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Example of coin design: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Quarter, U.S. Mint. ( Click here to see more examples )

Example of coin design: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Quarter, U.S. Mint. (Click here to see more examples)

Ferris Coin Call For Artists

Seeking Artists for a Competition to Design Silver Commemorative Medallion Honoring African American World War I Hero Sgt. Henry Johnson

Design (With line art) the Obverse and Reverse of Silver Commemorative Coin-shaped Medallion in Recognition of the 100th Anniversary of African American Sgt. Henry Johnson’s Act of Valor in World War I

$2,000 in Prizes Available

Applications Open: March 15, 2018

Application Deadline: April 17, 2018*

Winner Notified: April 2018

* Electronic submissions accepted until 11:59 p.m.
If mailing, physical submissions must arrive by 5 p.m. at Ferris Coin, 199 Wolf Road, Albany NY 12205. Hand deliveries OK.

Note: the guidelines on this page are modeled after similar design contests held by the U.S. Mint. Though Ferris Coin Co. is an agent for the U.S. Mint, this contest is independent and not affiliated with the U.S. Mint in any way. The resulting coin-shaped medallion will not be legal tender.

Official Rules

By submitting an entry in this competition, artists agree to be bound and abide by all of these Official Rules.

I. About the Competition

In the summer of 2018, Ferris Coin Co. will issue a 39mm (1.5 in.) commemorative coin-shaped medallion in both .999 percent silver and in antique brass, on the 100th anniversary of Sgt. Henry Johnson’s act of valor during World War I.

The coin-shaped medallion is intended to raise awareness for the story and sacrifice of Sgt. Henry Johnson, while calling attention and lending support to the annual Henry Johnson Award for Distinguished Community Service in Albany, N.Y.

For the next 10 years, the silver Henry Johnson Commemorative Coin-shaped Medallion will be presented to the winner of the Henry Johnson Award for Distinguished Community Service, given annually in the spirit of Albany resident Henry Johnson, in honor of his service and drive to go above and beyond the call of duty.

The general public may also purchase the Henry Johnson commemorative medallions, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the 369th Veteran’s Association Inc., Albany District, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that helps finance the Henry Johnson Award.

The Coin-shaped Medallion:

Both the silver and antique brass coin-shaped medallion will share the same obverse (front) and reverse (back) designs.

The design for both sides (obverse, reverse) of these commemorative coin-shaped medallions will be based on the winning designs from a juried design competition. The common obverse of the coin-shaped medallions should be a representation of a close-up of Sgt. Henry Johnson based on the two existing public domain photographs of him. (Note: Johnson's regiment — the 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly known as the 15th New York National Guard Regiment, also known as the “Harlem Hellfiighters”— wore the French Adrian helmet, not the the Brodie helmet (or doughboy helmet).

The reverse design will feature a subject and scene of the artist's choosing, inspired by concepts such as duty, honor, sacrifice or civic responsibility and pride as well as the stature of Sgt. Johnson and his heroic actions. Please refer to Design Requirements and Vision statement below for guidance.

Artists may submit designs for both sides of the coin-shaped medallion.

The competition will proceed in two phases. In Phase One, artists will submit a digital copy of their work (paper facsimile will be accepted, but must be received by the deadline).

An expert jury will review these submissions and select the winning design for both the obverse and reverse of the coin-shaped medallions. The same design will be used on the silver and antique brass coin-shaped medallions. Two prizes in the amount of $1,000 will be awarded for the winning designs for the obverse and reverse sides of the coin-shaped medallion. If one artist submits winning designs for both sides of the coin-shaped medallion, then he or she will be awarded $2,000. The winning artist or artists will receive one silver coin-shaped medallion and one antique brass coin-shaped medallion.

The winning artist, or artists, will be named as designer(s) in historical documents, the Certificates of Authenticity, and promotional materials.

Artists are expected to distill the program’s design theme to its essence, representing a complicated subject on a very small palette.

