As part of what is called the Europa Star Silver Programme, the Central Bank occasionally issues special commemorative coins the most recent of which was a €10 limited-edition silver proof collector coin celebrating the renowned Irish-born designer Eileen Gray (1878-1976). The coin features a portrait of Gray in front of a representative image of one of her most iconic Modernist designs ‘Screen’ and the re-designed obverse incorporates the Irish harp and year-date with the Europa Star symbol. But following hard on the much promoted Year of Irish Design, it is a little surprising to learn that this new coin to celebrate an Irish designer was not designed by an Irish designer. Ireland has participated in this coin programme since 2006 having most recently issued coins featuring James Joyce, John McCormack and for the 70th Anniversary of Peace in Europe. For the next five years the theme of the programme is related to architectural and design eras as depicted already on euro banknotes. The Central Bank’s silver coins contain 28.28g of 0.925 sterling silver.Each year, the Central Bank holds an open competition for potential designers, places advertisements in the national papers and appoints a selection panel (on which two artists/arts consultants are included currently being Tom Ryan and Patricia Clyne-Kelly) to shortlist the submissions. The winning design is then chosen through a ‘blind selection process’ ie the panel do not know which design is associated with which artist. A design fee of €2,000 is paid for the work of each candidate who makes the shortlist and the winning artist is paid an additional €6,000.
Like the designs for stamps, designing coins requires a very precise skill. Recent designers of new coins from the CB have included Rory Breslin, Mary Gregoiry, Noel Hoare, Michael Guilfoyle, Alan Ardiff, Emmet Mullins and Thomas Ryan. But the chosen designer for the Eileen Gray coin turns out to be a certain Italian artist, Sandra Deiana, who collaborates with the Istituto Poligrafico in Rome for the creation of sketches for medals. Bravo Sandra for keeping an eye on Dublino. Perhaps she takes the Skibbereen Eagle?
John Mulcahy is the editor of the Irish Arts Review.