This post was updated on March 21 at 6:30 p.m. to correct the term “Enhanced Proof.” Although ASEs with the Enhanced finish are sometimes referred to as Proofs or Specimens, they were marketed by the Mint in the spring of 2013 as having an ...

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Proof rendition of American Silver Eagle goes on sale March 23 and more...

Proof rendition of American Silver Eagle goes on sale March 23


This post was updated on March 21 at 6:30 p.m. to correct the term “Enhanced Proof.” Although ASEs with the Enhanced finish are sometimes referred to as Proofs or Specimens, they were marketed by the Mint in the spring of 2013 as having an “Enhanced Uncirculated” finish.

(Washington)—The United States Mint will begin accepting orders for the 2017 American Eagle 1-ounce silver Proof coin (17EA) on March 23 at noon Eastern Time.

The obverse of the ASE features Adolph A. Weinman’s full-length figure of Liberty in full stride, enveloped in folds of the flag, with her right hand extended and branches of laurel and oak in her left. Its reverse features former Mint sculptor-engraver John Mercanti’s heraldic eagle bearing a shield, with an olive branch in its right claw and arrows in its left.

American Eagle 1-ounce silver Proofs are struck on .999 fine silver blanks and bear the W mintmark, indicating their production at the U.S. Mint at West Point. Each coin is encapsulated and packaged in a satin-lined, blue-velvet presentation case with a certificate of authenticity.

The 2017 American Eagle 1-ounce silver Proof is priced at $53.95. Orders will be accepted at and at 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468), while hearing- and speech-impaired customers with TTY equipment may order at 1-888-321-MINT. Information about shipping options is available at

There is no household order limit for this product. Customer demand will determine the number of coins minted.

American Silver Eagle Finishes, Compared

Over the years, the Mint has issued ASE coins in an array of finishes. In addition to the basic bullion finish, there have been five numismatic treatments: Uncirculated; Proof (mirrored field, frosted devices); Reverse Proof (frosted field, mirrored devices); Burnished (frosted, but with a depth of reflective luster); and Enhanced Uncirculated (with three finishes, one mirrored and two in different degrees of frostiness; this one is sometimes incorrectly called “Enhanced Proof”). The photos at the top of the foregoing press release are official U.S. Mint photos of the 2017 ASE Proof coin—but because the fields reflect a white background, it’s impossible to detect any mirrored quality.

To supplement the press release, I went hunting for a photo that more clearly depicts the Proof quality of a silver Eagle. Doing so reminded me how incredibly difficult it is to capture these distinctions with a camera—which in turn made me think it would be helpful to have accurate images that can be referred to, as needed, for future posts. I sifted through scores of APMEX product pages to find them, and even there, it was often hard to see any difference between, say, bullion and Uncirculated. The results are arranged as a group below, and then added individually for closer study. It will be interesting to know how the finishes shown here compare with readers’ experiences.


At center is a 2016 bullion strike (no mintmark). Clockwise from the top, the dates, mintmarks, and finishes are as follows: Reverse Proof (2011-P), Enhanced Uncirculated (2013-W), Uncirculated (2011-S), Burnished (2006-W), and Proof (2011-W). (Photos courtesy of Mint News Blog sponsor APMEX)

Proof (2011-W).

Proof (2011-W).

Reverse Proof (2011-P).

Reverse Proof (2011-P).


Enhanced Proof (2013-W).

Enhanced Uncirculated (2013-W).

Bullion (2016).

Bullion (2016).

Uncirculated (2011-S).

Uncirculated (2011-S).

Burnished (2006-W).

Burnished (2006-W).

Press release comprising the first half of this post courtesy of the United States Mint.

2017 palladium American Eagle design mock-ups revealed

Mockup of the proposed design for the 2017 palladium American Eagle coin. (U.S. Mint photo, via Coin World)

Mockup of the proposed design for the 2017 palladium American Eagle coin. (U.S. Mint photo, via Coin World)

This post was modified on the evening of March 17 to add the image-comparison slider, and to modify the language about the obverse design, which suggested a more exact replication than actually exists.

