The Decline of US Coinage Design

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by mrbrklyn, May 22, 2012.

  1. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    http://coinagemag.com/articles/the-fading-of-american-beauties/

    What it constitutes may vary in the eye of the beholder, but many in the collecting community lament what they perceive as a decline in artistry on U.S. coinage. Why has it faltered? Can America ever resurrect the glorious art of the Teddy Roosevelt era, or produce innovative new designs? Read the whole story here.
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  3. n9jig

    n9jig New Member

    All well and good, designs these days are certianly uninspired at best but the article has a couple flaws. First, 1964 may well have been a dynamic point in US coinage with the last date used on 90% silver coinage but correct me if I am wrong: Only one design changed (half dollar) that year. The Cent, Nickel, Dime and Quarter all remained with the same design as used for years before. While the relief may have been reduced to accommodate the increase in production and change of compositions, the designs themselves did not. The Kennedy Half changed this denomination from a useful coin to basically a medallion and removed it from circulation.

    The second major fault is that, despite our protestations, coins are not designed for numismatic purposes, they are meant as tools of commerce. Let collectors purchase medals and medallions for the designs. True coins are issued for the express reason of being circulated and should be designed for easy recognition of nationality and denomination, not for the raw design. While coins can certainly be designed for both artistic and practical reasons the practical must take precedence always.

    The collector in me dislikes the current designs and would love to see classic designs rotated into circulation coins but the practical me would much prefer simpler designs with the denominations shown numerically (1 Cent instead of One Cent, 10 Cents instead of 1 Dimeā€¦) and practical, useful denominations.

    I think the Euro coins have it right with simple and useful designs and denominations. Canada too has done it right, even with the limitations of having the monarch on the face. The reverses all have uncomplicated designs that scream Canada and have the denominations clearly marked.

    Why does each coin need to have separate designs? Is having a single design, say of a classic Liberty depiction, on the obverse and a numeric denomination on the reverse such a sin?
  4. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    Not all the classic liberty designs were good. the Seated Liberty was a knock off of the British Britanica and IMO was ugly as sin. People complained about the Barba design (although I liked it). Before that, the Capped Bust was terrible, something we easily forget only because so few of them exist today so we have them in small doses/

    The golden age of US coins was started with Teddy Roosevelt, and it might have been the only period that coins were really decent. World class artists were put to work including the Buffalo Nickel, Walker, SLQ, and Merc, Peace Dollar not to mention the gold coins.

    They also lucked out with the elegance of the Morgan Dollar.

    The portraits are garbage but just using a classic liberty is not good enough either.

    ruben
  5. brg5658

    brg5658 Well-Known Member

    I think you are in the extreme minority if you think the Capped Bust was a "terrible" design. [​IMG]
  6. medoraman

    medoraman Well-Known Member Supporter

    Compared to the draped bust that preceeded it he wouldn't be. Capped bust was ok, but I believe was definitely a step down from the draped bust. :)
  7. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    you didn't live with it for 30 years on 4 coins.
  8. medoraman

    medoraman Well-Known Member Supporter

    Truth be told, save for coins designed in the late 1700's, this country's coins weren't the best in the world until Teddy Roosevelt. He was the true pioneer that ushered in the US coinage golden age. This is so true that even today the treasury continues stealing these wonderful designs to put on bullion coins just so people will buy them. The $20 St Gaudens, the WL, the buffalo nickel, and now I head the winged liberty dime, all have been reused due to the timeless beauty.

    How to revive it? I am not sure it can be on modern production coins with their computer designing of ultra low relief.

    However, the crying shame to me is commemorative coinage. These need to be entrusted to a single artist, and struck on the specifications given by the artist for highest artistic style. Its a commemorative, who cares if they need to charge $.50 more because the high relief takes longer to produce? Commemorative coins should be our nations calling card to the rest of the world, showing them artistic elagance has not left this nation. As it is, its treated like any other government entitlement bestowing money on whatever organization has the most political pull.

    While we are at it, can we freaking stop making war coins? I am a combat vet, but I am sick and tired of coins with soldiers, war, police, etc on our dang coins. Is that all we think about and celebrate anymore? I want coins of inventors, doctors, musicians, all of the good things in life we produce.

    2014 proposed commemoratives:

    Jimmy Hendrix
    Hank Williams
    Central Park
    Babe Ruth
    Salmon Chase
  9. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    Each generation comes with their own technology and tools to create works of art, including coinage. The techniques they have now can be used in a way to create great coinage for circulation. All they need to do is to apply new and proper design ideas to the new materials.

    One of the great things about the Morgan Dollar, for example, was that it was perfect for the Silver and Dies they used, making a rich artistic expression. Coins like the Chinese Silver Panda, likewise, use newer tools for great artistic expression that could never have been produced in the 1880's.
  10. jjack

    jjack Captain Obvious

    America IMO has lost a lot of artistic and design talent in last few decades just look at what we had built in terms of infrastructure in 50s and 60s and what we are building now. Don't want to derail this topic but just want to point it out.
  11. Detecto

    Detecto VICTORIA DEI GRA BRITT REGINA FID DEF

    Our "standard issue" of coins have used designs longer than any other series of coin. (as far as I know).

    The cent, 103 years of Abe's same face (the cent is going away soon anyway).
    The nickel, was previously used for 65 years.
    The dime, 66 years.
    The quarter, 81 years.

    Even the seated coinage, which seems to have been minted for a really long time, was only minted around 53 years.

    We are really overdue for a new design of coinage.
  12. brg5658

    brg5658 Well-Known Member

    Oh, I forget you and Doug are both pushing 250 years old, right? ;)
  13. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    together yeah
  14. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    I'm not a big fan of commemoratives, but this is absolutely correct. While our production coins will continue to look worse and worse because of the ever increasing lack of relief, there is no reason the commemorative could not be made with fine workmanship and higher relief. (I don't even ask for high relief, just higher.) But don't count on it. Have you seen the design for the girl scout commemorative that the CACC raved over? And even went so far as to say that THIS is the direction coin design should be going in. (referring to the reverse) In my opinion it is one small step better than the WY quarter, because at least the flat no relief areas appear to be textured.
    CCAC_GSA.jpg
  15. LindeDad

    LindeDad His Walker.

    This is just wrong in that heads and tails will be so easy to tell. Just change the angle slightly of the reverse.
  16. medoraman

    medoraman Well-Known Member Supporter

    Art by committee at its finest. Just think of all of the brilliant works of art created by committees.............can someone name one?
  17. Detecto

    Detecto VICTORIA DEI GRA BRITT REGINA FID DEF

    I think the mint would like low relief designs. I think the mintage of low relief coins needs less pressure from the dies, making die life last longer.

    However I do not like low-relief coins. One notable example is the walking liberty half. Just a little wear, and it looks horrid.
  18. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    Yes the mint does like low relief and for the reason you mention. Also because low relief means the metal doesn't have to flow as far to get into the die. This means higher speeds are possible. A high speed press with a higer relief die means that the metal doesn't have enough time to flow into the deeper recesses of the die and you get flat weak strikes with missing detail.

    And the Walking Liberty half dollar is NOT a low relief coin.

    One problem of trying to go back to classical type designs is if you took something like the mercury dime and lowered the relief and simplified the details enough to make it coinable on todays high speed presses it would not be the beautiful design we love today. (Spaghetti feathers?)
  19. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    With all due respect, Franklin aint much better.
  20. areich

    areich America*s Darling

    Hello Ruben

    Franklin is not on the dime. He is on the half dollar.

    Mandy
  21. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    OK - Harry Truman

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