When Congress authorized the nation’s first convex coins, it stated
their reverses had to depict “a baseball similar to those used by
Major League Baseball.”
So the U.S. Mint’s artists came up with six
baseball designs, each bearing the required wording placed on the
convex shape of a baseball.
But when members of the Citizens Coinage
Advisory Committee on March 11 looked at the designs that commemorate
the National Baseball Hall of Fame, some were aghast.
What about the large “sweet spot” on the ball?
asked Erik Jansen, a life-long coin collector and co-founder of a
medical device company in Washington state.
And CCAC chairperson Gary Marks of Idaho had
another rule for that most prominent area of the ball. It had to carry
the wording “United States of America,” he said. Nothing more, nothing
less, he said, would do for the set of coins that will celebrate the
National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
“It’s truly an American sport,” Marks told the
committee. And the coins “are going to be spectacular.”
But alas, none of the six designs met both
Jansen’s and Marks’ requirements.
So while the panel fretted, Don Everhart, one
of the Mint’s most prolific sculptor-engravers, and Steve Antonucci,
the Mint’s head of digital technology, whipped out a seventh design on
the back of a briefing sheet. Their design, dubbed “HOF 02a” for “Hall
of Fame,” quickly won the committee’s endorsement for the reverse.
Their design shows the words UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA filling the large “sweet spot” between the stitching. The
words E PLURIBUS UNUM were placed in the lower half of the design,
with the coin’s denomination.
Everhart’s drawing drew 17 of a possible 21
points under a voting scheme that allows each committee member to give
up to three points for a design.
That was more than enough to secure the
panel’s recommendation to Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. The new
Treasury secretary will have the final word on what designs go on the
The panel had reviewed six designs, all
variants of a baseball with the statutory inscriptions. Each of the
main designs was presented in three versions, one for each of the
denominations (only the denominational markings differed).
A common obverse for the three Hall of Fame
coins — a gold $5 coin, silver dollar and copper-nickel clad half
dollar — will be selected in a public competition to be held this
spring. It is the first time in 20 years that the Mint has held such a
contest, said April Stafford, the Mint’s manager of stakeholder
relations for the agency.
Both Canada and France have issued convex
coins, but it’s a new venture for the U.S. Mint. The gold and silver
coins will each have a concave obverse and convex reverse.
The half dollars will have the conventional,
or flat, shape, the committee was told.
Jansen said the set would be even more
exciting if lawmakers could have allowed unlimited numbers of the half
dollars to be produced. The legislation sets the coinage for that coin
at “not more than 750,000.”
Mintages for the gold $5 coins is set at “not
more than 50,000” and silver dollar coins at not more than 400,000.
Donald Scarinci, a New Jersey medals
specialist and lawyer, said he would have gone further and added a
fourth coin to the set, a circulating quarter dollar. That would have
increased public awareness of the set and boosted the sales of the
other coins even higher, he predicted.
Surcharges on the three authorized coins will
go to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. Each
gold coin will carry a $35 surcharge, each silver dollar a $10
surcharge and each copper-nickel clad half dollar a $5 surcharge.
Sales of all the coins would yield surcharges of approximately $9.5
million before the expenses of producing the coins are deducted.
The endorsement of the National Baseball Hall
of Fame coin design was the highlight of a daylong meeting at the Mint
headquarters in Washington.
The committee also endorsed designs for this
year’s First Spouse bullion coins and a Raoul Wallenberg congressional
gold medal, and laid plans for a silver commemorative dollar to mark
next year’s 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
First Spouse gold coins
Although the committee rejected all of the
designs proposed for the reverse of the gold coin honoring Edith
Wilson, President Woodrow Wilson’s second wife, the panel expressed
delight in the overall quality of the Mint’s designs.
“Something is happening at the Mint,” said
Scarinci, who has been among the most vocal critics of the Mint’s
artwork. “This is the best group of art to come out of the Mint in a
The rejection of the Edith Wilson artwork came
because the committee said it did not believe the proposed reverse
designs of her gold coin accurately portrayed her key role in shaping
the Wilson presidency after the president suffered a stroke.