In an article by Paul Gilkes, Coin World has shared U.S. Mint mock-ups (shown above) for the 2017 palladium bullion coins. The obverse closely follows (with a few subtle differences) the classic Winged Liberty dime obverse by Adolph A. Weinman. The word LIBERTY encircles the field above the effigy, while IN.GOD / WE.TRUST is placed in the lower left field, the designer’s initials in the lower right field, and the date, 2017, below Liberty’s neck. The matte gray surface of the mockup makes it easier to see certain details that are often obscured by wear or glare on the tiny silver coins: for example, the horizontal braid under the back of Liberty’s cap, and the folds in the back of the cap’s fabric.

Obverse comparison—move cursor over image from left to right:

The reverse recreates the main design of the American Institute of Architects’ gold medal reverse, with a few interesting differences. The dramatic, left-facing eagle and the rock it stands on are essentially the same as on the medal, as is the laurel sapling. And as on the medal, the eagle appears to be using its beak and right claw to pull the laurel from the rock. (On Weinman’s similarly designed Walking Liberty half dollar reverse, the sapling is a pine, representing a young America, and the mighty eagle is protecting it. Although I haven’t found a specific reference to the symbolism on the AIA medal, it would appear that, at minimum, the eagle is unimpressed by accolades.*) Added to the original design are a raised rim and the legally mandated UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, placed above the eagle, and 1 OZ. Pd .9995 FINE / E PLURIBUS UNUM, placed below. (“Pd,” of course, is the abbreviation for “palladium.”) The final mandated element is the denomination, $25, which is placed at the far left.

The fineness, metal, and motto, which are incused, replace Weinman’s name and the date, which were raised elements on the medal. Another reversal of relief is seen in the section of the laurel below the eagle’s claw: on the medal, the base of the plant and beginning of its roots were raised, whereas on the mockup, they are recessed into the rock, along with the surrounding text. The wedge-serif typeface throughout the reverse is in keeping with the Winged Liberty dime’s original typeface, which is replicated (again, with subtle differences) on the obverse.

The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) was scheduled to meet in D.C. yesterday (March 15), but inclement weather caused a postponement of the meeting and of the review of the mock-ups. The Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the Mint’s mock-ups today and kindly shared them with Mr. Gilkes. Meanwhile, the CCAC’s meeting has been rescheduled for March 21 at 10 a.m.

To read Paul Gilkes’s original article, which includes the Mint’s comments on the proposed design as well as additional information, click here.   ❑

* In the comments, RSF writes, “The reverse design was commissioned for an American Institute of Architects award. It follows that the eagle is in the process of gathering building materials.” That seems quite plausible, and I wish I had thought of it myself.—Editor

Palladium American Eagle design discussion postponed

A 1916 Winged Liberty obverse and the AIA gold medal reverse (with rim added). The final coin design must also include "United States of America," plus the denomination, weight, and fineness of the coin.

Illustration of a 1916 Winged Liberty obverse and the AIA gold medal’s reverse (with rim added). The final coin design must also include “United States of America,” plus the denomination, weight, and fineness of the coin, and of course the correct date, 2017.

Tomorrow, March 15, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) was scheduled to meet in Washington, D.C., to discuss the designs for several U.S. Mint coin and medal products. Mother Nature had other ideas, however, and slammed the Eastern seaboard with a nasty winter storm that has shut down cities, airlines, and public transportation in D.C. and elsewhere, so the meeting has been postponed.

One of the items to be discussed was an all-new palladium bullion coin. The idea has been around for years, making its first significant waves on September 22, 2010, when Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-Mont.) introduced HR 6616, the American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act. A representative of the district that holds Stillwater Mine, the only domestic producer of palladium, he’d introduced similar legislation in prior years. His district’s interests had grown increasingly serious: in July 2009, General Motors had declared bankruptcy and canceled its contract with Stillwater, from which GM bought precious metal to use in catalytic converters. This time, Rehberg’s palladium-bullion bill got some traction.

The bill passed in the House on September 29 and the Senate on November 30, then was signed into law (PL 111-303) by the president on December 14. One provision of the law was that a reputable, independent third party must demonstrate that enough demand existed for palladium bullion coins that such a program would impose no net cost on taxpayers. The Mint tapped CPM Group to perform the market analysis, which commenced in 2012.

