The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser
1947 Coin





Coin Details

Origin/Country: PHILIPPINES
Item Description: 50C 1947S Philippine DOUGLAS MACARTHUR
Full Grade: NGC MS 66
Owner: coinsbygary

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser
Competitive Sets: Gary's Philippines Commemoratives   Score: 143
Research: NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

The process from a concept in the mind of a sculptor to a finished coin in the pockets of the public can be long and arduous. For the most part, disagreements along the way between the US Mint and the designing sculptor were worked out to the satisfaction of both parties. Unfortunately, as is in the case of the 1947-S Philippines MacArthur Commemorative Peso and 50 Centavo coins, the coin in the pocket met with the sculptor’s disapproval.

Laura Gardin Fraser is the designer of the 1947-S Philippines MacArthur Commemorative Peso and 50 Centavo coins struck at the San Francisco Mint. To the best of my knowledge this is her only foreign work and definitely her only foreign coins. The obverse of the peso and 50 centavo coins feature a standard profile and 3/4 bust of US General Douglas MacArthur respectively. The reverse features the Philippines Coat of Arms.

Though these coins have an acceptable design, their eye appeal is often impaired because they are weakly struck in low relief. On April 20,1948 Laura Gardin Fraser wrote a nine-point letter to the Philippines Embassy chronicling the difficulties she encountered with the US Mint over the MacArthur coins. This letter can be found in the James Earle Fraser and Laura Gardin Fraser Studio Papers, 1864-1968; Donald C. and Elizabeth Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK Box 7, Folder 4.

Interestingly, with the exception of the opening pleasantries, Mrs. Fraser never refers to herself in the body of the letter by using pronouns such as “me” or “I”. She only refers to herself as “the sculptor”. It seems as if Mrs. Fraser didn’t want to make this about herself, but instead desired to focus her attention on the coins. She also informed the Embassy of her willingness to help remedy any discrepancies. The following are the nine points of her letter.

1. When the original models were shown in the office of the Director of the Mint the only criticism made there from the minting standpoint was that the visors of the caps were high in relief against the background. This matter was remedied and the models sent to the Mint, May 19, 1947.

2. On June 11 the Mint informed the sculptor that the entire outside edges, including the lettering, of all the models must be flattened. This the sculptor did and returned the models to the Mint July 1 for the purpose of making an intermediate size reduction from which the final dies would be made.

3. It was requested of the Mint by the Embassy of the Philippines that trial reductions be made to determine the height of relief, since the reducing machine which cuts the dies can so be adjusted as to lower the original relief or emphasize it, or give the exact effect of an original model. This request was refused. (Any die making concern will always make trial reductions for a sculptor to determine the effect of relief in reduced form, so this was not an unusual request to have made.)

4. On September 6 and September 22 the intermediate size reductions were sent to the sculptor for examination. They had been so flatly reduced beyond the effect of the original models that the sculptor had to work over all the details which had been virtually eliminated by this type of reduction. It is the sculptor's opinion that the galvanos made from the plaster models had also been subjected to a buffer which further eliminates detail because the galvanos made later from these same models which were purchased by the Embassy of the Philippines and the sculptor showed the streaks of the buffer brush and definitely rubbed off the end of the nose of one of the portraits. The retouched models were returned to the Mint October 3.

5. Lead impressions of the steel die were sent to the Embassy of the Philippines and shown to the sculptor who complained that the rims were too wide and a hard line had been cut on the inside of the rim, making a sharp distinction between the rim and the background. The Mint answered this criticism by saying this would be remedied and the sculptor was asked to go to the Mint for a final inspection when this was done. The sculptor felt that the relief had been lowered too much but was assured this was necessary for striking the coins. (The result is the relief of these coins is lower than any other coins - a proof that it was not necessary to have flattened them so much.)

6. On December 3 the sculptor inspected these dies and found them satisfactory, although still complaining they were lower in relief than the sculptor considered it was necessary for them to have been made. The head engraver, Mr. Roberts, very expertly made some accents in the steel dies under the sculptor's direction, on one of the flowers, and the jaw and mane of the lion. When the sculptor gave her final approval of these details, she was assured the dies would not be touched again except for the milling of the edges.

7. When the final silver coins were delivered it was found that they were not like the master dies as approved. The backgrounds in each coin on both sides had been gouged and made very uneven. A deep vertical depression is on either side of the portrait on the 50 centavo piece, and the reverses of both coins are particularly uneven. The middle star of the reverse of the peso has been rubbed down so that it is almost obliterated at the top prong. None of these faults were in the finally approved dies.

8. Since the reverses of these coins are to be permanent in the future coinage of the Philippine Government, the Mint should make new dies that will be stronger in relief and like the sculptor's models. The sculptor will be glad to see that they are properly done if requested to do so by the Philippine Embassy, and the Mint should be forced to make trial reductions for new intermediate reductions as well as the final die size.

9. The Mint took about 9 months to strike these coins after the receipt of the original models from the sculptor. The work could have been accomplished within 6 weeks.

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