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Archive for January, 2012

“Color sells!” was our credo when I was an advertising salesman at a newspaper many decades ago. Color, obviously, is more appealing than a monochrome world of black-and-white. But for centuries coins have been only the single color of their primary metal content – bronze, silver or gold.

Not any more. Mints – both national and private – are outdoing themselves in creating ways to make coins and medals more appealing by adding color, holograms, striking multi-ring blanks, lettering the edges, and even pasting stickers on fully struck coins.

Formerly, a new innovation in coining technology was first tried on medals. After all, it could be tested on a medal, before introducing it to the hazards of a circulating medium. If it passed the test on a few hundred medals it could be applied to multi-million coin production.

We have proof coins today because a proof surface was first applied to a medal, a tiny Pitt Club Medal in England, in 1762 (placed in a watch crystal to protect the delicate reflective surface). It worked and was then applied to coins. While a “proof” means a test or first made, today we have proof coins made by the millions.

However, nowadays, it seems, innovators at our national mints are going right for a new process applied directly on their country’s coins, omitting any testing on medals. This is particularly true for commemorative coins they can sell to the public and collectors. Canadian and Australian Mints are two of the leading innovators in this movement.

Canada, just last year, issued a coin with a crystal chip embedded on its surface!

Innovation to add color has been a lengthy development. Here’s a sampling of methods for getting added color on a coin or medal:

Contrasting metal in the blank. This can be done by a plug or an outer ring of the blank.  In 1792 Philadelphia Mint employees added a silver plug to a proposed cent coin. Granted this was to raise the value of the blank rather than any color ascetic.

In 1982 Italy was the first to strike a coin with a bimetal blank, its 500-lira coin had an outer ring of stainless steel with a bronze center. The Paris Mint carried this technology one step further in 1992 with a 20-franc coin for circulation with a center core and two rings of contrasting color! The U.S. Mint has struck only one ring-blank coin – the Library of Congress $10 coin struck in 2000 with a gold ring and a platinum core — certainly not intended for circulation!

Plating.  While not practical for mass million coins, partial plating has been applied to medals for a duo color of contrasting metals. The area not to be plated can be masked off, the entire piece is immersed for plating, then the masked material is removed. This is labor intensive but can be utilized for short-run medal jobs.

Organic coating – paint.  Any paint applied to a metal surface is not satisfactory because of the ease in which the paint chips off. This becomes unsightly and is not satisfactory for the long life of a medal. However, Medallic Art Company did make such a medal – apparently that is what the customer wanted. In 1937 Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park Association Medal was painted with a black paint. True to form, in time these medals have been observed with the coating in uneven covering. High points were vulnerable to the paint chipping off.

In 1966 for an issue of silver plates, the design bore a panda. An artist was hired to work in Medallic Art’s Danbury to paint by hand a black-and-white panda on each plate.

American Public University System Medal

American Public University System Medal illustrating the use of enamel.

Enamel.  Enamel is the most common method for applying color to medals – not so for coins. All the highest forms of medallic art – including orders, decorations, heroic medals, fine art medals – have been colored with enamel. The process of enameling is an ancient art of firing a vitreous material, colored glass, so it melts and flows into a cavity of the metal item where intended.

There are several kinds of enamel, hard and soft, both with and without fences to corral the enamel. The fences can be built into the design of the metal base or added with wires. These are called cloisons, and the technology called cloisonné (the fences form each cell of color). Other forms of enameling likewise have French names: champlevé (like Limoges enamel) grisaille (a type of pained on enamel), plique-a-jour (a transparent of translucent enamel), and others.

In modern production the colored glass is supplied in any of several hundred colors in almost powder form and is dispensed from a hypodermic needle-like device, filling a cell with only one color. When all cells are filled with appropriate color glass, the medal is placed in an oven and heated. Glass melts at 750 to 850 degrees Centigrade. While the glass melts, the metal base does not (copper, for example, melts at 1085 degrees C). The glass hardens on cooling and is locked in that cell.

Medallic Art Company has produced hundreds of enameled medals. In the past at its plants in New York City and Danbury Connecticut it did not perform this process in house. It subcontracted this all this work to seven specialists, nearly all of which were in the jewelry centers of Attleboro, Massachusetts, with a few on hand in New York City.

