US Coins

Symbolism on display at latest CCAC meeting

The CCAC loved the use of symbolism in this design for the 2019 Lowell National Historical Park in Massachusetts. The panel’s selection shows a “mill girl,” weaving shuttle in hand, its stylized thread flowing from a millstream’s water.

Original images courtesy of U.S. Mint.

Members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee expressed delight Sept. 19 that the U.S. Mint’s artists are moving toward more symbolic designs as they endorsed proposals for the 2019 America the Beautiful quarter dollars.

“This is what we’ve been asking for,” said sculptor Heidi Wastweet of Seattle as the panel backed a design filled with symbolism to commemorate the Lowell National Historical Park in Massachusetts.

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The park, according to the park’s website, celebrates how “water-powered textile mills catapulted the nation … into an uncertain new industrial era.”

To celebrate the same on the reverse of a quarter dollar, the panel’s selection shows a “mill girl,” weaving shuttle in hand, its stylized thread flowing from a millstream’s water.

“This hit all the marks in a beautiful way,” Wastweet said at the meeting.

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That was a sentiment repeated several times during the meeting.

Donald Scarinci, the panel’s senior member who presided over the meeting, credited a recent session that CCAC members had with Mint artists in Philadelphia for the improved designs.

“It makes me feel very good,” said the New Jersey lawyer, noting that the artists took the committee’s suggestions seriously.

“The artists are hearing us,” agreed Erik Jansen of Washington state as the panel gushed over the 15 designs suggested to honor the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas.

The committee backed a highly praised design that was largely based on the Spanish Colonial silver real, a coin that was widely used in the country’s early years. The endorsed design shows the four quadrants of the Spanish coin with symbols of the missions, the Spanish heraldic lion, wheat farming and the use of irrigation water.

Other designs in this group won high praise from CCAC members.

“This is the best group in the whole pile,” Scarinci said.

“We can’t go wrong,” said Robert Hoge, a numismatic curator.

“A fantastic packet,” Wastweet said.

“Well thought out,” said Thomas J. Uram, a Pennsylvania collector.

During its meeting, the CCAC backed designs for four 2019 quarter dollars and sent one back to the Mint for refinements.

The panel urged the Mint to enlarge the figures of a young Chamorro boy and a soldier standing in the foreground of a view of the Memorial Court of Honor at the American Memorial Park on Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. The design changes were left to the Mint but the committee said it would like to review the revisions in October.

For another Pacific island territory, Guam, the panel endorsed a design showing an infantryman landing on the island in 1944 to liberate it from Japanese forces.

This coin will commemorate Guam’s War in the Pacific National Historical Park.

The CCAC rejected several designs aimed at displaying the biodiversity of the park, noting they had not been able to get Treasury officials to approve a design that featured a turtle near a mill in another park.

“We don’t have a good turtle record,” said Mary Lannin of California, urging the panel to “save our turtle for another time.”

The committee did turn to wildlife for an Idaho quarter dollar to celebrate the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

Told that some Idaho officials were not keen on featuring wolves on the coin, the panel nonetheless backed a design that the Mint said shows a howling wolf “found far from human habitation,” looking skyward at the stars and surrounded by tall conifers.

Wolves were featured on 10 of the 22 proposed designs, which delighted numismatic editor Dennis Tucker of Atlanta. He predicted children would be thrilled by “the wolf quarter.”

OSS Medal Symbolic

The CCAC also voiced praises for members of the OSS Society for their support in refining designs of a congressional gold medal to honor the Office of Strategic Services for its secret activities backing Allied Forces during World War II. The panel voted overwhelmingly to endorse the group’s recommendation for a medal obverse that would feature “OSS” in large letters. The silhouette of a woman in civilian garb appears in the O; a paratrooper, in the first S; and a man in a suit in the second S. The years 1942–1944 appear under the lettering.

The reverse of the medal bears the organization’s symbol, a spear overprinted with the names and operations of some of the agency’s most famous members. The “109” in the center, for example, was the code name of OSS founder Gen. William Donovan.

Looking at all the letters on the reverse, Scarinci, a medals specialist, asked the obvious.

“Is there a code in there?” he asked society president Charles T. Pinck.

“No,” Pinck said with a laugh, “but I thought about it.”

Both the Commission of Fine Arts and the CCAC had recommended other designs for the medal at meetings earlier this year.

But Pinck said his group was moved by some of the committee member’s comments about those designs and decided to change its recommendations.

The design recommendations for both the medals and coins will go to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has the final say on what designs go on the nation’s coins and medals.

Scarinci served as chair of the meeting because Treasury Department officials had not yet approved Mary Lannin’s extension as the head of the committee.

A San Rafael, California, resident and former public television producer, she was nominated for the committee by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA.

The Trump administration also has a number of other Treasury openings to fill, including that of Mint director. After the meeting, Scarinci told Cold World: “I was told to be prepared to serve as chair for today’s meeting because the secretary’s office has not yet approved Mary to be the chair.”

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