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About this journal

When I was a young boy, my cousin introduced me to the hobby of coin collecting. Because I was also interested in photography, I used to frequent a local camera store. Along with camera supplies, this store had a rotating display case full of coins that I enjoyed scrolling through. My very first coin purchase was an 1881-S Morgan Dollar in BU PL condition; this coin was old, shiny, and inexpensive at just $12! Now 35 years later, I still own that 1881-S Morgan Dollar, even though it is still worth less than $100. I loved looking through the Red Book dreaming of the coins I would buy if I had the money, especially the coins in the back of the book where the gold listings are. As a teenager, I was beginning to show signs of gold fever.

Working through high school, I spent the bulk of the money I did not save on coin purchases. My first gold purchase as a teenager was an 1881 BU Half Eagle for $105 from a mail order ad in "Coins" magazine. Since then I have had this coin graded, and it resides in my Gold Liberty type collection graded at PCGS MS-62.

My next gold purchase as a youth stretched my resources. I purchased an 1858-C VF Half Eagle for $350, and my attraction to this coin was that it had a low mintage from an obscure branch mint. I also enjoy the comradely among fellow coin enthusiasts, and once I invited a kid to attend a coin show with me who was much younger than I was. As fate would have it, this kid happened to be the son of my mother’s boss. This boss always said to my mother how impressed he was with me taking his son to that show. As for me, I enjoy the company of fellow coin collectors, whoever they may be.

Two other purchases I made as a teen were an 1876 20-cent piece and an 1885-CC Morgan Dollar from the Lavere Redfield hoard. Since then my collecting has been sporadic, depending on my life situation. However, the passion has always been there. Gold has still not lost its luster with me, and today I am a very active collector. The cousin that introduced me to coin collecting years ago no longer collects. For a different twist on my collection, visit my website at: coinsbygary.com

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Entries in this journal


The National Geographic Hubbard Medallion is named after the first president of the National Geographic Society, Gardiner Greene Hubbard. It is the National Geographic Society’s highest award and is conferred on persons who distinguish themselves by a lifetime of achievement in research, discovery, and exploration. This prestigious award was first presented to Arctic explorer Robert E. Peary in 1906. [1] [2]

The Hubbard Medallion redesigned by Laura Gardin Fraser in 1951 is struck in 14 karat gold, weighs 474 grams and is 93 mm in diameter. [3] The medallion in my collection is struck in gilded bronze that gives it a similar look to that of the 14 karat gold medallion. The edge inscription on my medallion is “MEDALLIC ART CO.N.Y. BRONZE.” Thus, it seems probable that my medallion was a trial strike, perhaps struck with the same dies used to strike the gold medallion.

According to Medallic Art Company historian and senior consultant D. Wayne Johnson on his databank, the redesigned Hubbard Medallion has a MACO die number of 1951-016. [4] This ingenious method of cataloging dies devised by D. Wayne Johnson himself signifies that the dies for the new Hubbard Medallion were the 16th job in 1951. (Incidentally, Medallic Art Company retains all the dies they ever used in an environmentally controlled die library). [5] That said the first recipient of the redesigned Hubbard Medallion and the 15th overall was Arctic explorer Donald B. MacMillan on January 9, 1953. Ironically, Commander MacMillan was an aide to the first Hubbard Medallion awardee, Robert E. Peary.

The obverse of the Hubbard Medallion features the Western Hemisphere seal of the National Geographic Society and the year of the National Geographic Society’s founding in 1888 with an oak leaf cluster on each side of the date. On the reverse appear land, sea, and sky, races of man, animals, birds, and sea creatures. [6]

Of particular interest to me is a non-cited quote by Laura Gardin Fraser concerning her design of the Hubbard Medallion: “My idea in using animals was to have them represent, along with the races of man, the continents of the globe. I chose such creatures as would readily be recognized as having inhabited their respective regions from man’s earliest remembrance.”

“The hemispheres are those shown on the cover of the magazine the Northern, Southern and Eastern Hemispheres since the obverse shows our own Western Hemisphere as the seal of the National Geographic Society. A decorative element is two groupings of oak leaves on the obverse. They were also taken from the cover of the magazine.”

Finally, when I examine a piece of medallic art I sometimes wonder what the sculptor of that medal or coin intended to communicate through it. I also believe that the said sculptor derives a certain degree of satisfaction when he or she sees the desired effect of their medallic art on its recipients. In some cases, the legacy and effect of a sculptor’s work continues after their death. Such is the case with Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966) and the Hubbard Medallion.

