A few weeks ago, a story ran in this column about Andrew Cier’s photograph being the basis for U.S. Mint artist Joe Fitzgerald’s image on the back side of the 2005 Lewis & Clark Bicentennial series “Ocean in View” nickel. How the photo wound up on the coin is the rest of the story. As Andy’s wife, LaRee Johnson, says, it’s “a nickel’s worth.” The couple is pictured; inset, the back of the coin in question.
“When they did the roll-out of the fourth nickel in the series, I was working the Bicentennial booth with our notecards, etc. and had not seen the nickel,” LaRee wrote. “It was not shown to anyone, even those of us on the Bicentennial Board of Directors, so I was not aware until that day, as Joe Fitzgerald was signing nickel rolls as the artist. When I finally saw it, I was shocked.
“That evening as Andy and I were sitting in T. Paul’s eating dinner, a friend came in. He was the first to see the newly released nickel, and Andy’s photo, and proceeded to tell us he had heard the interview on KMUN with Joe F., who said he had not been out this way — he was here for the first time for the roll-out ceremony. He admitted to Googling images, and said he ‘made a composite of several images’ … The submissions to the U.S. Mint are supposed to be your original work, of course.” And there’s the rub. Fitzgerald used Andy’s image without giving any attribution or asking permission.
“Ironic that Andy lives 5 miles from Fort Clatsop, and in view of the Columbia River that Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled down, but the guy submitting the image lives in Maryland and … just found an image on the internet to use.”
“At the time, Andy was fit to be tied that his image was on a national coin, with no knowledge until it came out … You just have to shake your head!” You can read how the story unfolded at the time in The Daily Astorian at bit.ly/CierCoin.
The couple hired Lenard Duboff, a copyright attorney in Portland, and the U.S. Mint soon gave Andy proper image credit for his contribution to the coin (bit.ly/ciernickel).
“We are still very proud of Andy’s photograph being on this nickel,” LaRee added. “… But this should be fair warning to other artists to watermark their images.”