October is National Arts and Humanities Month. As Banknote and Coin Collectors, we know there is a dizzying array of amazing art depicted upon Worldwide currency. If you’ve ever crafted any artwork yourself, be it a drawing, a short story, or even a sculpture, you know that the process involves far more than simply putting a pen to paper or a thumb to clay. Imagine being America’s coin production team who produce billions of coins, operating 24/7. The United States Mint and its team of talented artists produce some of the most beautiful artwork in the form of currency.
Recently we talked about sculptor James Earle Fraser’s Buffalo Nickel design. Fraser was one of many coin artists throughout our country’s coin minting history who was not an actual employee of the U.S. Mint. Even today, the Mint looks outside its own staff of 6 sculptors and engravers for artistic talent via its Artistic Infusion Program. These artists work with the Mint’s master staff to produce the artwork you carry in your pocket every day.
How do they do it? Every artist has their own set of preferred tools and methods. The aforementioned James Fraser sculpted in limestone. The current U.S. Mint Lead Sculptor Don Everhart sculpts in clay. Medallic Sculptor Joseph Menna uses commercially available software for his digital sculptures and reproductions. The digital coin designing process is an amazing improvement since the days of hammering coins out of Martha Washington’s silverware.