The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 23, Number 40, October 4, 2020, Article 22


Steve Davis of Numismatic Auctions LLC passed along this additional information on the Anthony DeFrancisci and Laura Gardin Fraser plasters in his upcoming November 2020 sale #65. Thanks! -Editor

According to the consignor, these items were likely the property of Victor DeMeo, who passed in 1947 and were subsequently inherited by William DeMeo. Victor was a sculpture artist and photographer who had a longtime professional relationship with James Earle Fraser. He frequently brought his son William to the Fraser NYC studio. There they met such luminaries of the time period as Charles Gibson, Lindbergh, Ann Harding. Jack Johnston, Charles Atlas, Elihu Root, Edwin Robinson. Victor photographed James Earle Fraser and Laura Gardin Fraser in studio settings as well as his and Laura's sculptures and sculpture subjects.

William served as an apprentice with James Earle Fraser around 1932, then opened a NYC studio of his own for 12 years before serving in World War II. William worked with many well known sculptors including Anthony DeFrancisci, Paul Manship and others, making plaster pieces. These rare coinage related items being offered for auction currently were handed down through the DeMeo family, gifted from the original artists and later acquired at the estate sales of relatives of William. The most solid information surrounding these relationships came from a loose-leaf book that William produced, a notebook included in the group with hand written historical content and sketches dated 1935-36, as well as from letters and correspondence between James Earle Fraser and William DeMeo.

The lot numbers have yet to be assigned, but the descriptions for the lots are as follows:

1921 Peace Dollar Obverse Plaster by Anthony DeFrancisci 1921 Peace Dollar Uniface Obverse Lead Splasher Trial Strike

Likely Unique and Previously Unknown Original Obverse Plaster and Uniface Obverse Lead Splasher Die Trial Strike for The 1921 High Relief Peace Dollar. Features a white alabaster plaster model with yellow-ochre applied finish, 8 3/4" diameter, 1 1/4" thick, unsigned but design executed by Anthony DeFrancisci for use as the obverse of the 1921 replacement for the longstanding Morgan Silver Dollar. The design depicts a stunning art deco inspired portrait of Liberty with free flowing hair and a radiant tiara with LIBERTY at top and IN GOD WE TRUST divided at either side of the bust, date below. Overall EF, some minor chipping about the edge and mottled variation in the surface coloration due to age and some transient surface adhesions and deposits.

Accompanied by an original lead composition Uniface Splasher Die Trial striking of the aforementioned design, 45mm in diameter overall and 5mm thick, weighing in at 77.1 grams. The splasher is heavily oxidized with a thick grayish-pewter colored patina, otherwise EF to as struck, cpl light old marks likely part of the production process. The historic significance of this museum quality pair of United States Mint History relics cannot be overstated, a trophy acquisition for the Peace Dollar specialist or registry set collector, the likes of which will not present itself again. This lot contains both the Obverse Plaster and Uniface Die Trial.

Original Unadopted Reverse Plaster for the Washington Quarter by Laura Gardin Fraser 1931 Original Photo of Laura Gardin Fraser Working on the Washington Quarter Plaster in 1931

Likely Unique and Previously Unknown Original Unadopted Reverse Plaster and Original Studio Photograph of Laura Gardin Fraser Sculpting the Washington Quarter Design, c. 1931. Features a white alabaster plaster model with olive green applied finish, 11 1/2" diameter, 1 1/4" thick, with integral wire hangar as made on back, unsigned but design executed by Laura Gardin Fraser for use as the reverse of the 1932 George Washington Commemorative replacement for the Standing Liberty Quarter. The design depicts a magnificent Eagle in Heraldry with arrows and olive spray in talons, 13 stars above with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at top while the Motto E PLURIBUS UNUM and QUARTER DOLLAR denomination reside below. Overall EF or better, some random minor chipping about the edge and to the finish, cpl trivial cracks in the surface coloration due to age and some scattered areas of regional age toning and insignificant sediment/dust in devices.

Accompanied by an original sepia tone 8"x10" Studio photographic portrait print of Laura Gardin Fraser at her easel, sculpting what appears to be the obverse for the aforementioned plaster. The image was lightly pierced at the top with a single pinhole for suspension, but otherwise perfect and accented by some peripheral silvering. The image conveys a rare window in time, viewing one of America's most noteworthy coin designers at work. Although this Quarter Dollar design was selected by the Council for Fine Arts as the rendering for coinage, then Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon overruled the Committee and selected John Flanagan's design in its place.

With a fast forward leap to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of George Washington's death, Laura's design finally came to numismatic fruition on the $5 Gold Commemorative coinage of 1999. Once again as with the preceding lot, this discovery and offering of these amazing pieces, their historic nature and importance are utterly indescribable. An important opportunity for the advanced collector of U.S. Mint History, the Washington Quarter specialist or registry set collector, as well as mavens of Fraser's coinage and medallic art. This lot contains both the Reverse Quarter Dollar Plaster and Studio Portrait.

Steve adds:

"I am so excited to offer these to the Numismatic community for the first time!"

It's not every day that opportunities like this appear. Great chance to acquire important artifacts in numismatic history. -Editor

For more information on the sale, see:

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Fricke E-Sylum ad01 Civil War Coins

Wayne Homren, Editor

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