coinsbygary's Blog

07 Oct 2019

My First Podcast Interview

World's Fair of Money | coinsbygary

As a result of my Money Talks presentation at the Words Fair of Money I came into contact with Coin World writer Chris Bulfinch. Chris wanted to talk with me about an article he was working on concerning Laura Gardin Fraser. At the end of that conversation he asked me if I would be willing to do a podcast interview with him of which I was only too happy to do.

16 Apr 2019

I Am Honored

Medals | coinsbygary

Sorry folks no image this time! It just doesn't seem quite appropriate for this post. You see, today I have accidently discovered that one of my writings was linked on the website of a national humanitarian organization!

15 Feb 2018

Feast or Famine

Medals | coinsbygary

For collectors, sometimes collectibles are added in bunches. Other times the wait for new pieces is unbearable. Well over the last couple of months, I have added three new pieces to my Laura Gardin Fraser collection. To top it off all my new acquisitions are fairly scarce. Of interest to me is that all three were referred to me by another collector who has been watching E-Bay with me. I just love how unselfish and helpful so many of the people in this hobby are towards me. It doesn't get much better than this, good people and new acquisitions. The following is a brief summary of my three new pieces.

25 Jun 2017

The 1930 Massachusetts Bay Tercentenary Medallion

Medals | coinsbygary

The Governor Endecott medallion struck by the Medallic Art Company in 1930 commemorates the Massachusetts Bay Tercentenary. Interestingly, this medallion was not commissioned by a group or a committee involved in the tercentenary celebration but as stated in the June 1931 issue of "The Numismatist," for a private account. The mintage of the medallion is about 200 suggesting that this large 102 mm bronze medallion was only intended for limited distribution. [1]

15 Apr 2017

A Beautiful Medal for a Worthy Recipient

Exonumia | coinsbygary

The Buffalo Nickel since its release in 1913 is still a collector favorite. Today, the legacy of the Buffalo Nickel and its sculptor live on in the 2001 American Buffalo Silver Dollar and $50, .9999 fine, Gold Buffalo. As such, when collectors hear the name of James Earle Fraser they almost invariably think of the Buffalo Nickel.

14 Jan 2017

I Usually Don't Like to Toot My Own Horn, But...

Medals | coinsbygary

In this case I'll make an exception for my friends who regularly only post on the ANA's web site and rarely, if ever frequent NGC's Collectors Society site.As many of you know I display many of my collections on NGC's Collectors Society including my Laura Gardin Fraser set that I have written much about over here. Therefore, it is with humble pleasure that I announce that I have won NGC's "Most Creative Custom Set" award for my Laura Gardin Fraser set.I am posting an image featuring the kind words the judges made concerning my set along with links to the announcement and my award winning set. If you have the opportunity, take a little time to peruse some of the really fine sets on display at Collectors Society. There are great collections of coins over there organized in sets, some with excellent write-ups and images. Many of the set owners have included a great deal of educational information with their sets. One of the things I love about this hobby is the free flow of educational information between individual collectors.Watch for the announcement soon in The Numismatist. If NGC remains true to form they will publish their 2016 award winners in a number of numismatic publications. Happy Collecting to all!https://www.ngccoin.com/news/article/5732/NGC-registry-award-winners/https://coins.www.collectors-society.com/wcm/CoinCustomSetView.aspx?s=19449Gary

