Update, 1/18/17: In a blog post dated January 17, Coin World’s Paul Gilkes announced that the 2017 American Liberty gold $100 coin will be available for sale on the Mint’s website at noon on April 6. The mintage limit will be 100,000. No household order limit has been established at this time.
Last Thursday (January 12), the U.S. Mint kicked off the year-long celebration of its 225th anniversary with the official unveiling of the 2017 American Liberty gold coin. This is the first in a series of 24-karat gold coins that will depict an allegorical Liberty in a variety of contemporary forms to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States. Future designs will represent Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Indian-Americans, among others. The 24-karat gold coins will be issued every two years; a corresponding series of medals struck in .999 silver, with the same designs featured on the gold coins, will also be available.
The series builds on the successful foundation of the 2015 American Liberty high-relief gold coin, which was originally intended to be a standalone issue. The final design for that coin was voted upon by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) at its January 27, 2015 meeting in Washington, D.C. Both the CCAC and the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) were unanimous in their support of the design, which features an elegant Liberty whose features don’t quite conform to the expected appearance of any one race. (In a Coin World post, writer Bill McAllister noted that in their voting, the CCAC had rejected a design in which the effigy was explicitly African-American—not because of her race, but because the design had less in the way of Liberty iconology, which is a series priority.) In addition to voting on the 2015 design, the CCAC expressed a desire to see the American Liberty coin return as a series in which the allegorical Liberty figure might be updated to reflect the nation’s cultural and ethnic diversity.
On June 30, the 2015 American Liberty high-relief gold coin debuted. Priced at $1,490, it sold 36,686 units on its first day, and nearly 42,000 by the end of the week. The companion silver medals, sold in 2016, were extremely popular and sold out quickly. Across the Internet, collectors’ opinions are divided as to whether the 2017 coin, on which Liberty is specifically depicted as a young African American woman, will do as well. The coin has received almost universally positive coverage in the wider press.
Despite the fuss around the design, the unveiling was a thoughtful and dignified event. The ceremony was opened by the Mint’s chief of staff, Elisa Basnight, who described the Mint’s coinage as “the metallic footprints of our nation’s history.” She spoke of the continuing evolution of American society, and pointed out that the representation of Liberty was evolving along with the nation. Rhett Jeppson, principal deputy director of the Mint, expressed pride in the Mint’s Constitutional basis. “Our founding fathers realized the critical need for our fledgling nation to have a respected monetary system,” he said, “and over the last 225 years, the Mint has never failed in its mission.”
In a reception after the unveiling, participants were able to see examples of the coin up close. “It was a pleasure to take part in this historic event at the Treasury,” says Ellen Feingold, curator of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. “The 225th Anniversary gold coin is a beautiful and important addition to our nation’s coinage.” Michael Moran, one of four CCAC members who were in attendance, describes the ceremony as “a proud and deserving moment for the U.S. Mint,” adding, “The design that we recommended was beautifully executed in high relief.” Another CCAC member, Erik N. Jansen, describes the coin program as “the touchstone of our times.”
The coin’s obverse design depicts a profile of Liberty wearing a crown of stars, with the inscriptions LIBERTY, 1792, 2017, and IN GOD WE TRUST. The reverse design depicts a bold and powerful eagle in flight, with eyes toward opportunity and a determination to attain it. Inscriptions include UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, E PLURIBUS UNUM, 1OZ. .9999 FINE GOLD, and 100 DOLLARS.
The obverse was designed by Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) designer Justin Kunz and sculpted by mint sculptor-engraver Phebe Hemphill, while the reverse was designed by AIP designer Chris Costello and sculpted by Mint sculptor-engraver Michael Gaudioso. ❑
This story was edited on 1/17 at 9:30 a.m. to correct a photo credit.