By Ed Diokno
Coin collectors, get ready, an Asian American face will soon appear on a U.S. coin breaking a long-time practice of featuring only Euro American men and women, according to the U.S. Mint.
The announcement was made in ceremonies Friday at the Washington D.C. unveiling of a new design for the $100 coin that featured – for the first time – the profile of an African American woman as Lady Liberty, whose braided hair is topped by a crown of stars. The design is a sharp contrast from previous coins that featured European woman with classic Hellenic features.
The unveiling of the 2017 American Liberty Gold Coin not only marked a historic milestone for the allegorical Lady Liberty, who has been featured on American coinage since the late 1790s, but also served to kick-off the Mint’s 225th anniversary—a year-long public awareness campaign about its mission, facilities and employees.
The “tails” side of the new coin
“We have chosen ‘Remembering our Past, Embracing the Future’ as the Mint’s theme for our 225th Anniversary year,” said Rhett Jeppson, United States Mint (Mint) Principal Deputy Director.
“The coin demonstrates our roots in the past through such traditional elements as the inscriptions United States of America, Liberty, E Pluribus Unum and In God We Trust,” explained Jeppson. “We boldly look to the future by casting Liberty in a new light, as an African American woman wearing a crown of stars, looking forward to ever brighter chapters in our Nation’s history book.”
The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin is the first in a series of 24-karat gold coins that will feature designs which depict an allegorical Lady Liberty in a variety of contemporary forms – including designs depicting Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Indian Americans among others-to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States, according to Jeppson.
The designs for the upcoming coins featuring other ethnicities have not been released. As the U.S. becomes more diverse, white resistance to the changing demographics continues to grow, exemplified by the presidential victory of Donald Trump, whose call to “Make America Great Again,” was interpreted by some of his supporters to be a rallying call for European Americans.
“As we as a nation continue to evolve, so does Liberty’s representation,” said Elisa Basnight, the chief of staff at the Mint.
The African American Lady Liberty coin is not the first time a person of color has been featured on U.S. legal tender. In 2011, the U.S. Mint released a coin showed a Native American woman.
The 2011 Native American $1 Coin celebrates the Wampanoag Treaty of 1621 that later led the English colonists and Massosoit and his men to join in the colonies’ first harvest feast that became the model for Thanksgiving.
The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin will be struck in .9999 fine 24-karat gold at the West Point Mint in high relief, with a proof finish. The one-ounce coin will be encapsulated and placed in a custom designed, black wood presentation case. A 225th anniversary booklet with Certificate of Authenticity will accompany each coin.
The new coin, while legal tender, won’t be circulating around as loose change. It is designed for coin collectors. Only 100,000 of them will be made so actual cost will most likely exceed the coin’s $100 actual value.
The Mint will announce additional information about the 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin prior to its release on April 6.