The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 8, February 20, 2005, Article 17


George Fuld writes: "I have only one original plaster,
depicting "Dr. George Fuld" (in my youth?). It is a 16 inch
plaster done by Don Dow for the first president of TAMS
in 1960. I have spray painted it with gold paint and mounted
on a velvet frame. Perhaps my grandchildren will see me in
my youth!"

Julian Leidman writes: "I wish to add my two cents to the
"plaster" conversation. I purchased a number of the plasters
in Lepczyk's sale and I agree that the after-market was quite
thin, but I have none now and they were all sold at a profit,
I am pretty sure. The rarity of the item is what made it
collectible and, ultimately, saleable. They mostly went to
people that collected the series of items that had to do with
the subject of the plaster. I believe that they make a very
interesting addition to specialized numismatic collections
and would encourage their addition. Resalability is no
reason not to collect something. It may be a reason not to
invest, but has no place in the theory behind collecting."

Fred Reed writes: "As a follow up to friend Dick Johnson's
comments on the Fraser Studio plasters which appeared in
a Joe Lepczyk auction of October 1980, my colleague at
Coin World David T. Alexander wrote the article which
greatly buoyed the Lepczyk auction. In his own indomitable
style, DTA (a present and longtime cataloger for Stack's,
former employee of Dick's at Johnson and Jensen, a founder
of the Medal Collectors of America, and presently "Research
Desk" medal columnist for Coin World) convinced Editor
Margo Russell that this was a truly historical offering and we
needed to give it more than usual auction coverage space.
He then skillfully banged the historical drum loudly enough
that -- as Dick said -- brought the sale great success it
deserved. If you Google "fraser lepczyk" the first three
entries that come up are articles I did for the December
1999, February 2000, and April 2000 issues of “Heritage
Insider” about the Fraser Lincoln nickel and cent models,
the Augustus Saint-Gaudens medallion plaster, and the
Laura Gardin Fraser plaster model which became the basis
for the $5 George Washington gold coin, which appeared
in that sale. Incidentally, afterward I obtained Lepczyk's
original photographs of ALL the plasters (including many
of the three-dimensional items from various views), rights
to publish them, and even the page paste ups from the
auction catalog from Joe. Many of these photos will
appear in my book, FIRST FAMILY OF AMERICAN
SCULPTURE: A joint biography and catalog raisone of
James Earle Fraser and Laura Gardin Fraser."

[To save everyone the trouble I've listed below the
addresses of the three articles Fred refers to. -Editor]

Full Story
Full Story
Full Story

Dick Johnson writes: "I hope I didn’t come off as the bad
guy in last week’s report on owning plaster models, particularly
since I have sold some of these in the last two auctions of friend
Joseph Levine’s sales in his Presidential Coin & Antique auctions.

The original question was omitted in last week’s report:
collecting plaster models by a NEW collector. I stand by what
I said – plasters are not a suitable item for a new collector nor
a large collection of these. Yet I also said every seasoned
collector should have ONE plaster or galvano and ONE die –
to be aware of how a coin or medal design becomes a struck
piece. It adds greatly to a collector’s understanding of the
minting technology by owning these. (I hope the purchasers
of my consigned plasters in Joe’s auctions were seasoned

Having said that, here is what you need to know about
conservation of plaster models:

(1) They attract dust like a magnet. If a plaster comes from
a sculptor’s studio it will have been subjected to considerable
plaster dust which fills up a lot of the crevices. For goodness
sake do not use any liquid to remove the dust. Use air!
Compressed air or air from an aerosol spray can. For
whatever use you have in mind you want a virgin white
plaster (not a dusty, dirty model).

(2) Do not remove the "flange." That is the inch or two extension
of plaster around the edge of the model, which down the road
in the process is necessary for the clamps to hold the pattern to
the die-engraving pantograph. It is part of the technology. If you
have the urge to trim it to the edge of the design – resist the
urge to trim.

(3) Plaster models need to be protected as best possible.
Plaster will break (dent & chip & all those things I said last
week). Frame it if you want to hang it on your wall. Put it in
a shadow box with a glass front. This prevents damage and
dust accumulation to its surface. For a stunning wall piece
use a strong color cloth as a background behind the white
plaster – red, royal blue, purple, black – your choice for
a great contrast.

(4) Plaster storage. If you don’t frame it and wish to store
it, ask the sculptor you get it from (or have a sculptor do
this for you) – make a rubber mold. Lay the plaster flat on
a very sturdy shelf and place the rubber mold on top of it.
Then if anything is dropped on it the rubber mold cushions
the blow. If you obtain both the positive and negative
plaster casts, these may be stored one on top of the other.
Place the positive on top. If it breaks from something
dropped on it, you can have another positive made from
the negative plaster (hoping of course, it didn’t break).

To really enjoy owning a plaster model, get the struck piece
– coin or medal – made from that plaster. Study both and
note particularly three things: the height of the relief, the
top edges of all letters and devices -- are these sharp and
crisp or slightly rounded over? And finally note the bevel
or draft on the relief -- the sides of all lettering and devices
must be slightly sloped so the piece can release from the
die when it is struck (this has to be in sculptor’s original

See why I say this is not something for a beginning
collector to collect? Next week I will tell you how to
protect galvanos."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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