After the enamel is added to the medal it can then be plated – plating does not adhere to the enamel – so medals were returned to MACO’s plant usually to be gold plated, finished, often mounted with a ribbon, and packaged.

Embedments.  Relic items have been embedded on medals. While this added another color, the intent was to honor an event with a preserved piece, an artifact or memento of that event. In 1937 the C.D. Peacock Jewelry firm issued a centennial medal with an embedded piece of steel from their safe that survived the Great Chicago Fire intact.

[Tiny hard metal shards are easy to embed by placing the item on the medal’s surface before the final blow of the press on a multiple-struck medal. Otherwise such items must be affixed by epoxy. It is preferable to have a depressed cavity on the medal surface where the embedment is located.]

Holograms were first applied to medals in 1967. This occurred in Israel on Yaacov Agam’s And There Was Light Medal. The technology for applying holograms is so easy they are now widely applied to coins.

Handy & Harman Medal

Obverse, reverse and edge of
the Handy & Harman Medal.

In one of the most innovative medals issued by Medallic Art Company, half of the entire obverse was embedded with a silver insert over a bronze base. It was created for the metal firm of Handy & Harman for their centennial medal. Artist John Amore created an obverse motif that was divided in half. The concept was brilliant since Handy & Harman was a supplier of both metals.

Prior to delivery of the metal strip Handy & Harman layered a thin narrow strip of silver on a wider strip of bronze the intended gauge for the medal. MACO production officials solved the intricate production problems of keeping the medal in register between multiple strikings by an added projection in the blanking die at both the top and bottom of the blank. A corresponding notch was placed in the open face die. The blank – or partially struck medal – was reseated in exact register for each blow of the press. The obverse was half silver and half bronze.

Pad printing.  This is a new technology of “printing” one or more colors on the modulated surface of a coin or medal. The ink is applied to a pad which imparts that permanent ink to the metal surface. It has been utilized for applying color to both coins and medals.

Stickers.  Paper stickers printed in color are pasted onto a coin or medal. While not as permanent, nor as “medallic” as other processes, this has been used for cheaply made items. “Elvis Presley coins” were made this way.

What does color hold for the future of coins and medals?  Certainly more will made in color, and perhaps the technology can be extended to include the coins we use in everyday commerce.

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For its first fifty years, Medallic Art Company had no need for a sculptor to be on hand at the firm. The founders, Henri and Felix Weil, were themselves sculptors. All models were prepared by outside sculptors, as clients or commissioned by the firm.

Any touchup work could be done by one of the Weils. Their knowledge of needs of a model for the required process of reduction and cutting a die to be struck into metal was extensive. They knew, perhaps intuitively, that a model could be made into a die. Or what needed to be done to accomplish that magical transaction. They could do it.

With the sale of the firm to Clyde Curlee Trees in 1927, one of the Weils had agreed to be on hand at all times. This policy continued in place until Henri, the oldest of the two, was unable to work and ultimately died in 1949.

Clyde Trees often made the statement that the firm had no stock dies, that all medals were made by new models from outside, commissioned sculptors. But those models occasionally needed tweaking – the preferred sculptural term is “touchup” – irrespective of how competent or reputable the sculptor was who prepared them.

With the death of Henri Weil, Trees realized he needed a sculptor at the plant full time. In 1951 he hired a young talented Puerto Rican, Ramon Gordils, and, under the tutelage of Felix Weil, trained him in the special needs and techniques of medallic modeling.

Ramon Gordils was Medallic Art Company’s first factory artist.

He became so competent that, later on, he was able to pass on those skills to anyone who needed them, even to some top-name sculptor. A problem in plaster casting? Ask Ramon. Height of relief? Ramon knew. Trick of the trade? Ramon would pass it along. In other words, Ramon could backstop every artist, no matter who.

By having such a talented craftsman on hand, any client of Medallic Art could choose any bas-relief sculptor, no matter who, and know for certain their model could end up a competent and outstanding medal. Ramon Gordils would see to that.

