After what seems to be an absolute age, the slow moving wheels of US government have finally decided the American Eagle bullion coin is due for a revamp, well, one side of it anyway. The stylish John Mercanti-penned heraldic style eagle on the silver coin is to be changed, as is the Miley Busiek design on the gold. Both have become ubiquitous because of the sheer number sold over the past 4 decades, so they have to get this right.
Unfortunately, the whole process of coin design at the US Mint seems to be highly politicised, with strict guidelines laid down for what, when and how many, but it does bring a side benefit of making the decision process open to examination. Two organisations, the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) offer advised choices to the Secretary of the Treasury, who can ignore them. The CFA met last week, and the CCAC met yesterday. The 39 designs for 2021 are outlined below.
To save on adding another 39 images, which you’d have to download, we’re showing the silver artwork, and then underneath each batch of four, noting what changes there are to the gold. In general, the changes between the metals are limited to the addition of the IN GOD WE TRUST inscription, along with the obvious metal and value difference. There are also security features to be incorporated that have yet to be detailed, as counterfeiting is one reason for the update.
As for our favourites, we’d be happy to see a single bird on the silver and a more complex design on the gold, mirroring what we have to date. The designs incorporating a flag are tired cliche’s for me,and while R-10 looks great as a numismatic, the symbolism of an eagle with an olive branch isn’t how the world sees the US at present, which is what the bullion coin has to represent. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but nothing that jumps out as being clearly superior to the others. Pushed, I’d say R-35 would look great on the silver, incorporating all of the required symbolism in equal measure. I was never overly enamoured of the current gold design, so I’d go for something bolder and bigger, perhaps R-05 or similar. Tough choice.
Also, and I know this won’t happen, but I thought I’d put it out there for discussion, how about releasing maybe the six best designs not chosen for issue as a set in proof form? Changes like this don’t come along very often and it would make a nice snapshot of coin design for future generations. Some of those below would make very attractive proof coins and the US Mint sells them at pretty reasonable prices compared to many other national mints.