In creating a coin design that will be translated into bas-relief sculpture, artists must take into consideration the ideas of relief, depth and negative space. Although the design will begin as an illustration, artists must think three-dimensionally.

Ferris Coin Co. is seeking artists who can bring innovative perspectives and who can effectively utilize symbolism to create original artwork that is emblematic of Sgt. Henry Johnson’s valor and that honors the spirit of service to community.

II. Eligibility: Who May Enter the Competition

Ferris Coin requires that designs be created by a single artist.

To qualify for this competition artists must be:

  • a citizen of the United States or permanent resident

  • 18 years of age or older

III. Disqualification

Ferris Coin reserves the right to disqualify, at any time, artists and their entries, if —

  1. the entrant engages or has been found to have engaged in infamous, dishonest or notoriously disgraceful conduct, or any other conduct unbecoming of our company or the vision of this project.

  2. the entry or entrant violates or does not fully comply with these Official Rules;

  3. Ferris Coin Co. determines that submitted material is not original and/or infringes the rights of a third-party; or

  4. the entrant is determined to be ineligible by Ferris Coin in its sole discretion.

Disqualification could, among other things, result in cancellation of, and/or the requirement that the entrant reimburse Ferris Coin for, any payment to which such an entrant might otherwise have been or might become entitled.

IV. Phase One: Submit Designs

To enter this competition, artists must submit an application through https://www.ferriscoin.com/henry-johnson/submissions containing the required materials discussed below and on the application form.


1. General Contact Information

Artist contact information, including name, address, telephone number, and email address.

2. Submission of Work

All submissions must be the artist’s original work. Electronic media submissions are preferred.  Physical facsimiles accepted.

Please label each work submission with title of the work, materials, and dimensions.

Please include your first and last name in the filename for the image(s). At your option, you may also label each submission with an arrow or the word “top” indicating orientation of the image.

Physical submissions mailed or hand delivered to Ferris Coin, 199 Wolf Road, Albany, NY 12205, must arrive by 5 p.m. April 17, 2018.  Digital submissions must be received by 11: 59 p.m. April 17, 2018.

Samples will not be returned. Ferris Coin is not responsible for damage or loss of submitted materials, whether or not such damage or loss is caused by negligence on the part of Ferris Coin or its employees or agents.

Submission Requirements

Physical models are not required for this competition, and will not be accepted by Ferris Coin nor evaluated by the jury.

Digital Design Submission:

  1. Designs must be black and white, 8 in. in diameter, submitted on a white background.

  2. Submit high-resolution digital files as JPEG or TIFF  (300 ppi at 8 in. diameter).

  3. Shading: Artists may use any type of shading technique to convey the dimension of elements to include form, relief and structure as a “map for sculpt.” As techniques such as 2D shading cannot be executed in 3D sculpt, do not use techniques in your digital design submission that incorporate multiple levels of value traditionally used in illustration to convey color, photorealism, and other visual enhancements.

  4. Borders: Major elements with substantial detail and volume should not be placed near the edge of the design. Too much relief and detail near the border of the coin-shaped medallion increases striking tonnage and creates fill issues. Minor design elements (such as lettering, stars, or laurel branches) are acceptable near the border.

  5. Fonts:

    • Fonts must be shown in outline form to denote raised font. Fonts in black will be interpreted as incused (recessed) lettering.

    • Fonts must be a product of Photoshop, Illustrator, or Corel Draw. The name of the font must be identified with the design submission along with the software program.

    • Do not use fonts that create bridging issues in the minting process.

Note: The coin-shaped medallion has a diameter of 1.5 inches (39 millimeters). Contestants are encouraged to shrink and view their art at 39 mm. diameter to check that details will be clear at the medallion’s actual size.

Design Requirements and Vision

The purpose of this coin-shaped medallion is to commemorate Sgt. Henry Johnson’s valor and to honor the spirit of service to community. These concepts should be clearly and creatively expressed on both sides of the coin.

