Three iconic silver coins could return next year in 24-karat gold under a plan the United States Mint is considering and presented last week to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC).
Possible products include 2016-dated gold coins to commemorate the 100th anniversaries of the 1916 Walking Liberty half-dollar, the 1916 Standing Liberty quarter, and the 1916 Mercury dime.
"The United States Mint is considering offering each of these coin designs in .9999 24-karat gold," said April Stafford of the United States Mint. "On these potential products, the original 1916 designs would be featured on each coin as the artist originally intended."
If pursued, the exact size and weight of each coin would be determined through research and development, according to Stafford, and the potential finishes "might be proof, reverse proof, enhanced proof or uncirculated."
"I like this program," said CCAC member Heidi Wastweet. "We talk a lot on this committee about doing modern designs and looking ahead to the future, but we still do want to honor our heritage… I think this is a very exciting project and I’m looking forward to seeing it."
2016 Anniversary Gold Coins in Denominations of 50c, 25c and 10c
Anniversary coinage would have the same denominations as their companion 1916 designs, as proposed.
"So we have a gold dime," quizzed CCAC Chairman Gary Marks. "I’m loving it," Marks exclaimed when Mint officials confirmed that was indeed the intent.
Breaking out the gold coin denominations, there could be:
- 2016 Walking Liberty Gold Half-Dollars,
- 2016 Standing Liberty Gold Quarters, and
- 2016 Mercury Gold Dimes.
A goal would be to match each gold coin to the size and diameter of their companion 1916 silver coin and use round fractional gold weights, Mint officials said.
"I think it would be a shame to try and put them on some other different size," Marks said. "It’s just not what they were designed for."
"Please stay to the original planchet diameter," CCAC member Mike Moran reaffirmed. "Please stay true to the designs," he added.
CCAC members sounded excited overall about these concepts.
Bare-Breasted Standing Liberty Design
Crafted by Hermon A. MacNeil, the original 1916 quarter design shows a bare-breasted Liberty which proved scandalous for some influential individuals of the time. The design underwent several changes and beginning in 1917 there were new quarters with Liberty wearing a chain mail vest to provide cover.
Initial thinking for the possible 2016 Standing Liberty gold quarter is duplicating MacNeil’s original design with Liberty’s breast exposed. Recognizing the possibility of renewed controversy, Mint officials asked for comments.
"I’d like to think we’ve come a little bit of distance since 1916 and we can handle what was intended for this coin," remarked CCAC Chair Gary Marks.
Adding to the discussion, the U.S. Mint’s April Stafford said that she would be remiss in not sharing comments from two members in a Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) meeting that was held just a week earlier. They described some of the proposed Liberty designs for 2015 High Relief Gold Coin as offensive, apparently too sexually portrayed for their liking.
"I find it amazing that in 2015 somebody is complaining about something that’s almost 100 years old," remarked CCAC member Mary Lannin. "That just blows me away."
CCAC members agreed that there shouldn’t be major issues in using the original Standing Liberty design, and urged the Mint in that direction.
Dates, Inscriptions and Privy Mark
Early U.S. Mint thoughts are to have dual-dated inscriptions on each gold coin, as in 1916 – 2016.
"That’ll be a little tough to fit that in particularly on the Mercury dime," noted Mike Moran.
Most members gave their support for just using 2016.
Moran asked Mint officials if they planned on saddling the coins with the inscription of .9999 fine gold.
"You’re going to ruin ’em, " protested Moran when the Mint confirmed that intention.
Mint officials seemed firm on the need for the inscription, citing potential regulation requirements and possible consumer protection implications.
"Maybe you can find someplace to put it that’s unobtrusive, I hope you can because I feel like you’re going to do this," lamented Moran who added: "hide it somewhere, don’t put it out there somewhere where it’s bold."
CCAC member Michael Bugeja introduced the idea of using a privy mark to relay the coin’s fineness.
Silver and Platinum Versions
Overall, CCAC members relayed strong approval for the coins. More excitement was generated when Mike Moran voiced an idea to make them in silver as well.
That thought looks to be legally quenched, however. The Treasury Secretary has broad authority to strike gold and platinum coins, but needs Congressional approval in making new silver coins.
Some members did suggest looking into platinum options.
Several said that the gold coins should be struck only in the same finish as the silver coins.