Concept of ‘Liberty’ on coins should not be tampered with

Guest Commentary from March 16, 2015, issue of Coin World
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Published : 03/04/15
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George Kissinger once collected a complete set of Washington quarter dollars out of pocket change, including the 1932-D and 1932-S quarters.


I was wondering what would be Coin World’s editorial (as well as reader) response to the new coin designs, particularly the upcoming 2015 High Relief gold $75 coin from the U.S. Mint. 

In a recent issue of Coin World it was interesting to see the difficulty people had with defining the very word “Liberty” and how divided people are in how the concept of Liberty should be depicted on our coinage — if indeed it should even be so depicted. A brief summary of some well recognized uses of Liberty on our coinage will be insightful. 

Liberty as an allegorical expression of freedom of thought (Winged Liberty dime) or Liberty as expressing the bounding potential of our New Republic (Walking Liberty half dollar or Saint-Gaudens double eagle) are near universally understood and accepted. But why do these concepts of Liberty “work” and other (recent) concepts of Liberty cause divided opinion and, in some, deep dissatisfaction? 

I believe the answer to this question lies in understanding that the very essence of Liberty is central to classical thought and philosophy; that we have uniquely based our founding among the nations of the world on that concept. Simply put, our coinage should reflect what we are all about. 

It should be understood that the concept of Liberty is so basic, that it cannot, and should not, be tampered with. It follows that the use of trite, modern or political depictions of Liberty can be fleeting — and only serve to trivialize the idea as well as the ideal of Liberty. 

For these key reasons I contend that only the historic and classical depictions of Liberty are appropriate for our regular issue coinage. 

Commemorative issues are the rightful place for “telling other stories.”

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