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Designer collection: A different sort of type set

 

Whether you are a new collector, or have been building a collection for decades, one of the fantastic aspects of the hobby is that there are always new avenues to try, new directions in which to go. For anyone who has been focusing on only a few series, one or more type sets could prove to be a fun expansion of a collection and one’s interests.
There are plenty of what might be called traditional types sets. A single example of one coin design for a denomination—all quarters or all half dollars—is fairly standard. Another standard way to go at this might be one example of each denomination for a specific design—for example, one of each Barber design. A date and type set might be something like that Barber design, but exclusively for one year. We could even look into commemorative coins, where Barber also had a hand during his career. But there are some less common approaches as well. The following are some examples.
Coins by Christian Gobrecht. A fun type set to put together might be one of all the U.S. coins designed by Christian Gobrecht. At first this might seem remarkably simple, since Gobrecht is so well known for his Seated Liberty design that there is even a Liberty Seated Collectors Society of devotees that a person can join. Simply snag one of every Seated Liberty silver coin from the half dime up through the dollar and your mission is accomplished. Or is it?
Less well known is that Gobrecht designed the last of our half-cent pieces, which were produced from 1840 until the demise of the denomination in 1857. And since the design of one copper coin was basically much like that of the other, this means he was the designer of our large cents as well, at least those that were minted starting in 1835. That means we have a couple of further additions to a Gobrecht type set.
Interestingly, while the Seated Liberty design will dominate any Gobrecht type set, from the half dime up to the silver dollar, it will not include the 20-cent piece of 1875-1878, which was designed by William Barber, as Gobrecht had passed away in 1844.
But there’s more. A true and complete Gobrecht type set will include a Coronet Head gold $2.50, gold $5, and gold $10, all three the gold coin denominations that go back to the first Mint act. This gold trio has a long run, having been first released in the late 1830s, and running to 1907 or 1908, depending on the denomination. While gold is not particularly cheap, it should not be impossible to land one of each of these, as some years had rather hefty mintages.
Coins by James Longacre. Gobrecht was the third Mint chief engraver. His successor, James B. Longacre, might seem to be a guy who was forced to be content with having a career in the shadow of the man who produced the Seated Liberty design for silver, and the Coronet design for gold. Such was not the case, as Longacre ended up being responsible for quite a few different designs, from the low to the high end of U.S. coinage.
Any full type set of Longacre coins has to start with the Flying Eagle cent and include the Indian Head cent, as both are his creations. As well, the two-cent piece, and both of the three-cent piece designs are his work. And the Shield nickels—the first five-cent pieces that were not silver half dimes—were also by Lonagacre. So we have a handful of designs that can be an informal first act for this new type set.
Longacre got a chance to have a go at some of the higher denominations as well. The gold dollar was a denomination only authorized in 1849, and it was Longacre who was in the driver’s seat when it came to producing designs for it. The gold $3 was authorized a bit later, in 1853, and is also his work. And, saving the best for last, the Coronet gold $20s, starting in 1849, were also by Longacre. That’s quite a second act. For a man who did not get a shot at what we might call the standard silver coins and denominations, Longacre still left quite a legacy, one that will make an extensive type set.
Coins by Adolph A. Weinman. Skipping forward in time, and away from those artists who were the Mint employees, let’s take a look at the work of Adolph A. Weinman and see what a Weinman type set might look like.
Perhaps it is obvious, but Weinman is the designer of our Mercury dime and of the Walking Liberty half dollar. So, the easiest possible type set for this gentleman would include only two coins and two designs. But as with many people, there is more to this man than meets the eye.
As with the two Mint engravers we just took a look at, Weinman had a good deal of classical training in the arts. Unlike them, Weinman never really considered himself to be a coin designer or medallic artist. He wanted to be remembered as a sculptor.
The body of his work is all over our nation today. His sculpture of “Civic Fame” is atop the Manhattan Municipal Building, for example. He has produced numerous other free-standing sculptures of prominent Americans or other allegorical figures that can be seen in New York City, the Brookgreen Sculpture Gardens in South Carolina, or Detroit among other places.
Copies of his beautiful sculpture, “Descending Night,” are popular enough that they can still be found for sale on eBay. So perhaps the next step in a Weinman type set might be a photo of one of these public pieces of work, or a small copy of “Descending Night.”
Going a step further, yet staying with one of Weinman’s classics, the one-ounce American Eagles silver bullion coins, first issued in 1986, are a tribute to the beauty of the first design. There is a mountain of silver Eagles from which to choose, and the difficulty might be figuring which one to add to a Weinman type set, if you do indeed have the will power to stick with just one.
Now, for anyone who has been asleep under the proverbial rock for the past few years, the Mercury dime and Walking Liberty half dollar designs have been reissued—the Walking Liberty for an unprecedented third time—but this time in gold, as a way to honor the centennial anniversary of their first appearance. These might constitute a somewhat more expensive addition to a type set, but for everyone who has seen even one of these, they are truly gorgeous.
All of what we have just seen can be assembled into an impressive type set, but there are a couple of final entries you might wish to consider for a type set of Weinman designs. He is the only one of the three artists I have focused on to have ever designed any medals for the U.S. military. OK, that’s not too tough an honor to claim here, as our military didn’t really give out many medals in any conflict prior to World War I, which means the times that Gobrecht and Longacre worked. But in World War II, three different campaign medals were produced that all share a common reverse. The American Campaign medal, the European-African-Middle East Campaign medal, and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal were issued to those who served for specific amounts of time in those theaters—with more time needing to be served for those who were in the Continental United States as opposed to overseas.
It might take some hunting and searching, but the campaign medals awarded to the Greatest Generation are indeed part of Weinnman’s body of work. One of each could become an excellent addition to a different sort of type set.
On purpose, I have left off a few of the prominent U.S. coin designers. I also haven’t done anything more than mention the area of U.S. commemorative coinage, an area in which Charles Barber had a hand, at least for the early issues. I have left the early engravers off my list, and even left Augustus Saint-Gaudens off. But this is because I focused on two of the prominent Mint engravers of the 19th century, as well as one more recent artist, in turn because these are the ones collectors know quite well. Producing type sets of their coins will not be impossible and could be a great deal of fun.
Whether you dig deeper into what we have suggested, or are prompted to go off into other directions, all the best as you see what sort of type set you can assemble, and what you are able to learn along the way.

 

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