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How are new coin designs chosen?

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Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee

The process of choosing the designs for new coins is lengthy and unfortunately a little wordy! I will do my best to answer the question at hand without losing you all. The ultimate decision of what design goes where falls into the hands of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. The Citizens Coin Advisory Committee (CCAC) was established by congress in 2003. They state their mission and purpose as:

"Mission and Purpose of the CCAC

The CCAC was established in 2003 by Congress under Public Law 108-15 to advise the Secretary of the Treasury on the themes and designs of all US coins and medals. The CCAC serves as an informed, experienced and impartial resource to the Secretary of the Treasury and represents the interests of American citizens and collectors."

Now that makes everything clear! Let's break it down a little farther. The CCAC shows they have 11 appointed members who are knowledgeable in different fields from coins to history and also some coin loving civilians to help advise on the choices of coin designs. On a side note, one of the recently appointed members is non other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Yes, the basketball great you are thinking of. Not only is this not his first committee he has served on (President's Council on Sports and Fitness) but he is a New York Time's best selling author and an avid coin collector. Quite the rounded individual!

When a new design is needed, the CCAC and The Commission of Fine Arts will go through the designs and come up with the final decision. So ultimately they choose what designs will go on our coinage. Still we must ask, where do the designs originate?

Gold Dollar Coin Set

Artistic Infusion Program

The designs can come from a few places, the most well known is the Mint's Artistic Infusion Program. The Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) was also started in 2003. The Mint says this about the AIP:

Established in 2003, the Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) contracts talented, professional American artists who represent diverse backgrounds and a variety of interests. These artists work with our Sculptor-Engravers to create and submit new designs for our coins and medals.

The AIP currently consists of 15 artists who come up with coin designs who then work with the Mint sculptors and engravers to see if their design can even be put on a coin. Today's technology allows more detail than ever before to put on our coinage but there are limits to what can go on the actual coin.

Sometimes popular older designs are reused on current coins but there is still another way a design can make it to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee: public design competitions. From time to time, the Mint will open it's doors to new designers. Starting May 1, a new competition begins for the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11. If you think you may have what it takes, then click the link below and try your hand in coin designing!

In summary, coin designs are certainly not thrown on coins haphazardly. It is a process that passes through many hands. Sometimes old designs are reused or new designs come to light through amateur or professional artists. Regardless of how the design is chosen, the final choice does lay in the hands of a group of knowledgeable members known as the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.


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