Ohio artist makes ‘poor man’s V75’ American Eagle replica
- Published: Dec 27, 2020, 10 AM
Call it the “poor man’s V75” privy-marked American Eagle, End of World War II 75th Anniversary silver dollar.
When artist Andrew Gonzales saw a collector’s rendition of the sold-out V75 privy-marked 2020-W American Eagle silver dollar in a sale listing in a Facebook group, he knew he had to act.
A quick sketch by David Li combined with the artistic talents of Gonzales led to creation of “about five” uniface examples in pewter riffing off what was one of the most popular — and infuriating — coin products released by the United States Mint in 2020.
Inspiring the copycat
It was Li’s sale of the authentic product that spurred Gonzales to act.
In order to comply with rules about selling coins in social media groups, which often require sellers to share images of the exact item they’re selling, Li quickly drew (some might say scribbled) a rendition of the coin inside a sealed U.S. Mint box — which he wanted to remain sealed because grading services treat opened boxes differently when assessing a coin’s eligibility for a special label. If the box were opened, bidding for the coin would decrease, since certain certification designations would be unavailable.
Li’s Nov. 20 auction for the rarity — one of 75,000 sold by the U.S. Mint — closed that day for $480, far more than the $83 issue price, but in line with the market at the time.
Li’s auction generated dozens of comments and reactions from members of The American Coin Club sales group, where the auction was hosted on Facebook.
Zeke Jezek joked, “I would be disappointed if the coin inside doesn’t look like the picture.”
Robert J. Berthold said to Li, “You missed your calling; you really should have been a coin designer.”
Seth Pickett said, “Can I buy just the drawing? Asking for a friend...”
Designs on humor
Where others saw humor, Gonzales saw the opportunity for art.
The artist, based in North Canton, Ohio, usually creates pendants or other jewelry, but has also carved coins. Taking a nod from companies that turn kids drawings into stuffed animals, he decided to create an image mimicking the sketch.
“As I was looking at the PhotoShopped picture I created, I got the idea to try and bring it to life with a die engraving,” he said.
He started playing with tooling steel, spending about an hour to create the die.
“I didn’t spend much time on the die,” he said. “It’s very rough, but was just meant to be a joke.”
Though he has a 50-ton press given to him by a friend, he had to use lead-free pewter since it is soft.
“Coining takes tons, no pun intended, of force,” he said. “Even a 50-ton press is not nearly sufficient to strike a dollar-sized coin.”
After striking, the resulting piece needs to be trimmed or undergo “finishing” because metal oozes beyond the actual perimeter of the die without the presence of a surrounding collar, “But being that the original artwork and shape is distorted anyway, it’s a very forgiving process as it’s imperfect by nature,” he said.
Speaking of distortions, one look at Li’s design, and Gonzales’ resulting “coin,” and it’s obvious that the piece has a charm and character precisely because it is not perfect (the pewter piece, for instance, is more ovoid, or egg-shaped, than the real coin, which is round).
Gonzales left the pieces’ back blank, “to conform to the legalities of mimicking government coins,” though there’s no way to mistake his piece for legal tender or a Mint product.
Selling the pseudo-coin
Gonzales’ auction for the discount doppelgänger started on Dec. 2 and closed that night for $38 plus $3 shipping.
Chris Simpson of southern California won the auction, and Gonzales sent him two examples because of his strong bid.
“I’m not sure how many to make,” Gonzales said. “I’ll probably offer them up for sale on occasion but don’t want to make too many at a time.”
Simpson bought the item because he sees potential in Gonzales and his art, offering a comparison to Daniel Carr of the Moonlight Mint.
“I just thought it was something neat and Andy does amazing work,” Simpson said. “I see him as having the potential to make and leave a big mark in the exonumia arena in the coming years if he plays his cards right and interest in his work gains momentum over time.”
Simpson failed to secure a gold example of the V75 American Eagle, but did buy a silver example from the Mint, which he later sold for $500, he said.
For what he paid for the replica, Simpson said, “It’s one of those cheap neat things you throw in your collection and forget about, and in time perhaps it becomes a popular rare item by a hot exonumia artist.”
Li (who did not respond to Coin World’s messages for this story) responded to Gonzales’ image on Facebook, saying, “Mad skills man. Can I share this on my own profile?”
Gonzales would love to send him an example of the piece, in return for having inspired its creation, an effort perhaps most artists wouldn’t have undertaken.
Group member John Baumgart summed up the situation, saying, “Some people use pens and paper, some use online meme generators, some use Photoshop, but pulling out die steel and gravers is a ‘hold my beer’ move.”
Gonzales’ art can be found online at www.facebook.com/AndrewGonzalesArtistry.
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