Featured Felix Schlag’s original Jefferson Nickel design

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by johnmilton, Apr 15, 2021.

  1. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    In 1938, Felix Schlag won a $1,000 award for his Jefferson Nickel design. Schlag won the award in a competition that involved 390 or over 400 other artists, depending upon your source of information.

    Schlag’s victory continued a policy that Theodore Roosevelt had initiated in 1907 when he asked Augustus St. Gaudens to redesign American coinage. St. Gaudens work was ultimately limited to the $10 and $20 gold coins, but it set the trend. From 1907 until 1938, outside artists created all of the new designs for regular issue coins. That string would not be broken until Mint Director, Nellie Tayloe Ross, pushed hard to give John Sinnock the opportunity to design the Roosevelt Dime in 1945-6.

    One aspect of Schlag’s success was different. In the past, only one or a small number of artists had been asked to submit designs. In 1907, 1908 and 1909, only one artist was asked submit his proposal (St. Gaudens, Bela Pratt and Victor D. Brenner respectively). In 1916, three artist submitted proposals. Adolph Weinman designed two of the coins, and Herman MacNeil designed the third. In 1921, Anthony de Francisci was asked to design the Peace Dollar. Schlag was unique because he entered a competition.

    Schlag Original All.jpg

    Recently, engraver, Ron Landis, issued 100 sets of the Jefferson Nickel with original Felix Schlag design. Landis first issued coins like this in the early 2000s for the Full Step Jefferson Nickel Club.

    All of the contestants where required to depict Thomas Jefferson on the obverse of the coin and his home, Monticello, on the reverse. Schlag’s design featured a traditional view of the third president and a modernistic side view of Monticello. The Fine Arts Commission, which had a great deal of influence over U.S. coin designs, rejected Schlag’s view of Monticello and required him use traditional Roman lettering instead of the modern print he had used on his original design.

    1942 Proof War Nickel All.jpg

    The final design for the Jefferson Nickel featured front view of Monticello. I am not a big Jefferson Nickel collector. This example of the 1942 War Nickel in Proof is the best early Jefferson Nickel that I have have.

    Schlag had art client commitments which prevented him from working on the project. This probably explains why the Denver Mint issued 7 million 1938-D Buffalo Nickels. In June, Schlag sat down with Chief Mint Engraver, John Sinnock, and completed the design work on the Jefferson Nickel. The obverse rework resulted in minor changes to the fount of the lettering. The reverse was radically changed with an entirely different view of Monticello. It depicted the front of the building with all of the trees and shrubbery removed.

    I have never been a fan of the traditional reverse of the Jefferson Nickel. Critics have likened the reverse of the Lincoln Memorial Cent to a trolly car, and my opinion of the Monticello on the reverse of the nickel is the same. I think that an artist is in trouble when you have put the name, “MONTICELLO” below the building to make sure people can identify it. In recent years, various other reverse designs have appeared on the Jefferson Nickel, and most of them have been improvements.

    Schlag O 1942 O.jpg

    The final obverse design, left, beside Schlag's original proposal. Changes were made to the lettering and Jefferson's jaw and coat.

    Schlag R 1942 R.jpg

    The final reverse design (left) beside Schlag's original proposal. In this case the changes were extensive.
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  3. Evan Saltis

    Evan Saltis #CoinUp Supporter

    Mine came in a couple days ago! Don't have them in hand for another couple weeks.
  4. masterswimmer

    masterswimmer Well-Known Member

    Lehigh96 and johnmilton like this.
  5. wxcoin

    wxcoin Getting no respect for 65 years Supporter

    My biggest gripe with Monticello on the reverse is how washed out the building details are on most examples. Even with full steps the rest of the building can look crappy. I still like the Indian Head nickel (OK Buffalo, even though it's a bison) the most out of all the nickel designs.
    Stevearino and johnmilton like this.
  6. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Sounds like the problem with full head Standing Liberty Quarters where all of the emphasis is on the head without a though about the gown and shield detail.

    Here is a view of the Monticello as it looks on the nickel.

    jeff nickel shot Crop.JPG

    When I was there I goofed up and took the side view from the right side instead of the left.

    Montecell Right.jpg

    Here is the closest I came to taking a photo from the "Schlag side of the building," the left. The sun was not good for taking pictures on this side of house when I was there.

