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Monday, June 11, 2018, found me flying north from beautiful Atlanta, Georgia, to our nation’s bustling capital in Washington, D.C., home to the headquarters of the United States Mint. In my briefcase was a binder full of notes, research, and artists’ sketches for the final two years of the America the Beautiful quarter dollars.
The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) was scheduled to meet Tuesday to review, discuss, and make recommendations for the six coins remaining in the America the Beautiful quarter dollar program. Each coin in the program honors a national park, forest, wilderness, memorial, or other site in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories.
Something interesting I noted as I studied the package of more than 50 designs in the 2020/2021 portfolio: Since the ATB program started in 2010, the CCAC (along with the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts) has reviewed hundreds of design proposals. So far, through 2018, the Mint has produced 45 of the program’s 56 coins. Of the coins that have been minted, only two have had design elements that break the coin’s perimeter border, piercing from the inner canvas into the outer ring:
- 2016 Fort Moultrie—The battle flag breaks the border at 2 o’clock.
- 2018 Cumberland Island—The crane’s wing tip breaks the border around 9 o’clock.
In this final portfolio, one-third of the design candidates—17 of the 52—break the border. This includes 7 of the 11 Tuskegee Airmen designs (two-thirds of that group).
Out of curiosity, I asked Ron Harrigal, the Mint’s manager of design and engraving: While we’re reviewing these candidates, should we automatically discard the ones that break the border? Or, should we assume that they’ll be modified to fit within the border? Mr. Harrigal assured us that although this type of design innovation presents certain technical challenges, the Mint’s artists can make it work.
Only one of our recommendations ended up being one that pierces the outer rim of the design template. It will be interesting to see if Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who has the final say in coinage designs, agrees with our choices. We might see at least one more coin in the program that features this dynamic effect.
The portfolio for the 2020 and 2021 coins included some of the most impressive candidates we’ve seen in the America the Beautiful program. The series already includes some outstanding examples of coinage art, including one prestigious “Coin of the Year” award-winner. Judging by the contenders we reviewed this week, the America the Beautiful program will go out with a bang.
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.