On Jan. 12, the U.S. Mint unveiled the design for the 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin, the first in a series of gold coin designs that will depict the ethnic diversity of the U.S.
“The coin represents so much more than its precious weight in value,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said on Treasury.gov.
The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin shows the profile of an African-American woman with a crown of stars on her head and the word ‘Liberty’ across the top of the coin. The phrase ‘In God We Trust’ borders the bottom. According to USA Today, the $100 coin is almost one ounce of 24-karat gold.
As Lew recounted during his speech at the unveiling ceremony, the U.S. Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1792 to standardize the nation’s currency, but the act also declared that all U.S. coins must have an image symbolic of liberty on one side.
“From the very beginning, the nation’s currency and coinage was telling a very important story about who we were and the shared experience we were seeking,” Lew said.
According to Dr. Kevin Klein, history professor at Harding University, the use of non-Anglo-Saxon or non-Northern-European imagery is not new.
“This, however, is an effort to do things that are new — include other groups — but it’s not really new to American coin culture to look for representations that aren’t designed necessarily to be perfect reflections of whatever the dominant group is,” Klein said. “They’re designed to be reflections of ideals.”
According to the U.S. Mint, the coin series celebrates the 225th anniversary of the department, and the series will also depict the symbol of liberty as Asian-American, Latino-American, Indian-American and others “to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.”
“Remembering our past and embracing our future,” Mint Chief of Staff Elisa Basnight said reciting the theme and tagline of the 2017 celebration in the Washington Post. “This phrase acknowledges the 225 years that the Mint has been a vital part of our nation’s economy … Our coins are the metallic footprints of our nation’s history.”
The 225th Anniversary Gold Coin will be released on Apr. 6, and the following coins in the series will be released every two years.
“I think it’s awesome,” sophomore Jasmine Binford said about the coin series. “Just getting away from the idea of categorizing people by their skin color. It’s not necessary. We’re all Americans. It doesn’t matter if you’re white or black or Asian-American or Native American. You are an American, and I think there’s going to be a shift soon toward that.”