US Coins

CCAC reviews proposed designs for final ATB quarters

Members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee were not quite certain of the cause, but they were elated with the effects.

As the panel ended its daylong June 12 meeting at U.S. Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C., several declared they had just reviewed one of the best sets of coin designs they had ever seen.

The panel scrutinized 63 proposed designs combined for the five America the Beautiful quarter dollars for 2020 and the 56th and final coin in the program to be released by itself in 2021.

It was “a good omen” for newly installed Mint Director David J. Ryder, said Donald J. Scarinci, the committee’s senior member and often the Mint’s sharpest critic.

But this time the New Jersey lawyer and medals specialist was effusive over the designs that the Mint presented for the final two years of the America the Beautiful quarter dollar series.

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“They’re all excellent designs,” he declared as the Mint reviewed the six reverse designs for the 2020 quarter dollar that will celebrate the 1,015-acre Salt River Bay National Park and Ecological Preserve in the Virgin Islands.

That was a sentiment that others also expressed as they reviewed the final six reverses for the 56-coin set that began in 2010.

Pointed debates

There were some pointed debates among the members, but as their final votes suggested there was also a strong sense of harmony over which designs would make for the most attractive coins.

Take the Salt River coin, for example. 

While Scarinci said all the designs were great, design No. 1, which showed a young red mangrove tree emerging from the sea, was “a no brainer among some very good designs.”

CCAC Chair Mary Lannin agreed: “Without question it has to be design No. 1.”

The committee agreed, giving that design 23 out of a possible 24 points under the voting system that allows each of the eight CCAC members voting to give up to three points to any design.

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What made that recommendation remarkable was that the committee, which has long urged a turtle be included in the series, had to bypass three turtle designs to endorse the tree.

Three other designs endorsed by the panel also showed strong support among the committee.

For a 2020 quarter dollar honoring the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas, the panel also gave 23 points to a design showing a regal fritillary butterfly fluttering among big bluestem and Indian grasses. 

For the National Park of American Samoa, the CCAC endorsed a design showing a threadfin butterflyfish in front of a Polynesian version of a wave, with a Samoan tattoo adorning the wave.

This design, which Scarinci called “the ultimate cool coin” and “probably the best” reverse in the 56 coin series, drew 22 points.

For the final coin in the series, to honor the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama in 2021, the CCAC endorsed a design showing a young pilot strapping his helmet on, with the Moton Field control tower in the background and two P-51 Mustangs flying overhead. 

This design drew 18 points and includes the phrase “They Fought Two Wars.” That phrase provoked intense debate, but remained in the design. 

Dennis Tucker, a numismatic editor and publisher, successfully argued that the reference, recalling the efforts the airmen had to make for their civil rights as well as fighting in World War II, deserved to be noted on the coins.

Some extended debate

The CCAC deadlocked over how to honor the small Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, Vermont.

The park is dedicated to preserving ways of preserving nature, but the CCAC members tied over which of two designs to endorse.

One showed hands planting a sugar maple sapling and the other showed branches of a Norway spruce and a sugar maple with seeds, and carries the legend “People Taking Care of Places.”

With Erik Jansen arguing “the human element is important here,” the committee voted 6 to 2 to endorse the design showing the tree planting.

Much of the CCAC’s morning session involved debate over how to honor the Weir Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut. 

The park is dedicated to helping artists recreate paintings that impressionist J. Alden Weir and others composed there, by preserving the trees and views that those paintings recorded.

The panel was drawn to two designs that essentially show “a picture within a picture,” as one member put it.

Both show an artist’s rendition of the main house at the farm recorded on an easel, and that view blends into the background, which shows the scene being painted. Some members feared the innovative design shown on the easel would not translate well to a coin.

They wanted to give the artist a second chance. At the urging of sculptor Heidi Wastweet, the committee voted to ask the artist to reconsider the image.

The Mint agreed and the CCAC did not vote on which design it would favor.

Designs for the same six quarter dollars are scheduled to be reviewed by the Commission of Fine Arts at its June 21 meeting.

The CCAC’s recommendations and those of the Commission of Fine Arts will be forwarded to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who has the final word on what coin designs are approved. 

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