The proposed coins were to bear a legal-tender face value of $25 and contain one troy ounce of .9995 palladium. The obverse and reverse designs would bring together high-relief likenesses of two Adolph A. Weinman classics: the obverse of the Winged Liberty dime (original diameter 17.9 mm) and the reverse of the 1907 American Institute of Architects medal (originally 55 mm). At the Treasury secretary’s discretion, Uncirculated and Proof versions could also be minted; if so, to the extent possible, each year’s surface treatment would differ from that of the previous year. The metal would, if possible, would be sourced from “palladium mined from natural deposits in the United States, or in a territory or possession of the United States, within 1 year after the month in which the ore from which it is derived was mined.” Other sources could be used, if U.S. sources proved unfeasible.

When CPM Group released its market report in 2013, it said that what little demand existed for palladium bullion coins was being more than adequately filled by Canadian Maple Leafs in that metal. Proof and Uncirculated palladium American Eagles, however, could conceivably turn a profit—which was a moot point, since the whole program hinged on the feasibility of the bullion strikes.

Then, in December 2015, the Fix America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) became Pub. L. No. 114-94. Section 73001 of that law struck down the requirement for a market study. In early 2016, the Mint contacted the American Institute of Architects for permission to make detailed digital scans of the original, 14-inch plaster model for Adolph Weinman’s gold medal reverse. The Mint’s acting quality manager, Ron Harrigal, joined the CCAC meeting a few months later, on June 27, to discuss the ongoing work.

Palladium, he reported, is a new material for the U.S. Mint; it has distinct properties that require different treatment than the metals they’re used to handling. One unfamiliar quality is its relatively high reactivity, which makes it useful in catalytic converters, its primary industrial application. In Harrigal’s words, “It picks up debris a lot, so once we get it into production, there’s going to be an experience there.” With this and other issues in mind, Mint staff had reached out to the Royal Canadian Mint, one of the few world mints actively making palladium coins, for advice.

Another major issue is the supply chain. The Stillwater operation in Montana would seem like a logical choice, but the Mint contacted multiple vendors to discuss the project, in the hope of securing more than one supplier. While these discussions were taking place, the Mint experimented with some leftover, quarter-size palladium planchets from an unrelated test project in 2005. It soon became clear that they didn’t meet the necessary specifications—which, in Harrigal’s words, are “very similar to our platinum program: very fine grain structure, a certain hardness, a certain surface roughness [of] finish.” Harrigal predicted that several iterations of work with the suppliers would likely be needed to get the planchets right.

A related part of the process is determining the coins’ size, which (fortunately) was not specified by the law. The planchets obviously need to be thick enough to produce high-relief coins, and as Harrigal pointed out, both the obverse and reverse designs involve “a lot of real estate”—a lot of metal be pushed up above the surface. At the time of the CCAC meeting in June 2016, the Mint was anticipating a diameter somewhere between 32.7 and 38.1 millimeters.

More will be known about the specifications of the new palladium bullion coins after the CCAC’s next meeting, which has been rescheduled for Tuesday, March 21, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Eastern)—assuming, of course, that Mother Nature has no conflicting plans.   ❑

Mint releases Boys Town Centennial commemorative coins

(Washington, D.C.)—Today, the United States Mint released three commemorative coins to celebrate Boys Town’s 100 years of service to children and families.

“This is such an exciting time at Boys Town as we release the designs of these symbolic coins,” said Father Steven Boes, Boys Town national executive director. “These coins will help us commemorate and celebrate the outstanding work that has been done by our organization over the last 100 years.”

The Mint will issue a maximum of 50,000 five-dollar gold, 350,000 one-dollar silver, and 300,000 half-dollar clad coins with designs that represent Boys Town and its rich history. Founded in 1917, Boys Town is one of the largest nonprofit childcare organizations in the country and serves 500,000 thousand children each year.

