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Presidential Dollars Reverse Type - Artist Rendering
The Presidential Dollars began being issued in February of 2007 and will continue until at least 2016 until every deceased U.S. President has been honored. Because it goes against U.S. tradition (not to mention U.S. law) to depict a living person on the Legal Tender, ex-presidents can only be honored after they have been passed away for at least two years. The Presidential Dollar program, as stated in the legislation that created it, is scheduled to end in the first quarter of 2016 with Richard... M. Nixon. However, it is expected that Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford will be included, and possibly George Bush, Sr., (born 1924.)
This photo gallery allows you to see the coins before they come out, and compare the ideal artistic design (where available) to the actual coins after they are issued.
Learn the fascinating details behind the Presidential Dollars Coin Program.
One of the most remarkable things about the Presidential Dollar is its lack of the legend LIBERTY. Instead, the law that created the Presidential Dollar series specified that the word LIBERTY should be replaced with an image that conveys the concept of Liberty instead. Thus, we have the reverse type, common to all coins in the Presidential Dollar series, of the Statue of Liberty standing in as "Liberty personified."
One of the first things I noticed about this artist rendering was the peculiar shading on Liberty's arms, neck, and face. I wasn't sure if this shading was meant to imply that Liberty was green (like the actual Statue of Liberty) or it meant the reflection of light as played off the shiny coin metal. If the latter, I don't remember ever seeing such a detail captured in an artist rendering of a coin before! It is interesting to compare this drawing to the actual coin (shown on the next page.)Continue to 2 of 22 below.
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Statue of Liberty Reverse of the Presidential Dollar as Struck for Circulation
The image of the coin that appears in the artist rendering is often quite different than what the circulating coin looks like! Compare this Statue of Liberty Reverse of the Presidential Dollar, which was struck for circulation, with the artist rendering of the same type issued months before! (See the previous image.)
The shading on Liberty's arms, neck, and face, which is noticeable in the artist rendering, is transformed here into the implication of a high-relief design. In fact, the actual... coin is struck with a higher relief than any other current circulating design, and I like this reverse design very much. I wish I could say I was so approving of the obverse designs featuring the U.S. Presidents themselves...
The Presidential Dollar coin reverse art was designed and sculpted by U.S. Mint medallic sculptor Don Everhart.Continue to 3 of 22 below.
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George Washington Presidential Dollar Coin Artist Rendering
The first coin in the Presidential Dollar series honors George Washington, who served for two terms, from 1789-1797. When I saw this drawing, I wasn't sure what to expect when the actual coin came out. After a lifetime of seeing the ill-defined coin portrait of Washington on the U.S. Quarter, (although the re-engraving of Washington's hair in 1999 was a big help,) seeing the artwork for the Washington Presidential Dollar was almost shocking.
Americans aren't used to seeing such... lifelike effigies of their national heroes on the coinage. Until the Jefferson Nickel Westward Journey commemorative series, we didn't even have forward facing portraits of our presidents. Although Sacagawea was depicted three-quarters face forward, how would Americans respond to having Washington, a man who was reputed to have never told a lie, looking boldly out at them from their dollar coins?
Continue to 4 of 22 below.
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George Washington's Presidential Dollar as Struck for Circulation
The image of the coin that appears in the artist rendering (previous page) is quite different than what the circulating coin looks like! The artist rendering shows Washington as an almost kindly looking figure, whereas the actual coin makes Washington look a bit dull and quite stern. The nuances between the original art and the coin itself are remarkable and drive home very well the point that even subtle changes in a given portrait or design can have significant ramifications for the final... product.
When coin art is created, (meaning the art that becomes the actual coin die that the coins are struck from,) the process usually begins with a written statement describing what the artist should create and convey in his proposed design. The artist, or several competing artists, prepare conceptual drawings according to this written description. Once one of the artist conceptions is selected, a sculpture of the coin design is made in relief in plastilene or another sculpting material. This sculpture is usually twelve to fifteen inches or more in diameter because it is easier to work at this larger scale than the tiny scale of the actual coin size. Sometimes the same artist who made the coin design art does the sculpting (or engraving, as it is sometimes called,) but often the designer and the sculptor are two different artists.
