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The Flipside with Robert R. Van Ryzin

Gasparro's original design the best
July 06, 2007

I was packing for a move the other day, when I came across a Christmas card with a "thank you" from the late Frank Gasparro, former chief engraver of the U.S. Mint.

Gasparro is known to collectors for designing the Memorial reverse on the Lincoln cent and the reverse of the Kennedy half dollar.

He is also recalled, not so fondly, for his depiction on the nation's first mini-dollar (1979-1981, 1999) of famous 19th-century advocate of woman's suffrage, Susan B. Anthony. In fairness to Gasparro, the design looks like Anthony, and Gasparro was mandated by the act authorizing the coin to depict her on the coin's obverse.

What should be remembered is that Gasparro preferred a much different design for the new dollar—one of his own, which was reminiscent of early U.S. coins. It showed a flowing hair Liberty on the obverse and an eagle in flight on the reverse.

At the time, I was on the staff of Numismatic News and wrote a regular column called "Striking Impressions." I liked Gasparro's original design, showed it in my column, and said so. It wasn't long after that I received the card and "thank you" for my comments on his design, which I've kept since in a display cabinet.

I still think Gasparro's design would have been a better choice. Though I doubt it would have made any difference as to how well the coin circulated.

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About the Author
Robert R. Van Ryzin has been a coin collector for 30 years. He has served as editor of Krause Publications Coins and Coin Prices magazines since 1994. He joined the firm in 1986 after obtaining a master of fine arts degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Prior to becoming a magazine editor, he worked on World Coin News as a staff member and later served as managing editor of Numismatic News. Van Ryzin, whose specialty is U.S. coinage history, is also the award-winning author of the book Crime of 1873: The Comstock Connection (Krause Publications, 2001), as well as two earlier titles, Twisted Tails: Sifted Fact, Fantasy and Fiction from U.S. Coin History (Krause Publications, 1995) and Striking Impressions: A Visual Guide to Collecting U.S. Coins (Krause Publications, 1992).

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