11 Dec 2016

With the Help of New Friends and Resources

Medals | coinsbygary

Besides world coins, tokens, and medals based on a particular theme, my primary area of numismatic interest is in United States coins. This past year though I have delved into an area of numismatics that until now was unfamiliar to me. Rather than starting another theme based set, I started a set based on the work of a particular sculptor. I started a collection of coins and medals featuring the artwork of Laura Gardin Fraser. While I was somewhat familiar with the coins attributed to Laura Gardin Fraser, the same cannot be said concerning the many medals she designed. Familiarizing myself with her medals became quite a task because she was much more prolific in designing medals than she was with coins.The first thing I wanted to know is what to collect. All her coins are very well known and readily available. However, I had no clue as to the number and availability of the medals Laura Gardin Fraser designed. Later, I was to discover that she may have designed and sculpted up to one hundred medals.A search of the internet produced a medallic art databank created by Medallic Art Company corporate historian, D. Wayne Johnson. Laura Gardin Fraser’s databank page was the most important internet resource in helping me to identify her medals. This page had practically everything, a comprehensive list of items by date with pictures, auction appearances, and a bibliography which I found invaluable to my research.I also found the ANA archives of The Numismatist and the Newman Numismatic Portal very useful. The archives of The Numismatist contains numerous articles on Laura Gardin Fraser’s work. I even found a couple of the ad pages to be helpful. The Newman Numismatic Portal contains all the medallic art auction catalogs of the Presidential Coin & Antique Company. These catalogs were especially useful because of the lot descriptions and estimated valuations. The valuations helped me to determine what I could expect to pay for the medals in my collection.Along with purchasing new pieces for my collection came new books for my library. These included End of the Trail by Dean Krakel, The US Mint and Coinage by Don Taxay, and Numismatic Art in America by Cornelius Vermeule. Other references included The American Women Medalist, a Critical Survey by Elaine J. Leotti and a January 1970 Coinage Magazine article entitled, Ordeal of Laura Gardin Fraser by Don Taxay. In fact, I think Don Taxay’s article in Coinage Magazine is the most credible narrative I have read on the contest for the Washington Quarter.Next, the purchasing avenues for medals is somewhat different from that of coins. However, other places such as E-Bay are pretty much the same. For me, E-Bay was a familiar place in which to begin my collection. It was also a good source of Laura Gardin Fraser’s most readily available medals. That said, it didn’t take to long for the E-Bay well to dry up. Subsequently, the annual Presidential Coin and Antique auction quickly emerged as a top purchasing outlet for all those difficult to locate medals.In the last Presidential Coin and Antiques auction I passed on a scarce silver Washington medal and ended up winning a silver plated Morgan Horse medal at a price that was towards the bottom of the estimated valuation. What really surprised me about winning this auction is that even before I found out that I had won the auction, or even paid a single red cent, the piece showed up on my doorstep! I’ve never had this happen before especially since this was my first auction with Presidential. All this brings me to the most important and necessary element of my transition into the world of medals, the human element!While looking for information pertaining to the 1947 MacArthur peso and 50-centavo piece in The Numismatist, I ran across a letter to the editor written by a collector of anything Fraser. This person also included their e-mail address in the body of the letter. With a little encouragement from another of my friends I sent a cold contact e-mail inquiry to the writer of that letter. To my amazement I got much more in his reply than what I had asked for or even hoped for.What I have now is a new friend who is very eager to help me in my quest. One of the resources that I have not had the opportunity to examine is the Fraser family papers. However, my new friend had. As a result I found out the specific contents of a nine-point letter Laura Gardin Fraser had sent to the Philippine embassy chronicling her difficulties with the Philippines peso and 50-centavo coins.Later we had an hour long conversation over the phone about Laura Gardin Fraser and he freely answered a number of my questions. He also e-mailed me some of his own writings on the topic and sent a spreadsheet he had compiled of many of Mrs. Fraser’s works. As an extra bonus the spreadsheet contained the latest final hammers for each piece. This was very helpful as a tool to help me gage how much I would have to spend in order to continue this collection.My new friend also watched for buying opportunities on E-Bay and more than once notified me of a piece that his search uncovered and mine missed. My latest two purchases are a direct sale from a friend of my new friend. I purchased the 1912/13 National Institute of Social Sciences medal and the rare 1932 John Endecott Massachusetts Tercentenary medal from this person after a very pleasant half-hour phone conversation and a confirming e-mail. I immediately mailed him a check for the medals and he mailed the medals to me on the next business day. As it turned out, the day my check cleared his bank was the day the medals showed up at my house.This is the way I love to do business and I am impressed with the honesty and integrity of the people I come in contact with in this hobby. It really doesn’t get much better than this. And to all those who have helped me in my numismatic journey a hearty, thank you!Gary

