REDDING, Conn. (AP) – Redding sculptor Marc Mellon has been interested in sculpting images of U.S. presidents since 1988, when he sculpted a bust of George H.W. Bush that is now in the Smithsonian Institution’s collection.

So when a call went out from Medalcraft Mint in Green Bay, Wis., for sculptors to craft the face of the official 2009 Presidential Inaugural medallion last year, Mellon responded. He was ultimately chosen to craft the front of the medal commemorating Barack Obama’s inauguration.

“Mints around the country hired artists throughout the country to create designs of both Obama and (John) McCain,” Mellon said Monday. “There were at least 15 designs that passed the vetting process to be seen in Washington, D.C.

“I feel humbled and fortunate that I was chosen to have the opportunity to help commemorate this historic moment.”

The medallion, which comes in bronze, silver or gold, can be purchased through the Inaugural Committee Web site,

Not to be confused with medals struck by the U.S. Mint at each change in presidential office, this medallion is considered the “official” medallion of the inauguration, and its purchase price helps pay for inauguration events.

“When I discovered that official inaugural medallions of the past were designed by such renown sculptors as Paul Manship, who did the JFK medallion and did one for FDR, too, and August St. Gaudens, who did the Theodore Roosevelt medallion, my interest in designing and creating one was even more piqued,” Mellon said. “These men are some of my heroes of sculpture.”

Mellon also has sculpted a bust of Ronald Reagan and a posthumous bust of Theodore Roosevelt, as well as developing a relief and medal of Teddy Roosevelt for the Theodore Roosevelt Association.

“But doing this relief of Barack Obama has been especially exciting for me,” Mellon, 57, said. “When I think about the historic moment and that I have lived long enough to see how far we’ve come as a nation – I’m not shy about saying there were tears in my eyes election night.”

The reverse of the official 2009 Presidential Inaugural medallion was fashioned by Thomas Rogers Sr., 63, of Oregon.

A former sculptor and engraver for the U.S. Mint, Rogers has crafted many commemorative coins and some circulating coins.

He designed and engraved the Massachusetts, Maryland and South Carolina quarters, and the back of the original Sacagawea dollar.

Rogers is now a freelance sculptor and engraver. This is his first official Presidential Inaugural medallion, although he designed and engraved a U.S. Mint medal for Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

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