Lettering on modals was the weakness of many sculptors. How many times have we heard requests from first-time medal sculptors who desired to obtain form letters. They wanted to buy already formed letters to add to their clay models. Doesn’t happen. You have to form the letters yourself in clay – or carve in reverse in plaster – then let this be the mold for clay letters.

A second problem was hair. Too often hair could not be made fine enough on a clay model. When cast it looked like a bowl of spaghetti dumped on top of the head.  Ramon knew all these problems and how to overcome them, with his deft touchup.

Years later, after Medallic Art Company had changed ownership and moved to Danbury, Connecticut, Ramon Gordils had been replaced by, not one, but three sculptors working in the art department. And that was the beginning of the problem of factory artists at Medallic Art.

It is a human trait that several artists working nearby will slowly evolve into mediocrity. They talk to each other, they look over each other’s shoulder. Subconsciously they tend to copy each other.

David Castruccio, one of those three Medallic Art sculptors in Danbury recognized this trait more than anyone else. He once told me a very succinct and perceptive observation:

“Our work became homogenized.”

Irrespective of who did the actual modeling, it could have been done by any of the three.

When the manufacturing plant has one such artist the work is his style alone. With more than one factory artist, a shortcoming develops, however, in that all the work soon looks similar, and the total product has too little diversity.

Such artists tend to produce designs of like style, as they consciously or unconsciously influence each other. They become homogenized – to use Dave’s term – in their creative effort and output (as if they are from the same school of art).

Outside artists, on the other hand, do not have these influences. These artists have a fresh – or different – style, and have the opportunity to produce somewhat more distinctive and creative designs.

I have viewed the work of other medal plants with more than one artist or craftsman charged with the creative design of the factory’s products. The problem of factory artists is universal. It existed in every one of those medal companies!

Engravers at the Philadelphia Mint have faced the same problem since William Barber hired his son Charles as an assistant engraver in 1869. Ultimately a third engraver was hired, George T. Morgan, in 1876. All three were British engravers. Soon all three had a similar style.

This was noticed by Treasury officials, who, in 1890, sent out a call for new engravers, someone who could design new American coins. Nothing became of that call in that decade or the next. By then the National Sculpture Society had been formed, and the organization encouraged their members to respond for new coin designs.

It took a U.S. President to get involved, Theodore Roosevelt, who, with Augustus Saint-Gaudens, introduced the first American coin designed by a qualified American sculptor. This was followed with new coin designs by Victor Brenner, James E. Fraser, Adolph Weinman, Hermon MacNeil, and Anthony diFrancisci – all National Sculpture Society members – who all created new circulating coins trumping the designs of the entrenched engravers at the Mint.

Why were outside sculptor designs so superior to the coin designs offered up by Mint engravers?

They were unburdened by Mint bureaucracy and fellow mint engravers. They were free to create without restrictions and undue peer influences. They did not have the pressures of time and space of working in a controlled environment. They allowed their creative juices to experiment, try something new, to fail and yet move on, to try something else. They had free reign.

Conditions at the Mint’s Engraving Department deteriorated and the problem of factory artists continued intact even into the 21st century. When an active new coin design program – five new reverses honoring each state on the quarter — was introduced in 1999, a large number of coin models were required in quick time.

The Mint attempted to solve this need with the Artist Infusion Program with mixed success. Meanwhile, Chief Engraver Elizabeth Jones, resigned and was not replaced.

The engraving room where five engravers work has been described as a “rabbit warren.” Work tables are chuck-a-block next to each other. It is impossible for an engraver NOT to see what his neighbor is working on. It is next to impossible for them NOT to talk to each other.  Mediocrity can only flourish in such an atmosphere.

In my previous post on Future Coins I mentioned I had suggestions for managing the Engraving Department at the Mint to overcome some of these recurring problems and place the management of the department and the creation of new coin models under better control. Here are my suggestions:

Create A New Position: “Chief of Engraving Department, United States Mint” which would require this person to have a knowledge of engraving, art, bas-relief sculpture, coining technology, be an art critic, a proof-reader, but most of all, be an art administrator. This executive would be the chief official with responsibility for all the Mint’s coin and medal design, creation of all the models for these and other engraving department duties. Formerly called the Chief Engraver.

