US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Oct. 23, 2023: A new approach in 2024

The United States Mint’s American Liberty gold coin and silver medal series, launched in 2015, has, to date, been all about experimentation — about offering new interpretations of Liberty not bound by historical precedent. Starting in 2024, however, the program will return to Liberty’s historical roots, resurrecting the designs used on the nation’s first silver dollar, released in 1794.

The American Liberty .999 fine silver medal for 2024 and the High Relief .9999 fine gold $100 coin will use the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar designs.

Chief Engraver Robert Scot designed and engraved the designs for the 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar, which was first issued on Oct. 15, 1794. The fledging federal Mint at Philadelphia struck maybe 2,000 pieces total, of which 1,758 were of sufficient high quality to be delivered. The 242 or so undelivered coins were apparently not destroyed; at least one was used as a planchet for a 1795 Flowing Hair dollar.

The extreme rarity of the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar and prestigious position it holds as the first federal coin of its denomination virtually ensures that the two upcoming issues, especially the silver medal version to be released in 2024, will be a big hit with collectors.

But is this retrograde approach right for the American Liberty program?

The basic concept of the series upon its introduction was to explore new concepts of Liberty. The 2015-W American Liberty gold $100 coin, strongly promoted by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, depicts a modern Standing Liberty. She holds a torch in her right hand and a pole from which the American flag flies in her left. The CCAC “emphasized creating a ‘modern’ Liberty that reflects the nation’s diversity.” The silver medal version was released in 2016.

Diversity took a giant leap forward in 2017 with the release of the 1-ounce gold coin featuring a portrait of Liberty as a Black woman, the first portrait of its kind on a U.S. coin. The coin, bearing a dual 1792–2017 dates recognizing the anniversary of the founding the U.S. Mint, proved controversial, with many praising its beautiful design and others, including some obvious racists, panning the entire idea of a Black woman appearing as Liberty. The same designs were also used in 2018 on a tenth-ounce gold coin and silver medal.

The 2019 American Liberty gold coin’s design, in my view, is by far the weakest in the series, with its interpretation of the portrait appearing on the Peace dollar. The silver medal version followed a year later.

The Mint departed from the concept of a woman appearing as the allegorical Liberty for the 2021 and 2023 gold coins and related medals. A bucking horse appears on the 2021 coin and 2022 medal. The 2023 coin, recently released, depicts a bristlecone pine, one of the oldest living organisms on Earth.

But not in 2024 and 2025.

The 1794 Flowing Hair dollar reimagined as the American Liberty medal and coin will be a huge hit with collectors, guaranteed. But does their release mean a permanent end to the experimental Liberty designs? We will see.

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