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Jefferson dollars shed light on review

(ran HC HL HS editions)

A good example of how the Commission of Fine Arts has worked came on Jan. 21, when the panel held a telephone conference call to discuss the preliminary designs for silver dollars to mark the 250th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth.

Committee members had been sent copies of the designs in advance. According to a Coin World account, the panel was "extremely critical" of the drawings. The newspaper said some members of the panel believed Mint engraver T. James Ferrell had "prettified" a Gilbert Stuart medallion portrait of the third president that was featured on the coin's obverse. Jefferson didn't need that, the panel said.

Commission members also challenged engraver James M. Mercanti's off-center design of Jefferson's Monticello for the reverse. "It looks like an amateur photographer who doesn't know how to center the picture," Atherton told Coin World.

The Mint revised its view of Monticello, much to the commission's delight, but it has yet to resubmit its drawing of Jefferson. "When it's a great painting, you don't tinker with it," Atherton said.

Despite misgivings, the commission voted to endorse the designs.

Two organizations will share funds from the $10 surcharge to be placed on the Jefferson dollars. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Inc. is to get the first $5-million in surcharges for the maintenance of Monticello, Jefferson's Virginia home. The Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest, another of the president's Virginia properties, will receive $1-million if all 600,000 authorized dollars are sold.