Once the coin sculpture has been created, a copy is made in epoxy (for stability purposes) and then reduced to coin size via a machine based on the Janvier reducing lathe or similar pantograph technology. These machines work by tracing the large sculpture with two styluses which are linked to each other. As the one stylus traces the larger (original) sculpture, the smaller stylus engraves the "master tool," or master hub (die.) This master hub is the die from which all working hubs and dies will be made, and eventually, all coins are struck.
A lot of technology and careful planning goes into the making of a successful coin die, because if the design is unbalanced (from the perspective of the obverse and reverse,) the coin dies will wear down too quickly, or break under the pressure of high-speed striking.
This Washington Dollar obverse was designed and sculpted by U.S. Mint sculptor-engraver Joseph Menna.Continue to 5 of 22 below.
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John Adams Presidential Dollar Coin Artist Rendering
The second coin in the Presidential Dollar series honors President John Adams, who served for one term, from 1797-1801. I like this drawing of John Adams, although I'm not so sure it conveys his personality traits too well, once one has learned some of the facts about John Adams' life. However, when we, as a nation, are seeking to celebrate the lives our of patriots and Founding Fathers, we want to see the better side of our heroes when they are depicted on seminal public artwork, and... the artist has done a wonderful job of capturing a side of John Adams that most people probably didn't know.
John Adams looks almost kindly here, and keenly intelligent, with a generous mane. The portrait is flattering, considering that Adams was known to be a somewhat corpulent man. Let's see how the portrait looks when transferred to an actual coin (next image.)Continue to 6 of 22 below.
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John Adams' Presidential Dollar as Struck for Circulation
The image of the coin that appears in the artist rendering is often quite different than what the circulating coin looks like! This is especially true for the John Adams Presidential Dollar. The artist rendering (previous image) depicts an intelligent, somewhat attractive man with a thoughtful look in his eyes, but the actual coin (shown above) seems to have lost much of the sensitivity of the original design. Adams' eyes almost look like they have mascara and eyeliner around them! His face... seems to have lost definition, and his hair looks downright greasy.
Lest I get carried away with my criticisms, I must remind the reader that many considerations go into the sculpting and engraving of a coin design. The design must be technologically fit for the high-speed coin presses, and the obverse and reverse designs must have some technological synergy. Otherwise, the coin dies wear down or break very quickly. There have been several very lovely coin designs created in the past, such as the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, or the Peace Dollar by Anthony de Francisci, which were meant by the artists to be struck in very high relief. However, the realities of mass coining didn't mesh well with the artists' intentions, and both of these designs had to be altered to made them feasible for high-production coining.
Although it might be interesting to compare the "before and after" photos of the artist renderings to the actual coins, the fact is that without knowing what the precise technical challenges were for the engraving of each design, it is an exercise in pure speculation to guess why one feature of John Adams' face might have been softened while another was emphasized.
The John Adams Presidential Dollar was designed by Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by U.S. Mint sculptor-engraver Charles Vickers.Continue to 7 of 22 below.
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Thomas Jefferson Presidential Dollar Coin Artist Rendering
The third coin in the Presidential Dollar series honors Thomas Jefferson, who served for two terms, from 1801-1809. As shown in this artist rendering, Thomas Jefferson is staring right straight into the viewer's eyes, almost as if he listening to us try to justify how our society has strayed so very far from our Founding Father's ideals. The tight line of his mouth implies a hint of exasperation with us, and yet the portrait as a whole conveys the sense that Jefferson is a patient and... understanding man. So, what do we get when this artist rendering becomes an engraved coin? Let's look at the next image.Continue to 8 of 22 below.
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Thomas Jefferson's Presidential Dollar as Struck for Circulation
Are we looking at the same man that is depicted in the artist rendering? (See the previous image.) Of course, we are; this is another view of third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, who is featured on the third Presidential Dollar. However, comparing the rendering to the actual coin, we see that Jefferson has lost his penetrating gaze and the mildly exasperated set of his mouth. Here he has a look that seems almost distant and a little bit amused as if he gets the joke that the rest of us are... living. In fact, he is almost smirking here!
How can the actual coin we get be so different from the conceptual drawing? Normally, it would be easy to attribute the difference to varying artistic perspectives, since the artist that designs the coin is often not the same artist who does the die engraving work. In this case, however, the artist is one and the same, U.S. Mint sculptor-engraver Joseph Menna. So why does the visage of Jefferson on the coin look so different from the Jefferson in the artist rendering?
