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U.S Mint Continues American Liberty Series
On August 15 the U.S. Mint will begin accepting orders for the latest products in its American Liberty series of $100, 1 oz. high relief gold coins and accompanying silver medals, which for the first time will also be struck in high-relief and have a weight of 2.5 ounces.
The obverse design for both products features a left-facing profile of Liberty with flowing hair wearing a headdress with 13 rays of light, designed to symbolize the American people’s free and creative spirit. “LIBERTY” is inscribed over the rays, and the field between the rays will have a different finish than the rest of the obverse design. The design evokes the headdress on the $10 Indian gold coin issued from 1907 to 1933. Below the portrait of Liberty is the inscription, “IN GOD WE TRUST,” while to its left is the year of issue, “2019” and to the right are 13 five-pointed stars. Below the date is “W” for the West Point Mint, where the gold piece will be produced.
This design was created by Richard Masters, who was recently reappointed as a member of the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program. The AIP was established in 2003 to provide a pool of talented artists who specialize in graphic design, sculpture, engraving, drawing, painting, and other visual arts. These artists work closely with the United States Mint’s staff, including Sculptor-Engravers, to create and submit new designs for selected coin and medal programs throughout the year.
The obverse was sculpted by Joseph F. Menna, who became the 14th Chief Sculptor-Engraver at the Mint in February and who has been designing and sculpting coins for the Mint since 2005. His many credits including sculpting the 2017 Boys Town commemorative silver dollar, which received a Coin of the Year Award this past February.
The reverse design depicts a right-facing image a fierce American eagle with its beak pointed downward and its talons extended as it prepares to land and perhaps attack its prey.
This design was prepared by Donna Weaver, another reappointed AIP artist who served from 2000 to 2006 as member of the Mint’s staff as a sculptor-engraver. Her extensive list of credits for the Mint include the 2017 $5 gold Boys Town coin and many designs for the America the Beautiful quarter program.
This design was sculpted by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Michael Gaudioso, who has worked at the Mint since 2009 and has designed and sculpted many coins for the Mint.
Both designs had been previously submitted for the 2015 and 2017 American Liberty coin and medals, and the designs were reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee on September 20, 2018 and by the Commission on Fine Arts on September 27, 2018. Both panels recommend the obverse design that appears on the 2019 issue, but they differed on their recommendations for the reverse design.
The gold coin will be struck from 1 oz of .9999 gold and have a 1.2-inch diameter, while the silver will be struck from 2.5 oz of .999 fine silver and have a dimeter of 2 inches. The silver medal was struck at the Philadelphia Mint but does not carry a mint mark or any inscriptions.
American Liberty program
The two iconic images that appear on the new gold coin and silver medal continue a tradition begun when the U.S. Mint was established when a law was enacted stating that the obverse of each coin must carry an image of Liberty on its obverse and one of an American eagle on the reverse.
From that period until 1946, when the Walking Liberty half dollar series ended, most circulating American coins featured an allegorical image of Liberty as a female in the obverse done in a classical or neo-classical style.
Except for the $2.50 and $5 Indian gold coins designed by Bela Pratt Lyon and the $10 Indian gold eagle by August Saint Gaudens, those coins always depicted Liberty as a Caucasian female of European origin or in a Greco-Roman style. This includes Liberty’s appearance on some modern commemoratives such as the 2012 Star Spangled Banner silver dollar, where she is shown wearing a Phrygian cap that freed slaves wore from Roman times forward.
Liberty made a comeback on our gold coinage with the 2009 Ultra High Relief that features the Augustus Saint Gaudens gold Double Eagle design but with the relief only used on the 1907 UHR coin.
Then beginning in 2015 with the American Liberty high relief $100, 1 oz gold coin designed by Justin Kunz (obverse) and Paul Balan (reverse), and the silver medal issued in 2016 with the same designs, Liberty for the first time appeared in a modern way though with some classic symbols such as wreath around her hair and a torch in one hand.
Mr. Kunz explained that portraying Liberty as a modern figure, rather than a traditional one, was not easy and required a lot of thought about “what Lady Liberty represents, what it is that defines our time from past eras” and how distill all that into a visual statement that is elegant and expresses “faith in our nation’s founding ideals.”
The American Liberty program was first recommended by the CCAC under the chairmanship of Gary Marks, who served on the committee from 2008 to 2015 and as chair from 2010 to 2015.
2017 American Liberty
In 2017 the American Liberty program took a larger departure from the past with a design of Liberty as a young African-American woman for that year’s gold coin and silver medals, which were also issued for the 225th anniversary of the Mint’s founding in 1792. The 2017 coin’s obverse design depicts a profile of Liberty wearing a crown of stars. The reverse design depicts a bold and powerful eagle in flight, with eyes toward opportunity and a determination to attain it.
“From the very beginning, our nation’s currency and coinage was telling a very important story about who we were and the shared experience we were seeking,” remarked Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew during the ceremony to unveil the design in January 2017. “Of course, the United States continued to struggle with achieving liberty for all. For the last 225 years, the Mint has been doing its part to close that gap and remind us of the principles and values that bind us through our currency and coinage.”
According to the Mint, the 2017 coin was “first in a series of 24-karat gold coins that will feature designs which depict an allegorical Liberty in a variety of contemporary forms–including designs representing Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Indian-Americans–to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.” These issues are being released every other year.
The use of these new versions of Liberty has sparked a national conversation about what Liberty means today and one within the numismatic community about how Liberty should be depicted on coins. That debate will continue in the coming years as new issues in the American Liberty series are released
Dennis Tucker, American Gold and Silver (Whitman, 2016)
Paul Gilkes, “Mint unveils 2019 American Liberty gold coin and silver medal,” Coin World, July 12, 2019
Mike Unser, “2019 American Liberty HR 1 oz Gold Coin and 2.5 oz Silver Medal Design Candidates,” www.coinnews.com, October 2, 2018
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