US Coins

CCAC breaks impasse for Fort McHenry 25¢

The impasse over how to design a quarter dollar reverse that would honor the Maryland fort that inspired the Star Spangled Banner may be over.

The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee broke with the Commission of Fine Arts over the proposed designs for the American the Beautiful quarter dollar for the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, recommending a controversial design showing rockets exploding over the historic Baltimore harbor fort.

Meeting in Washington Feb. 28, the committee also endorsed a design for another 2013 quarter dollar, commemorating the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial on Lake Erie. The panel recommended a design showing a statue of U.S. naval commander Oliver Hazard Perry with the 352-foot-high Peace Tower in the background.

At a Feb. 16 meeting, the Commission of Fine Arts had opted for a design showing the tower on a small island in the lake off the Ohio shore.

But the commission had declined for the second time to select a design for the Maryland coin, asking the U.S. Mint to give it yet another design, one that would show the five-pointed, star-shaped fort from an overhead aerial perspective.

With the CCAC’s recommendation in hand, it will be up to Deputy Mint Director Richard A. Peterson to decide whether to send Mint artists back to the drawing board for a third attempt to satisfy the commission.

He ordered the second effort after both review panels rejected all the proposed designs for the two coins in separate November meetings.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has the final word on what designs will be selected for the coins, a decision he typically makes with advice from the two coins advisory panels.

At times in the past, the Mint has said that because of its production schedules it didn’t have time to allow for yet another design review.

Maryland quarter dollar

The CCAC’s recommendation for the Maryland quarter dollar provoked a sharp debate between Gary B. Marks, the committee’s chair, and several committee members over whether the selected design will work.
Marks told the committee he didn’t think the attempt to recreate the bursting bombs over the fort would work. He cited a similar device that is to appear this year on another quarter dollar in the series. It is an exploding volcano from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park coin.

Mint officials have produced a Proof version of the quarter dollar and will produce a 5-ounce silver version of the Hawaiian park coin.

Some committee members countered that the Hawaii coins show that the explosions will work.

“It’s a giant step in the direction of better coin design,” said Donald Scarinci, a New Jersey medals specialist who is in the forefront of pressing for more contemporary designs.

“I don’t think it works,” countered Marks, noting that he also had favored the Hawaiian volcano design.

He predicted collectors would look at the Maryland quarter dollar and wonder “Are we on a planet with two suns?”

But the design was a popular one with the committee.

Under a voting scheme that allows each member to give up to three points for a design, the exploding bomb design drew 16 points, outdistancing the second-place recommendation, a design showing an aerial view of the fort with a Star-Spangled Banner in the foreground. It drew 11 points.

Ohio quarter dollar

In the balloting for the Ohio quarter dollar, the favored design of Perry and the Peace Tower drew 14 points.

Peterson took the unusual step of sitting with the committee as it debated the Ohio quarter.

The deputy director said he wasn’t attempting to influence the panel’s action. He said that he had learned of Perry while a plebe at the U.S. Naval Academy.

He described the naval leader in the War of 1812 as “one of our first heroes.” Peterson wasn’t in the room when the committee’s votes on the coin were announced.

The committee also recommended designs for two congressional gold medals. One will honor 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and one will salute the Montford Point Marines, who formed the first all-black unit in the Marine Corps in 1942 to 1949.

Muhammad Yunus gold medal

For Yunus, the committee endorsed the economist’s recommended obverse design, a smiling image of him set against a colorful textile from his native Bangladesh. It received a perfect high score of 24 points. For the reverse, the panel voted for a design showing a woman with a basket of vegetables and two other women Yunus has helped under the inscription BANKER TO THE POOR.

The CFA had endorsed another design for the obverse, which also showed a smiling Yunus. The commission favored Yunus’ recommendation for the reverse, selecting a blooming lotus blossom with the words “Let Us Send Poverty to the Museum” in his native language.

The use of foreign language on a U.S. metal troubled some committee members. They said they wanted an English translation of the words on the medal.

Ron Harrigal, the acting chief engraver, said that option had been explained to Yunus, who rejected it.

Harrigal said U.S. medals have used foreign language previously.

The CCAC’s favored reverse drew 15 points, while the design with the lotus came in second with 12 points.

Montford Point Marines medal

The committee also followed the wishes of the Montford Point Marines for the obverse of their medal.

The recommended obverse is a design that shows the images of three Marines and a group of three other Marines jumping over logs, taken from an iconic photo at their North Carolina base. That design drew 21 of a possible 24 points.

The panel selected a design showing an eagle with outstretched wings for the reverse. The eagle appears under the inscription FOR OUTSTANDING PERSEVERANCE AND COURAGE THAN INSPIRED SOCIAL CHANGE IN THE MARINE CORPS. It drew 16 points.

Second place for the reverse went to a design showing a marching unit of Marines at the base with a water tower in the background, a design the Marines favored. It drew 12 points.

The CFA had preferred an obverse design that showed the same three Marines, but had advised other changes to the obverse and reverse designs recommended.

Code talkers medals

Much of the CCAC meeting was filled with a discussion of how the Mint should continue honoring Native American tribes whose members served as code talkers during World War I and World War II.

After Congress issued a gold medal honoring the Navajo Nation’s World War II code talkers in 2000, other tribes sought recognition for their members who served the same roles in the military.

Thus far the Mint said it has identified 21 other tribes.

It was ready to honor eight of the tribes and had created a series of common reverses it was recommending for the medals.

The tribes to be honored in “Round 1” are the Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, Cheyenne River Sioux, Kiowa, Oneida, Pawnee and Tlingit.

Those plans were suddenly placed on hold by the committee after several members complained that the series of medals were not well conceived and incompatible with the Navajo code talker medals.

“Some obverses look like they ought to be reverses and some reverses look like they ought to be obverses,” Marks said.

His comments came after sculptor Heidi Wastweet called for tabling the entire issue until the panel’s April meeting. She called it “the most difficult project” she had seen on the panel and urged the Mint to take more time to study the implications of the medal series.

“We’ve got a jumble on our tables,” Marks agreed.

The committee then agreed and urged the Mint to develop “unique design for each tribe” in the series.

That was the only way, Marks said, that the committee could ensure that the medals for each tribe are the equal of what the Navajo were given.

2013 First Spouse coins

The committee also agreed to delay a discussion of the proposed paper outlining the interests of the four First Ladies to be honored in the 2013 First Spouse Coin series.

The committee’s resident historian, Michael A. Ross, said he had spotted “some flaws” in the items on Ida Saxton McKinley, Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt, Helen Herron Taft, Ellen Axon Wilson and Edith Bolling Gault Wilson.

He did not elaborate, but said he needed more time to review the papers, which are designed to be given to artists for use in composing designs for the coins.

A crew from the National Geographic channel taped the committee’s coin discussions for use in an upcoming program that will discuss the federal government’s coin programs. ¦

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