06 Sep 2016

The Final Piece in a Long and Distinguished Career

Medals | coinsbygary

The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at New York University elected candidates to the hall based on their significant contributions to America. Some of hall’s honorees were people of renown in the discipline of the arts. Elected to the Hall of Fame in its inaugural year (1900), Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) who with other famous paintings is credited with painting the portraits of the first six presidents of the United States. [1][2] Today Gilbert Stuart is remembered either consciously or unconsciously every time a one dollar bill is used in commerce. This is because his incomplete “Athenaeum” portrait of George Washington appears on the face of the one dollar bill. Gilbert Stuart’s name also appears in the annals of numismatic legend. In a story that cannot be substantiated, it is said that his sketch of Philadelphia socialite Ann Willing Bingham was the basis for the obverse of the Draped Bust Dollar. [3][4] A bronze portrait bust of Gilbert Stuart done by Laura Gardin Fraser for the Hall of Fame was unveiled on May 20, 1922. The accompanying 1968 dated medal was completed by Karl Gruppe after the death of Mrs. Fraser. Karl Gruppe finished the obverse model of Gilbert Stuart started by Mrs. Fraser and designed the reverse featuring a young Gilbert Stuart working on his famous “Athenaeum” head of George Washington. [5] In spite of the quality and volume of her life work concluding with the Mary Lyon and Gilbert Stuart medals, Laura Gardin Fraser did not always receive the recognition she deserved. She would always live in the shadow of her husband made famous by the Buffalo Nickel and “The End of the Trail” sculpture. Even in her death, some 13 years after her husband’s death, her most notable epitaph was that she was the widow of James Earle Fraser. [6] Yet the many awards Mrs. Fraser received during her life from among her peers give witness to her as a leading sculptor of her time. In the private confines of their studios things were different for James and Laura. There, they considered each other as equals. Both Frasers gave each other the freedom to express themselves through their art without interference or undue influence from the other. Still the Frasers were very aware of how the public perceived them. Whenever Laura finished a commission, James and Laura had a standing bet as to how long it would take for someone to comment, “Bet Mr. Fraser helped you with this one.” One time Laura in fun snapped back at a wealthy patron, “Just who is this James Earle Fraser I keep hearing about?” [7] Today in 2016, 50 years after the death of Laura Gardin Fraser, I believe that time has righted many of the wrongs done to Mrs. Fraser as evidenced by the 1999 Washington Half-Eagle commemorative. I also think that in correcting those wrongs, history takes nothing away from James Earle Fraser. This then is exactly how I think both Frasers would have wanted it. James and Laura loved each other very much and only wanted the best for each other. They both had a full and wonderful life together doing what they loved to do best. To them it was all about the sculpted art! 1 Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hall_of_Fame_for_Great_Americans 2 Gilbert Stuart the Complete Works; http://www.gilbert-stuart.org/ 3 History of the United States Mint and its Coinage by David W. Lange, pg. 38 4 The US Mint and Coinage by Don Taxay, pg. 106 5 The accompanying COA to the Gilbert Stuart medal 6 The Meadowlark Gallery; http://www.meadowlarkgallery.com/FraserLaura.htm 7 The End of the Trail, the Odyssey of a Statue by Dean Krakel; chap. 4

27 Aug 2016

The NYU Hall of Fame for Great Americans Medals

Medals | coinsbygary

The New York University Hall of Fame for Great Americans is a 630 foot outdoor colonnade featuring the sculpted busts of 98 out of the 102 honorees elected into it. The Hall of Fame was conceived by Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, (Chancellor of New York University from 1891 to 1910) and was formally dedicated on May 30, 1901. The Hall of Fame for Great Americans currently stands on the campus of the Bronx Community College. (New York University closed due to financial difficulties in 1973). [1] [2] The first of its kind in America, the inspiration for the hall is explained by the following paragraph copied directly from the Mary Lyon Medal COA: The spirit of The Hall of Fame is reflected in the following lines from the Old Testament: “Let us now praise famous men, by whom the Lord hath wrought great glory....All these were honored in their generations, and were the glory of their times...” Carved in stone on the pediments of The Hall of Fame are the words: “By wealth of thought, or else by mighty deed, They served mankind in noble character. In worldwide good they live forevermore.” Mary Lyon (1797-1849) served as an educator and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1905. A pioneer in higher education for women, Mary Lyon opened the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now College). The original curriculum included mathematics, English, science, philosophy and Latin. Under her guidance and with her constant labor, the school gained a national reputation for its enlightened curriculum and high academic standards, a reputation maintained to this day. [3] The practice of issuing accompanying medals for the Hall of Fame honorees came about through a coalition between New York University, the National Sculpture Society to oversee and approve the designs, the Medallic Art Company to manufacture the medals, and the Coin and Currency Institute to market them. A full page add in the October 1962 issue of “The Numismatist” introduced the 1 3/4 inch medals for sale in either silver or bronze. Issued at a rate of about one or two per month, the issue price of the silver medal was $14 while the bronze medal sold for $3. The program which began in 1962 ended in 1974 with 96 medals created by 42 sculptors. In addition to the smaller silver and bronze medals, there were also larger 3 inch bronze medals available for purchase. The success of the Hall of Fame medal program was due in part to the art director at the Medallic Art Company, Julius Lauth. Julius knew which sculptors identified with the theme of each medal and as a result the commission for the medals was first offered to the sculptor who had completed the bronze bust on the colonnade. Therefore, since Laura Gardin Fraser did the bust of Mary Lyon in 1927, she got the commission for the accompanying medal. Mrs. Fraser completed the sketches for the Mary Lyon Medal and had them approved by the by the art committee before her death on August 14, 1966. [3] [4] [5] At Mrs. Fraser’s death, Julius Lauth assigned sculptor Karl Gruppe to finish the models for the Mary Lyon medal based on the sketches done by Mrs. Fraser. Karl Gruppe, an associate of Laura Gardin Fraser in her Art Students League days was chosen to complete the medal because his artistic style was similar to that of Mrs. Fraser’s. [4] The following is a description taken from the 1967 dated Mary Lyon Medal COA: “The obverse is a fine classical profile portrait of Miss Lyon; the reverse is a typical scene depicting her continuing role as an educator, and is a capsule story of her dedicated life”. Over her long career as a sculptor, I find it interesting that Laura Gardin Fraser was equally capable of designing medals that were feminine in nature as is the Mary Lyon medal and masculine as is the obverse of the Oregon Trail commemorative. Of certainty, Laura Gardin Fraser was a truly remarkable sculptor. 1 Bronx Community College, http://www.bcc.cuny.edu/halloffame/ 2 Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hall_of_Fame_for_Great_Americans 3 Mary Lyon Medal COA 4 Medalblog, Hall of Fame Series - The Most Successful Medal Program by D. Wayne Johnson, December 3, 2012 5 Hall of Fame at New York University Medal Series by D. Wayne Johnson 2004, Medal Collectors of America; http://www.medalcollectors.org/Guides/HFGA/HFGA.html

