By Bullion Shark LLC ……
On August 18, the United States Mint released the 2022 American Liberty silver medal, including regular website sales and 5,000 medals that were available at the American Numismatic Association’s (ANA) World’s Fair of Money held almost two weeks ago in Rosemont, Illinois, where collectors were lined up that morning to purchase the medal. They became unavailable within 40 minutes online, and they sold out in person very quickly, pushing secondary market prices up–especially for examples graded PF70 that have special labels such as those offered at the ANA show by NGC and PCGS.
The medal contains one ounce of .999 fine silver, has the same diameter as an American Silver Eagle (40.6 millimeters), has a plain edge rather than a reeded one as coins have, and was struck in Proof at the Philadelphia Mint. It had a product and mintage limit of 75,000 medals and an order limit of five per person whether online or at the show.
When the design that appears on this medal was first recommended by members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) in October 2019, the committee had been given a total of 20 obverse designs that, according to the Mint, “envision American Liberty beyond the classical depiction of an allegorical ‘Lady Liberty’ as the primary device, and instead present new and modern ideas to transform the iconography associated with American Liberty.”
The obverse design the CCAC recommended from that group, which is a major departure from anything that has appeared before on a U.S. coin or medal (especially as a representation of Liberty), features an image of a wild American mustang horse that is bucking off a western style saddle with a rising run appearing below them. The design, the Mint explained, was intended to represent the freeing of the American colonies from the tyranny of British rule, or as the Mint noted: “throwing off of the yoke of British rule during the American Revolution.”
The reverse design they proposed has a close-up, right-facing profile of the head of a bald eagle with its beak open.
These designs, which were approved and later selected by the Treasury Secretary first for the 2021-W $100 American Liberty high-relief gold coin and now used on the silver medal, are the work of Beth Zaieken of the Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) who created the obverse design, while Craig A. Campbell sculpted it. The reverse design was created by Richard Masters (also of the AIP) and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill. Both sculptors are on the Mint’s medallic staff.
The medal is identical to last year’s gold coin apart from having a larger diameter, not being in high relief, and not having the inscriptions the coin has in the lower portion of both sides, which gives the silver medal a cleaner look.
Public reaction from collectors in 2019 to this bold and unusual design on the obverse was mixed, with many collectors expressing confusion about the meaning of the design and others saying the quality of the art was lacking.
In fact, Gary Marks, a former member and chairman of the CCAC, noted back then the horse design was “an epic failure” because it was such a stark departure from the “228-year American design tradition” of portraying Liberty as a woman.
But as often happens when collectors react strongly to line art images for proposed coin and then see the finished product, the design is now very popular with collectors. And that makes sense considering how popular Western themes tend to be on American coins.
And when the 2021-W gold coin with the same design went on sale, it came close to selling out on the first day! And that was for a coin with a price tag close to $3,000!
Marks now likes the design too, saying recently:
“Both sides of this medal break some long-held design norms in American coin/medal iconology. On that basis I shouldn’t like it … but I do. I believe that taking risks and being innovative can bring new energy and interest to the numismatic world.”
Keep in mind that the whole idea of moving away from depicting Liberty as a female as was done from the Mint’s founding in 1792 was happening at the initiative of former Mint Director David J. Ryder, who said in a 2019 interview that “Liberty takes a number of different forms, and there are a lot of interpretations of what Liberty means to a lot of different people.”
Thanks to the very same American Liberty program that was first proposed by the CCAC when it was led by Marks, we saw in 2015 the first non-Caucasian woman and in 2017 the first Black woman as Liberty.
Former CCAC chairman and member Thomas J. Uram–who received the Chester Krause Distinguished Service Award from the ANA earlier this month–said of the new medal, which he helped recommend when he was on the committee:
“The 2022 Liberty silver medal depicts a unique perspective of liberty. We had many other traditional perspectives. However, this brought a dimension that is thought-provoking. Liberty means many things to many people. You should read the COA to completely understand the meaning of the obverse and reverse designs. Once you do, you’ll have an additional interpretation of liberty and this design.”
It will be interesting to see what non-traditional depiction of Liberty appears next in this ground-breaking series of gold coins and silver medals.