The U.S. Mint has announced two new medals that will be released August 23rd - the 2016-S and 2016-W Proof American Liberty Silver Medals. These medals will have the same design seen on last year's beautiful $100 High Relief Gold American Liberty Coin, and will be struck with a proof finish! What else do we know about these new medals?
On August 23, the U.S. Mint is releasing the first of a new type of product: a silver medal with a proof finish that is struck with the same design as a legal tender U.S. coin! This silver medal will be struck using the same design that appeared on last year's $100 American Liberty Gold coin. Unlike the Mint’s previous gold coin however, this silver medal will struck onto the same planchet as an American Silver Eagle. The fine design will be larger than ever before, spread out over 40.6 mm!
The 2016 Liberty Silver Medals are being issued with two different Mint marks, “W” and “S” for the West Point and San Francisco Mints that produce collector coins. This is similar to the approach that was used with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 Silver Medals struck back in 2011 which were issued with “W” and “P” Mint marks. Despite the different Mints, both of these 2016 Proof Silver American Liberty Medals will depict a modern representation of Lady Liberty on their obverse and American eagles on their reverse, two of the most iconic American national symbols.
These medals use the same designs that appeared on the $100 1 oz. High Relief Proof Gold American Liberty coin struck by the U.S. Mint in 2015. This was the first coin ever to depict Lady Liberty as a modern woman, in order to represent the diversity of 21st century America. That coin also marked the first time a new Liberty design was used on U.S. coinage in 70 years!
On the 2015 $100 gold issue, Lady Liberty is shown on the obverse wearing a crown of olive leaves while grasping an American flag in one hand and a torch in the other. This stoic image is the product of accomplished U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) artist, Justin Kunz and was sculpted by the talented Phoebe Hemphill.
The reverse shows an eagle rising in flight and holding an olive branch in its talons. This eagle design is somewhat reminiscent of the Gobrecht silver dollars of the 19th century, as well as the reverse design on the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. This design was created by AIP artist Paul Balan and sculpted by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart. If the designs on these silver medals are struck with relief or detail anywhere close to what we saw on the 2015 $100 gold coins, we are certainly in for a treat!
The American Liberty gold coin and accompanying silver medal program is the brainchild of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee under the leadership of former chairman, Gary Marks. He led the committee from 2010 to 2015 and was a member from 2007 to 2015. Marks has long-been a proponent of restoring Liberty to our coinage and during his tenure, the committee suggested producing a series of circulating coins with modern images of Liberty. Unfortunately, that idea never received sufficient support in Congress.
The American Liberty program is part of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee’s (CCAC) ongoing efforts to:
Promote greater artistic excellence in American coin design
Promote future releases from the Mint featuring non-bronze medals in effort to showcase the talents of American medallic artists.
The committee in 2015 proposed issuing an ongoing series of silver medals to go along with the gold coins of the American Liberty series. However, in July of 2015, the Mint announced that there would be no medal for that year.
This appeared to leave the medal program in limbo, until the Mint announced that it would release a 2016 medal struck at both the West Point and San Francisco Mints using the design that appeared 2015 high relief gold coin. Plans are in the works to produce another proof silver medal in 2017 using the design for the upcoming 2017 $100 gold coin. The coin will bear an obverse representation of Liberty as an African-American woman wearing a crown of stars.
The success of the 2016 medal program will have a large impact on whether this becomes an ongoing series beyond the 2017 medal. Toward that end Mr. Marks, whom I have known for several years and have interviewed for a number of articles, has said that the CCAC recommended issuing the medal in proof rather than in business strike as the 2015 Gold Coin was issued. He said that “…the idea of a proof finish would make the difference between a well-received program and a super-charged success.”
Mr. Marks also said that he hopes the Mint will sell the new medals the same way they sold the 2011 national 9/11 silver medal, i.e., for a defined period of time rather than with a capped mintage limit. That approach enables us to see how popular the program truly is, he said. Unfortunately, the Mint has gone with a separate approach - a limited mintage of 12,500 coins for each medal. This caused these 2016 Proof Silver American Liberty Medals to sell out from the U.S. Mint in under 5 minutes!
Regarding the plan to issue the medal at two Mints, in a February 2, 2015 letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the members of the CCAC recommended that approach “to assure solid supply and interest for the collecting community.” They also said they believed this gold coin and silver medal program “will be met with strong support from the numismatic community provided the designs are attractive and lend themselves well to production in high relief.” That certainly appears to be the case based on the images the Mint provided of the medals earlier this summer.
Although many coin collectors also have an interest in medals, coins have been more popular than medals among numismatists. The 2016-W and 2016-S American Liberty Proof Silver Medals could mark an important turning point in that regard. The combination of the highly appealing themes of liberty and freedom, the well-designed and original artwork that graces both sides of the medal, and the fine proof finish all combine to create a stunning work of medallic art that is likely to be very well-received by collectors.
You can purchase these 2016 Proof Silver American Liberty Medals from ModernCoinMart (MCM) right now. Whether you are looking for coins in their original Mint packaging, coins graded by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), or coins graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), MCM has what you need. Check out our selection, and see if one of our options will suit you!
Author Name: Louis Golino
Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst,” and in August 2021 the column received the NLG award for best column on modern U.S. coins. He has also received other awards for his writing. He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and and other publications. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.