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coinsbygary's Blog

02 Jul 2020

Sometimes You Just Have to Trust Your Gut

Medals | coinsbygary

In a recent blog post, I mused over having to fill out one of those dreaded NGC submission forms. As with most things I procrastinate over, I eventually got around to it. I have also written about The American Bar Association medallion I bought from a seller on E-Bay who thought it was a fake. Well, today is the moment of truth. That medallion finally made it to NGC, and the grade was released today.

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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.

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04 Sep 2017

The National Geographic Society Hubbard Medallion

Medals | coinsbygary

The National Geographic Hubbard Medallion is named after the first president of the National Geographic Society, Gardiner Greene Hubbard. It is the National Geographic Society's highest award and is conferred on persons who distinguish themselves by a lifetime of achievement in research, discovery, and exploration. This prestigious award was first presented to Arctic explorer Robert E. Peary in 1906. [1] [2]

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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.

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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

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21 Jun 2016

The Official Bicentennial Medal of George Washington's Birth

Medals | coinsbygary

Among the greatest of accolades an artist can receive is if a group of his or hers peers recognizes them for their artistry. This honor was effectively bestowed on Laura Gardin Fraser when a special committee of sculptors selected her design for the official 1932 medal of the "United States Commission for the Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of George Washington." That committee made up of a virtual who's who in American sculpture consisted of Daniel Chester French, Herbert Adams, Lorado Taft, and A. A. Weinman. With the committee's selection, the National Commission of Fine Arts unanimously approved Mrs. Fraser's design to be struck by the United States Mint under the supervision of Mint Director Robert J. Grant. [1]On page 4 in the January 1934 issue of "The Numismatist" is the following description of the medal's design features. "Obverse, bust of Washington in military uniform in center. Above, "Washington," Under bust, in small letters, "Laura Gardin Fraser, Sculptor." Below in a straight line, "1782, 1932" separated by the Washington coat-of-arms. Reverse, figure of Liberty holding a torch in her uplifted right hand and a sheathed sword in her left hand. Above, to the left of the figure an eagle with outspread wings, and above, 13 stars grouped in two lines. Straight across lower half of medal in two lines separated by the figure, "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land." The reverse also shows that the eagle is perched atop a fasces. The Washington Bicentennial of Birth medal struck in platinum, silver, and bronze is 75.5mm in diameter. An exact duplicate of the bronze medal but only 58mm in diameter was struck by the US Mint for sale to collectors. The medal in my collection is the 75.5mm bronze variety. The 75.5mm bronze medal was to be "used by the United States Commission for the Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of George Washington as a medal of award in connection with national essay, oratorical and declamatory contests sponsored by the commission." [2]The platinum medal is one of a kind and the first ever struck in platinum by the United States Mint. Struck from the master dies, this medal weighs in at a full pound. In a ceremony on the south lawn of the White House on December 1, 1932, the platinum medal was presented to President Herbert Hoover, Chairman of United States Commission for the Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of George Washington. Laura Gardin Fraser was present at the Philadelphia Mint on February 4, 1932 for the striking of the platinum medal and had this to say as expressed by Charles Engelhard. "After scrutinizing the medal as it came from the press in the Medal Room of the Philadelphia Mint, Mrs. Fraser expressed her complete satisfaction with its artistic success. She pointed out that the use of platinum retained without impairment all the finest details of the sculptor's art in plaster, retaining the design without need of oxidation or other artificial treatment in order to successfully carry out the work." [3]Mrs. Fraser was very good at keeping a diary. She wrote not only of James and her's work, but also of their social life. In November of 1930 Mrs. Fraser wrote about beginning her work on the Washington Medal. In December of 1930, she wrote of completing the Washington medal for the competition. Concurrently, she wrote about celebrating James 54th birthday in November with a party at Tide Hill Tavern, near Westport, Connecticut and moving to their winter home in New York City the next day. In December Mrs. Fraser writes, "A Merry time! A beautiful, crystal clear, cold, wonderful Christmas!" [4] 1 The Numismatist, October 1931, pg. 738 2 The Numismatist, January 1934, pg. 43 The Numismatist, January 1961, pg. 18-204 End of the Trail the Odyssey of a Statue by Dean Krakel, pg. 44-45