There are many considerations which go into making a successful coin design besides simply creating art. Technical striking requirements may dictate that an area on the obverse die be made in lower relief to facilitate the even flow of metal into all points of the reverse design, for example. If you have ever looked at a penny or nickel edge on, you might have noticed that the coin's rim isn't the same thickness all the way around. Especially on the Wheat Cent, the area of Lincoln's chest and shoulder is in such high relief, drawing up so much metal during striking, that the inscription on the reverse side of the coin in the same place often comes out lightly struck. The variable thickness of the coin is clearly evident on most Wheat Cent specimens when looking at them edge on.
Today, when coins are designed and engraved, mint engineers and artists strive to minimize these "design flaws," so that solidly struck obverses and reverses are the norms for each coin. To accomplish this level of striking perfection, sometimes the original artist conceptions must be altered by the engraver.
The Thomas Jefferson Presidential Dollar was designed and sculpted (engraved) by Joseph Menna.Continue to 9 of 22 below.
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James Madison Presidential Dollar Coin Artist Rendering
The fourth coin in the Presidential Dollar series honors James Madison, who served for two terms, from 1809-1817. For some reason, this artist rendering doesn't "call out" to me in any special way. I can't tell what Madison is thinking here, nor do I feel that can I make a good character judgment. Sometimes art is just that way; the next person who looks at this drawing might see all kinds of strong personality traits! That's what makes art so fascinating; everyone seems to... get something different from the same piece of artwork.
If I had to make an appraisal, I would speculate that the artist has softened the tone of a harsher looking man. There is a hint in the subtle depiction of Madison's triple chins that perhaps he was a corpulent fellow, and yet the overall sense of the portrait isn't that of an obese man. The eyes seem to imply a youthfulness that the grey hair and balding head belie.
Let's compare what the artist conception looks like to what the die sculptor and engraver does with it.Continue to 10 of 22 below.
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James Madison's Presidential Dollar as Struck for Circulation
What an amazing, almost shocking divergence of artistic views! Comparing this coin to the artist rendering (on the previous page) shows many, well, striking differences. A visage for which I had trouble pinning down some traits has suddenly become a startling presence, glaring boldly from the coin into my very heart, and he doesn't like what he sees there! (And that's too bad because people tell me I'm a nice person!) ;)
Although Madison's triple chin is still there, the hints of... corpulence are lost in his high collar and the strong line of his jaw. This is a firebrand we see on this coin, and perhaps a firebrand of such hot temperament that we'd prefer to keep our distance! Madison's gentle hint of balding at a possibly young age have become bold and certain hair loss, and this Madison isn't one to do the ol' "combover," either.
Of the four Presidential Dollars, we have looked at up to now, comparing the artist rendering to the actual coin, this James Madison dollar shows by far the widest disparity between concept and execution. I can't help but wonder what "engineering considerations," (if any,) precipitated such stark changes in design.
The James Madison Presidential Dollar was designed by Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by U.S. Mint sculptor-engraver Don Everhart.Continue to 11 of 22 below.
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Presidential Dollars Incused Edge Inscriptions Artist Rendering
The Presidential Dollars have incused edge lettering that spells out the year of minting and the mintmark, plus the legends E PLURIBUS UNUM and IN GOD WE TRUST (all in capital letters.) This is the first U.S. circulating coin design to have edge lettering since 1933.Continue to 12 of 22 below.
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The Edge Lettering of the Presidential Dollar as Struck for Circulation
Although the actual edge lettering looks somewhat different from the artist rendering of this edge lettering seen in the previous image, I don't think anybody could have anticipated the reality we got when the first Washington Presidential Dollars entered circulation. Hundreds of thousands of Presidential Dollar error coins were discovered with a variety of error types befalling them, but the most notorious were the so-called "Godless Dollars," where the edge lettering was left off... of the coins completely.
The edge lettering on this circulation quality Presidential Dollars can begin and end anywhere around the circumference of the edge, and the lettering can appear right-side up or upside down in relation to the heads side of the coin. It is not an error if the edge lettering is upside down, or starts at the bottom, etc., on normal coins. However, on Proof Presidential Dollars, the edge lettering should always be right-side up and start in the same place on each coin.Continue to 13 of 22 below.
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James Monroe's Presidential Dollar
James Monroe was the 5th president, and he served from 1817 to 1825. His coin was designed and sculpted by Joseph Menna.Continue to 14 of 22 below.