Pricing for the coins, which is as follows, includes surcharges that are authorized to be paid to Boys Town to carry out its cause of caring for and assisting children and families in underserved communities across America:

  • Boys Town Centennial Proof $5 gold coin (17CA), $400.45
  • Boys Town Centennial Uncirculated $5 gold coin (17CB), $395.45
  • Boys Town Centennial Proof silver dollar (17CC), $47.95
  • Boys Town Centennial Uncirculated silver dollar (17CD), $46.95
  • Boys Town Centennial Proof clad half dollar (17CE), $21.95
  • Boys Town Centennial Uncirculated clad half dollar (17CF), $20.95
  • Boys Town Centennial three-coin Proof set (17CG), $461.45

Senator Deb Fisher, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Congressman Adrian Smith, former congressman Lee Terry, and former congressman Brad Ashford attended the ceremony in Washington announcing the coin release to the public.

Coins and literature on a table prior to the release ceremony. (Photo from the official Twitter feed of Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb.)

Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) takes the podium at today’s Boys Town commemorative release ceremony. (Photo from the official Twitter feed of Sen. Fischer)

The gold $5 coins feature a portrait of Father Edward Flanagan on the obverse, and on the reverse, a young oak tree growing from an acorn, which stands for the potential in each child helped by Boys Town to grow into a productive citizen. The obverse of the silver $1 coins depict a young girl sitting alone and gazing upward into the branches of an oak tree for help; the coin’s reverse also depicts an oak tree, offering shelter and a sense of belonging to the family holding hands below it. The clad half dollar’s obverse shows a boy holding the hand of his younger brother and walking toward Father Flanagan’s home in 1917; the reverse of the coin depicts a present-day Boys Town neighborhood of homes where children are educated and nurtured by caring families (see the CBS video story below).

The Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coin Act (Public Law 114-30) was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States to celebrate and honor Father Edward J. Flanagan’s Boys’ Home’s 100th anniversary, which will take place on December 12, 2017. The bill was presented to President Obama and signed into law on July 6, 2015.

Father Edward J. Flanagan. (Photo courtesy of Boys Town)

About Boys Town

For 100 years, Boys Town has been a beacon of hope for America’s children and families through its life-changing youth care and health care programs. In 2016, almost 500,000 children and families across the United States were impacted by Boys Town programs. This includes those who received services from Boys Town’s residential programs as well as those served by the many varied programs that comprise the Boys Town Integrated Continuum of Child and Family Services, including In-Home Family Services, health care services provided by Boys Town National Research Hospital and the Boys Town National Hotline. You can find more information about Boys Town online at

On December 25, 2016, CBS Sunday Morning featured the following story on Boys Town and the work it carries out today:


This post is based on a March 9, 2017, press release from Boys Town.

Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee discusses industrial, religious, natural, and military themes in 2019 America the Beautiful quarters


On Wednesday, February 15, 2017, members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC, convened in a public meeting to review and discuss the themes and designs of upcoming U.S. coins and medals.

Most of the committee’s members telephoned in to the meeting, with the United States Mint’s talented staff efficiently wrangling the tech side from the eighth-floor conference room at Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Three of us (Committee Chair Mary N. Lannin, member Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, and I) met in person at Mint HQ, since we served on a subcommittee jury and had an additional meeting lined up: phase II of our review and examination of designs for the 2018 Breast Cancer Awareness commemorative coins. For that review (later in the same day) we met with our jury counterparts from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

Hall-of-Famer and Global Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State Kareem Abdul-Jabbar engages youth in Salvador, Brazil, on January 24, 2012. (State Department photo)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hall-of-Famer and Global Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State (and now CCAC member), engages youth in Salvador, Brazil, in 2012. (State Department photo)

Participating in his first CCAC meeting was new member Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has occupied the seat of Steve Roach. Steve stepped down from the committee last year when he took a position with the federal government. (In order to maintain the committee’s focus on representing the public, federal employees and elected officials are not allowed to serve.) Abdul-Jabbar will be officially sworn in as a committee member in March 2017.

The CCAC was established by Congress in 2003 to advise the secretary of the Treasury on the themes and designs of U.S. coins and medals. Our mission and purpose is to be an informed, experienced, and impartial resource for the Treasury secretary and to represent the interests of American citizens and collectors. Our general meetings are open to the public and the media, who are welcome to either call in and listen, or attend in person.

Our congressionally mandated review and advisement covers circulating coins (such as America the Beautiful quarters), bullion coinage (silver, gold, and platinum), commemoratives, Congressional Gold Medals, and national medals.