The following is the story of a very proud woman whose great-great-great uncle received the Hubbard Medallion posthumously.

Matthew A. Henson was an Arctic explorer and right hand man of Robert E. Peary. Unfortunately for him, very few African Americans were recognized for their contributions in discovery and exploration in the early 1900s. In fact, evidence seems to suggest that Matthew Henson was the first human to stand on the geographic North Pole, not Peary. Then on November 28, 2000 some ninety-four years after Robert E. Peary was awarded the Hubbard Medallion, Matthew A. Henson finally received his long overdue recognition when he was posthumously awarded the Hubbard Medallion. [7]

Leila Savoy Andrade had been a security guard at the headquarters of The National Geographic Society for three years. Few people where she worked knew that she was the great-great-great niece of Arctic explorer Matthew A. Henson. When she showed up at the award ceremony in civilian cloths the president of the Society, John Fahey asked her, “What are you doing here?” She replied, “That’s my uncle.” Leila was one of nine family members to attend the ceremony and she was quoted as saying this about her uncle, “Everyone in the family always said great things about him when I was growing up.” Somehow I believe that if Laura Gardin Fraser were alive today, she would be thrilled about this story and the role she played in it. [8]


There are few things in numismatics that I enjoy more than strong allegories on coins and medals. Where the allegory is unknown, I endeavor to decipher it within the historical context of the numismatic piece. Because of this love I created two NGC custom sets, “Inspirational Ladies” and “The Use of Seated Imagery in Numismatics.” Researching the coins and medals contained in these two sets has given me many hours of enjoyment!

One coin that I recently acquired illustrating a strong allegory is the 2017 Canadian .9999 Fine Silver $100 Coin, “Juventas et Patrius Vigor” (Latin for “Youth and Patriotic Strength”), 1867 Confederation Medal. This coin is 76.25 mm in diameter and weighs 10 oz. The mintage is 1000 and my coin’s serial number is 321/1000. This year Canada is celebrating their 150th anniversary of confederation. Marking the occasion, Canada is releasing a number of commemorative coins.

The obverse of this massive coin features an 1867 profile bust of Queen Victoria and a current profile of Queen Elizabeth II along with their corresponding crowned monograms. The obverse represents Queen Victoria as the British queen in power at the time of confederation in 1867 and the current queen, Queen Elizabeth II.

Faithfully reproduced, the reverse of this coin is modeled from the dies of the original 76.5 mm, 1867 Canadian Confederation Medal. Issued with Queen Victoria’s approval, this medal was minted in silver and bronze. It was awarded to persons of merit for their service to Canada. The original mintages are one gold medal presented to Queen Victoria, fifty silver medals, and five hundred bronze medals. The designers of this medal were brothers JS and AB Wyon. These medals seldom appear on the open market and are quite expensive. I found an auction record for a beautiful original silver medal selling at $2750.00 CAD + $550 buyers premium on 7/13/11 ( http://www.icollector.com/1867-Canadian-Confederation-Silver-Medal_i10734270 ). I also found the record of a bronze medal that sold for $800 USD ( https://www.emedals.com/a-rare-confederation-commemorative-table-medal-1867-c0881 ).

The reverse features Britannia representing the UK, seated and holding a scroll on which is written “Confederation.” The lion resting its head on Britannia’s lap is reminiscent of “Una and the Lion” from Spenser's “The Faerie Queene.” Around Britannia and idealizing the motto “Youth and Patriotic Strength” are four young maidens representing the four original provinces of Canada; Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick . Ontario is holding a sickle and sheaf representing agriculture. Holding a canoe paddle is Quebec representing commerce. In Nova Scotia’s hand is a shovel representing mining. Finally, New Brunswick is holding an ax to represent forestry. I gleaned much of the information for this post from the following website,  http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/honours-history-awards/conf-medal.page . Here you will also find a lot of interesting facts about the original medal that I had not mentioned in this post. Until next time, happy collecting! Gary.



With the advent of the NGC and PCGS registries came new and improved ways to catalog, preserve, and display the coins in your collection. This after years of collectors plugging raw coins into albums. Yet, I feel that there was something nostalgic about plugging coins in an album that may have been lost.

PCGS has tried to recapture that nostalgia in their registry with their coin album software. I must say that for a while I was impressed and jealous. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer NGC’s registry and I do not currently maintain a registry with PCGS. However, there was something in me that longed to present my collection in that format, especially my NGC 7070 Basic US Type Set. After all, isn’t this set based on a Dansco coin album anyway!

