Kennedy dollar portrait captures president under strain of world conflict

Design veers from predominantly forward-facing portraits of previous Presidential dollar coins
By , Coin World
Published : 09/15/15
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The execution of a pensive portrait of John F. Kennedy proposed and eventually adopted for the obverse of the 2015 Presidential dollar commemorating his term in office holds special meaning for the artist who designed and sculptured the coin — U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Donald Everhart II.

Everhart recalls that he was a ninth grader in York, Pa., as President Kennedy was faced with a multitude of diplomatic issues with global ramifications — primarily the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, part of the long-term U.S. standoff against the Soviet Union.

Before submitting a portrait of Kennedy as part of his job as a Mint sculptor-engraver, Everhart — who had already executed presidential portraits for 14 of the other Presidential dollars — decided that he didn't want his proposed Kennedy design to be appear the same as all his others. His decision, however, has puzzled some collectors used to seeing different portrait styles on the coins.

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Collector Doug Cruthers questioned in a Sept. 3 post on Coin World's Facebook page what the reasoning was for portraying JFK looking down and to his right in the adopted design.

"All of the other presidential portraits show a full frontal view of their face," Cruthers wrote. "JFK was one of our greatest presidents ever. Taking on the established status quo, and paving the way for equal rights for all citizens of our great nation. Something most of us can agree was the cause of his and his brother's untimely demise.

"So what's up with this portrait configuration?"

Everhart said he wanted to artistically translate into his proposed coin design the pressure Kennedy was under, as the nation's chief executive struggled with the weight of the world literally on his shoulders.

"I wanted to directly relate to the thoughts that were fermenting in his mind and the pressures he was facing that if not properly resolved could have meant the end of the world," Everhart said.

While there has been some suggestion that Everhart's portrait of Kennedy is based on the official White House painting by Aaron Shikler of Kennedy, commissioned in 1970 by former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Everhart said that is not the case. Shikler's design shows a full-figure of Kennedy in a reflective moment based on a photograph of Kennedy taken at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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2 comments
Nice article, and a voice that should help silence the critics who unjustifiably dislike this design. I find it to be one of the more powerful representations of the Presidential dollar coin series.
Nice article, and a voice that should help silence the critics who unjustifiably dislike this design. I find it to be one of the more powerful representations of the Presidential dollar coin series.