United States Barber Coinage - Reception


Leech released the new designs to the press about November 10, 1891. According to numismatist David Lange, the new coinage received mixed reviews, "while the general press and public seemed satisfied with the new dime, quarter dollar, and half dollar, numismatists were either mildly disappointed with the new coins or remained silent on the matter." Moran records a number of unfavorable reviews, without listing any favorable ones. Vermeule stated that "the initial comment on the new coinage concerned the novelty of a contest, its failure, and the inevitable result that the commission would go, as always, to the Chief Engraver and his staff."

George Heath, editor of The Numismatist discussed the new pieces: "the mechanical work is all that could be desired, and it is probable that owing to the conventional rut in which our mint authorities seem obliged to keep, this is the best that could be done". W.T.R. Martin wrote in the American Journal of Numismatics, "The general effect is pleasing, of the three the Dime is to many the most attractive piece. The head of Liberty is dignified, but although the silly story has been started that the profile is that of a 'reigning belle' of New York, she can hardly be called a beauty; there is a suggestion ... of the classic heads on some of the Roman coins, and a much stronger suggestion of the head on the French Francs of 1871 and onward ... these coins are an advance on what has hitherto been accomplished, but there is yet a long distance between them and the ideal National coin."

Other reactions were unfavorable. Artist Kenyon Cox, one of the invited artists to the 1891 competition, stated, "I think it disgraceful that this great country should have such a coin as this." Harper's Weekly proclaimed, "The mountain had labored and brought forth a mouse." Saint-Gaudens was also interviewed, and as author Moran put it, "injudiciously ranted": "This is inept; this looks like it had been designed by a young lady of sixteen, a miss who had taken only a few lessons in modeling. It is beneath criticism ... There are hundreds of artists in this country, any of whom, with the aid of a designer, could have made a very respectable coin, which this is not."

Read more about this topic:  United States Barber Coinage

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