Silver Dollar Blog - How they designed a Morgan Silver Dollar

Sep 05, 2012

How they designed a Morgan Silver Dollar

 


 

 

All dies were prepared at the Philadelphia mint. That goes for both the Morgan Silver Dollar and the Peace Dollar. It was thought that the Western mints didn't have the right equipment to get the job done. Creating a die was suppose to be an exact process since whatever imperfection shows up on the die will show up on the coin once its struck. Lucky for us not all dies were created perfectly making collecting them interesting. 

Now on to how did they actually end up with a design on a die! First off all designs start off as a sketch.After after a design is picked a model that is much bigger than the actual coin. This is usually around eight inches. After touching up and making it just right a mold is made of the extra large coin. Dipping this mold into hot beeswax gave it enough stick for the powdered copper to stay on. Switching back and forth from copper to nickel the powdered copper was electroplated to form a Galvano Plate. 

Now what? You have a big ol' piece that looked exactly like your coin, but was way to big! At first they used a machine called the Contamin Portrait Lathe or transfer lathe. What it did was traced the larger coin and the same time duplicating the moves on a much smaller scale, on the die.The engraver would then come in and touch up the rest of the coin.  By 1907 things were improving and they used a machine called the Janvier was extremely accurate and didn't require the engraver to touch up at the end. The Janvier machine is still in use today! 

After all this work you didn't want your master hub to be ruined. So the master hub was made into exact copied dies that were used for striking. But really it went a step further since they didn't want the master hub to deteriorate over the years. So really the master hub made a master die which made a hub that could make up to 250 dies.

Some dies would be removed when the slightest imperfection was noted while others stayed a bit too long striking coins. A very interesting tale of how a sketch becomes a die for the U.S. Mint! 

Photo Credit: I got this pictures from the book Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis.



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