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Have you ever heard of John Mercanti? If you collect coins, we hope so. John Mercanti is one of the best-known figures in numismatics today. Not only has he designed and sculpted the heraldic eagle design found on the reverse of the most popular coin in the world, the American Silver Eagle, he also served as the 12th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint from 2006 to 2010.
Despite over 35 years of service, Mercanti hasn’t received much in the way of an official award or ceremony honoring his achievements. According to the board of directors at the Historic RittenhouseTown, a National Historic Landmark District in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that will change in May of 2017. Calling him an “important but somewhat unsung American artist,” they have announced that Mercanti will finally be honored for all of his work during the year-long celebration of the U.S. Mint’s 225th anniversary, with the David Rittenhouse Award.
David Rittenhouse was appointed by George Washington as the very first Director of the U.S. Mint, back when it was established in 1792. A renowned American astronomer, clockmaker, mathematician, surveyor, scientific instrument craftsman, inventor and patriot, he served as treasurer of Pennsylvania from 1777 to 1789. This combination of skills made him the perfect man to help direct and establish the processes that would result in the very first true U.S. coinage.
A firm belief held by Rittenhouse during his tenure at the U.S. Mint, was that a coin’s design made it a piece of artwork. He held fast to this mindset through his work, even going so far as to purchase equipment for the new Mint with his own money to ensure his coins were of the finest quality. When bad health forced him to retire early from his position at the U.S. Mint in 1795, his belief in exceptional quality remained a steadfast piece of the U.S. Mint’s agenda.
Flash-forward a couple of centuries to the present, and you may better understand the gravity of the David Rittenhouse Award. In the words of Barbara Rittenhouse, President of the Board of Directors of Historic RittenhouseTown in Philadelphia, “The David Rittenhouse Award honors those who demonstrate excellence as it represents one of the many contributions that Rittenhouse made to American history… We reserve this prestigious award for those who have contributed their talents at the highest level to our nation.”
If there is one thing John Mercanti has shown us over the years, it is excellence. He has created designs for over 100 U.S. coins and medals - more than any other U.S. Mint artist or engraver before him. Every release displays the highest quality and detail, and like Rittenhouse believed, each coin and medal were struck as pieces of art.
Several of Mercanti’s best-known designs are:
Beyond these key designs, John Mercanti created motifs for numerous commemorative half dollars, dollars, $5 pieces, $10 pieces and medals before he retired from the U.S. Mint in 2010.
Since then, Mercanti has kept a very strong presence in the field of numismatics. Not only has he created more eagle designs through the popular Australian Silver Wedge-Tailed Eagle series, of which ModernCoinMart (MCM) is the official world distributor, but he has even assisted MCM in a collaborative project with the Smithsonian. It is his work that brought Saint-Gaudens’ Winged Liberty Double Eagle design back to life on the silver and gold commemoratives sold by MCM last year. Almost constantly working on new designs and projects, he still finds a way to make it to many of the major coin shows around the country. At the 2017 FUN show, he even sat at MCM’s booth, signing autographs! Make sure to take a look at our exclusive interview with John Mercanti here!
Even if you aren’t going to the David Rittenhouse Award reception and dinner on May 17, 2017, you can still commemorate John Mercanti’s exceptional work by collecting it! MCM is proud to present numerous coins designed by Mercanti, from the American Silver Eagle to the Australian Silver Wedge-Tailed Eagle, and many other works of art. Many of these offerings, along with a variety other U.S. coins that have been certified by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) or Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) with special or even exclusive labels, hand-signed by Mercanti are available now!
Receiving the David Rittenhouse Award is a massive achievement, and we are happy that John Mercanti’s life of service is being prestigiously recognized. To repeat the words of Barbara Rittenhouse, the award is reserved only “for those who have contributed their talents at the highest level to our nation.” If that is the requirement, John Mercanti certainly fits the bill.
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