This person is more of an administrator than an engraver; an artist more than a sculptor, an art critic more than an art creator. His duties and responsibilities include:

  • Maintain an “Invitation List” of American sculptors who can perform coin and medal designs with the capability to render their design into satisfactory bas-relief models. These artists are not graphic artists who prepare 2-dimension designs, but glyptic artists who prepare their designs into relief models.
  • He should set the standards for the inclusion of the artists on this invitation list.
  • Thus for every new coin or medal required of this department he would mail an invitation to every artist on the invitation list to submit sketches – either pencil or plaster – of obverse and reverse for the new design.
  • These invited artists can submit only one pair of designs. They are limited to their one best design concept and sketch. (Staff Engravers are not limited to one, but may submit any reasonable number of proposed designs.)
  • He alone would make the decision (with only one or two advisors from the Treasury or Art field, NOT a committee) for the choice of the artist to further develop the design into a satisfactory model.
  • He would be responsible and be required to edit all models that are submitted, for accuracy of all elements of the design, both pictorial and historical, plus correct spelling of all lettering. He would be required to challenge the artist to document the accuracy or source of all design elements.
  • He would oversee the Senior Staff Engraver to ensure these models are rendered into the most attractive, suitable models while meeting all the requirements of die making and minting technology.
  • Conduct monthly inspirational sessions for all Staff Engravers to improve their coin and medal designs and keep them current with new innovations and technology. This is not a review time for these artists’ work, which should be done in private, but a time to inspire and introduce staff engravers to new technology and to encourage design creativity.
  • As chief art administrator for both coins and medals he should also have a knowledge and appreciation of medallic art and medallic objects. He should be forward thinking in these creations and encourage their production at the U.S. Mint. He should also have knowledge of patina finishes for these art objects.

Senior Staff Engraver.  Put one mint engraver in that engraving room at the Philadelphia Mint. The title for this position would be “Senior Staff Engraver.” This person must be an all-round designer-sculptor. He (or she) must be familiar with all aspects of the Mint’s requirements and all modeling techniques.

This person’s duties would be to “backstop” all other sculptors where their submitted models could be improved, insuring all detail is sharp and crisp. Most modelers are weak in lettering for example; this person must be a specialist and expert in modeled lettering and be able to improve other artist’s lettering.

The Senior Staff Engraver would work closely with the Chief, Engraving Department. All outside models would be brought to the Senior Staff Engraver who would – in agreement with the Chief – edit and make necessary corrections to conform to the technical requirements of the diemaking process at the Mint.

The Senior Staff Engraver would also be required to make the final epoxy pattern required for processing into proper dies and tooling. He would work with the die-engraving pantograph operator to convert these patterns into the sharpest, most attractive and most technically accurate master dies, retaining all the detail and fidelity of the artist’s final pattern.

The Senior Staff Engraver would be permitted to submit new coin and medal designs in the competition for the most artistic of these. He would have a rare insight into what is appropriate because of his handling every one of the successful models that are selected. His workload, and his own volition, would be the only limiting factors to his entering as many of these competitions as he wishes.

Current Engraver Status.  Keep the existing engravers on salary, their title would be “Staff Engraver.” But send them home to work in their own studios, without contact with each other or other engraver-sculptors (except for those monthly inspirational sessions conducted by the Chief Engraving Department).

The most creative designs are the effort of one mind of a talented artist working independently from others. Granted this artistic effort is lonely work but this would result in heightened creativity.

These artists need to let their individual creative spirits soar. They should spend more time engaging in and experiencing inspiration, and less time at the drawing board and modeling table. These artists should visit fine art exhibitions and closely examine coin and medal archives and literature illustrating these to determine in their own mind what is good and bad glyptic art (and certainly learn the difference).

The study of classic coin and medal designs of the past should sharpen their knowledge that they can improve their own work. They should keep up with the new technology in the coin and medal field and be able to apply new technologies to their own coin and medal designs and models.

