By Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
During a teleconference held on July 22 the 10 members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) unanimously endorsed a proposal by the U.S. Mint to use existing statutory legal authority to issue an American Liberty ultra high relief gold coin and silver medal in 2015.
The proposal is for a 24 karat, one troy ounce ultra high relief double eagle gold coin and an accompanying silver medal.
The coin and medal, if the proposal is implemented, will feature an obverse design that depicts a modern image of Liberty and a reverse that will be based on the design the committee recommended in April to replace the reverse of the American silver eagle coin.
The Mint has declined to replace the current silver eagle reverse with the CCAC’s suggested new design, deciding to leave that coin as it is.
Mint officials came forward with this new proposal, “opting instead to consider showcasing the beauty and intricacies of the recommended [silver eagle] design” on the proposed UHR gold coin and silver medal.
The new proposal builds on the success of the 2009 ultra high relief double eagle gold coin, which was sold throughout 2009 with no mintage limit, and which remains very popular to this day. It was in many ways the showpiece of Edmund Moy’s tenure at the Mint.
At the time that coin was issued Mr. Moy said he saw it as the fulfillment of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ 1907 vision for a renaissance in American coinage that would produce coins as compelling as those from ancient Greece and Rome. That vision could not be achieved using the equipment the Mint had back then, but it was achieved with the 2009 UHR coin, in Mr. Moy’s view, using modern technology. More broadly, the 2009 coin “closed one chapter of American coin design,” according to the Mint, and marked the beginning of a new one, a “neo-renaissance” in American coin design in Mr. Moy’s vision.
The proposed 2015 high relief double eagle is viewed by the Mint and the CCAC as a follow-up to the 2009 coin, although it will feature new designs rather than re-using old classic designs. That fits in with the overall mission of the CCAC under the tenure of its current Chairman, Gary Marks, which is “to create modern images of American liberty and freedom that will leave a legacy of coin designs that reflect our era,” as I noted in my July article in The Numismatist.
Unlike most coin programs that require congressional approval, the Mint has broad authority under 31 U.S.C. 5112(i)(4)(C) to strike gold coins with approval from the Secretary of the Treasury. Because it does not have that same discretion with respect to silver coins, the proposal includes a silver medal, which would be issued under the authority granted to the Secretary under 31 U.S.C. 5111(a)(2). U.S.C. is the United States Code.
Several committee members noted that is important to offer both products since many buyers cannot afford a one-ounce gold coins.
Committee member Donald Scarinci said that until recently Moy’s vision had not been fulfilled, but that we are starting to see “some very beautiful designs and American art” on coins. He called the proposal “a bold initiative” that can “begin to introduce more 21st century designs to the American people” that “convey our Americanism.” He sees the proposal as the possible demarcation of a new era in coin design.
Committee member Michael Moran also sees the plan as “a pivot point for the Mint” and a “benchmark” for other world mints. He hopes the 2015 coins will be the first in a series. However, he also had some words of caution. First, as he explained “the depth of the relief” needs to be determined later based on the chosen design and not specified upfront as ultra high relief because that would “limit the viability of the design.” An ultra high relief coin would have to be struck on a smaller planchet, and Mr. Moran said he favored the use the larger diameter planchet of a double eagle gold coin, so this will have to be worked out later as the coin cannot be both a UHR and have the larger diameter. He also said he favored a silver medal of the same size and pointed out that so far the Mint has not said anything about the diameter.
Chairman Marks agreed with the idea of using a full-sized double eagle planchet and said it would still be possible to have “decent relief with the larger planchet.” He also saw the meeting as an historic moment because of its potential to encourage a new era in American coin design, one that fulfills Mr. Moy’s 2007 vision.
After discussing the proposal, during which every member expressed a considerable degree of interest in and enthusiasm for the project, there was a unanimous voice vote of all the committee’s ten current members. They also said the proposal could have other potentially far-reaching implications by bringing in more people to numismatics and increasing demand for the Mint’s products.
There was no discussion about issues like mintage or household limits as those are decisions that will be made by Mint officials.
They then went on to discuss an idea proposed in April by Chairman Marks for an American Liberties silver medal program that would allow the Mint’s artists to produce new and modern images of Liberty. The program would consist of proof medals in silver and possibly also in gold and bronze. Each medal would be dated, and there would be a new design each year on each side. The only restriction is that they depict American themes. The chairman proposed setting up a working group for the medal program.
Chairman Marks also said he envisioned the pairing of American silver eagles and the new silver medals in one product. He said the medal program is “the best way to improve medallic art in the U.S.” since it would free artists to produce their best work, and that “Liberty will be liberated.”
Mr. Marks told CoinWeek: “I am pleased and excited with the current progress towards the creation of a 2015 UHR gold liberty-themed coin and companion silver medal. Further, I am hopeful the 2015 effort will provide a springboard for the creation of an ongoing arts medal program at the United States Mint. I believe such a program holds the potential to advance medallic art at the Mint and in our nation generally in a more expansive way than any since the early 20th century.”
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U.S. Mint correspondence concerning possible 2015 Ultra High Relief Program.
Copyright © CoinWeek – June 2014
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Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His article, “Proposed Design Change Takes Flight,” which deals with the CCAC’s recommendation for a new reverse for the American silver eagle, appears in the July issue of the Numismatist. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA,PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.