Will American Eagle Bullion Coins Get New Designs?
The United States Mint has earned a reputation for, above all else, steady symbolism on its coins. This was true throughout the 20th century and has continued into the new millennium.
There's certainly a good reason behind this. Consistent, unchanging coin designs and stable iconography are an artistic reinforcement of the U.S. dollar's status as the reserve currency of the world.
However, some modern coin collectors have characterized this lack of new designs from the mint as bland and unimaginative. Other major government mints, which don't face the same constraints or burdens of reserve-currency status, have meanwhile been far more creative with their coin designs.
Some of the best examples of this greater artistic freedom on coins come from Perth Mint (Australia) and the Royal Canadian Mint. Both of these institutions have won over collectors and investors alike with their emphasis on regularly updating their bullion coin designs and themes.
The U.S. Mint may finally be preparing to give two of its flagship coins a makeover given those successes in Canada, Australia, and elsewhere.
Bullion Coin Redesign?
Aside from the quarter and the nickel, most American coin denominations haven't received a redesign in many decades.
For instance, the Lincoln penny has used the same obverse design created by Victor D. Brenner since 1909! Similarly, neither side of the Roosevelt dime has been updated since its debut in 1946.
The same design durability has been true of U.S. gold and silver bullion coins ever since their introduction in 1986.
The last time a redesign for these flagship coins was considered was back in 2014, but the effort ultimately fell through.
In order for any American coinage to undergo a design change, Mint Director David Ryder must first seek the approval of the Treasury Secretary, who is currently Steve Mnuchin.
Artists Offer Opposing Perspectives
The two sculptors who created the reverse designs on the Silver Eagle and Gold Eagle each were reached for comment about the proposal.
John Mercanti, who designed the heraldic eagle motif for the reverse of the Silver Eagle, essentially responded with a rhetorical shrug. He simply acknowledged that "nothing lasts forever," exhibiting a level of humility befitting someone who most recently held the post of Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint.
However, the creator of the reverse design for the Gold Eagle was a bit more disquieted by the news. The artist-sculptor Miley Frost (née Busiek) believes her design continues to be a vehicle for American values and an optimistic future.
Her design (above) depicts a family of eagles, cleverly communicating a hope for future generations through the familiar and iconic national symbolism of the bald eagle.
We tend to agree with the artist in this case. Not only is Frost's design a novel encapsulation of important virtues that America ought to uphold, she correctly points out that one of the mint's concerns—making these bullion coins more resistant to counterfeiting—can be done without abandoning the existing artwork.
You can read the full comments made by Mercanti and Frost in reporting by Coin World.
Director Ryder could request that both sides of the coins be revamped rather than only the reverses. That would effectively retire the classic obverse designs of the AGE and ASE: the awe-inspiring Lady Liberty by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and the popular Walking Liberty theme by Adolph A. Weinman, respectively.
Although the push for new bullion coin designs seems to be growing within the numismatic community, a better option would be to only alter the reverse of the proof versions of the coins. Perhaps they could even use original new artwork annually. The mint has long taken this exact approach with the lesser-known American Platinum Eagle Proof, and would be well-served to consider something similar here.
The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.
Everett has been the head content writer and market analyst at Gainesville Coins since 2013. He has a background in History and is deeply interested in how gold and silver have historically fit into the financial system.