US Coins

Menna humbled by naming as chief Mint engraver

Newly appointed chief engraver of the United States Mint, Joe Menna, is shown at his work station at the Philadelphia Mint with a digital sculpt of the 2014 Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential dollar obverse which he designed and sculpted.

Image courtesy of the United States Mint.

Joe Menna is humbled by his being named the 13th chief engraver of the United States Mint, an assignment he’s not taking lightly.

“It’s only been a week and it fits like a glove,” Menna told Coin World in a Feb. 6 telephone interview.

“I know a lot of people who have understood the historical perspective of what the chief engraver should be,” the 49-year-old Menna continued. “I hope I’m worthy of that.”

Menna said he remembers that, when he joined the Mint’s engraving staff in 2005, his predecessor in the chief engraver’s slot, John Mercanti, predicted one day Menna would hold the title.

Menna said he quickly began to understand why Mercanti pushed him so hard.

“He wanted me to do better and thought I had the talent to do so,” Menna said.

In his capacity as chief engraver, Menna says he will oversee the design development aspects of the work submitted by the Mint’s three sculptor engravers — Renata Gordon, Michael Gaudioso and Phebe Hemphill — as well as the team of outside artists that constitute the U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program.

Menna will also coordinate design development with three product design specialists — Eric Custer, John McGraw and Jay Kushwara.

Menna explains that regardless of whether an original design is sculpted by traditional methods or using computer software, the ultimate product is digitized for any modifications and refinements.

Menna says each sculptor engraver is paired with a product design specialist in execution of the final sculpt, whether the design is the original work of a member of the Mint’s engraving staff or of an AIP artist.

The product design specialist works in tandem with the sculptor-engraver to render a final product that will be coinable, without striking or metal flow problems, according to Menna.

The product design specialists will work with suggestions from the engraving staff regarding what design elements should be polished or laser-frosted, and in deciding the intensity of any frosting treatment.

The product design specialists may also render opinions on surface treatments and where they should be applied, and the artists reach consensus before moving forward.

Now that he, as chief engraver, serves in the capacity of art director, Menna said he will provide artistic approval of designs, with final technical approval still rendered by Ron Harrigal, manager of the U.S. Mint’s design and engraving division.

Menna said he will be keeping up on the development of design and sculpting software, which changes regularly.

The sculptor-engravers and product design specialists are not afraid to share their design knowledge. Menna said the engraving unit and its ancillary components function as one cohesive unit, much like a family.

He said he knew Kushwara before joining the Mint and has known Gaudioso for more than 30 years, having trained artistically together both in the United States and Russia.

And he’s in awe of the artistic talents of his colleagues Gordon and Hemphill.

Menna said he’s looking forward to the challenges he faces and is confident he can meet them, to provide the quality collectors expect. 

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