Image courtesy of Superior Galleries.
In late 1839, Robert Ball Hughes was hired as an engraver by the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia to modify the obverse of the Christian Gobrecht (1785-1844) design of the Seated Liberty. This was to make it strike better and possibly more modest according to some reports.
Ball Hughes added drapery at Liberty's left elbow, reduced the size of the rock, and placed Liberty's shield in an upright position. It was used for over 50 years, from 1840-1891, on all denominations of silver coins except the half dollar which remained closer to the original Gobrecht design according to Tom Lamarre. This included the half dime (until 1874), dime, quarter, and dollar (until 1874). Ball Hughes also may have modified the designs of other coins in the early 1840's according to John Dannreuther.
The following is from Notes on "No Drapery" vs. "With Drapery" Design Types, by Len Augsburger of Liberty Seated Collectors Club in The E-Gobrecht, Vol 2, Issue 1, Jan 2006, Whole Number 10 at SeatedDimeVarieties.com:
Note that $75 in 1839 would be equivalent to about $1,500 in 2008 according to the calculator on Measuringworth.com.
John Dannreuther, co-founder of Professional Coin Grading Service, prolific author, and numismatic researcher, has written a wonderful article Robert Ball Hughes -- More Than a Coin Designer? in the April 2007 issue of Rare Coin Market Report, the Members magazine of the PCGS Collectors Club. It's available here courtesy PCGS, a division of Collector's Universe (NASDAQ:CLCT). The article is also available online at the PCGS Library.
Tom LaMarre also has written an article about Ball Hughes life entitled Seated Liberty Makeover: The Helping Hand of Robert Ball Hughes by Thomas S. LaMarre from Rare Coin Review No. 91, Feb/Mar 1993. Source text for the article provided here courtesy of Thomas LaMarre and by permission of Bowers and Merena Auctions www.bowersandmerena.com.
Robert Ball Hughes, Sculptor and the U.S. Silver Coinage of 1840 by Georgia S. Chamberlain, The Numismatist v. 71, no. 8 (August, 1958), pp. 928-932
Master Die Trial from Heritage Auction Galleries
J110/P123 at USPatterns.com
For a description of how the artists' design is made and transferred using a Contamin reducing (pantographic) lathe see Making Money in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol 24, Issue 139, December 1861, to May 1862. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1862 pp. 16-28, available through Cornell University Making of America. Pages 23 & 24 describe the transfer process and page 24 has the following picture of a transfer lathe:
Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, F.C.I Press, Inc./Doubleday, New York: 1987, pp. 285-87, 291, 293, 295, 309-11, 315, 334-35, 354-47, 350, 393, 436-37, 441, 493, 529, 678. (available at most public libraries and at Amazon.com )
Introduction To Collecting Coins PCGS Coin Guide by Q. David Bowers
Coinfacts.com Your Online Reference for U.S. Coins by PCGS
last update 11/1/2010