The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 49, December 8, 2019, Article 16


Greg Burrus of Chattanooga writes:

As a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga I receive their magazine. Their latest issue has a story about Chester "Marty" Martin, a fellow UTC graduate who seems to have enjoyed a long numismatic career. Though I don't know the gentleman, I felt the article was interesting enough to pass on.

Thanks! Profiles of coin and medal designers are often found far outside of the numismatic sphere. Here's an excerpt. I added an image of the General Colin Powell Congressional Gold Medal obverse. See the complete article online for more. -Editor

Chester Martin

The three-ring binder is as thick as a Bible with both Old and New Testaments.

In it is the life of Chester "Marty" Martin, who graduated from the University of Chattanooga in 1962, toting a diploma for a degree in art. Inside the binder are handwritten letters from, among many others, artists Andrew Wyeth and Norman Rockwell and the directors of the Smithsonian Institution and the British Museum in London, which have Martin's coins in their world-famous collections.

Martin plans to donate the binder and its historical papers, letters and photos to UTC in the future. "This just pretty much chronicles my professional life," says Martin, 85, who lives with his wife, Pat, in the same Chattanooga house they've lived in for 54 years, moving in two years after they were married.

As he flips through the pages in his binder, his memory is sharper than an engraving tool, and he easily recalls names and places, where this dinner was held, when and where he met this person.

Skilled Artist
It's been quite a life for Martin, who is a painter in both oils and watercolors, a sculptor, a woodcarver and, in perhaps his most notable career, a numismatist or, for those who don't recognize the word, someone who uses plaster or porcelain to engrave the original artwork that is later minted as coins. "I had to teach myself how to make a coin; there is not a book that you can find that says how to make a coin. So I had a lot of learning to do," Martin says.

But he learned fast. When he submitted a photo of his first coin engraving to the Franklin Mint in 1966, he received a letter from Joseph M. Segel, founder of the mint, which sells coins, medals, jewelry and other items. "It appears from the picture you sent that you may have the talent necessary to become a fine coin and medal designer," Segel wrote. He was right.

Martin worked at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia from 1986 until 1992 and, in those years, he engraved or helped design coins for subjects such as commemorating the efforts of singer/songwriter Harry Chapin to end worldwide hunger, the works of artist Wyeth as part of the 100th anniversary celebration Yosemite National Park, the bicentennial anniversary of the U.S. Congress and the reverse side of the White House Bicentennial silver dollar in 1992.

In 1980, on the back of The National Sculpture Review magazine, he saw an ad for the Society of Medalists' 50th anniversary contest. Winning prize was $10,000. Although he'd never worked in metal before, he decided to enter and created a three-inch, circular medal with a snail engraved into it. With a spiral shell, it sits on a spiral-twisted vine and gazes at a spiral galaxy in the sky. It won the contest.

The late George Cress, former head of the UTC Department of Fine Arts, wrote a personal note after Martin gave him a copy of the medal in the early 1980s. "I want to express my appreciation to you for your prizewinning medal for the Society of Medalists," Cress wrote. "I have this on my desk and am pleased to be reminded of your outstanding achievements as one of our graduates."

In 1984, the American Medallic Sculpture Association was asked to supply a medal for the World Food Day contest, the first time such a request had been made of U.S. artists. Martin entered the competition and won.

1991 General Colin Powell Bronze Medal Obverse In 1988, he was hired by the U.S. Mint. One of his personal favorites is the Congressional Gold medal to honor four-star Gen. Colin Powell, commander of American forces in operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was the last project Martin did at the Mint.

"And boy, we worked," Martin says, pointing to the four stars on Powell's shoulders depicted on the coin. "He had to be able to see all those stars; all of them had to show on both shoulders."

The coin's face had Powell's portrait and the reverse showed him talking to a foot soldier. "It's supposed to show some humanity," Martin says.

To read the complete article, see:
COIN ART Alumnus is a Renowned Numismatist (

Colin Powell medal image from:

E-Sylum Leidman ad02new portrait

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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