Four Questions for Don Everhart
WWI Centennial Silver Dollar is last project for legendary U.S. Mint designer
By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission
Don Everhart is a legend in the world of numismatic design and sculpting. Don began his professional career at The Franklin Mint, where he worked as a sculptor from 1975 to 1980. From 1980 to 2004, he worked as a freelance artist, designing figurines, plates, coins, and medals for Walt Disney, Tiffany, the Royal Norwegian Mint and the British Royal Mint. He joined the U.S. Mint in 2004. There, he created designs for numerous coins and medals, notably the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coins (selected 2016 Coin of the Year), designing the reverse and sculpting both sides of the first curved coins produced by the U.S. Mint. He designed and sculpted the common reverse for the Presidential $1 Coin and 14 obverse portraits in the series. His designs appear on three of the 50 State Quarters coins. Four of the designs in the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program are also his. Everhart has designed many Congressional Gold Medals, including the 2005 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King medal obverse; the 2005 Dalai Lama medal obverse, both sides of the Barack Obama Second Term Presidential Medal and the reverse of the First Term medal. His work resides in the permanent collections of The Smithsonian Institute, The British museum, and The American Numismatic Society. He retired from the U.S. Mint last year as the Lead Sculptor, -- and his last coin project was our WWI Centennial Silver Dollar. Our WWI coin was special to him, so we discussed it with him, in the context of his incredible career.
What sort of projects have you worked on in your career as a coin sculptor and how did the project of the WWI Centennial coin compare to them?
I’ve done lots of different things in my career - figurative, analyst, landscape….This coin is one of a category. I had never done anything for WWI before. This coin was particularly special because my grandfather was in WWI. He wasn’t in it for long because the war ended but he was in it. This coin was also different in that I didn’t design it.
Basically there was an open competition where everyone was eligible to submit a design (except for gravers at the US mint) to committees in Washington, which then decided on the set that Leroy had drawn. The drawings and plasters Leroy sent were not mint ready. I had to take certain things under advisement, but tried to maintain the integrity of the design as much as I could.
After it was finished, I was talking with Leroy, and neither of us were really satisfied with it, and so I did it over. The second time around I used a softer clay so I could be more spontaneous with brush strokes and maintained the spontaneity of the design to make it mint ready. I just didn’t feel like I captured the work perfectly in the first coin and wanted to be sure to do it justice.
Can you explain what your creative process is like? How did this process function to produce the WWI Centennial Silver Dollar?
Normally I design the coins. When I design, I do one idea at a time and develop it completely. Since I didn’t design it, I started with a blank coin, which is basically like a slight shallow dish that is about a 1/16 of an inch, and then start by scrapping the coin down,
After I do an overlay of drawing, and cut out all the negative space of that drawing. Then can add on and take away from it at will in clay.
After I cast it in plaster, in which everything is negative (up is down, left is right, and vice versa), I put in detail, and cut into negative plaster to produce a relief in the detailing. The lettering is always put on later. Once happy with the details, I do the final positive piece of plaster. Some of my other work can be seen on my website doneverhartsculpture.com, if you are interested.
What were some of your favorite moments in the creation of the WWI Centennial Silver Dollar? Is there anything specific about the WWI Centennial Silver Dollar’s design or detailing that you particularly admire or enjoyed sculpting? If so, why?
I liked what he had done in the design and treatment of it. When I was sculpting it in the softer clay it was fun to not worry about how precise it would turn out, and I was able to be expressive and free with it. I got to really try to capture the character. I don’t normally get to do many things that are spontaneous and loose, as usually the designs are very precise and cleaned up, so this was fun in that regard.
Where and how can people best view or purchase this coin?
People can go to ww1cc.org/Coin to see the full layouts of the designs.