Dear Mr. Moy:
In its meeting of 21 January, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the proposed reverse designs for the five America the Beautiful Quarters for issue in 2011. In addition to their comments regarding the individual coin designs, the Commission members gave general recommendations regarding the images and template for the entire series.
The Commission members noted that this series will potentially include numerous landscapes that are difficult to distinguish from each other as the program continues; they recommended that the Mint choose emblematic features of each park that will remain distinctive in the context of the full twelve-year series. They reiterated their recurring concern that the vast sweep of these scenic vistas is inherently difficult to convey on a coin the size of the quarter. They also criticized the tendency to use photographic images as the basis for the design alternatives, resulting in excessive detail and realism; coin design should instead emphasize the abstraction of key elements in order to convey the essence of the subject.
The Commission members expressed regret that the Mint has rejected their previous recommendation to eliminate the horizontal lower edge of the otherwise circular border as part of the overall template for the series; they acknowledged the Mint's thorough consideration in deciding to retain this feature but noted that it continues to be problematic in the designs, such as in the Gettysburg alternative #3. They also questioned the symmetrical placement of "E Pluribus Unum" and the state name, recommending instead that the standard mottoes be grouped separately from the text labels for specific coins; they acknowledged that the template has been established for this series but note this concern as an ongoing principle for future coin designs.
The Commission's specific recommendations for the individual coin designs were as follows:
Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania). The Commission recommended alternative #3, commenting that it is the simplest design and will therefore be the most legible at the scale of the coin. The Commission recommended adjusting the lower portion of the design to avoid the awkward relationship of the monument base to the flat portion of the border.
Glacier National Park (Montana). The Commission recommended alternative #3, commenting that the Rocky Mountain goat is emblematic of the park and provides a desirable foreground feature that gives scale to the sweeping vista of the glaciated landscape.
Olympic National Park (Washington). The Commission recommended alternative #1, again supporting the inclusion of an animal as an emblem of the larger landscape and commenting favorably on the depiction of the Roosevelt elk.
Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi). The Commission supported alternative #4, depicting the entrance arch of the park, while recommending development of a simplified design that emphasizes this iconic feature without the attempt to depict a realistic landscape setting. The Commission members also discouraged the depiction of sculptural fragments of memorials, as seen in alternatives #1 and #3, commenting that such subjects are not easily recognizable in isolation as historic design features representing the park.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Oklahoma). The Commission did not recommend any of the alternatives, again commenting that the scale of the coin does not support detailed landscape depictions. The Commission suggested further development and resubmission of the bridge featured in alternative #2 due to its distinctive form and symbolic representation of the site, while simplifying or eliminating the landscape setting.
The Commission looks forward to further consultation with the Mint in working toward our shared goal of improving the design quality of our nation's coinage.
As always, the staff is available to assist you with future submissions.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Edmund C. Moy, Director
United States Mint
801 9th Street, NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20220
cc: Kaarina Budow, U.S. Mint