We continue a new series of personal articles written by Dennis
Tucker, publisher of Whitman Publishing and a member of the Citizens
Coinage Advisory Committee, providing insight to the CCAC’s
deliberations as its members review designs for U.S. coins and
medals. In introduction, Dennis explains: “My intent is to educate
the hobby community; there are a lot of collectors who just don’t
‘get it’ when it comes to how coin programs come about, how coin
designs are made, etc. I think a behind-the-scenes look will be very
helpful for the hobby.”
My late-morning flight from Atlanta to the September 19, 2017,
Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee meeting in Washington was quick
and easy — no delays, no bad weather or turbulence. It’s an
hour-and-a-half trip from The Big Peach to our nation’s capital.
Convenient travel is one of the advantages of living in Atlanta, home
to the busiest airport in the United States. I’m well aware that other
CCAC members sometimes have to fly in at the crack of dawn, or take
trains that might or might not be delayed.
At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport I received in change two
bright, freshly minted 2017 America the Beautiful quarters — one Ellis
Island, and one Frederick Douglass. Their designs illustrate the
amount of fine detail that can fit on the small canvas of a quarter
dollar. There’s a difference between busyness in a composition and
detail in its execution.
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The second portfolio of designs we reviewed in our meeting was for
American Memorial Park on Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands.
This park honors the American and Marianas people who gave their
lives during the Marianas Campaign of World War II. There are 5,204
names inscribed on a memorial that was dedicated during the 50th
anniversary of the Invasion of Saipan.
U.S. Mint welcomes a fourth metal to the
American Eagle bullion program.
Also in this week’s print issue of Coin World, we teach our readers
about what a “weak-fatty” gold coin is and why you don’t want one in
We were joined by Paul Scolari, acting superintendent of the park,
who was calling in from Guam (where it was 1:00 in the morning). Mr.
Scolari described American Memorial Park: It’s an urban setting of
about 130 acres, a commemorative park and a memorial landscape that
was established coincident with the creation of the Commonwealth of
the Northern Mariana Islands. People use it as a living park, for
recreation, Scolari said, and it’s an important part of the community
in that sense. But its main focal point is the Memorial Court of Honor
and Flag Circle, and its intent is to honor the war dead.
As I reviewed the design portfolio, I kept in mind the definition of
a memorial: a monument or structure established to remind
people of a person or event; especially to remember someone who has
died; from the Latin word for memory. Although the physical
beauty of American Memorial Park is an appealing attraction, I
remember the words of Superintendent Jim Richardson in our March 2017
CCAC meeting: “World War II is the critical reason for the park’s being.”
To me, the hands-down winning design in this portfolio is MP-01. It
shows a boy on the shoulder of a serviceman, saluting the Court of
Honor and Flag Circle. The boy is specifically Chamorro — one of the
indigenous people of the Mariana Islands. (The soldier could be
Chamorro, or he could be continental American.) To me, it’s important
to show the Chamorro culture and ethnicity — not only for the
significance of local participation in the Marianas Campaign, but for
the sake of young Asian Americans, so they can see themselves on a
circulating U.S. coin. (There are about 20 million Asian Americans
living in the United States and its territories.) The “brand promise”
of the United States Mint is “Connecting America Through Coins,” and
this design offers a unique opportunity to do just that without
weakening its connection to the memorial park.
Another strong aspect of MP-01 is the boy’s salute. This physical
act is a universal symbol of respect. A salute is immediately
recognizable whether you’re a civilian or military. It transcends
language. To me, this quietly but eloquently tells the story and the
purpose of American Memorial Park.
I was pleased that Acting Superintendent Scolari agreed with my
analysis of the coin design, and he indicated that MP-01 was also the
preferred design of the National Park Service.
Other CCAC members spoke to the appeal of other designs. Acting
Chairman Donald Scarinci found MP-06 and 06A to be “the most
aesthetically pleasing.” Former chair Mary Lannin referred to the
delicacy of the flowers on MP-03, calling it a “beautiful design that
should strike well.” She also was attracted to MP-06 and 06A,
especially with the curvature of the wavy typography on 06. Ronald
Harrigal, the Mint’s acting quality manager, who was present at the
meeting, confirmed that the wavy effect is technically achievable,
with the Mint’s artists able to craft the lettering to give the
illusion of it being on a flag, even though they’re constrained by the
small surface area of a quarter dollar.
Member Tom Uram (who was recently elected to the Board of Governors
of the American Numismatic Association) called attention to the
designs that feature the words THE COURT OF HONOR AND FLAG CIRCLE,
including MP-07 and 08.
