US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Nov. 13, 2023: The 'battle' begins

Among the 21 designs of classic U.S. coins under consideration in the 1849 Coronet double eagle. Two were struck and one survives.

Original images the property of The National Numismatics Collection, Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

The battle has begun, and who will win or dominate? Will classic older coin designs fare better than classic newer coin designs in the U.S. Mint’s latest survey?

As we report this week, the survey is “seeking public input on which of 21 classic U.S. coin designs should be selected for reuse on coins in 2026 to celebrate the nation’s Sesquicentennial.”

The list features coins and patterns struck during every century of the Mint’s history, starting in 1792 and continuing in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Coins like the 1792 Birch cent pattern with its historic Liberty portrait are competing against pieces like the 2017 American Liberty $100 coin with its ground-breaking portrait of a Black American woman.

A sizable number of the candidate designs have already been “reused” on more recent coins like the American Eagle gold, silver and palladium coins; the gold 2016 tribute coins celebrating the new silver coin designs first issued in 1916; and, not surprisingly, the Morgan and Peace dollar designs. Some collectors have already been critical of including these much-used coins among coins that are equally desirable but that have never been reused on a modern coin.

The survey results will be interesting once they are released by the Mint (assuming, of course, that the Mint will make the full results public soon after the survey closes). Will the older designs dominate? Will the newer designs prevail? Will the mixture of older and newer designs be fairly even?

I wonder what happens if the results are dominated by 18th and 19th century designs? How can the Mint issue coins representative of the nation’s entire history if the results show collectors prefer designs issued, say, no later than the early 1920s? In my personal view, designs like those on the list created by artists Elizabeth Jones and Marcel Jovine rank right up there with the designs of George T. Morgan and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, as does the 2017 American Liberty $100 coin portrait when compared to the Birch cent designs.

Let’s hope we get a broad representation.

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