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How Will Our Design Artwork be Judged?
August 31, 2009

The Mint said Friday that it was looking for up to six new artists to be designers in its Artistic Infusion Program.

That's a good thing.

The new designs that have been created in the last 10 years for the various quarter programs, the nickel redesign and the current four commemorative designs on the cent will be the evidence that future generations will examine to determine what sort of period the United States was experiencing in its numismatic art.

Will we be judged by our posterity as was the period 1907-1917 as being a time of great creativity, or will we be condemned for our modern tendency to grab old designs?

The Ultra High Relief gold $20, the Buffalo gold bullion piece and the earlier Buffalo commemorative silver dollar may be beautiful designs, but they are the product of plundering our artistic past rather than being an expression of our own generation's artistic creativity.

I know there is a sense among some collectors that any old design is superior to anything new. I think that is unfortunate. It shows a timidity that we will be heartily condemned for.

We could be viewed like the kid in the back of the class who hopes the teacher won't call on him because he didn't do his homework.

I hope that won't happen. Certainly the sheer numbers of state quarter designs give this generation some artistic claims of its own.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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