US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Nov. 6, 2023: 1794 designs withdrawn

The United States Mint has canceled plans to use the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar designs for the 2024-2025 American Liberty medal and coin program, citing objections from the design review panels.

Original images courtesy of the United States Mint.

Wow! Just wow! That was our reaction to the U.S. Mint’s announcement that it was canceling plans to use the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar designs on the 2024–2025 American Liberty coin and medal.

In my Editorial in the November monthly issue of Coin World about the Mint’s decision to resurrect the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar designs, I asked, “... is this retrograde approach right for the American Liberty program?” reminding readers, “The basic concept of the series upon its introduction was to explore new concepts of Liberty.” Nonetheless, I predicted in that Editorial that the program would be a huge hit with collectors. I followed up in the Editorial in our Nov. 13 issue, addressing some concerns about too perfectly recreating designs.

But now comes the bombshell announcement that the Mint has reversed the decision to use the 1794 designs in the American Liberty program, basically bowing to the will of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, one of the two panels advising the government on coinage and medal designs. The CCAC’s principle objection is that the American Liberty medal and coin program is intended to “focus on modern depictions of Liberty,” not resurrected designs from the past.

I am not surprised that the CCAC objected to using 230-year-old designs, the idea of doing so being a violation of the underlying principle of the American Liberty program.

It will be interesting to see how the numismatic community reacts. There were critics to the idea of using the 1794 designs, as well as supporters.

The decision also raises questions on whether the Mint should focusing on creating modern designs suitable for the 21st century, focusing on resurrecting classic older designs, or continuing to do both as it has been since the 1980s when the first American Eagle bullion coins were introduced with their retrograde designs. New coins bearing classic 18th, 19th and 20th century designs have often sold well. Conversely, some modern portrayals of Liberty on coins have been panned, even condemned. Collectors by no means agree on the old versus new approaches.

Although this issue reports on what we know now (that the 1794 designs may still be used in some other program), we have to be cautious. With one big reversal in Mint planning, we have to be ready for further change in what the Mint issues in 2024 or 2025. All we can say for sure is that collectors are going to react ... in some way.

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