US Coins

CCAC agrees to Reagan coin obverse choice

Nancy Reagan won an enthusiastic endorsement June 17 from the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee for her requested portrait on the 2016 First Spouse gold $10 coin that will complete a series of coins honoring the nation’s first ladies.

But the panel said it just had to say no to Reagan’s preference for the coin’s reverse.

The design she wanted showed her with a young child in her anti-drug “Just Say No” campaign.

The CCAC members said that would violate an unwritten prohibition on “two-headed” U.S. coins.

And, they said at the June 17 meeting in Washington, the proposed designs were crude and not worthy of what would be only the fourth U.S. coin issued while one of its subjects is alive.

With only one member of the committee abstaining, the panel instructed the U.S. Mint to send its artists back to the drawing boards and quickly produce some sharper reverse designs.

Back to drawing boards

April Stafford, director of design management for the U.S. Mint, assured the committee the artists would produce new art “absolutely as expeditiously as possible.”

The Mint’s executives have directed the staff to do everything possible to meet Reagan’s requests for her coin, she said.

However, instead of the reverse design Reagan had endorsed, the committee suggested a design that would show three or more children wearing “Just Say No” t-shirts with, perhaps, the first lady in silhouette. 

They also urged the Mint to revamp another design showing two hands, one with a thumbs-up under the word “Life” and the other a thumbs-down under the word “Drugs.”

A revised design might win Reagan’s support if her hand was one of those hands saying yes to life and a child’s hand was the other saying no to drugs, the committee said.

The Mint’s design showed two apparently male hands, and the panel didn’t like that.

Melissa Giller, chief marketing officer for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, was listening to the discussion via telephone from California.

She said the former first lady did not like the way the drawings of the hands were executed. Even so, she did say that with her own hand in the drawing, Reagan might have a different view.

Reagan had requested that her anti-drug campaign be highlighted on the coin’s reverse.

The Mint had prepared 11 designs for the obverse, with Reagan’s preference being for a design showing her with pearls and large, bouffant hairdo. CCAC members said that they also liked that design best. Once CCAC member Thomas J. Uram, a collector and president of the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists, learned what Reagan wanted, he said, “That says enough for it.”

Gary Marks, the former chair of the committee, said in his eight years on the panel, he had often wondered what image many of the decreased people being honored by the Mint would prefer.

Now with Reagan alive, they have a chance to honor her wishes and they should do just that, he said.

“I want Mrs. Reagan to have whatever she wants,” he said.

No committee member objected to the obverse design although some said they wanted Reagan’s hair to remain as the artist had proposed.

Stafford said the Mint was preparing to trim the size of her bouffant and would smooth out her complexion — i.e. remove crows feet from her eyes — before the design went into production.

2016 release

The coin is scheduled to be released next year when the Mint also honors Ronald Reagan with a manganese brass-clad dollar coin marking his eight years in the White House as the 40th president.

When Mrs. Reagan’s coin is issued, she will become the fourth person to have been honored on a U.S. coin while living, Marks noted.

President Calvin Coolidge was first, appearing on the 1926 half dollar marking the Sesquicentennial of American Independence; Arkansas Sen. Joseph T. Robinson appeared on a 1936 Arkansas Centennial commemorative half dollar; and Special Olympics leader Eunice Kennedy Shriver appeared on a 1995 silver dollar honoring the games for the handicapped. 

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