Member Heidi Wastweet, a sculptural artist based in California,
called MP-01 “a lovely drawing” and noted its appeal, but she opined
that it wouldn’t work well on a quarter-sized coin. The design would
be too shallow, she said, and the layering would be a challenge for
whomever is assigned its sculpt. MP-03 she felt would read well as a
quarter dollar, with emotion conveyed in its combination of simplicity
and detail. She found MP-06 and 06A to be too crowded, without enough
negative space; and in MP-07 she found the perspective of the flags
interesting (as did I and several other committee members). MP-08 she
described as attractive, with symmetry, “though perhaps unimaginative.”
Member Erik Jansen, a scientist and businessman from Washington
State and a lifelong coin collector, called the designs all
utilitarian. He also gave a reminder to the artists who submit
potential coin designs: “Grayscale is different from coin engraving.”
He offered MP-06 as an example, noting that the toning in the drawing
would not translate into sculpted metal.
Member Mike Moran, a natural-resources industrialist by trade and
also an award-winning numismatic author, said he was “troubled” by
MP-03, noting that it doesn’t capture the memorial park’s Court of
Honor. I agree this is a detraction for the design, even though I find
the artist’s work beautiful and I think it would make an attractive
coin or medal. To me the flowers are too generic of a memorial symbol;
they could represent any grieving commemoration, public or private,
and don’t speak specifically to American Memorial Park. MP-06 and 06A,
Moran said, wouldn’t coin well, and he said 07 and 08 are “okay” — not
very creative, “but how many ways can you show a circle of flags?”
Member Dr. Herman Viola, a curator emeritus at the Smithsonian
Institution, called this coin “a tough design,” but gave his support
Member Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, a Pennsylvania-based sculptor and
president of the American Medallic Sculpture Association, commented on
the difficulty of this portfolio. The flags in MP-07 and 08, scaled
down to coin size, would be too small, she said. MP-06 was her
preference; she praised its quality, but also wondered aloud if it
would strike well.
Member Robert Hoge, retired curator of North American Coins and
Currency for the American Numismatic Society, and former curator of
the American Numismatic Association, acknowledged the difficulty of
the subject. MP-01, he said, is an attractive design but with details
too small for a quarter dollar — a critique he also leveled at MP-07
and 08. He brought attention to MP-04: “It does show the park, though
in a very stylized manner.” His favorite among the designs was MP-03,
and he noted the significance of the date, June 15th, 1944, observing
that the coin’s year of issue, 2019, makes it a 75-year commemorative
of the arrival of American troops on Saipan.
Ron Harrigal discussed some of the technical challenges of depicting
long, straight lines, such as flag poles, on coins, especially in
Proof format. He said the Mint’s artists and technicians would have to
make multiple versions of the tooling to get it right. We also
discussed with Ron and with April Stafford, director of the Mint’s
Office of Design Management, the feasibility of changing the
peripheral legend of NOR. MARIANA ISL. to N. MARIANA ISLANDS. They
assured us that the possibilities had already been discussed with the
National Park Service, and the wording and lettering had been
experimented with, and the current legend was what worked.
Our Vote for American Memorial Park, and Our Recommendation to the Treasury
The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee was established by Congress
to advise the secretary of the Treasury on theme and design proposals
relating to circulating coinage, bullion coinage, Congressional Gold
Medals, and national and other medals.
The CCAC doesn’t “decide what goes on coins.” We give our studied,
reasoned advice to the Treasury secretary, and he makes the final decisions.
Part of our process in coming to a recommendation for any given coin
is to take a vote after we discuss and analyze each design proposal.
In our voting for the American Memorial Park coin, each design
candidate could earn up to 30 points. (10 members were present, and
each could assign 1, 2, or 3 points to each design.) This is how our
➤ MP-01 earned 14 points and was our favored design.
➤ MP-03 and MP-06/06A each earned 10 points.
➤ MP-08 earned 8 points.
➤ MP-07 earned 7 points.
➤ MP-04 earned 6 points.
➤ MP-05/05A earned 3 points.
➤ MP-02 earned 0 points.
With several committee members noting that MP-01 would benefit from
slight modifications to fit a small coin diameter, we further advised
the Mint’s artist to enlarge the figures, push the flags more to the
background, and/or otherwise provide variations of the design for our
review and approval. We will then make our final endorsement to the
secretary of the Treasury.
Next: the War in the Pacific National Historical Park (Guam) quarter.