With several U.S. Mint artists watching via closed circuit
television, members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee
lambasted some of their proposed designs for the 2014 America the
Beautiful quarter dollars, saying they had produced “post cards,” not art.
In one of its most critical sessions on coin design, the panel
rejected the reverse designs for two of the quarter dollars, telling
the Mint it needed better images for both the Smoky Mountains and
Great Sand Dunes national parks quarters.
The committee endorsed designs for the Arches, Everglades and
Shenandoah national parks quarter dollars, albeit with little enthusiasm.
The panel’s Nov. 27 meeting could have been titled “Coin Design
101” as members of the panel repeatedly lectured the artists and Mint
officials over what they called poor coin designs.
What seemed to anger the committee most was a tendency to cram too
much art on the small pallet of the quarter dollar.
“The problem is we’re getting post cards,” complained Michael
Bugeja, an Iowa State University journalism professor and a former
National Endowment for the Arts fellow. “We’re getting drawings rather
than art,” he said.
Robert Hoge, president of the New York Numismatic Club, offered a
slightly more positive spin, saying the Mint had produced “a series of
beautiful drawings, but fairly poor coin designs.”
CCAC Chair Gary B. Marks opened the meeting with a discussion of
several recent coins he said had been design failures.
The reason, Marks said, was because they were filled with “so much
scenery and background” that the coins’ central figures, often
animals, become lost.
Examples he cited were the sheep on the recent Denali National
Park quarter dollar, the elk on the Olympic Park National Park coin
and the ram on the Glacier National Park quarter.
Better were the designs in the State quarter dollars program for
the 2007 Montana coin (a bison skull), a design Marks conceded he had
opposed, and Crater Lake on the 2005 Oregon quarter, he said.
It’s a matter of “more balance between the images and negative
space,” Marks said.
The chair’s remarks and those of his committee members echoed the
frequent complaints from the Commission of Fine Arts whose members
frequently have told the Mint the same thing. Drop the lavish
backgrounds and concentrate on the central figure on the coins, they
It wasn’t immediately clear how the Mint will react to the
committee’s challenges. In the past the Mint has sought to placate the
two review panels with additional designs.
Such decisions would typically go to the Mint’s director. But the
agency has been under an acting director for a year and the Senate had
yet to act on President Obama’s nomination of Bibiana Boerio to head
In this case, several members of the CCAC told Coin World
they feared the Mint was paying close attention to the wishes of the
park superintendents who were advising on what should appear on their
Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, for example, had five
designs, all of which featured views of Little Stony Man Mountain.
Three appeared based on the same photograph and one showed a lack of
perspective on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs through the park.
None of the four designs offered for the coins commemorating Smoky
Mountains Park in Tennessee or the seven sketches for the Sand Dunes
Park in Colorado were able to win at least the required 16 points from
the committee’s 10 members to win an endorsement.
Each member is allowed to give a design up to three points under
the panel’s voting scheme. To win, a design must get more than half of
the possible 30 points
Only one of the Smoky Mountains designs, one featuring a bear and
her cub, drew 13 votes. A view of a cabin, favored by the Commission
of Fine Arts and the park, drew 11.
Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park narrowly won approval of a
design showing a hiker atop Little Stony Man Mountain. It secured 17
points, one more than required, after the panel sharply criticized the designs.
The CCAC voted to urge a tree be removed from the recommended
design and that hazy mountains be removed, as well as asking that the
hiker’s size be reconfirmed (a similar scene reviewed by the panel
shows a smaller hiker). The CFA had recommended the same design.
For Arches National Park in Utah, a park that contains a large
number of limestone arches, the CCAC strongly favored a design showing
This is the same iconic image featured on postage stamps and the
Utah state license. It secured 28 of the possible 30 points, an
endorsement that carried no qualifications.
The Everglades National Park in Florida also produced a winning
design showing an anhinga bird with outstretched wings. Like the CFA,
which picked the same design, the CCAC urged that clouds be removed
from the background along with some of the foliage.
For the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve coins, the
CCAC had no easy solution. The most any design drew was nine points
for an image of a hiker crossing a dune.
The committee urged more and simpler designs for the Sand Dunes
Park coin, as it sought for the Smoky Mountains coins. The CFA had
backed another design that sought to show the various ecosystems in
the Colorado park.
“This one is really challenging,” said Marks, who declined to
recommend any of the seven reverses. He complained that the design
attempted to show people who would “shrink to ant size or less” on the coins.
American Eagle platinum
The CCAC was more welcoming of the nine designs the Mint had
produced for the reverse of the Proof 2013 American Eagle platinum coin.
It recommended a design showing an image of a goddess-like “Young
America” contemplating the balance of power between the state and
federal governments as illustrated by a series of gears.
Marks predicted that coin, one of the most expensive to be issued
by the Mint, would be “absolutely gorgeous.”
“You’ve really got it here ... a coin that is truly American,” he said.
The committee gave it 28 of 30 possible points for another strong endorsement.
The CFA had recommended another design featuring “Young America”
for the coin. That panel urged a circle of stars and a land mass be
removed from the design.
For a congressional gold medal to honor code talkers from the
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas, the CCAC narrowly accepted
the tribe’s recommended design for the obverse, a design featuring two
A tribal seal was recommended for the reverse.
All the design recommendations from the CFA and CCAC will go to
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner who has the final world on what
designs can be placed on both the coins and medals. ■