A New Zealand man living in the US has come up with the winning design to appear on a special coin commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

LeRoy Transfield's designs for both the obverse and reverse were picked out of 20 finalists from all over the US.

The profile of a stoic-looking soldier gripping a rifle, with the words "Liberty'', "In God We Trust'' and the dates 1918-2018 can be seen on one side.

On the reverse, several poppies are caught in barbed wire, with the words "United States of America'', "One Dollar'' and "E Pluribus Unum'' (Out of Many, One) complete it.

LeRoy Transfield. Photo / NZ Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints
LeRoy Transfield. Photo / NZ Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints

Transfield, a full-time sculptor and artist based in Utah but born and bred in Lower Hutt, said it was exciting to win the US Mint-run competition and for his designs to be chosen for a WWI centennial silver dollar.

The 52-year-old decided to put an entry in after coming across the competition while surfing the internet one day.

"I wanted to do poppies but it was really hard because it's kind of a boring flower and I didn't know if it'd work in a coin.

The two sides of LeRoy Transfield's design for the US WWI commemorative silver dollar coin. Image / United States Mint
The two sides of LeRoy Transfield's design for the US WWI commemorative silver dollar coin. Image / United States Mint

"So when I added the barbed wire, it really made it a lot more interesting. But even though the poppies originally are not really recognised in the United States ... but now it's becoming universal as a symbol for remembrance. And a lot of people wear it over here on Memorial Day.

"There's a lot symbolism in it. Having multiple poppies kind of represent that there was a lot of people who died in the war."

Transfield himself has personal links to the Great War also.

His grandmother Peti Hinewetea Parata's brother, Huriwhenua Taiaroa, and cousin, Te Oti Taiaroa, both served.

Asked whether the soldier in his design, who has a distinctive crooked nose, may have been inspired by one of his uncles, he laughed.


"No. A lot of people, when they look at it, they say he looks like a Maori.

"But the thing is, back in the first part of the 20th century, a lot of people were into boxing and they played American Football without the face guard, so a lot of people had mashed up noses back then.

"So I wanted him to look kind of rugged and not [have] a pretty nose. I made him look like he'd been in a battle, not just some model in a studio.''

The winning design was unveiled at an event at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition in Washington DC last week.

Up to 350,000 of the limited-edition coins will be minted and will be a sought-after item among collectors.

Transfield will travel to the US Mint premises in Philadelphia next month where he will attend the first-strike ceremony - the making of the first copy of the coin.

Transfield has lived in the US with wife Kelly and their five children for more than 20 years. He studied Fine Arts at the Brigham Young University, in Hawaii, and taught at Te Wananga o Aotearoa for some time before moving overseas.

He has created various memorials, sculptures and works sold to galleries, including one held at the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church Centre in Temple View, Hamilton.

He acknowledged he was probably more happy to have made his extended family - including mum Peti Transfield - happy about the win.

"It was fun to do and to win it. My wife, my mum back in New Zealand and all the cousins, aunties and uncles are all excited about it.

"One thing that's helped me is having that Kiwi mentality of not taking yourself too seriously because as soon as you do, then you're going to sabotage how well you're going to achieve from there.''

• See more of sculptor LeRoy Transfield's work at www.leroytransfield.com.