US Coins

CCAC ponders issuance of 2015 Ultra High Relief gold medal

The United States Mint is considering creating a 2015 Ultra High Relief .9999 fine gold coin and an accompanying silver medal, and during a July 22 teleconference, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee unanimously endorsed the idea.

In remarks opening the CCAC’s July 22 teleconference, April Stafford, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Design Management, indicated that for the newly suggested gold coin and silver medal, the Mint would prefer to use two new designs rather than reuse older designs.

The Mint would prefer an obverse depicting a new, modern rendition of Liberty, an approach CCAC members collectively favored. 

The suggested reverse for both the coin and medal is an eagle design from among several designs the Mint submitted but that weren’t chosen during considerations for the reverse of the 2015 U.S. Marshals Service 225th Anniversary gold $5 half eagle.

The CCAC had endorsed the same former commemorative coin design submission during an April 8 teleconference as a possible replacement for the reverse of the American Eagle silver dollar. The coin’s current Heraldic Eagle reverse (by former U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver John Mercanti) was introduced in 1986.

U.S. Mint officials informed CCAC members before its July 22 meeting that it would not pursue the CCAC’s April 8 recommendation for changing the American Eagle silver dollar reverse.

CCAC member Thomas Uram had argued against replacing the American Eagle silver dollar reverse, saying to do so could jeopardize the program’s success.

CCAC members, however, are hopeful that the U.S. Mint’s engraving staff and U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program artists will present multiple proposed obverse designs to consider.

Any proposed obverse designs would also have to be reviewed by the Commission of Fine Arts.

If developed, the 2015 Ultra High Relief .9999 fine gold coin would be comparable to the 2009 Ultra High Relief .9999 fine gold $20 double eagle, in that it would contain 1 troy ounce of pure gold, Stafford said.

The 2009 Ultra High Relief $20 double eagle was a product of then U.S. Mint Director Edmund C. Moy’s plan to execute a coin replicating sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ 1907 vision of a double-thick, Ultra High Relief coin measuring 27 millimeters in diameter. Moy’s vision was to launch a 21st century artistic renaissance in coin design, linking to classic U.S. coin designs.

The 2009 Ultra High Relief $20 double eagle is a modified, modern version of Saint-Gaudens’ original 1907 vision of a double-thick double eagle at the diameter of a gold $10 eagle.

At least one CCAC member suggested the relief be more like that of the Saint-Gaudens, High Relief double eagle, rather than the Ultra High Relief coin’s depth. The same CCAC member also suggested including a bronze version of the medal.

To make 2015 products bearing the new designs accessible to a wider range of collectors, the Mint is considering producing a medal, struck in silver, of the same design as the proposed 2015 Ultra High Relief gold coin.

Striking these medals in silver would provide an additional opportunity to showcase the intricacy of the design features and the beauty of the artwork, according to U.S. Mint officials.

U.S. Mint officials did not designate a diameter or silver fineness for the proposed medal, but CCAC Chairman Gary Marks stated his preference for the Mint to use the 40.6-millimeter planchets currently used for the .999 fine silver 1-ounce American Eagle dollar coins.

J. Marc Landry, the Mint’s acting associate director for sales and marketing, said during the July 22 CCAC teleconference that, likely, the gold UHR coin would be struck at the West Point Mint and the silver medal at the Philadelphia Mint, but final options have not been formalized.

Discussion during the CCAC’s July 22 teleconference seemed to indicate the 2015 UHR gold coin and silver medal would be separate products. No option of a two-piece set was discussed.

Legal authority

If the U.S. Mint moves toward development of the 2015 coin and medal, the bureau, according to Stafford, would need Treasury secretary approval for the gold coin under authority of 31 U.S.C. § 5112(i)(4)(C). 

For the silver medal, separate Treasury secretary approval would be needed under authority of 31 U.S.C. § 5111 (a) (2).

CCAC input

CCAC member Heidi Wastweet questioned how development of the obverse design for the 2015 gold coin and silver medal would be assigned to the engraving staff and  Artistic Infusion Program artists.

Wastweet said it was her hope the assignment would be based on each artist’s strengths of subject matter. She stated her preference for wanting to review a variety of design submissions.

Marks said the obverse design needs to be a “forward-looking, 21st century rendition of Liberty” and not an updated version of Saint-Gaudens’ 1907 design.

Marks recommended ensuring that the unnamed artist who rendered the suggested eagle reverse be among the artists who create proposed obverses. That would present the possibility of a matched obverse and reverse from the same artist, Marks said.

CCAC members are not provided the names of the artists who submit each design under consideration.

Marks said the Mint should strike a balance between the relief and a full-size double eagle planchet.

CCAC member Eric Hansen said attention should be given to the edge device on the 2015 Ultra High Relief gold coin to prevent the “bleed” of metal that he felt detracted from the appearance of the 2009 Ultra High Relief gold coin.

The edge device on the 2009 coin — single, six-pointed stars separating the letters of E PLURIBUS UNUM — also exhibited three individual vertical lines spaced equidistant from one another. The lines were created by metal flow into the minute spaces separating the three-piece edge collar.

Hansen also suggested the edge be given special consideration for the silver medal, possibly exhibiting the fineness, artistic text or ornamentation that could tie a medallic series together.

CCAC member Donald Scarinci said the coin and medal proposal is a historic Mint initiative that follows the advisory panel’s blueprint outlined in 2011 for unlimited artistic expression. Scarinci said the CCAC is privileged to be considering “some very beautiful designs,” and that he feels the energy among the Mint’s artists, both on staff and from the AIP, from the designs submitted.

Committee member Michael Moran said the depth of relief should be determined by the obverse and reverse design pairing, since it’s possible the pairing might not work in production. The Mint should have flexibility in determining the exact level of relief, Moran said, suggesting a High Relief or mid-level relief range, depending on the designs approved.

The Mint must also be aware of the size of the planchet to be used for the 2015 gold coin, to provide more room and flexibility in the design rendering, Moran said.

Moran supports using a gold planchet 34 millimeters in diameter, the same diameter as the Saint-Gaudens double eagles struck for circulation.

For the silver medal, Moran recommends using a planchet reflecting a “silver dollar-sized silver coin,” but did not specify whether that should be the 40.6-millimeter diameter of the silver American Eagle, or the 38.1 millimeters of a Morgan or Peace dollar.

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