A new generation of United States Mint numismatic and commemorative coins appears to be knocking on the door, potentially displacing the traditional picture that collectors have formed over the years for such coins.
Using varying polishing and laser frosting intensities that are intended to enhance a design’s artistic features, the new technique produces dies that are said to make coins "pop."
That was the news delivered in a telephone conference Wednesday by Steve Antonucci, Branch Manager, Digital Process and Development, at the United States Mint at Philadelphia.
Antonucci noted that the traditional method to create proof coins with the cameo effect of frosted foregrounds and mirror-like fields can unintentionally subdue or even destroy design elements.
"In a lot of cases, the detail really wasn’t obliterated but that’s the general consensus of what we heard," said Antonucci. "It’s just that the frosting was so intense that it absorbs the light" and that makes it difficult to see the detail of the art.
Antonucci and team started exploring various finishes, differing polishing techniques and alternate laser techniques to specifically "enhance the beauty of the coins."
Collectors who have received proof 5-Star Generals $5 gold or silver dollars can judge the changes for themselves. These are the first two coins made with dies where the new polishing and new laser frosting technique was applied.
Images of 5-Star General Silver Dollars produced with dies made the old way and with dies using the new technique offer some comparison.
Tom Jurkowsky, U.S. Mint Director of Public Affairs, noted that the comparison images cannot do justice in showing the real differences.
Having seen both versions side-by-side, the coins from the new technology "popped, they really popped," he said.
"We have an opportunity now to show the artistry and to try to perfect how things are depicted on coins," Jurkowsky added.
The enhanced uncirculated Silver Eagle expected out in May as part of the 2013 American Eagle West Point Two-Coin Silver Set is the third coin to receive new treatments. It has three varying finishes.
Polish and laser frosting recipes will differ going forward and will depend on the design elements of coins. Artists can actually create designs with the new method in mind.
Antonucci said he could soon foresee "five or six different frosting intensities on a single design."
Antonucci indicated they will decide as a group on how to apply the polishing and laser frosting technique to every design going forward.
Steve Antonucci has been with the United States Mint for eleven years and is respected for advancing digital technologies now used by the bureau.
"Little did I know how he (Antonucci) would ultimately change the face of numismatics in the Mint as far as die production, preparation, and proof polishing," retired U.S. Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti described Antonucci in his book American Silver Eagles: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Program.
In an answer to a likely question, 5-Star General gold and silver dollars made with the old dies will not get released to the public.