SLO artist creates design for U.S. Mint's first curved coins

Cassie McFarland, whose baseball-themed design beat out 177 others, says the experience reshaped her view of the art world

slinn@thetribunenews.comApril 7, 2014 

Coin collectors across the nation can now hold the work of San Luis Obispo artist Cassie McFarland in their hands.

More than a million coins bearing McFarland’s design went on sale March 27 as part of the U.S. Mint’s National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Program. The $5 gold coins, $1 silver coins and half-dollar clad coins, which depict a well-worn baseball glove on one side and a baseball on the other, are the first curved coins ever produced by the U.S. Mint.

Coin prices include surcharges, ranging $5 to $35, benefiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., which turns 75 this year.  

“All in all, this is a great triumph for (me) as an artist,” said McFarland, whose winning design edged out 15 other finalists. “It’s not every day that you design a gold coin that’s issued by the U.S. Mint.”

McFarland, who grew up in Roseville, graduated from Cal Poly with a bachelor of fine arts degree concentrating in studio art and design. After living in Boston for two and a half years, she moved back to San Luis Obispo about three years ago.

McFarland, 28, said she stumbled upon the Baseball Hall of Fame coin design competition about a year ago, at a time when she was struggling to discover which artistic direction to take. 

“What’s the best way to get your mind out of a creative box? To do something that’s different,” McFarland said. 

With just 24 hours to complete her submission, McFarland settled on a subtle yet effective design guaranteed to “evoke a little nostalgia on a national level,” she said. 

“I just wanted a simple design that everybody could relate to on a larger level,” said the artist, who used a “completely broken-down” catcher’s mitt she found at her parents’ house as inspiration. “That glove is the perfect representation of childhood and camaraderie and being part of the team.”  

Although McFarland’s original design featured wheat sheaths — a tribute to her family’s involvement with the California State Grange, as well as old-fashioned “wheat pennies” that included images of wheat stalks — that detail was dropped from the finished product.  

Tough competition 

Congress called for a public competition seeking designs “emblematic of the game of baseball” in the 2012 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act, which authorized the U.S. Mint to issue 50,000 gold coins, 400,000 silver coins and 750,000 half-dollar clad coins bearing that design.  (Clad coins feature multiple layers of metal such as copper and zinc.)

According to U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White, the nationwide competition received 178 entries between April 11 and May 11, 2013. From those, 16 finalists were selected.

After consulting with National Baseball Hall of Fame members, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, the U.S. Department of the Treasury selected McFarland’s design in September. 

“You had the perfect combination of the convex shape of the ball and the concave shape of the glove. It really worked out beautifully,” said White, noting that such public design competitions are rare. The last such contest was held in 2001 to select designs for U.S. Capitol Visitor Center commemorative coins, he said.

U.S. Mint sculptor-engraver Don Everhart sculpted McFarland’s design along with her initials, C.M. He also designed and sculpted the baseball ­— similar to the one used by major league players — on the reverse side.

Unfortunately, the official unveiling of McFarland’s design, originally planned for October, was delayed until March 27 because of the 2013 government shutdown. That didn’t stop the artist from visiting the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., then meeting U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios and taking a sneak peek at the silver coin prototype.  

Although she didn’t attend the March 27 unveiling, McFarland visited the San Francisco Mint on March 11, where she participated in a news conference, met with mint workers and signed baseballs.

McFarland, who was paid $5,000 for her design, said the experience has reshaped her view of the art world. She’s even bought one of the gold coins bearing her design, which she plans to store in a safety deposit box.

“Obviously I’m very elated,” said McFarland, whose glove will be joining the Baseball Hall of Fame collection. “This is just a huge opportunity for me.”

How to buy the coins

To purchase coins bearing Cassie McFarland’s design, call 1-800-872-6468 or visit http://catalog.usmint.gov. The gold coins are sold out.

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