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Mint’s Charles E. Barber gets historical makeover

Chief Mint Engraver Charles E. Barber has been portrayed as someone of little talent and touchy ego who watched as Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Bela Lyon Pratt, and Victor David Brenner ran rings around him.

An often used photograph of the chief engraver, who served 1880-1917, shows him as an old man with hands folded.

There is no defense against being old, and writers have created a portrait of a crotchety man who owed his position to his father, William, who had died suddenly in 1879.

Ground-breaking research by the Barber Coin Collectors’ Society and the Liberty Seated Collectors Club is slowly changing that perception.

We are learning just how much of what we thought we knew about Charles Barber is simply baseless caricature.

The organizations shared seven unseen portraits of the man at various times in his life .

Thanks to John Frost, I had the honor to publish these images in the Aug. 7, 2018, issue of Numismatic News.

In one photo, Charles Barber is a proud grandfather at the beach with an infant granddaughter.

In other words, he is human.

The Barber and Seated Liberty groups had a booth in August at the Philadelphia American Numismatic Association convention to display their many finds.

Those who missed it will have another opportunity.

A booth (number 913) will be taken at the Whitman Baltimore Expo Oct. 25-27 thanks to the generosity of Whitman.

Go see it if you have the chance.

The exhibit uses four corner tables with 12 cases of historic artifacts.

Better yet, “Trip” Trepagnier, great-grandson of Charles Barber (and great-great-grandson of William Barber), will be attending the show.

Try to meet him. It will be worth it.

Trip and his wife Jo will be at the two club meetings and will also be found at the exhibit booth on Friday, Oct. 26.

Among the many items on display will be the remaining five patterns from the famous Charles Barber Collection of Patterns still held by the family.

Who won’t want to read letters to Charles Barber from Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Victor D. Brenner?

You can in Baltimore.

Be among the first to know the true story of Charles E. Barber.

While you are there, tell John Frost how much you appreciate him trail blazing a new historical path.

He is president of the Barber Coin Collectors’ Society and director of education for the Liberty Seated Collectors Club.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017. He is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

 

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