Article 4 of 7
The outstanding Salt River Bay portfolio benefited from designs with bold, singular, primary devices that immediately draw the eye—a conch shell, a turtle, a mangrove tree. I like that approach because it helps to make a coin memorable. Thinking back to the Frank Church River of No Return wilderness coin (which will be minted in 2019): I supported the design that had a big, bold, front-facing portrait of a wolf. Kids would see that and they would all start checking their piggy banks and pocket change to find “the wolf quarter.” There would be no risk of it being just one more coin that you could describe as “the one with the mountains.” All of the Salt River Bay designs have that same type of boldness.
As an interesting sidebar: none of the designs directly illustrate the historical aspect of this historical park. But with so many excellent designs based on its natural environment, we couldn’t complain.
VI-01, which was our liaison’s preference, nicely illustrates a young red mangrove tree, which is a very distinctive type of flora, in the early stages of its life cycle. The Mint’s program managers described the scene: “The design brings awareness to the park’s endangered mangrove forests and the unique and delicate nature of how the species reproduces in salt water.” This was by far the winning design for the CCAC, earning 23 of 24 possible points in our voting.
VI-02, with its swimming school of Blackbar soldierfish, has active motion—a dimension we don’t see in every coin design. I found it appealing for that reason. It earned 8 points in our voting, tying it with VI-07 as our second choice (although far behind VI-01).
VI-03 has a bold central device in its conch-shell design, backed up by other elements important to the flora and landscape of the park—plus an artful use of white space to suggest water. It’s a good coin design, and in a portfolio of weaker contenders it would have done very well; its disadvantage was only in being part of a group of very strong competition. It earned 4 points.
VI-04 and 07 were possibly our last best chance to finally get a sea turtle into the America the Beautiful coinage program. This has been a running joke for the CCAC for several years, as turtle- and tortoise-related themes have been very popular, but have ultimately been dismissed for one reason or another.
Of VI-04 and 07, the latter is my favorite artistically. It conveys more sense of an animal in its natural habitat. In 04, the green sea turtle is much more central to the design, but that comes at the expense of a greater sense of realism—the turtle is floating in air rather than swimming in the water.
VI-04 earned 6 votes, and VI-07 earned 8.
VI-12 is artful and has personality, but I think it loses something by not showing the entire turtle, and also by not showing it in motion. Committee member Erik Jansen also pointed out the rings of water: he liked the effect, which is stylized rather than life-realistic, but he found its stylization distracting here. VI-12 earned 7 points in our voting.
The CCAC’s strong recommendation to the secretary of the Treasury is VI-01 (pictured earlier in this article).
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Dennis Tucker is the numismatic specialist on the U.S. Treasury Department’s 11-member Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. He is a life member of the American Numismatic Association and publisher at Whitman Publishing.