US Coins

2017 and 2018 Native American dollar designs draw CCAC support

For years members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee have pressed the U.S. Mint with two overarching design requests: more symbolism and more modern designs.

At its Oct. 7 meeting in Washington, the panel seems to have found designs for the next two Native American dollars that fit both goals.

Approved designs will be paired with sculptor Glenna Goodacre’s Sacagawea dollar obverse introduced in 2000 and retained for the Native American dollar series beginning in 2009.

For 2017, the panel endorses a design for the reverse of the Native American dollar that honors Sequoyah, the man who created the written language for the Cherokee Nation.

For 2018, the committee overwhelmingly backed a reverse design honoring legendary Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe of Oklahoma. 

What made the panel’s recommendations significant is that the committee members said that both designs embody elements of symbolism and modern design.

The Sequoyah design picked from 13 proposals features an off-center circle within the overall design. It shows a turbaned Sequoyah producing the new “Cherokee Syllabary” with a long quill pen as well as the inventor’s name in his newly created lettering.

The recommended Thorpe design shows the athlete in his football uniform against a silhouette of Chief Black Hawk, one of his ancestors.

“This one really pops,” said former CCAC chair Gary Marks, city manager of Lebanon, Ore., commenting about the Thorpe design.

“It is a bingo design … powerful … symbolic,” agreed CCAC member Erik Jansen of Mercer Island, Wash.

“To me, the selection is crystal clear,” said Donald Scarinci, a New Jersey lawyer. “I just love this one. This is a coin design that makes you think.”

“By far and away it’s my choice,” said Mary Lannin, the current committee chair and a former television producer from San Rafael, Calif.

With praise like that from the panel’s nine members, it was not surprising that the Thorpe design secured 25 of a possible 27 points under a balloting procedure that allows each member to award up to three points for their favored designs.

The second most popular Thorpe design drew only six points. The design shows Thorpe in his Olympic running suit with medals from the 1912 Stockholm Summer Olympics around his neck.

The panel did propose several changes to both designs it recommended.

They urged the name JIM THORPE be moved from over Chief Black Hawk’s silhouette to replace his Indian name BRIGHT PATH on the field of the coin and that the image of Thorpe be enlarged slightly.

The Sequoyah design the panel backed also received some high praise — and a few recommendations for changes.

Marks declared that the proposed design “had it all. That is just a solid design.”

The design drew 19 points in the balloting. Another design that showed the language inventor pointing to his creation had 12 points, finishing second in the voting.

The committee recommended that the wording CHEROKEE SYLLABARY be changed to CHEROKEE NATION and a small seven-point star be placed in the lettering replacing a small dot.

For both the 2017 and 2018 dollars, Marks persuaded the panel to urge a return to the Lithos font lettering that was used on the reverses of the Native American dollars from 2009 to 2012.

Marks said this would help reestablish the continuity of the coin series.

The CCAC’s Mike Moran, a collector from Kentucky, warned the committee that it was getting only a portion of the story about Sequoyah.

While Sequoyah did invent the written Cherokee language, his creation was part of an effort to move the tribe into greater accommodations with the government, which wanted the Cherokee lands in the Southeastern United States, he said.

Scarinci agreed that much of the story of Native Americans was not a happy history.

Coins typically don’t commemorate “sad episodes,” he said. “This is a happy series.”

Heidi Wastweet, a sculptor from Seattle, said she believed Moran’s point could provide “a great topic for another coin.”

The designs also face a review by the Commission of Fine Arts before Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, or his designee, selects the final design. 

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