The truth is that designing American coins is a long and complicated process. In fact, not a lot of people know that this process involves legislation by the US Congress. So you see, it’s not just about having artists draw up an image that will be stamped on blank coins.
The designing of an American coin starts with a legislation. The Congress will provide details such as specifications on the look of the coin, the corresponding denominations and the appropriate metal. With this process in place, it is clear that US coin designers don’t really have free reins in terms of the design. They have to follow specific guidelines.
After the legislation, the creative work will begin. The appointed artists will make design narratives as well as renderings. They will also work closely on historical graphic and design verification in order to make sure that their designs are faithful to historical accounts. These designs will receive feedback and will go back and forth to the coinage committees and other interested parties. In the end, the Secretary of Treasury will approve the final design.
It is important to remember that designs cannot be rendered by just any artist. Coin production has a lot of very technical aspects that not a lot of designers can appreciate and understand. For example, the artist has to design in such a way that there will be sufficient metal flow on both designs. He has to remember that his design must translate well to both sides of the coin as well as to the characteristic of the metal. However, the US Mint gives other talented artists the chance to design through a contest called, Artistic Infusion Program.
More specifically, the US Mint, the body responsible for creating coins, will initiate communication with the governor of a state. After appropriate information has been exchanged, the state will come up with 3-5 concepts, to be explained and submitted in narrative form.
When the Mint receives the concepts, it will contact its pool of artists who will then create art that interprets or illustrates the specification of the narratives. After feedback and verification is over, the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts will review the designs.