Still, there has got to be a way to get the best of both worlds and I think that I have found it! A week or two ago I got an email from a coin supply vendor announcing that Dansco would for a limited time make their 7070 album available for purchase. Jumping on the opportunity, I ordered the album with no intention of ever putting a coin in it!

When the album arrived, I photographed the front and backside of all the pages. Next, I loaded them up to Photoshop Elements and started to plug photographs of my coins into the slots. I was in essence creating my very own virtual coin album with the advantage of enlarging the page to more closely inspect the coins. Eventually, I’ll put all the pages together in a power point file or something like that. Yes, the page files are a bit large to post. But for me, I am looking for many hours of enjoyment both plugging coins and enjoying them all together in one frame well into the future!

So far I have page 1 of 5 finished (I’ll order the gold page 6 separately) and I’m posting a scaled down picture of that page with this post. Happy Collecting!

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When I read Jackson64’s journal, “Added coins 4 and 5 to my Jersey 1/12 shilling set” I got stoked because there was much about what he was saying about his style of collecting that matches my own. For instance, I like to manage 4 or 5 sets at a time like he does. Currently, I am working on a US type set, along with my custom sets Inspirational Ladies, The Use of Seated Imagery in Numismatics, and The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser.

Still, there is a bit of a twist to my collecting habits that is slightly different meaning that I am actively pursuing coins for my US type set and LGF custom set while at the same time passively seeking coins for the other two. By passively, I mean that if I run across something that I like and it fits into the Inspirational Ladies and Seated Imagery sets, I will often buy those coins. Recently I bought a new coin for my Inspirational Ladies custom set.

I get a lot of coin related e-mails listing various coins for sale and I tend to peruse most of them. Much of the time I see nothing of interest and immediately delete them. However, a recent e-mail from Talisman Coins listed a really cool 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation 2017 silver dollar featuring Miss Canada. For a while there, I was hemming and hawing about purchasing it as a single coin.

A little later I got another e-mail from Talisman listing a Canadian proof set with the Miss Canada Silver Dollar included but with a twist. This coin was different in that it had gold plating in selected places on the coin. When I saw a picture of this coin my jaw about dropped. Rarely have I seen medallic art with the level of intricacy and beauty as is this coin! The only possible show stopper was that it was not offered as a single but only in a set with proof versions of the other Canadian circulating coins. So I bought seven coins to get one.

I considered cracking out the dollar to submit it separately. That said, this set is not at all cheesy because every single one of the circulating coins were struck up in pure silver, from the nickel to the “toonie.” The standard dollar, Miss Canada dollar, and two dollar all have some level of gold plating. Pulling the dollar and submitting it would have been easy had the coins been mounted in individual capsules.

When the set arrived it came packaged with book-like leather covers and the coins encased in a single plastic mount. Simply put, this set is way too nice to crack out any of the coins for a submission. This presents a dilemma of how to enter the Miss Canada coin into the Inspirational Ladies set. Perhaps, I will have to buy eight coins to get one. Buy the single all silver uncirculated Miss Canada dollar, submit it, and post the pictures of the gold plated version. This all seems like a pretty big expense just to get one coin into my set. Sometimes this hobby of ours is just not logical! We’ll see, I’m in no hurry.

On another front, I just purchased a very nicely toned PCGS MS-63 1853 with arrows Seated Liberty Dime for my type set replacing an XF-40 dime. This presents another problem of how to represent this new purchase in my NGC set. Simple, I just keep the old coin and use the MS-63 pictures. …Or, since this coin was toned I could search Heritage to see if my coin was ever auctioned. What I found was that Heritage auctioned it in 2004 in an NGC holder meaning that someone along the way cracked it out and sent it to PCGS. Thus if the holder number is still valid, I might try entering the old NGC number. Naw, this is all ridiculous I’m not going to that degree. Interestingly, NGC had the coin graded at MS-63 also. Happy collecting all!!!!

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The Buffalo Nickel since its release in 1913 is still a collector favorite. Today the legacy of the Buffalo Nickel and its sculptor live on in the 2001 American Buffalo Silver Dollar and $50, .9999 fine, Gold Buffalo. As such, when collectors hear the name of James Earle Fraser they almost invariably think of the Buffalo Nickel.

