A growing topic, one longed for by some in the collector community and debated politically, in recent months is the redesigning of United States circulating coinage. While the topic it's self gets further debated as to whether the designs retain Presidents or other historical figures, a majority such as myself seek a shift towards something more emblematic as a representation of "We the People." and our place in the world through such designs. Perhaps the rise in discussion as evident on numerous forums, blogs and publications stems from collectors reexamining their collections as COVID-19 leaving us with little else but time to ourselves. Yet it is one brought up over many years. Technically our coinage has gone through a redesign, albeit a change in the obverse bust as is on the Jefferson Nickel, or a shield added to the Lincoln Cent reverse. And who among us could forget those Washington Quarters? This weeks blog, however, discusses the very process in which change occurs and how "We the People" are capable of doing just that. Enjoy!
Next year will mark a historical point in modern U.S. coinage with a redesign of the quarter. While legislation for such requires a coin as those already mentioned, we can be certain the hype leading up to the release will be great, in a manner which notifies the general public at large. This is a golden opportunity to push for such a complete change from boring designs, one of which has not in seventy-four years- the dime. So how do we create such a change? While most believe it is through legislation, which is fact, the process in reality is a bit more complex.
1. Someone has an "idea" for a new coin(s)
2. The idea is shaped into legislation by a representative of the Senate or House, though constituent desire or by said representative.
3. The legislation, or bill, goes through scrutiny whereby committees examine why a coin should be created, the main specifications,
basic design requirements, issuing requirements, surcharges if applicable, and so forth.
4. After review and recommendations, the bill must pass both the Senate and House.
5. The President of The United States must sign the bill making it law.
These five steps are only the beginning of a process as now it enters the design process. Now law, the Secretary of the Treasury is notified of the forth coming changes while the United States Mint, in Washington D.C. but primarily Philadelphia, begins design. To this point the original idea is merely in written form void of a visual meaning. To explain this, the legislation may be worded, "an obverse device representative of the citizenry of The United States.", and so forth. The task at creating an image from exact wording now faces the artists and sculptors, whether employed by the mint or retained from outside. Once more, things become complex as the mint works hand in hand with the Commission of Fine Arts.
The Commission of Fine Arts, located in Washington, DC, was established May 17, 1910 and currently consists of an eight member board. This is a Cabinet level position, appointed by the President for a four-year term. In a short over-view, their purpose is to advise all government entities on matters of design and aesthetics as they effect the Federal interest and preserve the dignity of the nations Capital. The CFA is responsible for all matters pertaining to our national identity, including art, architecture, symbols and mottos. In a collaboration of their artists and those at the mint, the visual ideas go through numerous changes by recommendation.
At this point, it would be easy to see how the general public and collector knows little if anything about a coin's actual creation. Which is the next in line- creation. With the designs agreed upon by both the mint and CFA, and in rendered form, these are presented to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. Under public law 108-15 of 2003, the CCAC was formed for the following purpose.
1. Advise the Treasury Secretary on theme/design related to circulating coinage, bullion and medals.
2. Make recommendations with respect to mintage levels of commemorative coins
3. Submits a letter to the Treasury Secretary following each public meeting, including the minutes of each.
The CCAC was established as a connection between the general public and the Treasury Department, holding several meeting throughout the year open to such. Dates of which may be found at https://www.ccac.gov/calendar/notices.html The committee comprises the following twelve member board: (3) which represent the general public, (2) representative to the Senate, (2) representative to the House, (1) representative to the Speaker of the House, (1) qualified as a numismatic curator, (1) qualified in numismatics as pertaining to coinage operation, (1) qualified in the area of sculpture or medalic arts and (1) qualified in American history. While the recommendations of the CCAC are not set in stone, per say, this would ultimately fall upon the Secretary of the Treasury.
So there it is. The process for turning an idea into reality as it applies to coinage. Okay, not exactly as there is another. But for both space and further confusion I'll post that one mid-week. I promise that it won't be as long though. To finish, I would ask that if a change is what you seek contact one of the CCAC members who represent us, those three of the general public, Or you representative, the Treasury or mint. Personally, I've forwarded many letters to all of these. In a lesson from the past, being flooded with mail brings about results.
The blog photo, of Joseph Menna- Chief Engraver U.S. Mint, is courtesy of CoinWorld