Members of the Commission of Fine Arts tended to follow the
recommendations of the nation’s younger coin review panel during their
March 21 meeting.
With some exceptions, the CFA agreed with recommendations that the
Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee had offered on the proposed Raoul
Wallenberg congressional gold medal, the National Baseball Hall of
Fame commemorative coins and the five 2013 First Spouse gold coins.
Philip F. Freelon, a Durham, N.C., architect, appeared to speak
for the other commissioners when he told Mint officials that he was
impressed by many of the CCAC’s recommendations.
The CCAC made its recommendations at its March 11 meeting.
Raoul Wallenberg medal
The CFA accepted the Wallenberg family’s preferred design for the
obverse of the gold medal honoring the Swedish diplomat who is
credited with saving 100,000 Hungarian Jews from the Nazi death camps
during World War II.
The CCAC had recommended a design showing Wallenberg in front of a
series of barbed wires but with the same portrait taken from the CFA’s
For the reverse, the CFA endorsed the same design as the CCAC, but
suggested that one of the two inscriptions about the diplomat — ONE
PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE — be removed to make the design less cluttered.
Baseball Hall of Fame coins
For the reverses of the set of three baseball coins, the CFA
parted with the CCAC. The latter panel had urged the reverses feature
the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA spread across the “sweet
spot” on a rounded replica of a baseball’s skin.
The CFA urged a design that would place the inscription E PLURIBUS
UNUM directly under the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and in the same
portion of the ball. That was something that the CCAC had tried to avoid.
But the CFA members appeared more concerned that the lettering be
accurate and uniform on the curved structures of the gold $5 and
silver dollar versions of the coins, which are to be minted with a
distinctive convex shape. A copper-nickel clad 50-cent version of the
baseball coins will be produced in the traditional flat version.
The design for the obverse will be picked after a national design
competition that should be announced in April. The recommended obverse
will be presented to the commission in July, a Mint official said.
First Spouse gold coins
For the Ida McKinley First Spouse gold bullion coin, the CFA
agreed with the CCAC, supporting a left-facing profile of President
William McKinley’s wife for her coin. For the reverse it backed a
design selected by the CCAC showing two hands crocheting, a tribute to
the thousands of slippers the first lady produced for charity during
her years in the White House.
For Edith Roosevelt, the wife of President Theodore Roosevelt, CFA
was about to endorse a design showing a frontal view of the first spouse.
But a Mint official told them that the CCAC was about to endorse
that design when it was told that the president and the Roosevelt
family preferred a right-facing profile of a somewhat downward-looking portrait.
With that additional information, the CFA also agreed to back the
design recommended by the CCAC.
The commission also gave a qualified endorsement of the reverse
endorsed by the CCAC. It celebrated Mrs. Roosevelt’s role overseeing a
remodeling of the White House in 1902.
But CFA members, most of whom are architects, told the Mint they
didn’t like the column that separates an image of the White House from
the inscription THE WHITE HOUSE RESTORED. For one thing they didn’t
think the 1902 work qualified as a full restoration, and they were not
happy with the column.
The design needs work, according Harvard University design
professor Alex Krieger.
For the gold coin for Helen Taft, wife of William Howard Taft, the
CFA endorsed a straight forward image of the first lady, rejecting the
CCAC choice, which appeared to be a three-quarter image with a larger hairdo.
Krieger said he thought that design preferred by the CCAC made it
look like “a wig coming off” and others didn’t like her mouth, which
they said was down turned.
For the reverse of the Taft coin, the CFA endorsed the same design
of cherry tree blossoms that the CCAC unanimously approved. The design
would celebrate the planting of cherry trees around Washington’s Tidal
Basin, which Taft oversaw. It was “a simple design ... the best
artwork,” said Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the CFA vice chair.
For Ellen Wilson, the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson, the
CFA backed an obverse showing a slightly tilted head, unlike the CCAC,
which had backed a right-facing profile for her coin.
For the reverse, the CFA agreed with the CCAC, supporting a design
that shows a rose bush in the foreground and a White House in the
rear. This design would mark her work creating the White House’s Rose Garden.
Mint officials assured the committee that it might move one of the
rose stems to give greater separation with the White House.
The commission agreed with the CCAC and backed an image of a
front-facing Edith Wilson, the president’s second wife for the final
2013 First Spouse coin.
But like the CCAC, the CFA declined to endorse any of the reverse
designs for her coin. The CCAC had decried the designs for failing to
show Edith Wilson’s critical role in helping her husband after he
suffered a serious stroke.
Commission members agreed that her clothing needed to be upgraded
and she needed to be portrayed not as a secretary or the average
The Mint has agreed to make changes to the designs to meet the objections.
Both the CFA and CCAC recommendations will be forwarded to
Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew who has the final word on how U.S.
coins are designed. ■