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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 36, September 10, 2007, Article 7

CARL HONORE ON HIGH RELIEF COINAGE

Carl Honore writes: "This is written in comment to the recent
item on the upcoming display of High Relief Saint-Gaudens Double
Eagles.

"For quite a few years I have been attempting to wrap my mind
around the fact that high relief (ie concave fields) coinage
just wouldn't work for U.S. coinage.  I have come to the
conclusion that this is absolute garbage.  What may not have
worked for U.S. coinage is the actual designs viz high relief.
Consider:

"The coins of Conrad Heinrich Kuchler, chief designer for the
Boulton and Watt mint in England had some fabulous designs
that struck up quite nicely.  Much of the detail in these pieces
are still visible even in circulated condition.  If one defines
a feature of high relief as including concave fields (re: the
ultra high and high relief double eagles of St. Gaudens) one
can easily find excellent examples of this form in Kuchler's
1806 copper designs for Boulton.  These pieces also have
engrailed edges.

"Other designs including Intaglio are readily seen in the 8
sol pieces Boulton struck for the French.  The deep oval
intaglio design is a masterwork of detail.

"Bearing in mind that copper is quite a soft material, and
also bearing in mind that many of these British designs are
still quite detailed even in worn conedition of the coins,
the excuse that people gave for flattening the relief of
the 1913 buffalo nickels and other pieces because of "potential
design wear" and striking problems just doesn't hold water.

"First, the dies might show considerable wear sooner as the
die faces for 'high relief' coin art would be convex to give
the concave impressions on the coins.  Die polishing would
normally be a flat operation for flat dies.  If the convex
die faces were polished "flat" then some of the design would
be worn away making the convex die faces somewhat flat after
a while and thus losing design detail.

"Therefore I think a more reasonable excuse for not doing high
relief would be die maintenance, or even die production methods,
not coin wear.  What might have been never was due to lack of
insight on how to maintain convex dies.  These dies would be
used to strike medals, but then remember that considerably
fewer medals were struck then a production run of coins, and
therefore less die maintenance would be required, preserving
the original art over a lot fewer strikes.

"By the way, the high relief on buffalo nickels would have
preserved the designs not worn them away because the designs
are BELOW the rims of the coin.  The rims would have worn
first.  Even so, Cupro nickel wears slower than the plain
copper used in 1913 so there was no reasonable excuse to
change the original design other than perhaps petty jealousy.

"I have never seen arguments in print about the technological
aspects of high relief coin art and die making.  The sculptors
and artists who allegedly did not know the mechanics of coining
and allegedly produced designs too complicated to strike up
decently obverse to reverse is hogwash.  Weinman's walking
liberty half-dollar for example is seen with almost perfect
strike.  Such pieces are scarce, but they are available
showing that the designs were in fact feasible.

"Any opinions or feedback?  I may be out on a limb and up
the estuary without a means of propulsion here, but I think
my arguments are valid.  Perhaps we should get back to high
relief even if only for a limited commemorative run."

 ANS OPENS SAINT-GAUDENS EXHIBIT: I SUPPOSE I SHALL BE IMPEACHED FOR IT
 esylum_v10n35a05.html

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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