The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee met at the United States Mint’s Washington, D.C. headquarters on March 1st, 2011, to review candidate designs for the 2011 National September 11th Memorial & Museum Commemorative Silver Medals. The medal will be released in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the attacks in New York and Washington, as well as the crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
These National Medals were authorized by Congress and will be sold directly by the United States Mint. The sales price of each medal will include a $10 surcharge payable to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center to support the operations and maintenance.
According to Public Law No: 111-221, the designs for the September 11th Silver Medals “shall be emblematic of the courage, sacrifice, and strength of those individuals who perished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the bravery of those who risked their lives to save others that day, and the endurance, resilience, and hope of those who survived.” Each medal is required to carry inscriptions of the years “2001-2011” and the words “Always Remember”.
Kaarina Budow from the US Mint provided the artist’s description of each of the designs being presented: 10 design candidates for the obverse, and 16 for the reverse. She also provided the recommendations of the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), another group that reviews coin and medal designs. The CFA recommended obverse design 10, but wanted the circle around the flame removed. They also liked reverse design 16. (Click on any image for enlarged version.)
Due to the large number of designs to be considered, Chairman Gary Marks suggested that the committee narrow down their selection, removing designs “that should not be considered in the final analysis,” concentrating on those designs “that best express what needs to be understood about this event.” At the end of this quick review, obverse designs 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 remained, as well as reverse designs 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 13, 14, 15 and 16.
Heidi Wastweet was first to comment. She was critical of the depiction of the tridents in obverse design 5; they are seven stories tall in real life, but that height is not being properly expressed in the design. Furthermore, they would not be well understood by the majority of the public that has not yet seen the memorial in New York. Obverse design 6 and 7, in her opinion, were “lacking in emotion”, and design 8 looked as if it was designed in 1920, not 2011. She overlooked obverse design 1 at first, but over time the symbolism became more apparent to her. The reverse designs received a lot of comment from Ms. Wastweet: the bell in design 4 not being a direct part of the events being commemorated, design 6 being “nice, but not emotional,” and 13 being “too abstract.”
Michael Brown concurred with Ms. Wastweet on obverse 1, stating that it gets more interesting the more you study it. Obverse 5 intrigued him with its flight numbers set into the design as representations of the times each flight crashed. Chairman Gary Marks followed Mr. Brown, indicating that obverse designs 6 and 7 were the “most literally inclusive of the events” but lacked emotion, echoing Ms. Wastweet. He also agreed on design 8’s dated look, but said it “is very emotional respectful classical,” its depiction of an extinguished torch being a first on American coin, calling it an “ouch moment.” On the reverse designs, he had a question for Mint sculptor/engraver Don Everhart regarding the potential use of reverse proof methods to indicate differences between the left and right regions of the waterfall.
Arthur Houghton was next: he spoke of the “sense of uplift” in obverse design 9, and that design 10 has a “symbolic state of mind”. He thought the building footprints in reverse design 8 were “obtrusive.” Rev. Dr. Richard Meier commented of the iconic nature of Lady Liberty as depicted in obverse 10 and the eagle in reverse 16: they “convey power, impact, emotion of the events,” and he “likes them just as they are.” Mike Ross liked the subtle response shown in obverse 1. He liked the use of pentagons in obverse designs 6 and 7, but it is “commonly seen”, and obverse designs 9 and 10 are distracted by other connotations. He also thought reverse design 5 “worked well” with obverse 1.
Dr. Doreen Bolger thought obverse design 1 and reverse design 3 “worked well together,” communicating the story of loss and rebirth. Michael Olson found the first obverse design “appealing”. He applauded the outside-the-box thinking on obverse design 5, but was “not in favor” of designs 6 and 7. He thought obverse design 8 was “well done, but not sure it works”, he didn’t like the leaves in obverse design 9, and had “no opinion on the circle” around the flame in obverse design 10. Prior to the voting, Ms. Wastweet commented she was “happy they were talking about pairing of designs”, unifying the story of “the whole coin.”
The committee voted as follows:
Obverse: 1-16 votes, 5-3 votes, 7-1 vote, 8-5 votes, 9-9 votes,10-18 votes (received committee recommendation).
Reverse: 2-1 votes, 3-9 votes, 4-1 vote, 5-5 votes, 6-4 votes, 8-13 votes, 13-5 votes, 14-2 votes, 15-16 votes, 16-18 votes.
After the vote, there were a number of motions filed. The first was from Ms. Wastweet, who wanted the committee to consider obverse designs 1 and 10 together as a pair. After a short period of comment, the motion failed on a 5-to-3 vote. The second was to consider reverse designs 16 over 15, putting them head-to-head, as their vote counts were very close. The words at the bottom were the only material difference, but in the members’ eyes, design 16, with its quote only talks about those that lost their lives, rather than the survivors as well as the spirit of rebirth for the nation as a whole. The members voted 5-to-3 to fail the motion, causing the originally first-place design 16 would not get the committee’s recommendation. To officially set that recommendation, a third and final motion was called to give that honor to reverse design 15; it passed 6-to-1 with 1 abstention.