by Louis Golino for CoinWeek.com
Ing Ing Jong, a Perth Mint coin designer, recently discussed with me her experience as a coin designer and her work on the new American Bald Eagle high relief silver proof coin, a stunning piece that depicts the bird’s profile in exquisite detail. The coin has a limited mintage of 5,000 units, most of which sold out quickly at various U.S. coin distributors over the past few weeks. The coin was minted by Perth on behalf of the government of Tuvalu.
LG- How did you get involved with designing coins and how did you become a coin designer for The Perth Mint?
IIJ- Growing up, I’ve always felt inspired to draw and I dreamed of being an illustrator or an animator. To add to my portfolio and learn more about the craft that I love, I studied at the Central School of Art and Design in Perth specialising in illustration and multimedia. I graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Graphic Design in 2006. Following this, I took up a Bachelor of Multimedia at Curtin University which enabled me to further study animation, web design, illustration, video editing and photography. I have worked as an Illustrator at The Perth Mint since early 2011.
LG- What are the main influences on your work?
IIJ- As a huge Disney fan, my love of illustration and animation grew naturally from a young age. I have a real passion for drawing and creating characters. I completely admire how Disney animators are able to convey the essence of the character’s emotions through their sketches. The fact that I too can put life into my designs through Perth Mint coins is very rewarding.
LG- What inspired you to create the Tuvalu high relief bald eagle coin, and to zero in on the bird’s profile, which I have never seen before in an eagle coin?
IIJ- Following the brief, I wanted to ensure that I accurately presented the protective gaze on the birds face. As the symbol of the United States and a source of pride for the nation, the American Bald Eagle stands for strength, courage and freedom, which I aimed to reflect in my design.
LG- What are the advantages of doing the design in high relief?
IIJ- I thoroughly enjoy working on high relief projects as the deep metal blank captures the finer features of an intricate coin design. The advantage of using high relief on the American Bald Eagle coin meant that we have a more sculpted detail emphasis on the bird’s face and neck, highlighting its amazing plumage.
LG- Please tell us a little about the process you go through when creating a coin and the technologies you use.
IIJ- We’re very lucky that The Perth Mint provides us with a range of modern technology, making our job so much easier. We use advanced graphics tablets which enable us to hand-draw images similar to the way a person draws with a pencil and paper. When designing the American Bald Eagle coin, I started off with a sketch and then scanned it into my computer and used my tablet to render the design. Our team of talented engravers then manipulated the artwork into 3D bringing the final piece to life.
LG- I have heard you designed the Year of the Snake coins for Perth. What other coins have you designed for Perth or other mints? What are your favourite coins or coin series?
IIJ- I have worked on a range of coins during my time at The Perth Mint, with my first ever design being a kookaburra which formed part of the Australian Map Shaped series. It was fantastic to work on a landscape design, and I really enjoyed portraying one of Australia’s most popular birds in its natural surroundings. It was interesting because the map-shaped coin was more difficult to design than a regular round coin, yet I enjoyed the challenge of working with a smaller surface area.
The 2013 Year of the Snake designs were also a stand-out project for me. When I was approached to do the designs, I was excited and intrigued to learn more about snakes, especially as I’ve never been particularly interested in them before. After conducting my field research at a local petting zoo, where I got the chance to hold a large python, I was surprised by how silky it felt to touch and how calm it behaved. I reflected my experience in my designs by portraying the patience and charming nature of the snake. I particularly enjoyed showing the calmness and control of the reptile.
Most recently, I designed the 2014 Mother’s Love 1/2oz silver proof coin series which celebrates the unique bond between a mother and her offspring in the animal kingdom. This is such a beautiful concept and was a lot of fun to design.
CoinWeek is grateful to Ms. Jong and the Perth Mint for making this interview possible.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His insightful retrospective on the American Silver Eagle was the cover feature of the February 2014 issue of The Numismatist. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.