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October 18, 2015 Home

Unsigned Plaster Model for the Jefferson Nickel Competition of 1938

A Treasury Department Art Projects Bulletin, No. 14, of 1938 announced an open competition for the design of the new Jefferson nickel. Although the competition was open to the public, there had been a number of announcements already mailed off to known artists who might be interested and capable. The winner of the competition would receive $1,000 and the committee to pick the winner would be composed of Nellie Tayloe Ross, Director of the Mint along with the sculptors Sidney Waugh, Albert Stewart and Heinz Warneke. Two of the major requirements were that the models could not be signed and that any artist that would have liked to have had his or her models returned would have to pay for the return shipping. Additional detailed instructions as to the format and content were included in the announcement. Approximately 390-entries were submitted and, unfortunately, the great majority of those entries have not been found and/or connected to their artists. The winner of the competition was of course Felix Schlag, with Honorable Mention going to Henry Kreis. Kreis is better known to modern numismatists as the designer of the Connecticut and Bridgeport commemorative half dollars and the artist who engraved the obverse of the Robinson commemorative half dollar. Although Schlag won the competition, the final reverse design chosen to be placed into production bore little resemblance to his dramatic three-quarters view of Monticello.

The plaster model included here is without signature marks of any type. It is a snowy white obverse model with IN GOD WE TRUST behind Jefferson’s head, LIBERTY spaced widely directly above his portrait and spaced widely and centered beneath. The model has very visible, raised guidelines for the letters and numbers and some mild staining by TY of LIBERTY. The reverse and sides are essentially unmarked with a few chips noted near the base, which are not visible when looking directly at the plaster.

The model is approximately 8-1/2 x ¾ inches.

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