US Coins

Recommendations from CCAC on WWI silver medals

This article comes from our April 2017 monthly issue of Coin World. Want to get all of our content, including special magazine exclusives? Subscribe today !

The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee’s review of five proposed World War I silver medals began on an ominous note.

Donald Scarinci, the panel’s medal specialist, lambasted all 62 medal designs the United States Mint had offered to mark the war’s centennial in 2018. “I cannot support any of these designs,” he announced at the March 21 meeting in Washington.

Another panelist also revealed during the public meeting some details about the designs for the 2018 silver dollar commemorating American involvement in World War I, catching Mint officials off guard. The Mint intended to keep details of the designs secret until a public rollout later this year.

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Scarinci, a vocal critic of Mint designs, claimed the proposed “medals ... look like coins” and warned that none of the designs would be a match for the yet undisclosed commemorative silver dollar that will be issued with them.

But after a debate that showed Scarinci was not alone in his dour view of the medal designs, the New Jersey lawyer joined the panel in a compromise to avoid rejecting all designs. The compromise was a unanimous decision to urge Mint artists to redesign each of the five designs the panel endorsed.

It was Heidi Wastweet, a Seattle sculptor, who devised the plan that one member said would “save” the World War I medal program.

Under her plan, Mint designers would be instructed to simplify the five obverse designs, removing “unneeded” elements and transferring most of the text from the obverse to the reverse. This, she said, would make the designs look more like medals and less like coins.

Scarinci seemed to agree, telling the panel: “Since there is not sufficient time for the Mint to show us new designs, we will have to settle for these. Let the artists do the best they can hope they sell.”

Scarinci, who has long advocated a more modernistic U.S. medals program, expressed concern that if the World War I medals do not sell, the Mint’s marketing department would oppose future medal programs.

Wastweet also voiced a criticism of the medal plan for failing to include women, a shortcoming that the CCAC quickly voted to solve. 

They urged the Mint to add a sixth medal to the 2018 program, one that would recognize the contributions women made to WWI.

Exactly what the World War I silver dollar will look like remains under wraps, although three members of the CCAC were on a special juried panel from a public design competition from which proposed designs were approved.

Three members of the Commission of Fine Arts were also on the juried panel, and it was chaired by a designee of then Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

2018 silver dollar

Although the Mint has not released details about the silver dollar’s designs, one CCAC member who has seen them discussed the designs during the meeting. Panelist Michael Moran said the commemorative dollar coin will have an image of soldiers in battle on the obverse and a reverse that shows both barbed wire and a field of poppies.

Moran, Scarinci and CCAC chair Mary Lannin were the CCAC representatives on the panel chosen to judge the 2018 World War I American Veterans Centennial silver dollar design competition. 

Scarinci complained that the silver dollar would have a more modern design than the proposed medal designs under review. The proposed medal designs would have been fine for coins, he said.

He added that both the United Kingdom and France have adopted more modernistic designs for their already issued World War I medals. “We’re not there,” he groused, adding, “…This is going backwards.”

After the meeting, Scarinci said he was upset that the Mint did not show the commemorative silver dollar design to the artists who designed the medals.

“We have these boring designs today because the artists did not see the approved WWI commemorative coin … which has a more modernist design. The medals don’t go with the coin,” he said.

Lannin had urged the panel to find an alternative to Scarinci’s suggestion to send all of the silver medal designs back to the Mint. “We’ve got 10 very talented people sitting around this table,” she said.

Design endorsements

Here are the designs that the CCAC endorses:

??Army: The obverse would feature a “doughboy,” rifle in hand, standing before a 48-star U.S. flag; the reverse would show the current Army emblem, with most of the text from the obverse design moved to the reverse.

The other coin review panel, the Commission of Fine Arts, had endorsed a scene showing a doughboy cutting through German barbed wire while a second doughboy aims a rifle in a shattered landscape of broken trees and cratered earth as a shell explodes in the distance.

It also recommended the Army emblem for the reverse. 

??Navy: The obverse would depict a “four piper destroyer” dropping depth charges in the Atlantic against a suspected German submarine. The reverse would show the Navy’s emblem, along with wording moved from the obverse.

The CFA endorsed a scene of the another Navy ship, the USS Wadsworth, exploding depth charges as it escorted a convoy to Europe, and the emblem for the reverse.

??Air Services: The obverse would feature two views of the Spad XIII fighter, the same design proposed as a reverse and also endorsed for the obverse by the Commission of Fine Arts.

The reverse would be the Military Aviators insignia with some of the text from the obverse. The CFA also endorsed the same reverse design.

??Marine Corps: The obverse for this coin, also first suggested as a reverse, would show the aftermath of the three-month-long battle of Belleau Woods. One Marine kneels in respect and a second stands guard. The reverse would feature the Marine Corps emblem, as also endorsed by the CFA.

The CFA had backed a design showing two Marines in a wheat field at the outset of the Belleau Woods battle.

??Coast Guard: The obverse would feature a lifeboat from the cutter Seneca in rough seas to rescue the crew of the torpedoed steamship Wellington. The reverse would feature the World War I Coast Guard emblem with twin anchors and the motto “Semper Paratus.”

The CFA had urged a scene of two Coast Guardmen on watch during a convoy mission for the obverse and the emblem for the reverse.

The recommendations will go to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has the final word on Mint medals and coins or can designate someone else to choose.

”ThomasHow $75 worth of Thomas Jefferson’s silver helped launch the U.S. Mint: Inside Coin World: On the morning of July 11, 1792, Thomas Jefferson took a historic two-block stroll through the streets of Philadelphia carrying $75 worth of his own silver.

The CCAC also endorsed the Mint’s design of the new bullion coin, a 1-ounce $25 face value palladium coin. As the authorizing law requires, the obverse features a reproduction of the 1916 Winged Liberty Head dime design of sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, and the reverse adopts the eagle design from a gold medal Weinman created for the American Institute of Architects.

The March 21 meeting is the second session in which Kareem Abul Jabbar, the former National Basketball Association star and a coin collector, participated. He called in to the meeting from Los Angeles, but did not submit his ballot on the medals in time to be counted as the 11th member at the meeting.

Also announced at the meeting was that CCAC member Thomas J. Uram had secured a second four-year term on the committee with the support of the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. 

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