Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee praises most beautiful quarter dollar design for 2017

Loves Ozark ‘Turtle’ design, rejects all designs for Iowa and New Jersey
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Published : 10/12/15
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The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee rejected designs for two of five 2017 quarter dollars proposed for the America the Beautiful series.

But the panel also lavished praise on one of the three quarter dollar designs they do recommend, saying it is so gorgeous it could become the most beautiful coin of the 56 quarters in the series.

The design that won the CCAC’s plaudits at its Oct. 8 meeting, the second day of a two-day session in Washington, D.C., depicts a spiny softshell turtle bobbing its head toward an approaching kayaker on Missouri’s Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

That isn’t the design that park officials had endorsed, and Dena Matteson, the park’s acting chief interpreter, needed to be convinced that the park’s iconic Alley Mill was a nonstarter as a coin.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re going to have to make them unhappy,” said attorney Donald Scarinci, predicting a lopsided vote in favor of the turtle design.

But he added that the chosen design will produce “a really special coin. It’s going to be the coin of the set,” he said.

“This is a spectacular coin. This will be the standout,” agreed former CCAC chair Gary Marks. “You have a home run here.”

“Other national parks will be jealous,” said Mary Lannin, the current CCAC chair.

Sculptor Heidi Wastweet of Seattle said the turtle design is so powerful “it makes me want to go see that park.”

“The turtle rules,” announced Lannin.  

The committee assigned 25 points out of a possible 27 points to the design showing the submerged turtle.

Committee members may assign up to three points for each design they like under a voting plan that shows the relative strength of the various coin designs.

A design showing a canoeist paddling down the river with cliffs in the background was the committee’s second choice, drawing 13 points.

Rejected designs

The CCAC’s delight with the Ozark designs, however, did not deter the panel from rejecting all the U.S. Mint’s 14 proposed designs for the Effigy Mounds National Monument quarter dollar in Iowa or the eight for New Jersey’s Ellis Island, part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument.

The panel sent designs for both those coins back to the artists for another try, saying they fail to clearly display the massive, mysterious mounds along the Mississippi River or correctly portray the historic role of Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants to the U.S.

“Being from New Jersey, I can’t let this stand,” said Scarinci, who pressed for the Ellis Island coins to be redesigned.

He convinced the panel that the designs can be more dramatic, displaying the critical role that the island played in the lives of immigrants.

“I don’t think we got it by far,” said the lawyer.

Wastweet pushed against the U.S. Mint’s suggested designs for the Iowa mounds, saying they were “very difficult for the artists.”

Thomas Uram, a Pennsylvania collector and president of the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists, was more blunt. The mounds “look like blobs,” he said.

“None of these designs really hit the mark,” Wastweet said.

The artists should “try one more time,” she said. 

The committee recommended designs for the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Indiana, and a silver dollar to mark the centennial of the Lions Club.

The National Park Service’s recommended coin to mark the Douglass site came under fire from Scarinci who objected to the wishes of several committee members who wanted the coin to show the famed abolitionist orating from a podium.

Scarinci reminded his colleagues that the coin series is supposed to honor sites — not individuals.  

“Like it or not, we’re stuck with the building,” he said, citing designs showing Douglass’ Washington home.

But Marks, sitting in his final meeting with the panel, argued the coin represented “a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the man for whom the park is named.”

The supporters for the orating Douglass held sway. The panel gave 21 of a possible 27 points to the Douglass image and 15 points to a design showing Douglass in the foreground with his home in the background.

The George Rogers Clark coin design that the committee recommends shows the February 1779 taking of a British fort in what was known as the Northwest Territory.

The design shows Clark and two others sloshing through icy waters, a design that CCAC member Robert Hoge challenged even after it won 22 points out of a possible 29.

None of the 12 other designs drew more than six points.  

Hoge, a numismatic researcher, charged that the three soldiers in the design are not properly armed. They don’t even have powder horns, Hoge noted.

U.S. Mint officials promised to recheck the soldiers’ arms.

The coin designs are scheduled to be shown to the Commission of Fine Arts Oct. 15. 

After that, all recommendations will be sent to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who has the final word on U.S. coin designs.

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