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John Quincy Adams' Presidential Dollar
John Quincy Adams, (the son of 2nd president John Adams,) was the 6th president, and he served from 1825 to 1829. His coin was designed and sculpted by Don Everhart.Continue to 15 of 22 below.
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Andrew Jackson's Presidential Dollar
Andrew Jackson was the 7th president, and he served from 1829 to 1837. His coin was designed by Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by Jim Licaretz.Continue to 16 of 22 below.
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Martin Van Buren's Presidential Dollar
Martin Van Buren was the 8th president, and he served from 1837 to 1841. His coin was designed by Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill.Continue to 17 of 22 below.
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IN GOD WE TRUST is Moved From the Edge to the Front of the Coins
When the Presidential Dollars first came out, the beloved motto In GOD WE TRUST had been placed on the edge of the coins, along with E PLURIBUS UNUM and the date and mint mark. The purpose was to free up space on the coins' front and back, so the designs would be bolder and the coin less cluttered. However, when the first Presidential Dollar, (the George Washington coin) was released, a furor erupted, fueled largely by misinformation perpetrated by press reports that proclaimed the new coins... to be "Godless Dollars". In fact, a minuscule percentage (probably less than one-tenth of one percent, or 0.1% of all Washington Dollars struck) accidentally left the Mint without the edge lettering having been incused on them.
Rumors, which were widely circulated by email, quickly spread, claiming that God was being completely left off of all the new dollars, not just the tiny percentage that happened in error. People began thumping their Bibles and calling their Congressmen, and by the time the furor began to subside and the truth became known, many of the loudest complainers didn't want to back down and admit their mistake. A movement began to gain momentum, this time based on the notion of "restoring God to His rightful place on the face of our coins." Having the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the edge wasn't good enough; God had to be on the faces of the coins, according to the proponents in favor of taking the motto off the edge. A bill was introduced in Congress, duly passed by both houses, and beginning with the first Presidential Dollar coin of 2009, the coins will have a new design which incorporates IN GOD WE TRUST on the front, as shown in the image.
Next: See what the new edge design looks like!Continue to 18 of 22 below.
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Stars to Replace IN GOD WE TRUST on Dollar Edge
When the decision was made to move the motto IN GOD WE TRUST off the edge of the Presidential Dollars and onto the obverse ("heads" side), something was needed to fill out the rest of edge lettering design. The Mint decided to add thirteen stars to the edge, with the date and mint mark appearing halfway between them, as shown in the design template graphic provided by the U.S. Mint. The designs will still be incused (sunken into the edge) as they were in previous years' Presidential... Dollars, and the overall placement on circulating coins will still be random, meaning that the lettering might be right-side up or upside-down in relation to the portrait. Thirteen stars is a not uncommon design motif for U.S. coins, dating all the way back to the new nation's earliest official issues. The stars represent the thirteen colonies that formed the original United States of America.
Next: The 2009 William Henry Harrison Presidential Dollar design.Continue to 19 of 22 below.
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The William Henry Harrison Presidential Dollar Design
The William Henry Harrison Presidential Dollar is the 9th coin in the Presidential Dollar series and the first one issued for 2009. The portrait, shown in an artist rendering provided by the U.S. Mint, was sculpted and designed by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna.Continue to 20 of 22 below.
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The John Tyler Presidential Dollar Design
John Tyler was the 10th U.S. President, and as such, will be on the 10th coin in the Presidential Dollar series. Tyler's coin will be issued in mid-2009, the second of the four coins for that year. The John Tyler Presidential Dollar was designed and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill.Continue to 21 of 22 below.
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The James Polk Presidential Dollar Design
The James Polk Presidential Dollar is the 11th in the series. The Polk coin, which will be the third Presidential Dollar issued in 2009, is expected to be released in the late summer. The coin was designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Susan Gamble and sculpted by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Charles Vickers.Continue to 22 of 22 below.
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The Zachary Taylor Presidential Dollar Design
The Zachary Taylor Presidential Dollar, shown here as an artist rendering, is the 12th Presidential Dollar in the series and will be issued in late 2009. The coin was designed and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart. Everhart also designed and sculpted the Presidential Dollar Statue of Liberty reverse, which is common to all Presidential Dollars throughout the program.