Like factory artists everywhere, when artists work together their creations tend to become similar, their work becomes homogenized and pedestrian. Undoubtedly this is from looking over each other’s shoulder while work is in progress. A human trait, this will continue to occur if all Staff Engravers are required to work next to each other in the present engraving room. What is needed is independent, stimulated, purposeful study away from each other to achieve inspired, innovative coin and medal creations.

Staff engravers must recognize their creative work will be in competition – not only with other staff engravers – but also with outside artists. In effect, the goal is to obtain the most artistic design for every coin and medal. However, staff engravers have somewhat of an advantage in that they posses experience in this field and have a more intimate knowledge of the technical requirements for a new design or model.

Criteria For Hiring Future Staff Engravers.  While the technical requirements for a new design or model can be learned, the desire for creating the most attractive glyptic art must come from within an artist. The staff engraver must be able to design a concept he originates and render this into an acceptable bas-relief model.

Thus he must be multi-talented.

By maintaining an invitation list of American sculptors who can create coin and medal designs, the Chief of the Engraving Department will have a pool of prospects for staff engravers. When he feels it is an appropriate time to increase the number of staff engravers, or to replace a departing artist, he can offer a staff position to the best candidate on that invitation list.

This would have an appeal to the artist in that he would not have to relocate to Philadelphia, but can continue to work in his home studio. He would have to travel to Philadelphia, however, for that monthly meeting held by the Chief of the Engraving Department.

Create a new position and hire a Design Researcher. This person (most are female) is a picture and illustration researcher. She should have a working knowledge of picture archives everywhere and know how to dig for an illustration that would be helpful for the design of a new coin. She should work with all sculptors and fill their requests for illustrations. While her office would be in the engraving room at the Philadelphia Mint she would often be found searching archives in person elsewhere.

All Engravers To Prepare New Designs.  Staff Engravers – and the Senior Staff Engraver (but NOT the Chief of the Engraving department) – would be encouraged to submit sketches for every new required coin or medal design. Also they could submit as many designs as they wish (in contrast to outside freelance artists who are limited to their one best obverse and reverse design). Because this would place new coin and medal designs on a competitive basis, this would help improve their quality. Only the best deserve to be made into the coins and medals of the United States!

Since the Chief of the Engraving Department is to make the final choice of any coin or medal design, he is not permitted to furnish any of his own designs (but can certainly express his opinion to an artist how to improve their design).

Multiple Function Artists.  Two artistic functions are required to create a new coin or medal. One is design, the other is modeling. It is preferable to have both of these functions performed by the same person (and this is a requirement of the Staff Engravers).  However, some successful designer-modeler teams have created outstanding medallic art. Such a combination would only be permitted by artists outside the U.S. Mint. For those Staff Engravers employed by the Mint they must perform both art functions.

Postscript. While the above recommendations for the U.S. Mint were written before they set aside their Janvier machines, and decided to make all models henceforth by computer engraving. My opinion is that computer engraving may not yet be proven as the best artistic tool and computer engraved dies add to the mediocrity of coin designs.

I would be more than willing to change my opinion of computer engraving when I can be shown that it can produce artistic designs of great merit by a talented artist.

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For more than ten years I have studied monetary systems of the world with the question in mind “What will American coins be like in the future?”  I brought to this project seven decades of coin collecting experience (since I started collecting Lincoln cents as a nine-year-old in 1939). In seventy-plus years I was exposed to just about every kind of coin and items used as money in the history of mankind.

I looked for trends in coins of the world, both technical specifications plus how coins were “used.” I tried to project how these trends would continue to develop in the future; to apply common sense, some far-reaching insight, and my numismatic knowledge to project the possible characteristics of United States coins in, say, ten, twenty, or more years in the future. Or, possibly, what they should be. I had to project like a futurist, think like a mint official, but write like a numismatist.

In my research early on I discovered the writings of Francois R. Velde who had studied the major thrust of the same problem – at least that of the most pressing current problem – the composition and need for low denomination coins. As chief economist of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank Velde publish two economic reports and a 2002 book on this subject, The Big Problem of Small Change, the later with co-author Thomas J. Sargent.

