A few hours of “work” during a Christmas vacation dramatically
changed Elizabeth Jones’ life.
In late November 1980, Jones had returned to the United States to
visit family and friends. She had intended to stay no more than six
weeks. After Christmas she planned to return to Rome, where she had
worked as an artist and medallic sculptor for 18 years.
While visiting her sister in suburban Maryland, Jones decided to
stop by some art galleries in the nation’s capital. Her medallic
sculptures were widely acclaimed internationally, but she was not as
well known in the United States. Upon entering one of the galleries,
she introduced herself to a young man who seemed interested in seeing
her medals. Just as she began to place some on the counter, he said he
needed to make a phone call. He returned within a few minutes.
“My father is Roy Cahoon. He asked if you would call him as soon
The name Roy Cahoon rang a bell. Jones had met him in the early
1960s when he accompanied U.S. Mint Director Eva Adams on a tour of
the Italian Mint in Rome. Jones had served as their translator. At the
time she was studying at the Scuolo dell’Arte della Medaglia inside
the Italian Mint. Director Adams tried to persuade the young American
to return to her homeland then and become a sculptor-engraver at the
Philadelphia Mint. While flattered by Adams’ enthusiasm for her work,
Jones declined the invitation, noting that she preferred to stay in Rome.
Jones called Cahoon, who put her in touch with Adams. Both
encouraged Jones to apply for the chief sculptor-engraver’s post at
the U.S. Mint. Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro had announced he would be
retiring as of Jan. 16, 1981.
Jones lost little time in submitting her application. She was
interviewed by a number of Treasury officials, including Treasurer
Angela Buchanan and Treasury Secretary Donald Regan.
Recently, Jones recalled her interview with Regan. Buchanan
accompanied her to Regan’s office. “He was sitting at a big desk in
the middle of his large office. After greeting me, his first question
was, ‘Why do you want the job?’ ”
Jones recalls, “I looked him in the eyes and said, ‘because I
think I’m highly qualified.’ ”
Her response was convincing.
Upon leaving the interview, Buchanan advised her not to leave the
United States. Jones was sworn into office Oct. 27, 1981, becoming the
first woman to be chief sculptor-engraver of the United States Mint.
Beth Deisher was editor of Coin World for 27 of the 31
years she was on the publication’s staff. She may be contacted at email@example.com.