Philadelphia: 1918. Hardcover. 1st full year issue for type 2, a slight redesign of the 1916 and early 1917 type 1. Quarter dollar (25 cents). 24.3 mm, 6.25 grams, 90% silver (.18084 troy oz.), 10% copper. Uncirculated condition, a few flecks, but never cleaned, with some of the original mint luster and ice blue toning when turned in the light under magnification, and it’s wholly struck with a full head on liberty, an ample right knee (the obverse high point) and all 16 shield rivets. Now 102 years old, so an antique by established definition. Ex–CNG e431, lot 539. fine. Item #444
Debate lingers over who was sculptor Hermon MacNeil’s model for Liberty. Doris Doscher (Doris Doree as an actress) was long acknowledged without dispute. Then revisionists, seeking scandal as they always do, proposed Irene MacDowell, claiming that her identity was hidden because she was MacNeil’s friend and MacNeil’s wife saw her as a romantic rival (an effortlessly dismissible premise). Another apocryphal tale besieging the design is that prudishness forced the mint to cover the right breast of liberty, which was exposed in the 1916 and early 1917 type 1 depiction. But flesh fixated conspiracies are the white noise alternative to art credibility, and the fact is that MacNeil complained to the mint about the reverse, saying that on his initial version the eagle looked like it was landing, and the mint agreed to let him redo the dies to add 3 stars below it. And while MacNeil was re–cutting he added chainmail armor to Liberty’s chest, bolstering U. S. entry into World War I, and armor was a motif choice he was making on all his other sculptures at that time. The coin remains an evocative relic of American art nouveau, and on it symbolism abounds. When it was first struck, in 1916, the thrust was peace (non–involvement in W. W, I). By mid–1917 the chainmail was added when the theme became victory and Liberty’s readiness to have a wargasm. By the end of 1918 the war was over and all the symbolic cyphers were forgotten in the terror of a Spanish Flu Pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide. The design was minted continuously through 1930, then in 1931 (the depths of the depression) there was little demand for new money, so no quarters were struck. In 1932, to commemorate the anniversary of George Washington’s birth, a new quarter, with his head, replaced this one.