Quarters and Medals

In our February 15 public meeting we discussed the upcoming (2019) quarters for the Lowell National Historical Park (Massachusetts), San Antonio Missions National Historical Park (Texas), Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness (Idaho), American Memorial Park (Northern Marianas Islands), and War in the Pacific National Historical Park (Guam). We also met with the president of the OSS Society, several military historians, and a special guest who joined our discussion of the Congressional Gold Medal that will commemorate the World War II–era Office of Strategic Services. I’ll update you on that project in a separate article.

As usual for the America the Beautiful coin program, the United States will have five individual quarters for 2019. My approach as I studied each of the five national sites to be honored was this: Instead of considering each coin strictly as a standalone canvas, I thought of them as a suite of five themes for the year. With this approach we can avoid ending up with, for example, five coins with scenes of wildlife, five mountain views, five architectural motifs, five scenes of recreation, or the like. Fortunately, 2019’s five historical parks and other sites offer a good mix of different kinds of protected areas. I would sum up the year’s coins as focusing on American industry, Catholic civilization, natural wilderness, a war memorial, and a site of military honor.

At this early stage for these coins and medals we weren’t yet reviewing sketches or plasters. Rather, our goal was to advise and guide the Mint’s artists as they begin their design work. Later in the year we’ll examine the designs they come up with for each coin or medal, discuss their merits, vote on each to determine our preferred design, and submit our recommendations to the Treasury secretary, who makes the final decisions.

Lowell National Historical Park (Massachusetts)


(Wikipedia photo by Daderot)

This park was established in 1978 to interpret the role of Lowell in the American Industrial Revolution, primarily in the 1820s and 1830s. The canal systems and waterways created to power the area’s textile mills; “integrated” factories (with all operations under one roof); the use of large-scale equipment that created fabric without the spinning wheel and individual artisans of earlier years—these developments revolutionized the way cloth was manufactured in America. The era was also defined in part by the young women known as “Mill Girls,” mostly farm lasses from New England, recruited to work in Lowell and live in supervised, company-owned boarding houses. The Mill Girls became an important voice for American labor, advocating for better working conditions, supporting abolition, and embracing education.

Jack Herlihy, museum specialist at Lowell, joined in our discussion by phone. He opened the conversation by noting the value and importance of everyday work in American culture, and he called out two significant structures in Lowell: the canal system, and the clock tower with a bell that called mill laborers to work, let them know when it was time to eat, and otherwise marked the layout of their days. He described the Mill Girls as the first young people paid wages for this kind of factory work.

Robert Hoge, the CCAC’s member specially qualified as a museum curator, emphasized technology’s importance at Lowell. Erik Jansen, one of several committee members representative of the general public, observed that “Buildings don’t work well on a one-inch canvas,” and mentioned the spindle as a creative symbol.

My own recommendation was to focus on the human element in America’s Industrial Revolution, by featuring the Mill Girls at work—not necessarily literally, with full-figure forms, but perhaps by suggestion (for example, showing a young woman’s hand at a mill machine). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar agreed with the importance of the Mill Girls. Heidi Wastweet, the CCAC’s member specially qualified in sculpture and medallic art, warned against crowding the coin’s scene, for example with too many human forms.

The intent of this kind of discussion isn’t to straitjacket the Mint’s artists with orders on what to include in their designs, but rather to guide them with suggestions, ideas, and insight.

Committee member Michael Moran urged the artists to avoid overly literal designs—“Don’t show a photograph on a coin”—and Thomas Uram suggested a combination of technology and humanity, by showing a clock face with different humanitarian elements in four quadrants.

There was general agreement on the difficulty of using architectural forms, such as trying to depict the canal system, in the design.

Although each America the Beautiful quarter design is slated for later translation into a three-inch-diameter silver bullion coin, the circulating coin’s canvas is a mere 24.3 mm wide—and part of that space is reserved for the date, the legend E PLURIBUS UNUM, the name of the honored site, and its state or territory.

