Five Famous Coin Artists and Their Work
Numismatic collectors often look at the date and metal content of a particular coin to help determine the value of the coin. They are right to find the value in dates and content, but there is another layer of value based on the design and designer of each coin. Even though history does play a role in a coin's value, no one should forget the coin artists and their work as that is an important factor that contributes to value. These five coin artists played an integral role in creating lasting designs that were important and awe-inspiring both for their time and future generations of American coinage.
Coin Artists and their Designs
Many of these artists were either artists, medalists, designers or architects, but their work has echoed through many generations of coinage. We often take for granted the importance of these factors, but a brief study of their life will shed more light on what makes their coins so popular and highly sought-after by people all over the world.
Adolph A. Weinman
Weinman is most famously known as the creator of the Winged Head Liberty Dime (also known as the Mercury DIme) and the Walking Liberty Half Dollar. The Walking Liberty Half Dollar would be reused for the design of the American Silver Eagles, the most successful U.S. Mint production to date. Weinman apprenticed and worked with Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a match that would launch Weinman's career as a coin designer. "At the suggestion of the Commission of Fine Arts, Adolph Weinman was one of three sculptors invited to submit designs for a new dime, quarter dollar and half dollar in 1916." (Historic Detroit) Ultimately his design for the dime and half dollar were chosen. The Mercury Dime, which did not actually depict the god Mercury, and the Walking Liberty were two of the most popular designs on a circulating coin during the early 1900s. The Mercury Dime circulated from 1916 to 1945 while the Walking Liberty Half Dollar was used from 1916 until 1947.
James Earle Fraser
Fraser's coin influence can be traced back to his "encounters with pioneers, hunters and fur trappers, and he befriended many of the Plains Natives." (National Cowboy Museum) His most notable work was perhaps the Buffalo design, depicted on the popular Buffalo Nickel, minted from 1913 to 1938. This coin successfully completed a government-mandated 25-year run in circulation. Fraser's design went beyond simplicity; rather, his coin paid homage to early settlers of the land and the majestic American buffalo. Essentially, these two figures was the perfect homage to the West, combining intricate detail and paying respect to the land.
In 2006, the United States Mint introduced the Gold Buffalo, using the same reverse and obverse of the Buffalo Nickel design. Widely popular, the design features an Indian Head design on the obverse and Black Diamond, a popular bison living in New York City's Zoo in the early 1900s, on the reverse, perfectly mimicking Fraser's beloved design, but in .9999 fine Gold.