Silver Dollar Blog - How did they make the design on the Morgan Dollar?

Apr 25, 2012

 

Cutting Room San Francisco Mint

The process is pretty interesting how the mint ends up with a die. Like most ideas the designer starts off with an idea on pencil and paper sketching out a design. Once this design is agreed upon a small wax model is created.  I shouldn't say small because the model is actually about three to eight times the size of the actual Morgan dollar.

After the model comes the mold dipped in hot beeswax as a way to keep the powdered copper on. Then layers of copper and nickle with a lead back is added to the mold. Once all this is done they call it the Galvano plate. Galvano means a metal printing plate created by way of electrolysis which is exactly how they get the layers of copper and nickel on. I wonder how much a Galvano plate weighs? That would be pretty awesome to see! 

The next machine used is called a Contamin portrait lathe or transfer lathe this machine is used to reduce the size. While a point is being traced on the model plate a small drill is duplicating the cuts exactly. The machine didn't complete everything on the die which is where the engraver would come in with all their special tools and finish off the die by hand. It wasn't until 1907 when the mint purchased a machine called the Janvier that could replicate the galvano plate in its entirety.

From an idea on a piece of paper we have the Morgan Dollar!



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