Of several potential inscriptions suggested by the Historical Park (e.g., “Spindle City,” “Mill City,” and “Art is the Handmaid of Human Good”), my favorite is “American Industry.” I think it nicely sums up the historical significance of Lowell and the industrial work accomplished there, and it does so in a short phrase—important given the small size of the Mint designer’s canvas.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park (Texas)


(Wikipedia photo by Travis Witt)

This network of four Catholic missions in Texas celebrates one of Spain’s most successful attempts to extend its territories north from Mexico in the 1700s, when the “United States” was still just a collection of British and other colonies, unclaimed wilderness, and contested lands.

“These missions were built as walled compounds,” said April Stafford, the Mint’s chief of design management, “containing the church, living quarters for newly converted Christians and a few soldiers and their families, workshops and storerooms, and bastions or fortified towers used for defense.” She described visual evidence of the blending of native and Spanish cultures, in European architecture combined with indigenous nature-inspired designs.

Lauren Gurniewicz, the park’s chief of interpretation, joined us by phone.

Robert Hoge discussed the crucial importance of the local acequias—the network of aqueducts and irrigation canals that delivered water to the missions for self-sustained farming and ranching. He also suggested working architectural elements into the coin’s design.

Erik Jansen asked that the design not have “a picture of a mission,” but rather focus on what a mission is, and how it relates to the creation and protection of life and culture. Ms. Gurniewicz echoed this sentiment, noting that the mission churches were not just buildings, but mechanisms for independence and growth. She also wondered if there might be a way to illustrate water as the lifeblood of the missions, reinforcing Hoge’s comments on the importance of the acequias. In terms of art, she mentioned the frescoes of geometric designs, in particular at Mission Concepción; artistic elements in the church doors at Concepción and San José; and architectural forms such as arches.

Jansen further recommended “some captivating element” that intrigues people who see the coin and inspires them to visit the mission park.

Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, another committee member who represents the general public but also is well known as a medallic sculptor, advised the Mint’s artists to keep their designs simple.

My own observation was that the prime focus of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is the importance of Catholic Christianity and Spanish rule in Texas. The park puts it this way: “After 10,000 years, the people of South Texas found their cultures, their very lives, under attack. In the early 1700s Apache raided from the north, deadly diseases traveled from Mexico, and drought lingered. Survival lay in the missions. By entering a mission, they foreswore their traditional life to become Spanish, accepting a new religion and pledging fealty to a distant and unseen king.” For these reasons I recommended—perhaps at the risk of combining Church and State!—using prominent imagery of a crucifix or cross, and/or a Spanish flag or royal coat of arms, perhaps in combination with indigenous imagery or a portrayal of native South Texans. Herman Viola, our committee member specially qualified in American history, liked the idea of a crucifix combined with native designs, while Heidi Wastweet felt it might be crossing (no pun intended) into political commentary, and suggested pulling design motifs from mission architecture. Greg Weinman, the Mint’s senior legal counsel, noted that if Mint designs feature religious symbols they should be tied to history, rather than religiosity. He opined that it might be a challenge to show a crucifix—although perhaps not, if shown as an architectural element. Ms. Gurniewicz also acknowledged that this would be “a fine line.” She noted that the historical park operates in partnership with the local archdiocese, that the missions are active parishes, and that some of the stone carvings do feature Catholic symbols that could be combined with indigenous art.

CCAC Chair Mary Lannin envisioned a view through an arch, possibly including a mission bell, with agriculture or canals visible beyond.

Tom Uram suggested a design showing an irrigation ditch (joking that a numismatist might call it a “cracked die”), with different design elements featured on either side of it.

A transcript of these discussions is provided to the Mint’s staff of artists, based in Philadelphia, and to Artistic Infusion Program artists who might be involved in the design process for these coins. In addition, sculptor-engraver Don Everhart was present in person at the meeting, as was Ron Harrigal, the Mint’s acting quality manager. The latter two gentlemen answer questions and offer insight on sculpting, engraving, die production, die wear, and other technical aspects of coinage as they relate to specific design proposals. It’s common to hear at least once per CCAC meeting, “Don, can this design actually be coined?”

Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness (Idaho)


(Wikipedia photo by U.S. Forest Service)

This is an interesting national site—a sprawling wilderness, encompassing some 2.3 million acres—that presents special challenges and opportunities for a quarter dollar design.