18 Aug 2016

The 1952 West Point USMA Sesquincentenial Medal

Medals | coinsbygary

Over her long and distinguished career Laura Gardin Fraser had a very cordial relationship with the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Both Frasers loved America and the Armed Forces of the United States. Many of their military related commissions not only included medallic art, but also full size sculptures and smaller bronzes. There are three significant works Mrs. Fraser completed for The United States Military Academy. The first is a 1952 bronze medal commemorating the sesquicentennial of the USMA. Struck by the Medallic Art Corporation, this medal was presented to the parents of the cadets who entered the academy that year. A small insert reads, "A memento of the United States Military Academy to the parents or guardians of the cadets who entered the Military Academy in the Sesquicentennial Year". The medal's obverse displays the flaming torch of leadership, the sword of valor, and a laurel wreath representing victory. The reverse emphasizes the United States Military Academy Coat of Arms set underneath a rising sun. Across the face of the Union Shield is a sword and the helmet of Pallas Athena. Athena is associated with the arts of war and her helmet represents wisdom and learning. Perched atop the shield is a bald eagle clutching a bundle of 13 arrows and a scroll. The scroll bears the academy's motto, "Duty, Honor, Country" and the words, "West Point, MDCCCII (1802) USMA. In front of the eagle's right wing is an oak branch signifying strength and on the left an olive branch signifying peace. [1] [2] Laura Gardin Fraser's next work for the United States Military Academy was the 1957 Sylvanus Thayer medal. This medal exhibits a profile bust of Sylvanus Thayer on its obverse and the coat of arms on the reverse. The Sylvanus Thayer medal is awarded annually by the USMA Association of Graduates to an outstanding citizen who in service to America exemplifies the USMA values of duty, honor, and country. Sylvanus Thayer known as the "father of the Military Academy" served as the United States Military Academy's Superintendent from 1817 until 1833. Under his leadership the USMA became a pioneering engineering school whose graduates were largely responsible for the construction of the nations initial rail lines, bridges, harbors, and roads. [3] [4] Laura Gardin Fraser once said that, "A sculptors life is measured in large chunks of time." Three 9x4 bronze relief panels chronicling almost five centuries of American history represents one of those large chunks of time in Mrs. Fraser's life. The following is quoted in an interview with Dean Krakel concerning the aforementioned panels, "I began this project making little vignettes of historical figures in clay. We seem to know so little about American history, and so having begun this in 1935, I began to accumulate an interesting collection. I started doing events from history and animals purely American like—the skunk. Then I started sorting and organizing my figures in chronological order, placing them on large tablets. These became like the leaves of a book. This essentially is how I started the project. For a long time I thought I was doing them for love of my country, as no one or institution seemed interested." Eventually, the United States Military Academy took an interest in Mrs. Fraser's panels and they were cast into bronze. Then finally in 1964 after nearly 30 years, they were unveiled at the dedication of the Academy's new library in the portico of the library's entrance. The first panel begins with the exploration of Leif Ericson and extends all the way through to the Declaration of Independence and Revolutionary War. The second panel includes westward expansion, the development of American political parties, and the Mexican, Civil, and Indian Wars. Panel three illustrates industrial development, modern inventions, labor unions, the depression, the World Wars, and the atomic bomb. [5] 1 The United States Military Academy West Point, http://www.usma.edu/news/sitepages/coat %20of%20arms%20and%20motto.aspx 2 Medal Commemorates West Point Sesquicentennial by Fred Reed 10/4/99, http:// www.pcgs.com/News/Medal-Commemorates-West-Point-Sesquicentennial 3 The United States Military Academy West Point, http://www.usma.edu/wphistory/SitePages/ Home.aspx 4 Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvanus_Thayer_Award 5 End of the Trail, The Odyssey of a Statue by Dean Krakel


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