Likewise, but to a smaller degree are some of the medallic works of Laura Gardin Fraser and in particular her rendition of “Fame” featured on the obverse of the National Institute of Social Sciences gold medal. The National Institute of Social Sciences gold medal, first awarded in 1913 continues to be awarded today on an annual basis. The obverse image of Laura Gardin Fraser’s portrayal of Fame appears prominently at the head of every page on the National Institute of Social Sciences website. As such the image of this beautiful medal is permanently associated with the National Institute of Social Sciences and it is a legacy to the artistic abilities of Laura Gardin Fraser. [1]

The National Institute of Social Sciences was founded in 1912 under the charter of the American Social Science Association incorporated by Act of Congress, January 28, 1899. From Article II of their constitution the object of The National Institute of Social Sciences is to, “promote the study of Social Science and to reward distinguished services rendered to humanity, either by election to the National Institute, or by the bestowal of medals or other insignia.”

Consequently, the annual awarding of their gold medal is one of their primary functions as an organization. This medal is of such importance that its design is set forth in Article XI of their constitution as follows: “Presentation medals shall bear the Figure of Fame resting on a Shield, holding wreaths of laurel. The shield to bear the name of the Institute. In the left hand, the figure to hold a palm branch. The reverse to show a torch with a name plate and Dignus Honore, the motto of the Institute.” The Latin phrase Dignus Honore is translated, “Worthy of Honor.” [2]

It is said that within the context of armed conflict you will find both the best and worst of humanity on display. To recognize the humanitarian contributions of those persons involved with the war effort during Word War 1, the National Liberty Committee of American Social Science Association adopted the following resolution dated January 18, 1918: “In view of the fact that, except in the army and navy, no provision has been made by any competent authority for the recognition by a medal or other suitable insignia for notable humanitarian or patriotic services for the national welfare: Therefore, the executive committee of the American Social Science Association, one of the oldest of nationally incorporated bodies, recommends that a medal to be designated "Liberty Service" medal be authorized. The committee further recommends that the National Institute of Social Sciences be empowered, in accordance with the object of its organization, to award and bestow said medal upon such person or persons as have rendered or may render notable services which merit such special mark of distinction and recognition.” [3]

The effect of the National Liberty Committee resolution was that Liberty and Patriotic Service medals were awarded to a number of individuals, both civilian and governmental for their service in a time of war from 1918-1920. The medal in my collection is a bronze Patriotic Service Medal awarded to the Director of the Bureau of Field Nursing Service of the American Red Cross, Clara D. Noyes. The following is the text of her medal citation and response.

July 1, 1919

To Miss Clara D. Noyes,

As Director of the Bureau of Field Nursing Service of the American Red Cross at national headquarters, you rendered to your country and its wounded a service of high and inestimable value. During the entire period of the war you had charge of the distribution and placing of all the Red Cross nurses assigned to the army, navy and public health. Under your direction, 19,877 nurses have passed through your bureau.

American Red Cross, Washington, D. C.

My dear Dr. Johnson:

It is with keen appreciation of the honor conferred upon me that I acknowledge the receipt of the citation and the Patriotic Service Medal, presented to me by the National Institute of Social Sciences, in recognition of the services I have performed during the war as Director of the Bureau of Field Nursing Service of the American Red Cross. In the selection and assignment of approximately 20,000 nurses to military and civilian duty, I was always keenly alive to the privilege that had been accorded me. Any work or anxiety connected with this responsibility has been more than offset by the devotion, the courage, and the fine character of service rendered by the nurses while engaged in the care of our sick and wounded soldiers and sailors, and the civilian population of our allies. In the name of the nurses I represent, and my own, I again thank you for the honor conferred upon me.

Believe me, Very Sincerely yours, Clara D. Noyes, Acting Director, Department of Nursing. [4]

According to Medallic Art Company historian D. Wayne Johnson, Laura Gardin Fraser utilized one of eleven monograms when signing her medallic creations. Of interest to me is that she signed this medal “Laura Gardin Fecit,” which is reminiscent of C. GOBRECHT F. on the Gobrecht Dollar. Thus, as long as the National Institute of Social Sciences awards their gold medal, those persons associated with the institute are reminded that “Laura Gardin made it.” [5]

As I become more familiar with the work of Laura Gardin Fraser and by extension the work of her husband, James Earle Fraser I am able to see certain similarities in their medallic art. For instance, except for the flame, the torch on the reverse of this 1913 medal is exactly the same as the torch on the obverse of the 1914 American Museum of Public Safety Edward H. Harriman Memorial Medal modeled by James Earle Fraser. Furthermore, I also see similarities in the fonts both Frasers used on their medals. When I mentioned this to a friend who is much more knowledgeable in all things “Fraser” than I, he suggested that if James couldn’t expeditiously finish a medal, Laura would complete the minor devices of the medal such as the torch and legend on the aforementioned public safety medal. Accordingly, it seems that not only did the Frasers have a good marriage but that they were also an artistic team complementing each other.