  • The design should not glorify war itself. Rather the focus should be on remembering Sgt. Johnson, respecting Johnson’s heroic actions, and the value of taking civic responsibility.
  • Do not depict images of military medals.

  • Do not include the name or depiction of any living person, even with permission.

  • Do not include names, emblems, logos, trademarks or other intellectual property associated with any specific government, commercial, or private organization.

  • Do not include the artist’s name, initials, logo, mark, or other identifier anywhere in or on the design.

  • Do not include any currency denomination.

  • Design should not be frivolous or inappropriate.

Obverse design submissions must—

  • Feature an accurate likeness of Sgt. Henry Johnson based on historical photographs in the public domain. [See photos ]

Required Inscriptions on Obverse Design*

  • "Sgt. Henry Johnson"

  • "Enlisted 05 JUN 1917" or "Enlisted June 5, 1917"

  • "Albany, NY"

Reverse design submissions—

  • Artwork should clearly and creatively interpret concepts (such as duty, honor, sacrifice or civic responsibility and pride as well as the stature of Sgt. Johnson and his heroic actions).

  • Artists are encouraged to symbolize a connection between Johnson’s commitment to duty and the civic duty each of us shares today in order to inspire forward thinking about our own community involvement.

Required Inscriptions on Reverse Design

  • "1 TROY OZ. .999 FINE SILVER"

* Artists may choose to include additional inscriptions beyond the required inscriptions.

Evaluation Criteria

  • Overall quality and creativity in interpreting the subject matter for a coin

  • Appropriate use of symbolism

  • Clarity of idea and communication

  • Appropriate level of detail for the scale and material of coins

  • Good design sense, composition and balance of space

  • Effective incorporation of required text


Be sure to proof your art at actual coin size. Things look very different when you shrink them down. If you can read a word in print, you can read it on a coin.

Electronic art files should be 300 DPI (dots per inch) or more. We prefer files made in Adobe Illustrator, but can work with most file formats.

V. Phase Two: Revision

Ferris Coin Co. upon announcing the two winning entries, whether or not the work of the same artist, will advise the artist or artists of revisions that it requires to assure a proper three-dimensional die can be cast.  

Artists may be responsible for any necessary modifications to a submitted design as requested by Ferris Coin. Changes may be requested for any reason, including historical/technical accuracy, appropriateness, or “coinability.”

Terms and Conditions

1. Originality, Reference Materials, and Third-Party Rights

Each design must be submitted by the artist who created it (Artist) and must be that artist’s original artwork. If the artist incorporates or derives any part of his/her design from pre-existing works such as photographs, they must be that artist’s own works or demonstrably in the public domain. If any element of a design, including images and text, affects or is subject to any rights of any third party, including intellectual property rights, the artist must obtain the party’s written permission to include his or her property in the design for use in this project, and to grant the rights requested upon submission in the Rights Transfer Agreement. Ferris Coin Co. will not review or supply third-party releases.

2. Submission and Warranty

With each design submitted, the artist must warrant in the Rights Transfer Agreement that the design is original and not in violation of any other party’s rights, and that the artist has obtained all rights necessary to assign all rights in the design to the Ferris Coin Co. without restriction. Ferris Coin Co. cautions artists that because of license restrictions, reference materials obtained from stock houses or similar resources that purport to be copyright-free or royalty-free may not be available for unrestricted use or reuse, and that a thorough review prior to submission must be made. Notwithstanding any other provision of these Terms and Conditions, reference material provided by Ferris Coin Co. (if any) may not be copied into artwork or otherwise. Preexisting materials (whether or not provided by the Ferris Coin Co.) may be used only for reference (for example, to inform the artist of a subject’s physical characteristics, and to support historically/technically accurate clothing and environment), and must be provided in full with the design submission. Along with each submission, artists must provide true and accurate copies of all references, sources and other supporting matter used in creating an original design.

