Barber Redesigns Three Denominations

June 21st, 2011  |  Published in Circulating Coins

Charles E. Barber was the sixth chief engraver at the Philadelphia Mint. He had assumed his position in 1879, following the passing of his father, who had been the previous chief engraver. Charles Barber is credited with many circulating coin designs of his era, as well as commemorative coins, and a number of important patterns. For a period of 25 years, his designs dominated the smaller silver denominations.

When Barber took his position, the designs for the dime, quarter, and half dollar featured the same image of Seated Liberty, which had been in use for forty years. The public was expressing some dissatisfaction for these design and many wanted an update. In the following years there would be efforts to create new designs, although Barber’s intention always seemed to create the designs himself.

The Director of the Mint opened a public competition to solicit new designs and received about 300 drawing. A panel judging these drawings, which included Barber, did not find any satisfactory enough for use. The Director told Barber to prepare the new designs, which is what he had wanted all the time.

For all three denominations, a large head of Liberty appears, facing right. She wears a cap with a wreath composed of an olive branch including thirteen leaves. The word “United States of America” appeared above, with the date below. The Barber Dimes featured an agricultural wreath on the reverse, which was not very much different than the one found on the previous series. The words “One Dime” appeared within the wreath.

The Barber Quarters and Half Dollars featured a heraldic eagle on the reverse. This image was newly created and included thirteen stars above and the eagle held an olive branch and bundle of arrows. A ribbon in the eagle’s beak included the motto “E Pluribus Unum”. Additional inscriptions included “United States of America” above and the denomination “Quarter Dollar” or “Half Dollar” below.

The first of the new dimes, quarters, and half dollars were produced in 1892. The public’s response was rather tepid, as the designs lacked any unique artistry. After a period of twenty five years, once again there were calls for new designs. This time the results would be decidedly different.

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