on Mint engraver/ designers, and the impact on the buffalo nickel (part 2 of a series)
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by Peter J. Miksich, Jr., a Buffalo Nickel Devotee
When Black Diamond started to show signs of age, his Zoo-keepers
decided to make some money off him.
They unceremoniously had him hauled off to a local New York
slaughterhouse -- where they cut him up and sold him as "Black Diamond
I don't really know if Charles Barber, Chief Engraver, the "Grand Ol
Man" of the Philadelphia Mint even knew about it, but Barber himself cut
the daylights out of the coin Black Diamond was portrayed on (the
Buffalo Nickel) long before the Bisons' demise.
Charles Barber was a man of prejudices, he had to be, it WAS his job
to engrave new coin designs. But after Victor David Brenner's Lincoln
Cent, and the Augustus St. Gaudens gold designs invaded "his
turf".....the pot simmered.
Then it came to a boil.
To be sure, he got back at Brenner and St. Gaudens for their foray
into his territory. He hemmed and hawed and blockaded their advances,
sometimes with valid reason, but nonetheless with a fervor of a man
scorned -- cutting and modifying their original designs somewhat just to
prove a point.
He WAS Chief Engraver, after all!
He played a role in having the VDB removed from the Lincoln Cent. No
doubt. His prejudice toward that coin shows in the fact the he most
likely reveled in removing it from the Hub during the first year of the
Cent's issue. He got back at poor Brenner by leaving his initials off
the coin on purpose.
It wasn't till he passed away that anyone dared to put them back on.
George Morgan, the "Dollar Guy", put them under Lincoln's shoulder.
St. Gaudens passed away before he had a chance to see Barber's
tinkering with his designs, most notably and arguably the most beautiful
American coin, the Double Eagle.
Flash to 1912
Barber's Liberty Nickel was to be replaced, and it was decided to
commission James Earl Frasier for the new coin. His Buffalo Nickel was
both beautiful, artistic, and a real jewel shining in the darkness.
The new coin was minted rough-hewn (fields not smooth) like a medal.
It would be too verbose here to speak of Barber's dislike for the
coin, and when a problem arose, he was very quick to solve it.
The word "CENTS" on the reverse of the coin in high relief was
wearing away prematurely.
The Mint was still having nightmares from the V Nickel debacle, when
"Racketeers" took normal five cents coins without "Cents" on them and
dipped them into gold. They were passed as gold coins.
After talking to Frasier about a re-design, and getting his approval,
the mint put FIVE CENTS in an exergue to protect it. Barber went
Not only did he do the repair, he could not hold off, he smoothed
down the fields on both sides of the coin to remove the "medalist" look
of the coin.
The Type II coin lost the "look". Well, it DID get Barber's look.
I can imagine him smiling as he cut...and smoothed....and cut some
The "Grand Ol Man".....true to his prejudices......had his final say.
Hope you all enjoyed this.