The American Gold Eagle debuted in 1986 and has since been one of the world's most popular bullion coins. The series has borne the same designs since the series began, but the reverse image is set to change for the first time in mid-2021. Jennie Norris designed the American Gold Eagle new reverse, but the sculpting job was assigned to Renata Gordon. Who is Renata Gordon, and what role will she play as the American Gold Eagle sculptor? Read more below to find out!
Who is Renata Gordon?
Renata Gordon graduated from the prestigious University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2010. Although she is a talented painter who has completed murals and portraits, her degree was in sculpture. Three months after graduating, she joined the United States Mint's sculptor-engraving department. Gordon currently submits designs for new coins and medals and sculpts work submitted by other artists. In the past, she had designed and sculpted the 2018 World War I Centennial Silver Medal for the Navy.
Renata Gordon's vast sculptural contributions include thirteen designs in the Code Talkers Medals Program and several America the Beautiful Quarters, First Spouse, and commemorative images. While her contributions to date are impressive, sculpting the American Gold Eagle's new reverse will be her most prestigious work yet.
Two of her contributions, in particular, stand out because of the larger-than-life figures whom they honored. One of these is the reverse of the First Spouses Betty Ford piece. The design that Gordon sculpted depicts a young woman climbing a spiral staircase. That design is intended to reflect Ford's advocacy for addiction recovery, women's rights, and breast cancer awareness.
Gordon also sculpted the reverse of the Mark Twain Commemorative Silver Dollar. Twain is perhaps the most iconic author in American history. His work continues to be read and celebrated more than a century after his death. The design that Gordon sculpted shows characters from his books coming to life. Among them are Jim and Huck from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the frog from The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and the knight and the horse from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
What is the role of a Sculptor-Engraver at the United States Mint?
Some collectors may fail to recognize the importance of Gordon's contributions to the U.S. Mint over the past decade-plus since she has only designed one piece. However, the work of a sculptor-engraver is often just as important as the design itself. To learn more about the coin design process of the United States Mint, read this Coin Authority article! Sculptor-engravers work with clay or wax to create thin, detailed relief designs. They must consider how their designs will reflect light, and the level of precision that goes into their work is extraordinary. They work with design plates that are up to a dozen times the size of the coin they are designing, and their designs are molded and mounted onto machines that scale them down. While this is not quite as difficult as sculpting or engraving at scale, which was done up to the 1800s, sculptors still sometimes must have a level of detail that requires them to sculpt to within 60,000ths of an inch.
The New American Gold Eagle Design
The extraordinary talent and level of detail executed by sculptor-engravers will be on full display as the new Gold Eagle debuts in 2021. The image's designer, Jennie Norris, worked closely with birds. Her experience allowed her to provide a level of design detail that may be unmatched by any other eagle designer in American history, perhaps even world history. Gordon's selection to sculpt the design is a testament to her ability and level of attention to detail. Collectors who get the new American Gold Eagle will be in for a treat as they get to examine Norris' and Gordon's work up close.