US Coins

What’s the Citizen Coinage Advisory Committee’s biggest secret?

The biggest secret of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee is the CCAC itself.

That was the message during the CCAC’s March 6 public forum at the American Numismatic Association National Money Show in Portland, Ore.

The most vocal of members may have been Erik N. Jansen, who reiterated to the attendees that the CCAC is just one part of the idea-refining process.

“The No. 1 thing that collectors out there should know is that we take marching orders from Congress,” he said. “I know it’s frustrating, but that’s how this country works. We just don’t have the authority. ... Raise your hand as well, because we’re up here screaming as well.”

Jansen said there are many great ideas for coinage themes, pointing to the return of Liberty to coinage.

“There are a lot of collectors who want to see Liberty, and a lot that want ‘live long and prosper.’ They do. Some people have suggested brilliant ideas about themes of American history. To them I say, ‘write your Congressman.’ ” 

Gary Marks, departing chairman, contemplated the committee’s achievements during his service, which began in 2007 and ends in a few months. 

Those accomplishments include getting involved in the design process earlier, providing guidance with potential themes, as the committee did on March 5 in telephone consultation with constituents at the federal lands to be honored on 2017 America the Beautiful quarter dollars. 

“That’s a fairly typical process for us now,” he said. “We’ve felt more vested in the process. The Mint has really stepped up and provided us access to the Mint artists.”

Member Donald Scarinci pointed to a 2010 CCAC meeting as the turning point, noting that the CCAC “rebellion” resulted in the U.S. Mint following a blueprint for better coinage design, created out of that insurrection.

“In very constructive and productive ways, everything changed after that meeting,” he said. “Any large institutional change is glacial but this was fairly rapid change. We’re starting to see a lot of good, creative designs. For the first time since 2008, the U.S. Mint won a Coin of the Year Award this year” (the 2013 Mount Rushmore National Park quarter dollar was recognized as the Best Circulating Coin for the 2015 awards). 

In reflecting on his tenure, Marks noted a few tasks that the CCAC did not achieve, including raising its profile.

The CCAC should create “an after-action review following the closure of sales to determine what worked, what didn’t, how did the coins strike up, and how they might improve future iterations of coins issued by the U.S. Mint,” he said.

Scarinci said the U.S. Mint needs to raise the profile of its artists, making them “rock stars” and sending them to international artist confabs like the Fédération Internationale de la Médaille d’Art. 

Committee member Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, a FIDEM delegate, said that the lack of public or institutional support places American artists at a disadvantage compared to artists of some other countries.

“It changes your life to go to these events,” she said.

There also needs to be a focus on younger artists, she said, because that is the group that will make the next generation of coins.

Jansen said that the committee wants to make sure that technology like adding color needs to be limited, so as to avoid “mania.”

In the end, Jansen said, “People collect from the heart.” 

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