US Coins

Commission of Fine Arts picks Native American designs

Commission of Fine Arts Chairman Earl A. Powell didn’t like the design for the reverse of the 2019 Native America dollar coin that had endorsements from several groups.

The drawing is “very complex,” he cautioned his fellow commissioners at their June 15 meeting. “A lot of this will get lost,” he said, holding up another Native American dollar, adding “You can hardly see what’s on them.”

But after U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Donald Everhart II suggested several ways to simplify the design, the commission bowed to the groups’ wishes and endorsed a design that most had said appeared cluttered.

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That vote seemed to symbolize how far the commission was willing to go to meet the wishes of groups that had helped the U.S. Mint create designs for the six new coins reviewed at the CFA’s meeting.

The 2019 Native American dollar will salute contributions Native Americans have made to the space program.

Key among those contributions is the work of Mary Golda Ross, a Cherokee who is considered to have been the first female Native American engineer, according to the Mint. Ross helped develop the Agena spacecraft for the Gemini and Apollo programs, Mint information said.

The design showed her working on math calculations as an Atlas-Agena rocket roared into space, with an equation embedded in cloudy exhaust. In addition, NASA Astronaut John Herrington, another Native American, was shown in a spacewalk overhead, along with “a smattering of stars,” according to the Mint.

Too much, agreed Everhart.  

He suggested removing some of the stars and changing the rocket’s size and placement. 

Elizabeth K. Meyer, vice chairman of the panel, suggested adding a phrase about Native Americans in space.

With all those suggested changes, the commission endorsed the proposed design.

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The endorsed reverse design for the 2020 Native American dollar also followed the recommendations of Native American groups, and the commission seemed happy with one of the proposed designs.

The commission endorsed a design honoring an Alaskan woman who led the fight for one of the country’s first anti-discrimination laws. Elizabeth Peratrovich, a member of the Tlingit Nation, pressed the Alaska Territorial government in 1945 to enact the law. The commission-endorsed design shows both a portrait of her and the symbol for the Tlingit raven moiety of which she was a member.

Apollo 11 coins

The commission took two steps toward issuing a set of four curved coins in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.

The set will consist of a gold $5 coin, a silver dollar, a copper-nickel clad half dollar and a Proof 5-ounce silver dollar, the first such commemorative coin of that weight.

The law authorizing those coins requires that all four share a common reverse that is based on a photograph taken of Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the moon.

The photo shows a reflection in the mirror visor Aldrin wore. It shows the lunar lander, an American flag and astronaut Neil Armstrong. Three sets of drawings were prepared by the Mint showing that scene.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration had endorsed the third set of drawings and, although some members of the commission expressed concerns that the lander appeared to be distorted, they backed the NASA-preferred reverse designs.

Commission Secretary Thomas Luebke noted that the staff would prefer that the values of the coin be spelled out and not be numerals.

The commission also named two of its members, Edward D. Dunson and Liza Gilbert, and assistant secretary Frederick J. Lindstrom to sit on a jury that will select the obverse designs for the 2019 Apollo 11 coin set.  

The designs can be seen below in this series of tweets: 

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