Open design competitions always exciting for the public and hobby

?The United States Mint is ready to kick off the open design competition for the 2018 World War I American Veterans Centennial commemorative silver dollar program, and that is exciting news.

Open coinage design competitions are fun. It is always exciting to see members of the public interpret themes for the nation’s coinage and generate designs. And while the U.S. Mint’s designers at the Philadelphia Mint are a talented bunch, as are those in the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program, it is nice to give new artists an opportunity to let their creative juices flow. Just ask Cassie McFarland.

McFarland was the winning artist in the Mint’s last open design competition, this for the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coin program. She submitted the winning baseball glove obverse design used on three coins in the program (paired with a baseball design by Donald Everhart II on the reverse).

McFarland was a 27-year-old figurative oil painter, portraitist and sculptor from San Luis Obispo, Calif., when officials announced that she won the competition. Her design was selected over those submitted by 177 other design hopefuls for the Baseball Hall of Fame program. She went from someone whose artistic talents were mostly known locally and at the university level, to a celebrity who was honored nationally for creating a simple yet stirring design reflecting the joys of “America’s pastime.” 

The history of coinage design competitions in the United States has been mixed. The first were in the 1890s as the Mint sought replacements for the Seated Liberty design on the dime, quarter dollar, and half dollar. Established artists who had been invited to compete in a limited competition roundly rejected the Mint’s terms. A follow-up competition open to the public attracted designs of unsatisfactory quality, apparently. The Mint’s chief engraver, Charles Barber, stepped in to create the new designs.

However, the limited competition to replace Barber’s designs a quarter of a century later was spectacularly successful, resulting in some of the most beautiful designs to ever grace silver coinage (by coincidence, celebrating their centennial anniversary in 2016). Subsequent design competitions included those resulting in the Washington quarter dollar in 1932, the Jefferson 5-cent coin in 1938, and the Bicentennial designs of 1975 and 1976.

Senior Editor Paul Gilkes outlines the design competition’s goals and terms in his article. If you are artistically inclined, read them and then get busy creating.

The winning designer will have to convey the accomplishments and contributions of American veterans who served during World War I. All of those veterans are now gone, but their sacrifice lives on.

What will the submitted designs look like? Who will be the next Cassie McFarland to win the design competition for the 2018 commemorative silver dollar? We eagerly await the answers.