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19 Mar 2016

The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser

Exonumia | coinsbygary

My new set is beginning to take form with this description of what it is all about:Every pioneer who paves a new trail, marks a trail for others to follow. Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966) is the first women ever to design a US minted coin or for that matter any other world coin (The Numismatist July 2013, p. 35). As a result, this has opened the way for many other talented female sculptor/medalists to break into what had been exclusively the realm of men. That said, I don't get the impression that Laura Gardin Fraser was particularly pugnacious about breaking down barriers. Rather, I believe it was her love of sculpture and artistic expression combined with her artistic prowess that marked the trail for others to follow. Thus, as a result of my admiration of Laura Gardin Fraser as a person, pioneer and artist I created this set entitled, "The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser".Even though Laura was the wife of famed Buffalo Nickel sculptor James Earle Fraser, she was certainly a sculptor in her own right. Some have incorrectly claimed that Laura Gardin Fraser's success was based on an undue influence from her husband, but the truth is that James had always encouraged her to be individualistic. Laura is quoted as saying this about her husband, "He was a great teacher," Laura recalled. "Jimmy had the rare quality of being able to recognize what someone felt. He never liked to work in one specific manner. He encouraged individualism. Everyone loved him-especially me." (The Meadowlark Gallery) Thus, I intend to showcase many of Laura's coins along with some of her 100 plus medals in the body of this set (The Numismatist July 2013, p. 35). Through her numismatic creations, I hope to catch a glimpse of Laura Gardin Fraser's heart.There is a considerable amount of research available on James Earle and Laura Gardin Fraser including the James Earle and Laura Gardin Fraser studio papers at the Dickinson Research Center and Syracuse University Libraries. Given all the past research done on Laura Gardin Fraser, I am unlikely to unearth anything new that had been previously unknown. Thus, within the narrative of my owner comments, I intend to offer my own opinion of Laura Gardin Fraser's life passion and work based on the coins and medals themselves and on known facts about her. Where I have Laura's own comments on a particular piece, I will quote her directly. For who better can describe the intention of the medallic art than the artist themselves.I also intend to gather my facts from reliable sources such as "The Numismatist", various websites like "The Meadowlark Gallery" and books from my personal library such as "End of the Trail: The Odyssey of a Statue" (1973) by Dean Krakel. Then when I make an opinion based on a known fact I will name the source in parenthesis.From a numismatic standpoint, this set will prove to be quite a challenge. While the coins are all readily available, many of the medals are not. The medals can be divided into two categories. The first are those medals intended for sale to the general public, such as the "Society of Medalists" and the "Hall of Fame for Great Americans" series. The second are those medals given out as an award. This category includes such medals as the 1913 "Better Babies" medal and the 1920 "American Army and Navy Chaplains Medal". As a category, the second will be much more difficult and expensive to acquire. Difficult in that examples of these infrequently appear for sale and expensive as they tend to be much rarer. Therefore, this set will likely be years in the making and probably never complete. Still much of what I enjoy about this set is the "hunt" for new pieces.If they say a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a thousand times more. Thus I am posting a link to a 1929 film made by The Medallic Art Company entitled, "The Medal Maker". At one time this film was thought to be lost, but has since been found and restored by the Medallic Art Company. The film features the making of the 1929 "National Sculpture Society Special Medal of Honor" from its creation by Laura Gardin Fraser to its inaugural presentation to Daniel Chester French. The Medallic Art Company has edited the film to be narrated by the 11th and final chief engraver of the US Mint, Elizabeth Jones. The film can be viewed at The Medallic Art Company's web site via the following link.http://www.medallic.com/about/medal_maker.phpFinally, I find it most interesting that prior to 1921 no woman had ever designed a United States coin and then only 60 years later to have Elizabeth Jones become the chief engraver of the US Mint. Consequently, I can reasonably conclude that women have gained a much more prominent role in numismatics based on their artistic skill. This then is as it should be.This is a link to my new set, as always there is much more to come! Garyhttps://coins.www.collectors-society.com/WCM/CoinCustomSetView.aspx?s=19449

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27 Apr 2015

A Flurry of Collecting Activity

Coins | coinsbygary

It has only been two short months since I returned from a short-term mission trip to Thailand. However, in that time I have been as busy as ever adding coins to my collection, and more specifically my 7070 type set.

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