High Relief Medal Beautiful in Proof
11 months ago, on July 13, the U.S. Mint announced (http://www.coinworld.com/news/us-coins/2015/07/united-states-mint-nixes-high-relief-silver-medal.html) that it would not be producing a companion high-relief silver medal to go with its $100 American Liberty high-relief gold coin, which sold out of its entire 50,000-coin mintage.
As I explained in a column last year, this program was the brainchild of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee under the leadership of former Chairman Gary Marks, which envisioned an ongoing series of high-relief gold coins and silver medals of the same design with the theme of modern images of Liberty.
The Mint decided to use the 2015 design for a 2016 silver medal, which still has no release date. But today after my colleague Paul Gilkes published a story (http://www.coinworld.com/news/us-coins/2016/06/american-liberty-high-relief-silver-medal-on-horizon.html) about production of the medals at the West Point and San Francisco mints and photos of the medal, Gary Marks said that he is “super excited” about the 2016 silver medal, and that he worked “hard along with members of my committee to revive images of "Liberty" on U.S. coins and medals. This silver medal is the result of our efforts.”
“I am super excited now because it was so difficult to make this happen and there were numerous times I was almost certain we had failed or that the program was headed in a hopelessly wrong direction. I am most excited that Mint leadership finally followed the Committee's recommendation to produce this medal as a silver proof (rather than an uncirculated version). I am very pleased also that plans to produce another silver Liberty medal are in the works for 2017. Hopefully these Liberty medals will become an annual series (also a Committee recommendation). It is my further hope that collectors will support this program with strong sales as a demonstration to the Mint's leadership team and key Members of Congress that "Liberty" does indeed sell.”
“Ultimately I want Miss Liberty to be restored to our circulating coinage. A successful medals program might help give that challenging goal a much needed push. Congratulations are in order to the following artists who together created the artwork for this medal: Justin Kunz, obverse designer; Phebe Hemphill, obverse sculptor; Paul C. Balan, reverse designer; and Don Everhart, reverse sculptor. Outstanding work all!”
In correspondence with Gary, I told him I really feel the design works so much better in the proof format than the business strike used on the 2015 gold coins. This is because the contrast between the frosted design devices and the mirrored background fields work much better than the matte finish of the business strike gold coin in translating Justin Kunz and Paul Balan’s excellent designs into stunning high-relief medallic art.
And he agreed, responding: “These designs were meant for proof. From the beginning the Mint folks saw the Liberty program as a book end to the 2009 UHR St. Gaudens which had the business strike finish. I was disappointed to see last year's gold Liberty coin follow the same route. CCAC members kept pushing the idea that a proof finish would make the difference between a well-received program and a super-charged success.”
“With these silver medals now in the works with proof finish with "S" and "W" mint marks I will be curious to see how many sell. I hope the Mint takes the same approach as they did with the 2011 National 9/11 Silver Metal and offer these Liberty medals for a defined time period for sales rather than with a capped numerical limit. A mintage cap would be a big disappointment since it would deny all of us from seeing how popular the program might be if allowed to seek its own sales level.”
I would add that a lot of people who said they did not like the design last year are very likely going to have a different view when they see the new medals. These truly are modern classics, and as Gary said, let’s hope that this program helps to encourage new circulating Liberty-themed coins, another proposal of the CCAC under his leadership.