US Coins

Pensive Kennedy on dollar obverse choice of engraver

While the obverses for all of the Presidential dollars preceding the John F. Kennedy release in 2015 depict forward-facing portraits, or nearly so, of each president, Kennedy's portrait depicts the nation's 35th president in a more pensive posture.

Images courtesy of U.S. Mint.

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.

Connect with Coin World:  

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.

Everhart said that, while he was aware of Shikler's portrait of Kennedy, he did not see the painting nor use it as a source while creating his own designs. Everhart said his rendering expresses the emotions he believed Kennedy might have felt as he contemplated solutions to stave off the possibility of world annihilation.

And while the portrait of a struggling Kennedy was Everhart's favorite among his Kennedy dollar design submissions, it was the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and Commission of Fine Arts that chose to recommend the design at their respective March 10 and March 20, 2014, meetings. The recommended Everhart design was subsequently approved by Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew's designee to make the selection.

A transcript of the CCAC's March 10, 2014, meeting provides, beginning on page 57 of the transcript, the committee's discussion of the Presidential dollar designs, including those for Kennedy, with each CCAC member present contributing their own viewpoints to the conversation.

More from 

Application of edge devices differs between Enhanced Uncirculated 2014-D and 2015-W Native American dollars

U.S. Mint gets shot at redemption: Monday Morning Brief, Sept. 14

Seeking a different challenge for your collecting pursuits?: Q. David Bowers

1933 double eagle sighting leads to eventual call from FBI office: Guest Commentary

How one firm seeks to meet collectors' demand for limited-edition U.S. Mint products

Community Comments