While a female designer’s work would not appear on a circulating U.S. coin until Glenna Goodacre’s Sacagawea Dollar was issued in 2000, when Congress authorized minting of bullion coins in 1985, the Treasury chose sculptor Miley Busiek’s Family of Eagles design for its reverse.
U.S. Gold Coin Production and Design Opportunity
Congress had prohibited issuance of gold coins in 1933 as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s sweeping economic legislation to combat the Great Depression. But by the early 1980s, restrictions on gold ownership by U.S. citizens had been lifted and millions of dollars were flowing into foreign treasuries as Americans sought to add gold bullion to their assets. To compete with foreign coins, Congress authorized the minting of gold bullion coins in 1985. The Augustus Saint-Gaudens full-length Lady Liberty Double Eagle $20 gold coin design was chosen for its face, but they wanted a new design for its reverse to distinguish it from the earlier currency.
Reverse Face Design of Lady Liberty Double Eagle $20 Gold Coin
When Miley Busiek learned of that, she thought she had the perfect design. Several years earlier she had designed a medallion for the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan. The bald eagle has long been a symbol of America’s strength and freedom, but it had always been depicted as a single bird in heraldic fashion. Inspired by Reagan’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 1980 in which he emphasized unifying for the common good, Busiek got the idea of depicting not a single eagle, but a whole family. It featured a male bald eagle carrying an olive branch back to a nest occupied by his mate and their offspring. The Republican National Committee chose it for the commemorative medallion, and Busiek decided to submit it to the Treasury Department for the new gold bullion coin. It was well received, but Treasury officials informed her that Congress had the final say on the coin’s design.
Lobbying for and Promoting Coin Designs
While Busiek was already well connected in Washington circles due to her work on several prominent monuments, she wasn’t content to rest on her laurels. She began lobbying prominent figures in her home state of Texas including Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, who recruited Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs to the cause. She followed with trips to Washington where she promoted her design to members of Congress and their staffs and testified at hearings when coin legislation was being discussed.
Her efforts were so successful that when Congress approved the new gold coins, they specified that the reverse depict a male eagle carrying an olive branch and flying above a nest containing a female eagle and hatchlings. While not mentioning Busiek by name, it virtually assured that her design would be chosen.
Modern Monumental Sculpture
Working today as Miley Tucker-Frost, she continues to produce monumental sculpture that is in major private, corporate and institutional collections including the Regan Library, the Smithsonian American History Museum, and the University of Texas, Austin.
Collect Gold American Eagle Bullion Coins
The Great American Coin Company® is proud to offer Gold American Eagle Bullion Coins in 1/10, 1/4, 1/2, and 1 ounce versions produced under the U.S. Mint’s bullion coin program. Each features the striking Saint-Gaudens and Busiek designs in 91.67% 22-karat gold. They’re great additions to both bullion portfolios and coin collections, and make beautiful gifts for special occasions, too.
The Great American Coin Company® offers a wide selection of collectible U.S. coins and paper money as well as currency from around the world. We keep adding unique collectibles as they become available, so be sure to visit us frequently. And while you’re there, be sure to visit our blog for interesting and timely articles about currency and precious metals.