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Liberty design makes medal popular

If the 1977 Liberty dollar medal on the cover two weeks ago appealed to you, join the club. Many readers found it so and hurried to order one for themselves.


I had an email from Jared Grove of Grove Minting Company as I was preparing to write this column. He is the creator of the medal based on Frank Gasparro’s popular design.

Grove wrote that the medal was nearing a sellout of the 750 pieces that he had struck.

Now I realize that 750 might not seem like a large number compared to the couple of hundred thousand proof silver American Eagles the Mint can sell in a few days, but for a medal brought to the attention of Numismatic News readers, that is not a bad response in the less than two weeks since it was first posted online.

I have always been aware that readers know their own minds. It is nice, though, to see proof of this in action as they buy up the medals.

Gasparro’s design makes many of us wistful when we look at it. Back in 1977 collectors were getting restless and bored with the Presidents on our coinage.

We were hankering for the Liberty designs that we remembered circulating in our youth.

Surely putting a head of Liberty on a proposed new small dollar coin was not too much for collectors to ask?

Well it was.

The Congress thought it would be an insult to women to choose an allegorical figure of Liberty when they could put suffragist Susan B. Anthony on the new coin.

The astronaut lobby in Congress thought the Apollo 11 reverse design from the Eisenhower dollar hadn’t had enough exposure, so it was retained.

So rather than creating excitement among collectors by producing a new smaller dollar with classic American iconography from the founding of the Republic, we got all the benefits and artistic beauty that modern politicking could provide us.

I won’t say that the designs that were chosen killed off the small dollar coin, but they certainly did not help its chances when a couple of million coin collectors saw their hopes dashed.

But those hopes are still alive 40 years later. They manifested themselves in reactions to this new Liberty dollar medal.

Certainly when I first saw it I was transported back in time. I remembered my hopes. My disappointment at what happened has basically been forgotten.

While Gasparro went on to design the Anthony dollar, his Liberty head could have been the masterpiece of his career as chief engraver at the U.S. Mint. His portrait of Anthony was realistic. I don’t think anyone would call Gasparro’s 1979 Anthony dollar bad work on his part. Collector reaction is primarily disappointment that he had been ordered to do it.

It is nice to see Gasparro’s Liberty live on to excite collectors today. It is nice to recall a time when we collectors thought we could take a step back into the past and enjoy a coin made for circulation with a portrait of Liberty on it.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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