Some had described her as the nation’s “first
woman president” but the CCAC said the two designs showing her with
President Wilson did not hint at what power she may have had after his stroke.
The Mint promised to return with some revised
designs at the committee’s April 19 meeting.
Although two Edith Wilson reverses drew only a
total of seven points, the committee did enthusiastically endorse
other designs in the First Spouse series. For the obverse of the Edith
Wilson coin, the CCAC backed a facing design, which received 18 points.
For the Ida McKinley obverse, the committee
endorsed a leftward facing profile but by a narrow margin. It received
the minimum 13 points in the balloting. However, a reverse design
showing McKinley’s hands crocheting proved popular. It drew 21 points
and was endorsed for the reverse of her First Spouse gold coin.
Mrs. McKinley, wife of William McKinley, was
limited in her White House role by “precarious health,” the Mint staff
said. Despite her problems, she crocheted thousands of slippers that
were auctioned for charity.
A perfect score of 24 was recorded for a
reverse of the Edith Roosevelt coin. It celebrates her role overseeing
a major remodeling of the White House in 1902. The design features a
view of the south portico of the executive mansion, a large column
with an architect’s compass and the inscription THE WHITE HOUSE
RESTORED 1902 over a small image of a rose.
Also highly popular with the CCAC was a
proposed obverse profile of Mrs. Roosevelt, which received 21 points.
Described as the Roosevelt family’s favorite, it shows the first lady
with a somewhat downcast head.
A reverse design for the Helen Taft coin
showing a cluster of blooming cherry blossoms also won a perfect score
of 24 and won praise for being “just what we’ve wanted.” It
commemorates the 1912 planting of Japanese cherry trees around the
Tidal Basin, an act that the CCAC said was Helen Taft’s most
significant act as first lady to President William Howard Taft.
The recommended obverse for the Taft coin
received 18 points. It depicts the first lady with a high-necked,
A reverse for the coin to mark Ellen Wilson,
President Wilson’s first wife, honors her work creating the White
House Rose Garden. The design received 21 of a possible 24 points. It
shows a blooming rose bush with the White House in the background.
For Ellen Wilson’s obverse, the CCAC backed a
right-facing profile. It received 16 points.
Raoul Wallenberg medal
For a congressional gold medal to honor Raoul
Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat credited with saving thousands of
European Jews from the Holocaust, the panel endorsed an obverse that
carries his image against a background of barbed wires. Panel members
recommended the face shown on the Mint’s seventh design be placed on
the overall design that was selected.
For the reverse, the recommended design shows
the “Schutz-Pass,” which he handed to Jews, being given to six Jews as
others were being herded into trains to be taken to concentration camps.
Civil Rights Act dollar
The committee began planning for the Civil
Rights Act silver dollar with a strong request to the Mint that it let
the artists do both the obverse and reverse in a package.
The current practice has been to submit the
designs separately and have the CCAC and Commission of Fine Arts, the
other panel tasked with reviewing the designs, join the designs. That
practice has been condemned by Iowa banker Michael Olson as producing
“Franken-coins,” likening the joining of diverse parts to the creation
of a “Frankenstein” monster.
Officials from the United Negro College Fund
appealed to the committee to have the student demonstrators who were
instrumental in Civil Rights protests in the South depicted on the
2014 Civil Rights silver dollars.
Marks, the chairperson, called for allegorical
images and cited sections of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches to
inspire the artists.
“You don’t want an image of [President] Lyndon
Baines Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act with Martin Luther King
looking over his shoulder,” said historian Michael Ross of the
University of Maryland.
“It’s an extremely broad story,” agreed
sculptor Heidi Wastweet. “Photographs won’t work.”
“They won’t coin,” said Mike Moran, another
collector on the CCAC.
Marks advised against long quotations on the
coins. “If you want to read, go to a book,” he said. “Don’t go to a
coin. I don’t want to see Dr. King’s speech on a coin.”
“We were extraordinarily encouraged by what we
heard today,” said Robert Rucker of the College Fund.