Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts on a recommendation of the Citizens Coinage
Advisory Committee. Thanks! -Editor
To their credit the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) is calling for the U.S. Treasury
to issue two annual art medals. One, emblematic of Liberty and issued in a uniform series, would
change only one side each year.
The other would be a Freestyle Art Medal allowing the artist to choose not only the subject but
also a style to best present that theme. It is anticipated a medallic creation would be chosen by a
new artist each year.
While the topic of issuing art medals struck by the U,S, Mint has long been discussed by the
Committee, this is the first time the proposal has reached a full recommendation to the
The Committee has substantial credentials for making such recommendation. Five numismatists have
been members of the Committee during these discussions, including Michael Moran, Arthur Houghton,
Roger Burdette and Robert Hoge.
Authorities from the medallic field include Heidi Wastweet and Jeanne Stevens-Sollman. Donald
Scarinci, now in his second term, falls in both categories having collected U.S. Colonial coins
and, within the last decade, has built the world's largest private art medal collection.
The recommendation suggests the size for each medal: 2-inch (40.6mm) for the annual Liberty
series medal, and 3-inch (76.2mm) or thereabouts for the Freestyle Medal.
The Liberty Medal would contain one ounce of .999 fine silver, and the Freestyle Medal issued in
both silver and bronze.
It is hoped the Mint resists the temptation to strike the Liberty Medal on a coining press,
which it could easily do because of the size. As such it would fall within the bullion medal
category and negate any art medal appeal, The design and model is hoped to be of such high relief
it would be required to be struck on a medal press.
As for the Freestyle Medal its appeal will depend upon two things -- the reputation of the
artist and the design of the image. The invitation for such a medal should attract only seasoned
medallists. This should not be a training ground for wannabe medallists.
Unfortunately the initial submission of the design ideas must be as drawings. (I say
unfortunately because exceptional art medal designs often cannot be expressed adequately as
2-dimensional drawings, they must be viewed as reliefs.)
From these entries however, a handful of designs would be selected and the artists must then
furnish oversize bas-relief models. It is hoped the selection would be made by artists
knowledgeable in medallic art and not government bureaucrats.
Final selection would be made from these entries. No payment would be made to artists submitting
drawings, payments should be made to compensate all artists submitting models, with a substantial
amount to the artist creating the final selection.
Production of the dies is another important aspect. Current attitude at the Mint is to make all
reductions by computer engraving technology, as the Mint has mothballed all their Janvier reducing
machines. Art medals require the delicate, realistic, finite execution of die-cutting best
accomplished on Janvier or similar machines from metal patterns. ("If it's in the model,
it's in the medal.")
Computer engraving, while satisfactory for most die-cutting and exhibits great savings in time,
the images it produces are somewhat more plastic, less detailed in comparison to the life-like,
finite realism which can be obtained by earlier established technology.
We welcome the Mint's return to art medal issuing. Previously it was phased out in the 1980s
when all medal inventories were sold off -- some indignantly sold in grab-bags -- and no new medals
issued, other than what was demanded by Congress.
The Treasury should not expect large sales of art medals, at least not like some of the coin
issues they have come to experience recently. But issuing such art medals every year they are
supporting a vital art media in America. They will earn a profit from coin issues; they will earn a
reputation from art medal issuing.
We welcome this proposal.
Paul Gilkes wrote an article for Coin World about the CCAC recommendation at:
David Harper, editor of Numismatic News is conducting a poll, asking for comments and if
you would purchase such art medals. He can be reached at: David.Harper@fwpubs.com
I agree with Dick - I think this is a great (Back-to-the-Future) step forward for
the Mint, and I'll look forward to the first products in this new program. -Editor
Wayne Homren, Editor
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