2015 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin: The Artists Behind the Designs

By Office of Corporate Communications
July 15, 2015

Justin Kunz
Justin Kunz

In 2009, the United States Mint set another milestone in the renaissance of American coin design with the creation of the 24-karat Ultra High Relief Gold Coin, the fulfillment of Augustus St. Gaudens’ original vision for the 1907 Double Eagle Gold Coin. The bureau will mark a new milestone on July 30 when it releases the 2015 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin.

The Mint, working closely with the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), conceptualized a modernized rendition of Liberty and a new eagle design to be featured in 24-karat gold. Based on the requirements identified in the collaboration, eight artists in the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) were invited to submit designs.

“The designers were chosen based on their artistic strengths, with a goal of getting a broad selection of designs,” said Design Management Division Program Manager Roger Vasquez. “The CCAC wanted to see a variety of designs that included busts of Liberty, as well as Liberty sitting and standing.”

Of the design candidates submitted, Justin Kunz and Paul Balan’s were selected.

Kunz, a representational artist and teacher, has been a part of the Mint’s AIP program since 2004, with occasional brief hiatuses during his graduate studies. He described the challenge he faced creating his new interpretation of Liberty, which was chosen for the obverse (heads side):

“The problem we were tasked with solving, to portray Lady Liberty as a modern figure (rather than a traditional one), proved a bit more difficult in practice than it sounded in theory. It required a lot of studying, sketching and meditating about what Lady Liberty represents, what it is that defines our time from past eras, and how these ideas might be distilled down to a simple visual statement that could be expressed in an elegant way.”

Kunz said he hopes the designs “will be remembered as expressions of faith in this nation’s founding ideals, a tribute to our finest accomplishments, and optimism about our potential for the future.”

Balan’s version of an American eagle was chosen for the reverse. The design depicts an American eagle rising in flight, gripping a branch in its talons. An AIP artist since 2009, the Philippines native says he’s honored to be part of the program and the coin design evolution:

“As an immigrant, who became an American citizen, it feels like I’ve made a full circle to have a role in designing such a historic coin,” he said. “It’s a dream to work with the design management team at the Mint and my fellow AIP artists, who I admire and have great respect for. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have my work featured in American coins.”

Balan, who describes his style as “clean and simple”, said he hopes Americans “feel a sense of pride, ownership and belonging” when they see his designs.

Time, and the numismatic community, will tell if Kunz and Balan’s designs evoke the sentiments they strived to convey through their designs for the 2015 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin.

Read more about the 2015 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin.

Paul Balan
Paul Balan

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