Velde offered a brilliant solution to the problem facing Treasury officials at present: cents and nickels currently cost more to manufacture than their face value. (Last year that cost was $42 million, this year appears to exceed $100 million.) His recommendation: revalue (his term was “rebase”) all existing cent coins to five cents, and round off all transaction amounts to a multiple of five cents.

Before I encountered Velde’s Plan, I had come to a similar conclusion, but mine was even more dramatic: revalue both cents and nickels to ten cents, and round off all transaction amounts to a multiple of ten cents.

The brilliance of the Velde Plan was that all coins in circulation stay in circulation – no need for either scrapping billions of coins or a tremendous urgent need for new coins – no need for any recoinage. Granted, there would be windfall gains across America, from families with “penny jars” to retail establishments who stock large amounts of small denominations to make change for retail sales.

Velde’s brilliant plan was published by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank in one of those economic reports. But it has fallen on deaf ears in Washington, now for nearly a decade, as the problem worsens.

As a result of my analysis I wrote a 42-page report which covered the technical specifications of future coins, a timeline for introducing new coins, what mints should strike what coins, suggested designs, and innovative characteristics for all new coins.

I even mentioned how to improve conditions in the engraving department at the Philadelphia Mint including its management, since this was a problem area with the vast number of new coin designs for statehood quarters, presidential dollars (and more recently, the National Parks series), all requiring new coin designs at an accelerated pace.

Also, I even went so far to suggest how coins should be “packaged” at the mint, plus how cash registers of the future would be reconfigured. My ideas are to examine the entire structure of U.S. coins, their use in the future and establish an intelligent plan.

My attempt to get that report published failed. One editor gave me the facts of life: send it to the Congressional Committee on Coinage! (Or, perhaps, to the Treasury. But that was no guarantee it would even be read. Congress likes to put out little fires, like keeping the cent and striking it in an even lower-cost base metal. The Treasury would rather contract with an expensive consulting firm for a multi-million dollar research study. Who would even listen to a guy in Connecticut who recommends revamping the entire U.S. coin structure, offered up a plan without costing the government a cent?)

However, I would like to summarize the content of that report in this article.

Here are some facts as I approached the problem:

  • Any changes in coin characteristics have not been based on intelligent thinking in the past, but rather on political decisions.
  • The use of coins for large purchases has declined; coins are most useful for small cash purchases.
  • The use of coins in vending machines — and the importance of the vending machine industry in general — has exerted great influence on coin characteristics.
  • As more money is transferred by paper, plastic and wire service, the demise of coins entirely has been prophesied, but despite all these projections, coins remain entrenched for use in circulation well into the future.
  • Precious metals have been eliminated from current coins, as all circulating coins are now, in effect, tokens struck in base metals.
  • Even base metal costs rise and fall creating inconsistencies, as the cost of a coin, including the cost of the metal and manufacture costs, often exceeds the face value of low denomination coins.
  • The number of denominations in circulation is ideally five or six in number, but any more than that must be higher denominations, not low value coins.  
What Future Coin Diameters?
Present Size Future Size
Cent .075-inch (19.05mm)
Nickel .0835-inch (21.21mm)
Dime .0705-inch (17.91mm) 15mm
Quarter .0955-inch (24.26mm)
Half Dollar 1.205-inch (30.61mm) 20mm
One Dollar 1.043-inch (26.49mm) 26.5mm
Five Dollar 30mm
Ten Dollar 35mm
Twenty Dollar 40mm
Comments: The cent and the dime nearly the same size, and the nickel larger than the dime – and now the dollar coin smaller than the half dollar — will all be eliminated by a plan to have each denomination larger than those of smaller value. It was learned that coins of 5 millimeter difference in size can easily be differentiated by blind persons, or in the dark, without physical inspection.The dollar coin can remain its existing size. All others will be five millimeter increments different.
What Future Coin Compositions?
Present Composition Future Composition
Cent 2.5% copper coated zinc
Nickel 25 nickel, 75 copper
Dime 8.33 nickel, 91.67 copper ceramic coated aluminum (on one side)
Quarter 8.33 nickel, 91.67 copper
Half Dollar 8.33 nickel, 91.67 copper bronze coated zinc
One Dollar 88.5 copper, 6 zinc,
3.5 manganese, 2 nickel
88.5 copper, 6 zinc,
3.5 manganese, 2 nickel
Five Dollar 8.33 nickel, 91.67 copper
Ten Dollar silver clad copper nickel
Twenty Dollar 90 silver, 10 copper
Comments: The dimes would be a new size and composition; it would be struck in aluminum with one side blank which would be coated with ceramic and imprinted in color. Suggested design would be the fifty states. The technology for this exists in the button industry but would be modified slightly for high speed manufacturing by a new mint.Half dollars would made from a bronze composition made from processed cent metal to be coated on a zinc core.

