US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Nov. 28, 2019: Panels go different routes

The 2021 American Liberty gold coin and silver medal will bear the same main design devices. However, the two panels that reviewed the designs made different recommendations, which Treasury officials will need to resolve.

Images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

The two panels that review U.S. coin and medal designs, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts, often agree on their recommendations for a particular issue. Sometimes, though, they disagree. Their recommendations for the 2021 American Liberty gold coin and silver medal could not be more different. 

The CCAC reviewed the proposed designs first and approved an obverse design that is decidedly different from any previous design for an American Liberty coin (and from anything in the American Eagle family of coins as well).

It depicts a bucking mustang horse set against the sun and its rays. While horses have been depicted on U.S. coins before, they have never been expressly intended to represent the concept of “Liberty.” 

The recommended design was one of many with nontraditional themes. Others included rock climbers, butterflies and doves.

The designs offered perplexed two former members of the CCAC. In comments posted at Coin World’s Facebook page, Gary Marks and Heidi Wastweet both revealed disagreement with the concept behind the designs prepared for the current review. Marks wrote that “it appears the Mint will have us ignore [the] 228 year American design tradition” of depicting Liberty as a beautiful woman, adding, “Please just forget it. This is pathetic and will be an epic failure.” Wastweet wrote, “I too wish they would stay with the traditional allegorical figures for this particular series.

The CFA’s recommended obverse design is more traditional in nature but could also generate some controversy. That panel selected a design that the Mint says “presents a group of disparate demonstrators displaying a request for liberty with the crown from the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, suggesting that the advancement of liberty is one of continuing importance and personal responsibility.” Two figures of women flank a sole male. The figures feature different ethnic and cultural features and clothing — a design choice that will please those who welcome diversity in portrayals on U.S. coins and upset those who decry “politically correct” art. 

The Treasury’s final choice should prove interesting. 

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