If you collect modern U.S. coins, or if you use coins in day-to-day business, you’ve seen and touched the artwork of one of America’s great living sculptors, Don Everhart.
Don joined the staff of sculptor-engravers at the Philadelphia Mint in January 2004, following a career as a designer and sculptor at the Franklin Mint and as a freelance artist creating figurines, plates, coins, medals, and other works for companies such as Walt Disney Co. and Tiffany, and for international mints such as the Royal Norwegian Mint and the British Royal Mint.
I got to know Don in recent years over the course of several visits to the Philadelphia Mint. Whitman Publishing numismatic director Q. David Bowers and I went to Philadelphia to meet the Mint’s engraving staff, tour the production areas, and research in the archives. More recently, since joining the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee in 2016, I’ve benefited from Don’s expertise as he advised the CCAC on technical and artistic questions.
Last Thursday, July 27, 2017, Don Everhart retired from his thirteen-and-a-half-year career at the United States Mint.
He’ll continue to pursue his calling as an artist, working on commissions and personal projects. “I’m retiring while I’m still young enough to enjoy retirement,” he told me recently, noting that he won’t miss the daily 35-mile commute into Philadelphia’s Historic District. The change will give him more time to spend with his family and pursue longtime hobbies and interests such as cycling and music.
Don Everhart designed and/or sculpted more than 100 coins and medals for the United States—a remarkable portfolio ranging from State quarters to silver and gold commemoratives and Congressional Gold Medals, among others. This week, in a series of articles for Mint News Blog, I’ll explore some of my favorite Everhart designs, starting with his first U.S. coin, the 2006 State quarter for Nevada.
Nevada State Quarter, 2006
After he joined the Mint staff, Don’s first projects were sculpting other artists’ coin designs, and designing and sculpting medals. Finally in 2005 he sculpted the first coin of his own design: the 2006 State quarter for Nevada.
The Nevada coin debuted eight years into the Mint’s incredibly popular State quarters program, which started in 1999 as a way to commemorate each state in the order it entered the Union. Before long millions of Americans were searching their pocket change and collecting the coins in folders, albums, colorful maps, and other holders. The program was a hit for the United States Mint, and brought many new coin collectors to the hobby.
By 2005 the State quarter series was well under way and it included some finely done and nicely balanced designs. But it also included a few that collectors considered bland, cluttered, or even awkward, with state symbols jumbled together in a hodgepodge. The Mint’s artists were somewhat constrained by guidance received by the states’ governors, who decided on motifs and themes based on input from commissions and the public. This led to, for example, Arkansas’ quarter featuring a faceted diamond, marshlands, a flying mallard duck, and stalks of rice. Try putting all of that onto a one-inch canvas! Louisiana’s quarter commemorated the Louisiana Purchase with an outline map of the continental United States and a highlighted area representing the territory purchased in 1803. Complicating that simple motif, it also included a brown pelican (the state bird) and a trumpet with musical notes (representing New Orleans as the birthplace of jazz).
As he worked on the 2006 Nevada quarter in 2005, Don Everhart had a menu of specific design elements that he had to use: wild horses, sagebrush, the sun rising over the mountains, and the phrase THE SILVER STATE. Artfully combining these elements, he created a tableau that is, in my opinion, one of the most dramatic and effective in the State quarter program. The wild horses, for which Nevada is famous, are shown in energetic motion. The mountains and rising sun are placed in the central background. The mountains are solid and have depth and texture, but they don’t distract from the main scene. Rather they subtly add to its context. Everhart used the sagebrush, another well-known symbol of the American West, to frame the central composition, placing THE SILVER STATE on a banner front and center, tying the elements together. Adding to the dramatic action of the design, the horse in front is actually leaping over the banner, as if jumping off the coin.
This was a remarkable first coinage design—but it was just the beginning.
Updated on 8/2/17 at 6:21 p.m. to add link to part 2
Updated 8/1/17 at 8:10 a.m. to add a photo of Don Everhart and author Dennis Tucker.