US Coins

Gasparro’s Liberty dollar design given new life

When United States Mint Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro created a design for a dollar coin in the late 1970s, his sculpture eventually lost out to the underwhelming, critically assailed image of Susan B. Anthony.

But a modern minter is breathing new life into the classic pattern, offering a limited number of commemoratives marking the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Flowing Hair Liberty dollar trial strikes.

Jared Grove, of Grove Minting Company, announced the piece in mid-February. The Grove commemorative piece is based upon Gasparro’s original 1977 Liberty Dollar design, sticking closely in detail to the proposed obverse, including its 11-sided rim perimeter.

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The reverse of the Grove piece features the Eagle in Flight reverse by Gasparro, a flying eagle with outstretched wings, looking skyward, with 13 stars and 10 rays, with the addition of the Grove Minting coat of arms.

The 2017 medal was conceptualized from imagery now held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, donated by Gasparro’s daughter in 2009, according to Grove.

Within that collection appears a newspaper clipping of a fashion model wearing an Albert Nipon designer suit. With the quick stroke of a pen, Gasparro turned the model’s profile into the portrait of a Flowing Hair Liberty, which progressed into a final sketch for the coin’s obverse.

His reverse design sketches iterate several variations of an eagle in flight, bursting through the rays of the sun in the background, complete with 13 stars symbolizing the original colonies. The design is titled “The Coming of a New Dawn,” according to Coin World's Comprehensive Catalog & Encyclopedia of United States Coins

The soaring eagle is “vaguely remniscent of the one on the Saint-Gaudens double eagle type, although flying over a mountain sunrise,” according to the Catalog.

The Nipon brand was launched in 1972, but Gasparro had the idea for a modern Flowing Hair dollar at least a few years earlier — he designed the medal for the American Numismatic Association’s 1969 convention, which utilizes a Flowing Hair design. According to Jared Grove, “The newspaper sketch could have rekindled thoughts in persisting his envisioned design forward to 1977.” 

Galvanos were prepared for an 11-sided, 26.5 millimeter diameter Flowing Hair dollar. Gasparro told Coin World's Paul Gilkes that trial strikings of his design were made at the Philadelphia Mint, but all were destroyed soon after.

“A photograph of a presumed trial strike indicates a round planchet with plain edge, although at the time Mint officials were still seriously considering the 11-sided planchet,” according to the Coin World book.   

Gasaparro’s “superior design” was no match for suffragist Anthony, whose taciturn visage would enter circulation in 1979, to much ballyhoo. 

The Grove firm’s Proof 2017 medal is struck in nickel, measures 25 millimeters in diameter and weighs 8.6 grams with a plain edge.

The medal has a mintage limit of 750 pieces that retail for $15 each, plus shipping.

This is the seventh exclusive commemorative design issued by the Grove Minting Co. 

For more details or to order the medal, visit the firm’s website.

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