secured 23 out of a possible 30 points in balloting by members.
The results will be forwarded to Jack Lew,
secretary of the Treasury, as the panel’s favored design.
First Spouse designs
The reaction to the CFA’s vote came during a
daylong meeting that Marks said marked a new vision on what should go
the reverses of the First Spouse coin and medal series.
Until the meeting, Marks and others on the
panel had been worried that too many of the designs on the reverse of
the gold coins and medals were “storybook” designs that showed a
single episode in the role played by the featured first lady on the obverse.
In their votes for the 2014 coins the CCAC
opted for four reverse designs that sought to symbolically capture the
essence of the roles played by Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, Lou
Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt during the presidencies of their husbands.
The men, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge,
Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt, are also being honored in
2014 with Presidential dollar coins.
Marks called the CCAC recommendations on the
reverses of the spouse coins “a good first step” toward more symbolic
designs on U.S. coins.
The panel’s historian, Michael Ross of the
University of Maryland, complained that the symbolism was “coming at
the wrong moment.”
The spouses now being placed on the coins are
“finally real titanic figures” whose acts deserved to be commemorated
without symbolism, Ross said.
The four symbolic reverses recommended by the
➤ An art deco design of a ballot box, camera
and torch, representing Harding’s role as the first first lady to vote
for her husband, her use of publicity for his causes, and her work
➤ Three hands showing U-S-A in sign language
in front of the White House, for Coolidge’s work with the deaf. The
CCAC wanted the lettering moved from the hands and placed elsewhere on
➤ A radio for Hoover’s first use of a radio
address by a first lady.
➤ A candle being lit against a globe of the
world for Roosevelt’s many roles as first lady.
“She [Eleanor Roosevelt] was the most
important woman in the 20th century and we’re going to have a candle
for her,” Ross complained.
The CFA had selected a few different designs
for the reverse of the four First Spouse coins.
Its members urged Lew to have a reverse
showing Harding casting a vote for her husband; Coolidge with the same
three U-S-A hands, but removing the lettering from the hands; Hoover,
also with the radio design; and Roosevelt as a United Nations delegate.
On the obverses, the CFA favored a hatted
profile of Harding while the CCAC wanted a straight on portrait of
her. For Coolidge, CFA backed a profile while CCAC backed a full-face
portrait. For Hoover, CFA backed a full face view while CCAC wanted a
profile. For Roosevelt, both panels agreed on a hatted, head slightly
cocked view of the first lady.
In other actions, the CCAC agreed to add to
its suggested list of 2018 commemoratives a coin to mark the 100th
anniversary of Air Mail service by the United States Postal Service
and a coin to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
They agreed to place a coin for Fallen
Firefighters on their list for 1919 coins.
The panel also welcomed officials from the
March of Dimes and discussed how they might make their planned 500,000
commemorative silver dollar issue in 1915 a sellout.
In less than 30 minutes the CFA quickly went
through the same coin designs as the CCAC spent most of the day discussing.
The CCAC’s debates were often detailed,
sometimes serious and other times comical.
Wastweet broke up the group with her
description of an image of Liberty holding an infant.
“I hate to sound crude, but some people are
going to be saying ‘I think the Statue of Liberty got knocked up,’ ”