The following article was written Jim Files and appeared in the MOBRIDGE TRIBUNE, Mobridge South Dakota, April 29, 1987 and is reprinted here with permission of the MOBRIDGE TRIBUNE.


South Dakota Double Bison gold and silver piece design by former Combat Artist Jim Pollock.

By Jim Files

Combat artist Jim Pollock has brought it home this time.

Instead of the green terror of jungle war, he has brought to life a placid yet vital symbol of the South Dakota plains.

Pollock, who was born and raised in the town of the same name-- named for his great grandfather, as a matter of fact--was chosen to design the first striking of the South Dakota Bison, the largest official program of gold and silver bullion pieces ever to be minted by a state government.
he Bison is not a run of the mill commemorative piece, but a piece that will enter the international gold and silver markets in competition with the U.S. American Eagle, the Canadian Maple Leaf, Chinese Panda and other bullion pieces.

Pollock, who says he's an artist and not an economist, still said "If this piece sells good, a tremendous tax burden is going to be lifted from the South Dakota taxpayer." A portion of profits from the sale of the pieces are to go into the state coffers. "This is the ideal way to raise funds," Pollock said, "No taxes, no social problems, and no environmental hazards."

Gov. George Mickelson said that South Dakota's bullion program is designed to provide the highest quality gold and silver pieces for the lowest price. Mickelson said all pieces are minted in .999 fine South Dakota native gold and silver and are sold in many sizes not offered anywhere else in the world market.

The gold pieces are being offered in 1/20, 1/10, 1/2, 1, 2, 5, and 10 oz. sizes. The silver pieces are offered in 1/2, 1, 5, and 10 oz. sizes. prices will depend on the current world gold and silver prices.

The design of two bison-- standing on the prairie was chosen, Pollock said because, "We wanted a symbol that could immediately be identified as being American and at the same time we wanted something that was a part of South Dakota's history."

Mint officials get a little more flowery about the whole thing. "The bison design depicted by Pollock was a natural choice to represent American produced gold and silver bullion pieces," they said in an official statement. "Bison once roamed freely over the prairies of North American in vast herds numbering in the millions. Westward expansion nearly eliminated these prairie giants. South Dakotans are credited with saving the bison from extinction and, today, over 10,000 bison graze on the South Dakota prairies."
ollock got the nod to design the pieces in a slightly round-about-way. "I entered the contest last year for the design of the South Dakota centennial piece," he said. "And I tied for first place"

In the run-off, however, Pollock said his bison design lost "hands down."

That wasn't the end of the story, though. Robert Hoff, President of Tri-State Mint of Sioux Falls-- official mint for the state of South Dakota-- had been one of the judges for the centennial piece, and he liked Pollock's pencil Bison design.

Hoff and state of South Dakota officials asked Pollock if he'd be interested in doing a more refined, more detailed pen and ink drawing for use on South Dakota's new bullion piece. Pollock's drawing was sent to a New York sculptor who transferred the design to clay.

In addition to being a first issue, the design will change each year enhancing the collector value.

The artist, who graduated from South Dakota State University, and who lives with his wife Betsy in Pierre, hasn't always had what many people might think of as "an artist's life." It hasn't been a lot of attic apartments with good clean north light, and luscious models.

Jim Pollock was a combat artist for the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He spent several months in Vietnam, travelling from unit to unit. " I figured it up once and estimated that I traveled 3600 miles in those three months, visiting with each unit for only two or three days at a time."

Conditions were not always ideal. "It rained a lot, and I had to carry my sketchbook wrapped in plastic to keep it from getting wet."

After he left Vietnam, Pollock spent another three months in Hawaii, making his rough sketches into finished water colors, pen and ink drawings and oil paintings.

The art produced during his assignment to Combat Artist Team IV are in the U.S. Army War Art Collection in Washington, D.C. Some of it travels in Army exhibits. His work has been displayed in exhibits as far ranging as Saigon, Honolulu and St. Louis.

In 1984 Pollock was commissioned by the South Dakota Committee on the Humanities to do a series of 5 posters to help celebrate South Dakota's Centennial in 1989. Pollock has exhibited in many group and one person shows. He has a line of prints and his work can be found in many private and corporate collections throughout the U.S.

Pollock was named South Dakota Artist of the year by the South Dakota Hall of Fame the first year the award was given. Currently, he is working with computer art and computer animation.

--Jim Files
Mobridge Tribune

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