In 2024, the United States Mint will release commemorative coins in honor of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, including $5 gold coins, silver dollars, and clad half dollars. Recently, proposed designs for these coins were reviewed, and recommendations were made by both the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) and the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA).
Authorized under the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Act (Public Law No: 117-163), the U.S. Mint will offer proof and uncirculated versions with maximum quantities of 50,000 gold coins, 400,000 silver dollars and 750,000 clad half dollars.
CCAC and CFA members recommended several designs, but not all of them were the same. Below are their recommendations to the Treasury Secretary, who is responsible for making the final selections on designs for new coins.
$5 Gold Coin Design Recommendations
CCAC: The CCAC reviewed six obverse and six reverse candidate designs for the five-dollar gold commemorative coin. Unanimously, the CCAC recommended obverse design HT-G-O-04 modified to display her hair and reverse design HT-G-R-01A. These recommendations were consistent with the guidance of the liaisons.
HT-G-O-04 portrays Harriet Tubman in her years after the Civil War.
HT-G-R-01A depicts a two-handed gesture, symbolizing Harriet Tubman’s efforts throughout her life to help and care for people and includes Harriet Tubman’s seven core values, passed down from generation to generation.
CFA: For the coin honoring Tubman’s contributions following the Civil War, the Commission members expressed support for obverse alternative G-O-04, which is the preference of the CCAC and the liaisons, and they supported the liaisons’ recommendation to adjust the head kerchief to show some of Tubman’s hair. However, commenting that the portrait is not of adequate quality, they recommended that it depict Tubman during her more active years after the Civil War rather than at a very advanced age, and they recommended careful study of other portraits or photographs of Tubman to ensure the quality of the likeness. For the reverse, the Commission members recommended alternative G-R-01A, consistent with the preference of the CCAC; they recommended depicting her hands to be consistent with the age of her portrait on the obverse.
Silver Dollar Design Recommendations
CCAC: The CCAC reviewed six obverse and six reverse candidate designs for the one-dollar silver commemorative coin. Unanimously, the CCAC recommended obverse HT-S-O-01 and reverse HT-S-R-01. Both of these are the preferences of the liaisons.
HT-S-O-01 depicts Harriet Tubman offering her hand to the viewer. Ms. Tubman’s serious and searching expression, with concerted eye contact, challenges the viewer to seize the opportunity for freedom. The design has good negative space, giving greater focus on the major design element.
HT-S-R-01 features silhouettes traveling across a bridge created by a pair of clasping arms. In the sky above, the Big Dipper constellation points to the North Star, which forms the "O" in "OF."
CFA: For the coin honoring Tubman’s contributions prior to the Civil War, as part of this three-coin sequence depicting the course of her life, the Commission members recommended alternative S-O-01 for the obverse, consistent with the preferences of the CCAC and the liaisons. They recommended refining the portrait to more clearly depict Tubman as a young Black woman. For the reverse, the Commission members commented that the silhouette composition of S-R-01 — the preference of the CCAC and the liaisons — would uncomfortably reduce the subjects to anonymous figures. They expressed support for alternative S-R-08 as a strong representation of providing assistance to escape bondage, but they were dismayed to learn that this composition has recently been used for another coin; they recommended developing this concept as a new composition for this coin. They suggested that the north star, a motif seen in several other alternatives, could be included in this new design.
50c Design Recommendations
CCAC: The CCAC reviewed seven obverse and six reverse candidate designs for the half dollar clad commemorative coin. Following an extensive discussion, by a vote of 10 CCAC members in favor and one opposed, the CCAC recommended obverse design HT-C-O-04 and reverse design HT-C-R-05. Both of these are the preferences of the liaisons.
HT-C-O-04 depicts Harriet Tubman. In the background, two Civil War-era boats represent the Combahee River Raid. Ms. Tubman distinguished herself as the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the Civil War, the Combahee River Raid, resulting in more than 700 (or 750) enslaved persons in South Carolina being freed. This narrative would be crucial for the observer to understand the relationship between the design elements and the Civil War.
HT-C-R-05 includes a row of Civil War-era tents lining the horizon and depicts Harriet Tubman holding a spyglass, symbolic of her work as a scout and a spy for the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. Additional inscriptions include "CIVIL WAR," "NURSE," "SCOUT," "SPY," and "COMBAHEE RIVER RAID LEADER."
CFA: For the coin honoring Tubman’s contributions during the Civil War, the Commission members recommended obverse alternative C-O-06 and reverse alternative C-R-01. To coordinate this pairing, they recommended deleting the phrase "Combahee River Raid Leader" from the lower edge of the obverse, as this raid’s name is part of reverse C-R-01; the inscription "Liberty" could instead be moved to this position on the obverse, helping to simplify the composition.
C-R-01 depicts a map with Harriet Tubman’s hand pointing to the location of Combahee Ferry, South Carolina.
All Harriet Tubman Commemorative Coin Candidate Designs
For reference, line art images of all the candidate designs follow.
$5 Gold Coin Design Candidates – Obverse
$5 Gold Coin Design Candidates – Reverse
Silver Dollar Design Candidates – Obverse
Silver Dollar Design Candidates – Reverse
Half Dollar Design Candidates – Obverse
Half Dollar Design Candidates – Reverse