US Coins

CCAC rejects American Innovation dollar designs

In a July 31 teleconference, members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee expressed disgust with the quality of proposed reverse designs for the 2018 coin to launch the American Innovation dollar series and unanimously refused to review any of them for possible recommendation.

Added to their dismay at the eight reverse designs proposed, the panel was also critical of being asked to rubberstamp a proposed common obverse for the 14-year series. The singular offering is a modified version of the Statue of Liberty design that served as the common reverse for the Presidential dollars and was presented instead of a portfolio containing multiple new renditions of the Statue of Liberty.

One CCAC member, sculptor Heidi Wastweet, went so far as to suggest the U.S. Mint consider scrapping the 2018 coin option and moving on to the 2019 first full year of issues rather than push through inferior or retread designs simply to meet a tight production deadline. She said the proposed designs are the “least innovative” of any she has seen during her eight-year tenure on the design review panel.

Vocal opposition

The most vocal among the CCAC member was medals specialist Donald Scarinci, a New Jersey attorney.

So incensed was Scarinci with the quality of the proposed designs that he called on all Americans to boycott U.S. Mint products, saying he would not buy any numismatic product that featured any coins bearing the designs proposed.

Scarinci labeled the proposed designs “beyond horrible,” adding, “I’m glad you didn’t drag me to D.C. to look at this,” Scarinci remarked in comments directed at U.S. Mint officials participating in the teleconference originating from Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Scarinci said that, although the Mint has the ability to execute a program from design to production quickly, citing one congressional gold medal that was turned around in 30 days, the Mint has to stop the practice of trying to force through less-than-ideal designs in order to meet a production schedule.

Scarinci said Donald Everhart’s original Statue of Liberty reverse design from the Presidential dollar series is quality work, but that the Mint is doing a disservice by resurrecting the design in a modified version for the American Innovation dollar series rather than rendering a completely new vision.

Erik Jansen, a CCAC member representing the interests of the general public, said all of the designs he saw miss the concept of the patent system that rewards incentive and is the basis for the coin series.

Mike Moran, a CCAC member and collector recommended by the Senate minority leader, said none of the reverse designs are of feasible quality suitable for production.

“I’m sick of looking at these,” Moran said of the proposed designs. “They were something that were forced through. I won’t support any of them.”

CCAC member Thomas J. Uram, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists and a member of the American Numismatic Association Board of Governors, wryly remarked, “We finally have a series that will be worse than the Susan B. Anthony dollar.”

Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, a medallic sculptor representing the general public, said she was “overwhelmed with disappointment” by the proposed 2018 dollar reverse designs.

Robert Hoge, specially qualified as a numismatic curator, pushed part of the blame on Congress. “I don’t think this was a properly thought-out program,” Hoge said.

Hoge said one of the designs featuring a disembodied hand using a quill pen reminded him of the Thing character from the 1960s television comedy The Addams Family.

Dennis Tucker, specially qualified in numismatics as publisher of Whitman Publishing LLC, said he, too, had problems with the design renderings, but was also critical of the design mandates in the enabling legislation.

Tucker questioned why the law mandates the inscription AMERICAN INNOVATORS for the 2018 dollar reverse, when the program is to recognize American Innovation. The mandated inscription focuses on individuals or a physical invention but negates the innovation of an ideal or other intangible.

Tucker also objected to continuing to place the date, Mint mark and E PLURIBUS UNUM incuse on the coin’s edge, arguing that collectors want to see the date and Mint mark return to the denomination’s obverse as part of the overall design.

Congressional mandate

The American Innovation $1 Coin Act, Public Law 116-197, calls for the production of manganese brass-clad dollars as numismatic products and not for circulation.

The 14-year program calls for an annual release of four dollar coins. The series authorizes one coin each for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories — Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The coins are to be released in the order each entity honored ratified the U.S. Constitution or entered the Union.

The 57th coin in the series would actually be the first issued, to kick off the program in 2018, with the four-coins-per-year schedule to start beginning in 2019. The 2018 American Innovation coin is optional at the discretion of the secretary of the Treasury.

The common obverse for the entire program is mandated to be a rendition of the Statue of Liberty. The lone obverse design being considered by the Mint is a modified version of now retired U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Donald Everhart II’s common reverse employed for each Presidential dollar issued from 2007 through 2016 inclusive.

On the modified design, the overall appearance is more medallic, with more empty fields. An inner circle was removed. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA was removed, to be placed on the reverses, and is replaced by IN GOD WE TRUST. The denomination, rendered as $1, is slightly smaller in size on the modified 2018 design than as used on the Presidential dollars.

The reverse for the 2018 American Innovation dollar is required to include the inscription AMERICAN INNOVATORS and a facsimile signature of President George Washington as taken from the first U.S. patent dated July 31, 1790.

The first U.S. patent, No. X000001, was issued in New York City by U.S. Attorney General Edmund Jennings Randolph on July 31, 1790, to Samuel Hopkins for “the improvement of pot ash and pearl ash,” chemicals then essential for making soap, glass, dye, and gunpowder. 

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