    Proposed 1938 site.jpg

    Here is another view that might have made for a good design. The trouble is nickel is hard to strike, and if the relief gets too high, the coin was hard to mass produce. Modern minting techniques make more images possible.

    Monticello right angle.jpg

    And nobody ever shows pictures of the back door.

    Back Montecello.JPG

    They won't let you take any pictures of the inside except in the dome. There is no furniture up there, and it is an empty room.

    Monticello Dome.JPG

    Monticello Dome Top.jpg

    The inside is not nearly as impressive as the outside. Jefferson did not believe in grand staircases. Therefore you have a nice balcony in the two story room you enter from the back door, but no stairs leading up to it.

    There really isn't a decent staircase in the house leading to the second floor. Both of them steep and not much fun to climb.

    Jefferson thought that beds should be placed in little alcoves in the bedrooms. In that summer, that made them oppressively hot since there was no cross ventilation. One of the daughters and I forget which one, finally put her foot down and moved her bed more toward the center of the room.

    The dome looks great from the outside, but the room is useless, except for storage, which what it was used for most of the time. One of the Jefferson relatives who was staying at the house tried to use it as a bedroom, but gave up because there was no way to heat it. In the summer, the small circular windows did not provide for much ventilation.

    I have many other pictures if there is interest. Monticello is well worth the trip.

  7. TheFinn

    TheFinn Well-Known Member

    Very nice write-up. Sad that most people don't realize what a beautiful job Schlag did when he won the competition. It would be nice if they would restore this to the new 5 cent pieces since they took his Houdon-inspired obverse away.
  8. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Corps of Discovery........that's my memory of the Jefferson past.

    Original design was priceless.......love the reverse.
  9. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Here are what the original Landis productions for the FSNC look like.


    They were graded in numbered sets by SEGS.
  10. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Yes, that absolutely happens, and yes, it sucks!

    Stevearino, -jeffB, wxcoin and 2 others like this.
  11. wxcoin

    wxcoin Getting no respect for 65 years Supporter

    I actually prefer a well defined shield and gown over a full head. The shield is larger and stands out more than the head.
    Nick Zynko and johnmilton like this.
  12. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Plus you pay less.
    wxcoin likes this.
  13. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    Someone had posted one of the Landis overstrikes on an actual nickel planchet. It made it apparent how poorly the original Schlag reverse would have struck up. The relief would have had to have been lowered to a degree that the depth would have been lost and the building would have looked very strange.
  14. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Many collectors overlook the fact that the metal flow when a coin is struck is just as important as the design. The ideal coin design not only needs to be attractive but also easy to strike on a mass production basis.

    Collectors greatly admire the Buffalo Nickel, but it was replaced after a 25 year run because the mint system had problems striking it well on a consistent basis. The Standing Liberty Quarter was a more obvious example.

    Artists like St. Gaudens and Fraser devised wonderful designs, but Charles Barber knew how to produce dies that could mass produce the coins consistently well. You might view Barber’s designs as dull and pedestrian, but they were efficient.
    LakeEffect, -jeffB and TheFinn like this.
  15. TheFinn

    TheFinn Well-Known Member

    Longacre and George Morgan too. Look at how the Morgan Dollar still retains information in Good condition. Medalists don’t usually make good coin designers.
  16. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    That is mostly true. They have trouble with the fact a medal can be struck multiple times to bring up the design. A coin for circulation can only be struck once.
    TheFinn likes this.
  17. Razz

    Razz Critical Thinker

    That and medals are not made to be stacked and circulating coins are...
  18. TheFinn

    TheFinn Well-Known Member

    Should only be struck once.
  19. cplradar

    cplradar Talmud Chuchum

    They could have put a dog in a window. That would have made it better. Or a Giant sloth.
    UncleScroge likes this.
  20. dwhiz

    dwhiz Collector Supporter

    If you hurry they are/were available in GOLD.
    I got an email the other day about the offering.
    Oh by the way only $1000.00
    ZoidMeister likes this.
  21. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    Saw that. I was able to talk myself into the silver pair, but I won't be getting the gold.

    Unless somebody produces a racketeer version... :rolleyes: :troll:
    ZoidMeister and dwhiz like this.
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