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People Portrayed on Both the Obverse and Reverse of the Same Coin

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek …..
 

A rare occurrence on coins from the United States, there are still a few examples of the same individual being portrayed on both sides of a coin. In our experience, the obverse is usually a portrait bust, and the reverse shows that an individual in some place or tableau is historically related to them.

Lafayette Memorial Dollar (“1900”) – Marquis de Lafayette

The 1900 Lafayette Dollar. This example, graded PCGS MS63, was sold by Stack's Bowers on 8/31/2022 for $1,440.
The 1900 Lafayette Dollar. This example, graded PCGS MS63, was sold by Stack’s Bowers on 8/31/2022 for $1,440.

The Marquis de Lafayette was a patriot for the American cause, whose memory is immortalized in the history books. For the generation of Americans who owed their nation’s independence to those who fought against a British king and an unjust Parliament, Lafayette was a household name. During the French Revolution, Lafayette’s public reputation in France suffered dramatic setbacks, leading to his exile and eventual imprisonment by the Austrians.

Lafayette persevered and was released from custody after a flurry of diplomatic efforts on the part of the Americans. Emperor Napoleon restored Lafayette’s citizenship in 1800, and although the general took great pains to retreat from politics, he called for Napoleon’s abdication after France’s loss at the Battle of Waterloo. Across the ocean, the Americans were delighted to welcome Lafayette on a grand tour in 1824. Lafayette traveled the country and visited several of the surviving founding fathers. At Monticello, he shared his disappointment with Thomas Jefferson on America’s continued practice of slavery.

The Lafayette dollar was struck in 1899 and is the first commemorative dollar coin issued by the United States. The coin features a jugate or accolated portrait of George Washington and Lafayette on the obverse, and a depiction of Paul Wayland Bartlett’s statue of Lafayette mounted on horseback on the reverse. Interestingly, this silver dollar is also the first appearance of George Washington on a U.S. coin. 50,000 coins were struck, with 12,000 being sent to France for sale. In France, the coin sold horribly, and 10,000 were returned. The Lafayette dollar found more interest from American collectors. In total, 36,000 coins were sold, and 14,000 were returned to the Mint and melted.

Lincoln Memorial Cent (1959-2008) – Abraham Lincoln

1969-S Lincoln Cent Doubled Die Obverse. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.
1969-S Lincoln Cent Doubled Die Obverse. Image: Heritage Auctions / CoinWeek.

The Lincoln Memorial cent was first issued in 1959 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Great Emancipator. Victor David Brenner’s iconic Wheat reverse was swapped out in favor of Frank Gasparro’s Lincoln Memorial design. Although faintly visible on the coin, Gasparro depicts Henry Bacon’s iconic Lincoln sculpture, which is placed prominently at the center of the memorial overlooking the Potomac River.

New Jersey State Quarter (1999) – George Washington

1999-D New Jersey State Quarter. Image: United States Mint / CoinWeek.
1999-D New Jersey State Quarter. Image: United States Mint / CoinWeek.

The 1999 New Jersey quarter was the third 50 State Quarters design issued in the program’s inaugural year. The coin featured an obverse design modified from the Washington quarter of 1932-1998. Washington’s head was made slightly smaller, and the familiar inscriptions of LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST were moved around so that the Mint could fit the statutorily mandated legend and denomination text, thus providing room on the reverse for the different quarter designs.

For the New Jersey quarter design, the New Jersey Assembly established a Commemorative Coin Design Commission. The commission reviewed designs and, with Governor Christine Todd Whitman’s approval, selected a design depicting Emmanual Leutze’s 1851 painting of Washington and his men crossing the frozen Delaware River. Trivia: Future President James Monroe is also depicted in the scene.

Lincoln Birth Bicentennial Cents (2009) – Abraham Lincoln

2009 Lincoln Cent - Formative Years. Image: United States Mint / CoinWeek.
2009 Lincoln Cent – Formative Years. Image: United States Mint / CoinWeek.

While his statue in the Lincoln Memorial on the cent might come across as more of a technicality, the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial cents quite clearly incorporate portrayals of 16th president Abraham Lincoln on two of the four one-year reverse designs.

These four designs, which depict distinct periods in the life of Lincoln, are as follows:

  1. Birth and Early Childhood – The reverse designed by Richard Masters and sculpted by Jim Licaretz features a simple log cabin representing Lincoln’s birth in Kentucky.
  2. Formative Years – The Charles Vickers reverse shows a younger Lincoln in the middle of a reading break on a work site in Indiana splitting rails. It deftly condenses multiple aspects of the Lincoln legend (hard-working life on the midwestern frontier, self-taught, self-made, preternaturally strong, etc.) into one image.
  3. Professional Life – This reverse shows Abraham Lincoln standing in front of the Illinois Statehouse, where he served as both a lawyer and a politician. It was designed by Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by Don Everhart.
  4. Presidency – The design by the late Susan Gamble depicts an unfinished United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. – which is how it would have appeared during Lincoln’s term in office. The poignant design was sculpted by now-Chief Engraver Joseph Menna.

After the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth had passed, the Mint introduced the Lincoln cent Shield reverse in 2010, which remains the current cent design type.

Mount Rushmore America the Beautiful Quarter (2013) – George Washington

2013-P Mount Rushmore Quarter. Image: Adobe Stock / U.S. Mint / CoinWeek.
2013-P Mount Rushmore Quarter. Image: Adobe Stock / U.S. Mint / CoinWeek.

The Washington quarter was the first circulating issue to feature George Washington, and in his quarter series, he appeared three times on the coin’s reverse. This is the second instance of a double Washington and is one of the best–if not the best–quarter designs of the America the Beautiful series. On the 2013 ATB Mount Rushmore quarter, sculptors chisel the fine details into the stone faces of Washington and third president Thomas Jefferson at Mount Rushmore. Jefferson is in the foreground, and the side of Washington’s profile is in the background. Scaffolding connects the two Virginia presidents.

Washington Quarter (2021) – Geo. Washington

2021-P Washington Quarter. Image: United States Mint / CoinWeek.
2021-P Washington Quarter. Image: United States Mint / CoinWeek.

2021 was the last hurrah for John Flanagan’s portrait of George Washington. In a touching move, for the design’s final year of production, the United States Mint restored the quarter’s obverse to a close approximation of Flanagan’s original design, which debuted in 1932. The design on the coin’s reverse is fantastic. It features the general with his arm outstretched, saber in hand, pointing his troops across the frozen Delaware River toward military victory and, ultimately, the freedom that would become an American birthright. Unlike the New Jersey quarter that preceded it, this Washington illustration is not derivative of a much better work. Benjamin Sowards of the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program created the design. Mint Medallic Artist Michael Gaudioso adapted the design for coinage.

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Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker have been contributing authors on CoinWeek since 2012. They also wrote the monthly "Market Whimsy" column and various feature articles for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing.

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