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The Flipside with Robert R. Van Ryzin

Atrocious Designs?
April 03, 2008

You can't please everybody, and if you're a coin designer you're sure to attract your share of critics. Today, James Earle Fraser's Buffalo nickel is considered a classic, but at the time of its release, in 1913, not everyone was on the Fraser bandwagon.

The New York Times, for instance, complained its March 2, 1913, issue that "The new 'nickel' is a striking example of what a coin intended for wide circulation as small change should not be."

The paper noted that the coins, which had been released the day before by the sub-treasury, were bringing 10 to 15 cents on the street, "but there will be no great eagerness to get them hereafter in preference to the old five-cent coins."

In fact, the New York Times preferred the Liberty Head nickel. With its large "V" and the word "Cents," it served its purpose well, the newspaper reported, as those unfamiliar with the coin could easily tell its denomination. Whereas, on the new nickel, the lettering was so small that "it can only be deciphered by strong eyes in a bright light."

More amazingly, perhaps, was the paper's statement that until this new nickel arrived, the latest "atrocities" from the U.S. Mint were the new gold $5s, $10s and $20s, or the designs of Bela Lyon Pratt (gold $2.50 and $5) and Augustus Saint-Gaudens (gold $10 and $20), now highly thought of by collectors. "These are bad coins in design and execution," the New York Times related.

In its March 5th issue, the newspaper ran a letter from H.P. Nitsua of Connecticut, who also disliked the new nickel. "Numismatology can hardly be congratulated on the new recruit to its ranks," he proclaimed.

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Recent Comments
On August 13, 2008 Bill Nordan said
Where is this article going?  It seems that the article ends about where it begins - the "About the Author" is longer than the article itself.  What you have to say is a lot more important than your pedigree if someone is going to waste their time reading an article.

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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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