Idaho’s Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness covers rugged mountains (dominated by the Salmon River Mountains, the Clearwater Mountains, and the Bighorn Crags), deep gorges (the Salmon River Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon), whitewater rivers, and clear-water lakes. It’s so big there are four national forests inside it! Some 800,000 of its acres have an extensive trail system for the enjoyment of hikers and horse packers, but 1.5 million acres in this remarkable wilderness remain trail-free.

In case you’re wondering about the unusual name: the “River of No Return” part comes from when boats could navigate down the main Salmon River but not back upstream because of fast water and rapids. Once you went downstream, the only way back up was by land. And Frank Church was a U.S. senator from Idaho who worked from the 1950s through the 1970s to preserve the wild central region of his state.

Cheri Ford, deputy forest supervisor of the Wilderness, and Dennis Kuhnel, district ranger of the Middle Fork Ranger District, phoned in to the meeting to offer their advice and join the committee discussion. They and other representatives of the Wilderness had already talked to Mint staff and identified potential devices for the design, centering on the natural landscape, wildlife, habitat management, and recreation.

Bob Hoge started the conversation by opining that this would be one of the most difficult concepts to present in coin form. He mentioned some of the wording used to describe the Wilderness (“endless rugged mountains”) and conservation principles like “Leave No Trace.” Hoge also pointed to the Chinook salmon as a potential symbol of the region, given its importance in the Salmon River and the Columbia River Basin, as well as its unique look.

Erik Larsen has visited the Wilderness and he told the committee, “This is not flatlands, folks.” However, he asked that there be “no bighorn sheep in profile or mountain skyline,” saying that such imagery would be a lost opportunity for the coin’s design. He asked Ford and Kuhnel for their advice to the Mint’s artists. They talked about the deep crags and canyon walls; horse packing (perhaps showing a pack string of horses and mules); whitewater rafting and other recreation; and the salmon that migrate all the way from the ocean.

Jeanne Stevens-Sollman echoed the sentiments of Bob Hoge, noting the region’s vastness and the challenge of capturing it on a coin. She specifically mentioned Bighorn Crags (a jagged series of summits) and the recreational aspects of the Wilderness.

Mike Moran offered the salmon or the wolf as potential emblems for the coin design—“not human,” he urged, because of the very remote nature of the Wilderness. My own comments were in line with Moran’s: this quarter needs to illustrate the magnitude and remoteness of Idaho’s protected lands. In my opinion, it should show a scene of natural wilderness with no human activity.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, too, mentioned the wolf as an iconic animal that represents the American West.

Herman Viola pointed to the Bighorn Crags as a fitting symbol of the Wilderness, and also mentioned the wolf as a potential design element.

Heidi Wastweet urged the Mint’s artists to not use an eagle, because they’re not unique to the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness. “I spent 30 years in Idaho,” Wastweet remarked, and she recommended horse packing as a theme for the coin: “It’s a big part of the culture there.” She envisioned a scene of a pack string zigzagging through the wilderness.

I look forward to seeing what the Mint’s artists come up with to symbolize such a vast and wild region on a slightly-less-than-one-inch canvas!

American Memorial Park (Northern Marianas Island) and War in the Pacific National Historical Park (Guam)


(Wikipedia photo by Abasaa)


(Wikipedia photo by Daderot)

The final two 2019 coins under discussion were for the Northern Mariana Islands and for Guam, two island territories some 130 miles apart in the western Pacific Ocean. Their national parks present unique opportunities for the Mint’s coin designers, because many Americans aren’t as familiar with them as they are with mainland parks. At the same time, they present challenges: as committee chair Mary Lannin said, “We don’t want two coins that look identical.”

Jim Richardson, superintendent of the two parks, joined us by phone.

The National Park Service describes the two parks thus:

War in the Pacific National Historical Park was established to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of those participating in the campaigns of the Pacific theater of World War II and to conserve and interpret outstanding natural, scenic, and historic values and objects on the island of Guam for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. American Memorial Park honors the American and Marianas people who gave their lives during the Marianas Campaign of World War II.  There are 5,204 names inscribed on a memorial which was dedicated during the 50th anniversary of the Invasion of Saipan. Within the 133-acre boundary are white beaches, sports, picnic sites, playgrounds, walkways, and a 30-acre protected wetland and mangrove forest.