1. http://www.socialsciencesinstitute.org/

2. Proceedings of the ... annual meeting of the National Institute of Social Sciences., 9th:no.1 (1922) pg. 99-100

3. Journal of the National Institute of Social Sciences Volume IV April 1, 1918 pg. 173

4. Journal of the National Institute of Social Sciences Volume VI July 1, 1920 pg. 103

5. http://medalartists.com/fraser-laura-gardin.html

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One might think that shifting gears and a different direction are synonymous. However, the truth is that though related, they are two separate actions. A different direction in that I will be liquidating a portion of my current collection to focus on another and shifting gears in that I will be buying fewer but higher quality coins to upgrade the remaining sets.

All this started with my losing interest in collecting Morgan Dollars. A year or two into collecting Morgans, I got bored with them. With a goal of completing the 103 coin set I was buying coins at a break neck pace that focused on volume rather than quality. To regain interest I thought that all I needed was a break. Though I fully intended to resume purchasing Morgans and completing the set, the longer I was away the less likely it would be that I'd return. Truth is I never got back.

After long and careful consideration, I decided to discontinue collecting Morgans and liquidate the bulk of my Morgan Dollar collection. All told, I will be selling 43 coins. I did not make this decision lightly as I have thought about it carefully for the better part of a year. Yet there are a number of things that led to this decision after going trailblazers for Morgans six to seven years ago when I started out only intending to complete a New Orleans Mint collection. (The decision to collect all the Morgans came after completing the New Orleans portion of the set.)

While away from Morgans, I found myself drifting back to my boyhood roots, type and theme based collecting. I became fixated on completing my 7070 type set and working on my theme based seated imagery custom set. I started to buy the best type coins I could afford and since I was buying fewer coins, I could spend more. I've learned that when it comes to beauty there is nothing like a classic coin in a high state of preservation. These coins are not only more beautiful, they are more likely to hold their value as a highly desirable collector coin. Furthermore, as a person who also loves photography, I have learned that premium quality coins are definitely more photogenic!

What then was the problem I had with Morgans that caused me to give up on them? I think that a collection of affordable quality coins in a complete Morgan Dollar set are a huge show stopper. Affordable coins are sometimes no higher than low MS grades and many are still lower. A VG 93-S will fetch more than $2000! Still I could live with a lower grade as long as it doesn't have distracting contact marks. Simply stated, most MS-62 to 64 Morgans have numerous and distracting contact marks.

High grade Morgans are a thing of beauty. Most MS-65 and higher Morgans are a sight to behold and because of this I am keeping my 24 coin set of Morgans that grade MS-65 and higher. I also have this thing about Carson City, there is just something about Carson City that intrigues me. Therefore, I am also keeping my Carson City registry set. Additionally, I have six GSA pedigreed Carson City Dollars of which two are graded MS-65 (1882, 1883).

Another factor in my decision is that I will be retiring in no more than six years. At that point my collecting activities will be severely curtailed. With this in mind I have targeted a number of coins in my type set to upgrade over the course of the next six years. It is also unlikely that I will be starting any new registry or custom sets but rather find other pieces to add to my custom sets like my Laura Gardin Fraser set.

Another area of focus will be my gold type sets. Finding nice type-1 and type-2 double eagles has proven to be quite challenging because of the distracting contact marks found on most of these coins. Still after long searches I have managed to get an 1852 type-1 that at AU-55 is remarkably void of contact marks! For the type-2 I had to decide what level of contact marks is acceptable since it is nearly an impossible coin to find without them. In deciding my tolerance level I borrowed from a Bible passage which states that love covers over a multitude of sins. In relation to double eagles I found that luster covers over a multitude of dings, gashes, and abrasions. It doesn't literally mean that the contact marks are covered but that they are not as noticeable. All that said, I am still having a hard time finding a decent upgrade for my MS-62 type-3! Oh well, I am going to thoroughly enjoy the hunt in the few last years I have before I retire! Attached is a photo of the AU-58 type-2 that I found to be acceptable.