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The Coin Analyst: CCAC Endorses U.S. Mint Proposal for 2015 Ultra High Relief Coin and Medal

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.

Artist’s Rendition of Possible 2015 UHR gold and Silver Medal reverse

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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golino The Coin Analyst: U.S. and World Mint News Update for JulyLouis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin WorldNumismatic 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 NumismatistHis 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,PCGSNGCand CACHe 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.

Louis Golino
Louis Golino
Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern U.S. and world coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern numismatic issues and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s (NLG) award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to Coin World, where he wrote a bimonthly feature and weekly blog, and The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s (ANA) monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins. He is also a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum sponsored by Modern Coin Mart. He previously served as a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and as a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s when he began writing op-ed articles and news analyses.

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  1. I applaud the US Mint for wanting to bring this semi high relief combo coin idea to fruition, what an exciting idea. I’m also happy that chairman Marks seems to really care about new and innovative ideas instead of crowding existing ones already in collections. Hopefully the offering will move forward and I wilt not be found in wanting at the time of entrance. Thank you very much for the article Louis.

    • Thanks, Dusty.
      I think there is a pretty strong chance this will come to fruition because the Mint and CCAC approved it, congressional approval is not required, and the Treasury Secretary hardly ever goes against these recommendations. The main possible hitch would be technical issues. In 2009 it took a lot of trial and error to get the coins right.

  2. Thanks for an other great article following the development of our next great numismatic product, and the long overdue paradigm shift that is helping to drive it. I anxiously await the arrival of this 2015 HR offering and the medalic medals programs that could follow in its wake. At one time, there had been discussion on Liberty Themed Circulating coinage; a new pattern in a different denomination every other year. That still a possibility?

    In reading through the Committee’s discussion points, I did not fully agree with Member Scarinci’s comment, where in he offered “we are starting to see ‘some very beautiful designs and American art’ on coins.” If we are to consider the US Mint’s annual commemorative coin programs and some of their other unique numismatic offerings as supporting evidence, then I’d say the Mint is currently at 3 in 10 for beautiful designs and artwork. Two of the four most recent commemoratives (2013 GSA and 2014 CRA) have been abismal failures – and mostly due to their artwork! Granted, so many of the US Commemorative Coins are the victims of the very same legislation that established them. And, while the Baseball HOF coin program has been extremely successful, that success has been the result of the uniqueness of the coin (1st US Mint “Domed”) and the wide popularity of the subject matter. Those designs are beautiful in their simplicity and their suitability for the domed format. I do not necessarily equate those same two designs to thought provoking, awe-inspiring artwork for generations to come. The artwork that so many of the Mint’s artists and sculptors already are capable of producing now.

    Change is coming, though, and that’s a Good Thing!

    • Thank you, Chris. The Liberty circulating series has not gained traction in Congress unfortunately.
      I appreciate the fact that unlike some people you understand the broader game plan behind these new initiatives, and I agree we are quite a ways from reaching anything approaching our real potential in terms of coin design. I would just add that the committee operates by majority rule not consensus, and I have heard several members say they too disliked the CRA and GSA coins, which they voted against.
      Finally, while I am eager to see the modern Liberty coins our artists create, I would really like to see our coinage become more reflective of the overall American experience. I mean something is amiss when France, Belgium, Australia, etc. all issue coins for the 70th anniv. of D-Day and we don’t. Just to give one example.


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