Glancing at park statistics: Guam’s War in the Pacific National Historical Park hosted 489,000 visitors in 2016. This is an impressive number, but small in comparison to the Grand Canyon’s 5,970,000, or Yosemite’s 5,029,000, or Mount Rushmore’s 2,431,000. (The Great Smoky Mountains dwarf them all with 11,313,000 annual visitors. On the other side, there are a couple dozen other national parks that see fewer visitors than Guam.)

I cautioned the Mint’s artists that it would be very tempting to focus on what’s within these two parks—their beautiful beaches, the flora and fauna—rather than on why Congress established them. Specifically, American Memorial Park is a war memorial site that honors those who died in the Marianas Campaign of World War II. For that reason I recommend its coin show the park’s Memorial Court of Honor and Flag Circle, which is about as iconic a scene as you could look for. Guam’s War in the Pacific Historical Park, meanwhile, is a site of military honor. It was established to commemorate the bravery and sacrifices of all those who participated in the Pacific Theater during World War II—including the Japanese. Because of this, I recommend a scene of military action in the Pacific Theater. The Mint’s artists have plenty of documentary imagery to draw from to create such a scene.

Bob Hoge agreed that American Memorial Park’s coin should focus on its memorial aspect, rather than natural scenes. For Guam, he mentioned the island’s biodiversity.

Erik Larsen discussed the nature of war, military strategy, and geography, and the logistics of getting war materiel close enough to Japan to attack. For Guam, he suggested splitting the coin’s design into a before-and-after treatment showing military action contrasted with the natural paradise preserved by that action.

Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, too, recommended that the Northern Marianas coin be used to honor the military and civilians who died in the Marianas Campaign. She mentioned the Memorial Court of Honor as a design motif. For Guam’s War in the Pacific National Historical Park, she liked Larsen’s idea of a before-and-after layout.

Mike Moran suggested the American Memorial Park coin honor indigenous people of the region. The Guam coin, he said, presented a unique opportunity to show an underwater sea bed.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar noted that sea life such as turtles are iconic. (This prompted Chair Mary Lannin to mention that, historically, as popular as turtle designs might be, they’ve “always been shot down” in the Treasury secretary’s final decision-making.)

Donald Scarinci, our senior committee member in years of service, envisioned a different approach. He said that “Congress commemorates military concepts well” and that “we as a nation portray ourselves through our coins in a military way, with commemoratives and medals.” He urged that the Mint’s artists instead celebrate wildlife and nature’s beauty, which were preserved and protected by the outcome of World War II, rather than war itself. “Stay away from the war stuff,” he said, “and let Congress legislate war things.” On a separate note, he observed that there’s a large body of stamps and coins that the America the Beautiful quarters shouldn’t duplicate, design-wise.

Superintendent Richardson seemed to agree more with my point: “World War II is the critical reason for the parks’ being,” was his response.

Next Step: From Ideas to Design Sketches

As always, the committee’s thoughts and observations will be forwarded to the Mint’s coin designers, and they’ll begin the work of dreaming up designs and sketching them in black and white. Later this year the CCAC will meet again to review multiple proposals for each coin. We’ll discuss each and rank and vote on them, and then Chair Mary Lannin will send our formal recommendations to the secretary of the Treasury, who has final decision-making authority for each coin’s design.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on the 2019 America the Beautiful coins, please feel free to contact me at

And a Postscript. . . .

Every time I go to Mint headquarters in Washington, I make sure to stop by the gift shop (accessible at street level, 801 9th Street NW) before I return home, and buy a souvenir of my visit. This time around I picked up the presidential medals of Barack Obama (three-inch diameter, bronze). The CCAC reviewed designs for these medals (one for each of President Obama’s terms) at our public meeting in Colorado Springs in June 2016, held at the American Numismatic Association’s annual Summer Seminar. It’s neat to hold these large, heavy medals after watching them go from concept sketches to finished product. The U.S. Mint does a remarkable job with its medals, and if you don’t already collect them you should give them a try. A catalog is online at; click on “Medals” under the “Shop” heading.



Dennis Tucker serves the hobby community as publisher at Whitman Publishing, the nation’s largest publisher of numismatic references. He holds the position of numismatic specialist on the CCAC.   ❑

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