As many coin collectors know, the value of a coin typically comes from its content and production date. But the artist and design is a third factor that contributes to coin value. Meet the designers behind a few of America’s most beloved pieces of currency.
James Earle Fraser
One of the most recognized coins in U.S. currency, the Buffalo Nickel, was designed by James Earle Fraser, an American sculptor who spent much of his childhood in the American West. He befriended many Native Americans as they were being relocated or driven from their land onto reservations, influencing much of his work. Fraser’s Buffalo Nickel design paid respect to the buffalo and the land. The coin was produced from 1913 to 1938, and can still be occasionally found in circulation today. A commemorative silver coin depicting the same image was produced by the U.S. Mint in 2001, and the American gold buffalo coin was subsequently introduced in 2006. The gold buffalo has been minted annually since its introduction and is the first U.S.-produced 24k gold coin.
In 1907, President Roosevelt commissioned Augustus Saint-Gaudens, another sculptor, to design coins for the U.S. Mint. His best-known work is displayed on the $20 Double Eagle. The obverse side of this 24-karat gold coin depicts a patriotic Lady Liberty walking in the sun’s rays, holding a torch and an olive branch; the reverse features an eagle soaring before the sun. An ultra high-relief version of the coin was sold for nearly $3 million in 2005. To this day he is credited for bringing beauty into the design of American numismatic coins. In 2009, the U.S. Mint produced an ultra high relief version of the Saint-Gaudens gold coin composed of 24k gold, which has become a popular modern numismatic coin.
The sixth Chief Engraver of the Mint, Barber’s best-known designs are the Liberty Head coins, including the Barber Dime, Quarter, and Half Dollar. He also designed numerous rare, collectible, and commemorative coins, including the four-dollar Flowing Hair Stella coin. He even designed foreign coins for the Kingdom of Hawaii, the Szechuan Province of China, and Cuba. Barber faced criticism for lacking originality and his opposition to Saint-Gaudens’ high relief design of the Double Eagle. However, the future of American currency was uncertain at the time, and Barber’s designs eventually won over the American population.
Buying or Selling Your Coins
While not all the coins designed by these artists are rare, they hold a special place in American currency. If you’re interested in these coins, you can find many of them at Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers. We also buy coins, and we’d love to appraise your collection in-person or by mail. Visit Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers today or call us at 404-236-9744 to learn more.