Dick Johnson is the Medallic Art company's corporate historian, and in that capacity he authors a report each Monday. He shared with me a copy of tomorrow's report. It's lengthy, but I've excerpted some interesting sections. Thanks!
The U.S. Mint
ON SEPTEMBER 10th (2013) a special exhibit opens at Philadelphia’s Community College. A retrospective exhibit, it displays the medallic life work of Gilroy Roberts, ninth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint.
The special irony of this exhibit is that it is on display in the very building engraver Roberts did much of his work for the U.S. Mint. The building is the former Third United States Mint at 16th and Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia.
It was replaced by the present modern plant on the Mall built under the administration of Mint Director Eva Adams. The old building, deemed of no further use for any government agency in 1969, was acquired by the Community College in 1971. Rooms formerly occupied by mint workers were refurbished into classrooms.
Gilroy Roberts was a giant among 20th century medallists, a master designer and modeler. He was recognized at the top of his craft early in his career. He started at the Mint in 1936 as staff engraver under John R. Sinnock where he received his medallic training under perfectionist Sinnock.
Concurrent with his position at the Mint, Roberts was active in his home studio, creating those private commissions, all of which were made by Medallic Art Company. He became Medallic Art’s top recommended medallic artist.
When a Fortune Five Hundred company came to Medallic Art for a medal, their precepts was often “we want the finest you can produce.” The reply was often “we can commission the U.S. Chief Engraver at the Mint, should you wish. You can’t get any finer that that.”
In this capacity Roberts produced 69 medallic models of Medallic Art commissions, 1950-1965. Not quite double the 37 medals that he was required to do at the Mint during the same time. This, of course, while he was still Chief Engraver.
The Franklin Mint
After 17 years Roberts resigned his position as Chief Engraver. While this job was considered a life-time appointment, he broke a 150-year old custom by this resignation.
Enter Joseph Segel, a Philadelphia advertising specialty executive and entrepreneur. In 1964 he founded the National Commemorative Society to market medals by subscription. Its success led him to envision, and ultimately found The Franklin Mint, where he did not have to rely on outside suppliers of the proof silver coin medals he wanted to offer. He could create, produce and control these himself.
He needed a name artist at the Franklin Mint. Who better than the U.S. Mint’s Chief Engraver. But how to convince Gilroy Roberts to come aboard Segel’s proposed scheme?
Segel explained his concept to Roberts. But why would Roberts leave a cushy life-time appointment to venture into an unproven project. The answer: Segel offered Roberts the position of Chief Engraver of Franklin Mint, in addition Roberts would hold the corporate position of Chairman of the Board.
But to clinch the deal Segel offered Roberts massive amounts of Franklin Mint stock. That act made Roberts a millionaire, many times over.
News of Gilroy Roberts joining a potential competitor hit the offices of Medallic Art rather hard. It was a loss of their top sculptor talent (which could be replaced) but it was more in the loss of that personal relationship. Like the loss of a family member.
To say the relationship between Roberts and Medallic Art officials was cool, was an understatement. It was frosty. Neither side wanted to talk to the other.
I'll stop here. Dick's complete report took him the better part of today to write.
For more information on the Gilroy Roberts Exhibit, see:
Historic Mint collection returns to Philadelphia
Wayne Homren, Editor
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