Set Category: Series Sets

Set Name: The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser

Set Description:
Every pioneer who paves a new trail marks a trail for others to follow. Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966) is the first women ever to design a US minted coin or for that matter any other world coin (The Numismatist July 2013, p. 35). As a result, this has opened the way for many other talented female sculptor/medalists to break into what had been exclusively the realm of men. That said, I don’t get the impression that Laura Gardin Fraser was particularly pugnacious about breaking down barriers. Rather, I believe it was her love of sculpture and artistic expression combined with her artistic prowess that marked the trail for others to follow. Thus, as a result of my admiration of Laura Gardin Fraser as a person, pioneer, and artist I created this set entitled, “The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser”. Laura Gardin Fraser was a particularly gifted sculptor in her own right despite her marriage to famed Buffalo Nickel sculptor James Earle Fraser. As a result of her marriage to James there were those who had incorrectly concluded that Laura Gardin Fraser’s success was based on an undue influence from her husband. However, the truth is that James had always encouraged her to be individualistic. Laura is quoted as saying this about her husband, "He was a great teacher," Laura recalled. "Jimmy had the rare quality of being able to recognize what someone felt. He never liked to work in one specific manner. He encouraged individualism. Everyone loved him–especially me" (The Meadowlark Gallery). Thus, I hope to catch a glimpse into the heart and passion of Laura Gardin Fraser through her coins and some of her 100 plus medals displayed in the body of this set (The Numismatist July 2013, p. 35). Still, there were those who speculated on the direction Mrs. Fraser’s artistic career may have taken had she not married James. Elaine J. Leotti writing in an essay, “The American Woman Medalist, A Critical Survey” quotes Sculptor Janet deCoux, who worked as an assistant to James Fraser during the 1930’s. Miss deCoux describes Laura as “a very tense and serious person, very difficult to know.” In Miss deCoux’s opinion, Laura Fraser’s work was largely reflective of her husband’s sculpture, as she was never able to “develop as one would who had fought it out alone.” Like Elaine J. Leotti, I think that, “It would be a foolish waste of time to attempt conjecture of Fraser’s artistic development had she never met James.” Unfortunately, accusations like those leveled by Miss deCoux plagued Mrs. Fraser her entire life. There is a considerable amount of research available on James Earle and Laura Gardin Fraser including the James Earle and Laura Gardin Fraser studio papers at the Dickinson Research Center and Syracuse University Libraries. Given all the past research done on Laura Gardin Fraser, I am unlikely to unearth anything new that had been previously unknown. Thus, within the narrative of my owner comments, I intend to offer my own opinion of Laura Gardin Fraser’s life passion and work based on the coins and medals themselves and on known facts about her. Where I have Laura’s own comments on a particular piece, I will quote her directly. For who better can describe the intention of the medallic art than the artist themselves. I also intend to gather my facts from reliable sources such as “The Numismatist,” various websites like “The Meadowlark Gallery,” and books from my personal library such as “End of the Trail: The Odyssey of a Statue” (1973) by Dean Krakel. Then when I make an opinion based on a known fact I intend to name the source in the footnotes of my coin and medal descriptions. From a numismatic standpoint, this set will prove to be quite a challenge. While the coins are all readily available, many of the medals are not. The medals can be divided into two categories. The first are those medals intended for sale to the general public, such as the “Society of Medalists” and the “Hall of Fame for Great Americans” series. The second are those medals given out as an award. This category includes such medals as the 1913 “Better Babies” medal and the 1920 “American Army and Navy Chaplains Medal”. As a category, the second will be much more difficult and expensive to acquire. Difficult in that examples of these infrequently appear for sale and expensive as they tend to be much rarer. Therefore, this set will likely be years in the making and probably never complete. Still, much of what I enjoy about this set is the “hunt” for new pieces. If they say a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a thousand times more. Thus I am posting a link to a 1929 film made by The Medallic Art Company entitled, “The Medal Maker”. At one time this film was thought to be lost, but has since been found and restored by the Medallic Art Company. The film features the making of the 1929 “National Sculpture Society Special Medal of Honor” from its creation by Laura Gardin Fraser to its inaugural presentation to Daniel Chester French. The Medallic Art Company has edited the film to be narrated by the 11th and final chief engraver of the US Mint, Elizabeth Jones. The film can be viewed at The Medallic Art Company’s web site via the following link. Finally, I find it most interesting that prior to 1921 no woman had ever designed a United States coin and then only 60 years later to have Elizabeth Jones become the chief engraver of the US Mint. Consequently, I can reasonably conclude that women have gained a much more prominent role in numismatics based mainly on their artistic skill. This then is as it should be. The coins and medals in this set are ordered according to the year Laura Gardin Fraser completed the models from which the original dies were made. Thus each slot name will detail whether the piece is a coin or a medal and the year of the design. (The picture above is from the archives of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and features Laura Gardin Fraser at work on her 1913 "Better Babies" medal.)

Set Goals:

Owner:     gherrmann44

custom-creative-noNumber.png Most Creative Custom Set

Signature Set Details:
Slot NameCoin InfoGraded ByCountry
1913 Medal NGC 
1920 Medal NGC 
1921 Coin PCGS 
1922 Coin PCGS 
1922 Coin NGC 
1922 Medal NGC 
1923 Medal NGC 
1925 Coin PCGS 
1926 Coin NGC 
1929 Medal NGC 
1930 Medal NGC 
1932 Medal NGC 
1932 Coin NGC 
1947 Coin NGC 
1952 Medal NGC 
1957 Medal NGC 
1958 Medal NGC 
1966 Medal NGC 
1966 Medal NGC 

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