3. Rights Transfer Agreement

Upon submission of artwork each artist must also sign and submit a “Rights Transfer Agreement” assigning all rights to the Ferris Coin Co. for the duration of the contest and subject to contest rules. A provision of the “Rights Transfer Agreement” will provide that all artist contestants authorize use of their images for promotion of the contest in all media available until 60 days following the selection of the two winners. All design must be provisionally assigned to Ferris Coin Co. and will become its sole and exclusive property for the duration of the contest plus 60 days. All rights of those artists not selected will then revert to them. Under the Rights Transfer Agreement, artists agree that the two submissions selected as contest winners will be considered “work for hire,” and upon the payment of the prize money per side (in two installments) shall become the sole and exclusive property of Ferris Coin Co., and copyrightable by Ferris Coin Co. In the “Rights Transfer Agreement,” the winning artists will be required to:

a.  Relinquish and transfer to Ferris Coin Co. in perpetuity all rights in designs submitted to Ferris Coin Co., and in drafts, even if the design or draft was prepared before entering this competition or is not ultimately used by Ferris Coin Co. This means that the artist will not retain any rights in the design or drafts, and will not be able to use or allow others to use them (or designs substantially similar to them) without specific written permission from Ferris Coin Co. in its sole discretion. For example, without permission, an artist may not be able to display these designs or drafts on a web site, or license them for use by any third party. An artist also may not be able to use or license an unused version or draft, even if it existed before the artist entered the competition.

b. Assure that designs are entirely original. (Designs and revisions must not be copied in whole or in part from other works, and outside materials are for reference use only.) If an artist’s design affects third-party rights (such as an individual’s name or likeness), the artist must (without assistance, payment or prompting from Ferris Coin Co.) have obtained all consents necessary to ensure that the Ferris Coin Co., without further action, will own all rights in the design and its drafts at the point the Rights Transfer Agreement is executed. Necessary consents must allow Ferris Coin Co. to use and allow others (such as licensees) to use or modify designs in any manner in all media and markets worldwide for commercial or other purposes in perpetuity without further restriction, approvals, permissions or compensation.

c. Waive and agree not to enforce any “moral rights,” such as rights of attribution and integrity in specific designs and drafts, and waive any right to inspect or approve any finished product and any advertising, marketing, promotional material or merchandising products and materials.

d. Make warranties, such as those concerning design ownership originality, third-party rights clearances, and the artist’s power and authority to sign agreements.

e. Indemnify Ferris Coin Co. against any claims for breach of warranties or for infringement of copyright or other third-party rights.

f. Release and hold harmless Ferris Coin Co. and their agents and assigns, from claims and/or liability.

4. The Contest

Ferris Coin Co. requires no entry fee.  No qualifications are required for the submission of each entry beyond a signed “Rights Transfer Agreement” submitted by each contestant.

5.  The Winners

Artists are invited to submit designs for one or both sides of the coin-shaped medallion. A single artist is eligible but not guaranteed to win the design competition for both sides of the medallion. The final coin-shaped medallion may feature front and back designs by two separate artists.

Ferris Coin Co. upon announcing the two winning entries, whether or not the work of the same artist, will pay half of the prize money, $500 for each design, and advise the artist or artists of revisions that it requires to assure a proper three dimensional die can be cast.

Artist/contestants must revise their drawings up to three times at the direction of Ferris Coin Co., who retains the exclusive right to cast the image into the form of the commemorative coin-shaped medallion. Upon successful submission of the final artwork, the second $500 payment and the signing of a rights conveyance to Ferris Coin Co., the artist/contestant relinquishes all rights, title and interest in his/her work, and Ferris Coin Co. owns all copyright and may then register its copyright.  

The winning artists will be recognized in publicity related materials.

VI. Questions

Please direct all inquiries to Ferris Coin Co. by e-mail at contest@FerrisCoin.com

Important dates:

  • Applications Open: March 15, 2018

  • Application Deadline: April 17, 2018*

  • Winner Notified: April 2018

* Electronic submissions accepted until 11:59 p.m. If mailing or hand delivering, physical submissions must arrive by 5 p.m. at Ferris Coin, 199 Wolf Road, Albany NY 12205