In effect cents would be recoined, melted and bonded to zinc by the present two firms that presently supply cent blanks to the Mint.One dollar coins remain the same size and composition as present. This would enable the many millions of these in storage to be released into circulation.Five dollar coins would be recoined from existing dime, quarter and half dollar compositions. Ten dollar coins would use this same composition as the core, but would be clad with silver.Twenty dollar coins – intended for the future when needed – would be struck in coin silver.

What Future Coin Appearances?
Present Color Future Color
Cent copper red or brown
Nickel dark gray
Dime light gray gray one side, color one side
Quarter light gray
Half Dollar light gray bronze brown
One Dollar brassy yellow brassy yellow
Five Dollar light gray
Ten Dollar silver gray
Twenty Dollar silver gray
Comments: This plan calls for each denomination to have its own color. Thus three denominations (dime, quarter, half) all the same color is eliminated.
What Future Coin Portraits?
Present Portrait Future Portraits
Cent Abraham Lincoln
Nickel Thomas Jefferson
Dime Franklin Roosevelt Fifty States
Quarter George Washington
Half Dollar John Kennedy
One Dollar S.B. Anthony, Sacagawea , George Washington, US Presidents
Five Dollar Abraham Lincoln
Ten Dollar Alexander Hamilton
Twenty Dollar Andrew Jackson
Comments: If the future portraits sound familiar they are the portraits on our present currency. The greatest conflict over future coins will be the person portrayed on the coins. To prevent this, place the same portraits on the coins as on the paper money. End discussion.Placing a woman in 1979, and then a native American in 2000 on the dollar was caving to political correctness. These were not readily accepted by the American public and millions of these dollar coins are in storage. By the present plan they could be placed in circulation.
Future Security Devices
Cent
Nickel
Dime One side coated with ceramic, imprinted in color.
Quarter
Half Dollar Plain edge
One Dollar Reeded edge
Five Dollar Security edge: alternating reeds and blank areas
Ten Dollar Embedded microchip
Twenty Dollar Embedded microchip
Comments: The use of an embedded microchip in a coin can be of tremendous advantage. For example the monetary value of this coin can be turned “on and off.” It could be struck in advance and stored in the off position. When needed, it would be monetized – turned on – then released to banks for circulation at its face denomination. This would eliminate any coin shortage in the future (and could level out any peaks and valleys of demand by commerce for a more efficient circulation of these coins and stabilize their production at the mint). It could also be selectively turned off, say, if a large number of coins were stolen or captured in a war.The embedded microchip could also have a serial number (like the serial number on paper money) and be used for similar reasons and circumstances, perhaps even tracking the circulation of that specific coin (by microchip readers in banks and other institutions). The number of transactions each coin performs might be useful information of the future (and prove the intelligence of using longer-life coins over shorter-life paper money).

This article only hits the high points of my 42-page Future Coin Report, concentrating on the characteristics of the coins. How these coins can be created is the subject of much of the remainder of that Report.

But you might ask: What does a medal person, and perhaps a medal firm, have to do with coins of the future?

The technology is the same for both products but I have learned from history that new technology developed for one can most certainly be applied to the other. And most often that new technology first appeared on medals, before it was applied to coins.

The first proof surface appeared on a medal, the first clad metal, the first colorized item — and in modern times the first multi-ring blank, and hologram, all appeared on medals first! Can we embed a microchip in a medal before this technology can be applied to coins in quantity?

It remains for medalists and American medal firms to stretch the envelope for both coins and medals!

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