The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) recently sent a strong message to the United Stats Mint about the quality of coin design candidates. During their most recent meeting, they recommended only one obverse and one reverse design out of the total 55 candidates provided by the Mint.
The meeting was held on July 27, 2010 in Philadelphia. The committee reviewed 21 different design candidates for the 2012 Presidential Dollar obverses and 34 different design candidates for the 2011 First Spouse Gold Coin and Bronze medal obverses and reverses.
The same design candidates had been previously reviewed by the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) who were not nearly as critical. The CFA issued recommendations for seven different obverse designs and three different reverse designs, while withholding recommendations for only one obverse and one reverse.
The CCAC’s single recommendation for an obverse and reverse design were shared by the CFA. These were the obverse design #2 and the reverse design #5 for the Lucretia Garfield First Spouse Gold Coin.
The main reason the CCAC recommended so few designs was a change in procedures adopted at the beginning of the meeting. In order to receive a recommendation, a particular candidate must receive at least half of the eligible votes. Each member of the ten member committee can award 0, 1, 2, or 3 points per design. Therefore, in order to receive a recommendation, a candidate must earn at least 15 points.
The recommended obverse and reverse for the Lucretia Garfield coins had earned 16 and 17 points each.
Based on the recently published minutes of the CCAC meeting, recurring issues with the obverse designs seemed to be the fact that the portraits were copies of work done by other artists and not truly original. Another recurring issue was glaring historical inaccuracies such as the inclusion of a sewing machine on one reverse design years before it was invented.
Five US Mint artists were in attendance at the meeting, including John Mercanti, Don Everhart, Joseph Menna, Phebe Hemphill, and Renata Gordon. The CCAC Chairman requested that art staff be present at all future meetings in order to maintain an ongoing dialogue. In the past, CCAC members have gone out of their way to state that they believe the problem is with the US Mint’s procedures rather than the skill of the artists.
Earlier this year the CCAC formed a subcommittee on design excellence, tasked with producing a “visual definition of design excellence” and developing recommendations for addressing design quality for future proposals. The final report of the CCAC Subcommittee’s will be sent to the Secretary of the Treasury.