US Coins

Commission of Fine Arts recommends 2020 American Innovation $1 designs

The Commission of Fine Arts' Sept. 19 meeting included recommendations of preferred reverse designs for the four 2020 American Innovation dollar coins.

The coins celebrate achievements, inventions or innovations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and South Carolina.


Two designs each were favored for three of the four states. For the exception, Connecticut, the single design the CFA favored features the Gerber Variable Scale being used to increase a geometric shape (resembling the state of Connecticut) by 200 percent. The CFA suggested modifying the right side of the state outline to more clearly define the state’s coastline so it can be more easily recognized as the state’s outline.

During his junior year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in 1945, H. Joseph Gerber invented the Gerber Variable Scale, often called the most revolutionary engineering tool since the slide rule.

The scale uses a triangular calibrated spring as a computing element to eliminate all scaling and conversions between numerics and graphics. He opened an engineering company in Connecticut.


For the Massachusetts dollar reverse, the CFA recommended one design that illustrates a 20th century rotary style telephone. The second recommendation depicts the telephone as designed in Alexander Graham Bell’s original 1876 patent. The inscriptions MASSACHUSETTS, PAT. NO. 176,465, and TELEPHONE are in the style of the lettering on the original patent. Bell had a laboratory in Boston.


One of the two designs recommended by the CFA for the 2020 Maryland Innovation dollar was also preferred by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. That design depicts the Hubble Space Telescope orbiting the earth surrounded by a field of stars. The science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope is in Baltimore, Maryland.

The CFA’s second recommendation for Maryland depicts a diagram of a DNA double helix strand formed by multiple pairings of base pairs, one set of which is about to be paired together. The additional inscription is MAPPING THE HUMAN GENOME. The National Institutes of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute is in Bethesda, Maryland.

From 1990 to 2003, the Human Genome Project, a project from the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, worked to identify all of the genes in human DNA and determine the sequences of the chemical base pairs making up human DNA.

South Carolina

Two proposed designs recommended by the CFA for the 2020 South Carolina dollar illustrate African-American Civil Rights activist Septima Poinsette Clark, born in South Carolina. Clark helped establish the first Citizenship Schools, teaching literacy and citizenship rights and helping establish local leaders for the Civil Rights Movement

One CFA-recommended design “features Clark teaching at a blackboard, rendered as the U.S. Constitution, representing the concept of Citizenship Schools that helped African Americans learn to read and to understand the Constitution,” according to the U.S. Mint design narrative.

The second design “depicts Septima Clark marching with three young African American students who carry books and an American flag, representing that education and literacy among oppressed people is necessary for empowerment and enjoyment of civil rights,” according to the Mint’s narrative.

The recommendations will go to the Treasury Department for final approval by the Treasury secretary or designee. Each approved reverse design will be paired with the common obverse depicting the Statue of Liberty. 

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