It’s clear that numismatics is more popular among men than women, just take a look at the crowd the next time you’re at a local coin show or coin club meeting. However, women have certainly left their mark on the field. Liberty, Britannia, and Helvetia are all women featured on coins who symbolize entire nations. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at real-life women in numismatics and the contributions they have made to the industry and culture.
Without a doubt, Elizabeth Jones is one of the most well-known women in the field of numismatics. She was the 11th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint for a decade. Jones was the first woman to hold this title and during her time as Chief Engraver, she created some very popular designs that are still widely appreciated today.
Perhaps one of her most interesting accomplishments was designing the 1982 George Washington Half Dollar. This was the first modern commemorative coin issued by the U.S. Mint. Essentially, the success and popularity of this half dollar set the stage for the strong, modern commemorative offerings from the Mint today.
While Elizabeth Jones has not been with the U.S. Mint for some years, she is still involved with the numismatic community. For example, she currently signs some labels for the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). These Elizabeth Jones labels also have a picture of her to accompany her signature.
Anna Willess Williams
Many of us are very familiar with the profile of Anna Willess Williams. She was the woman who modeled for George T. Morgan, the designer of the Morgan Silver Dollar. Morgan was very impressed with her profile and even went so far as to say hers was perfect. Williams was from Philadelphia and spent her career as a teacher.
As the story goes, Williams agreed to model for Morgan, as long as her identity was kept a secret. Obviously, things didn’t work out that way. It wasn’t long after the Morgan Dollar went into circulation that her identity as the model for the coin was revealed. Reportedly, she was inundated with letters and didn’t allow her new fame to alter her life.
The Morgan Silver Dollar is one of the most popular classic U.S. coins, but that isn’t the only fact that makes Williams an important contributor to the field. Prior to the modeling she did for Morgan, Liberty was created with imagination. She was the first real woman to be depicted as Liberty, and the first U.S. (instead of Greek) depiction.
Queen Elizabeth II
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the current reigning monarch of Great Britain. She has appeared on coins for over 60 years and virtually everyone has seen at least one coin with her image. As the world’s oldest monarch and longest reigning British monarch, it is reasonable to conclude that she has appeared on more coins than any other woman in history.
The most recent effigy of Queen Elizabeth II can be seen on the current British Britannia bullion coins. This is the fifth portrait of Her Majesty to be used for British coinage.
First Spouse Gold Coin Program
The First Spouse Gold Coin program features many of the former First Spouses. Each coin features a portrait of the respective First Lady on the obverse, with a design representing her major project(s) during her time at the White House on the reverse. The First Lady represents the U.S. and supports the President, all while displaying the utmost grace, diligence, and dignity.
While these women are not making direct contributions to numismatics, they are an inspiration to coin designers and collectors. This series, which has concluded, is very popular among numismatists around the world.
What better way to honor these impressive women than with ½ oz. of fine gold?
Charmy Harker aka The Penny Lady®
As you can see, women are involved in all levels of numismatics from Chief Engravers to passionate collectors, savvy dealers, and beyond. One such woman is Charmy Harker, also known as the Penny Lady®. After a coin collection was passed down to her from a recently deceased relative, Harker began her numismatic journey by focusing on one of the prolific coins she inherited, the Indian Head Cent. Learning from the expertise of dealers at coin shows, as well as her own diligent research, Harker learned much about Indian cents, grading coins, and identifying which pieces were particularly attractive, until she became an expert herself.
Armed with this knowledge, Harker eventually began buying and re-selling cents first on Ebay, and then at coins shows, which she continues to this day, before largely moving to her own website, www.thepennylady.com. She has branched out beyond Indian Cents to Lincoln cents, Flying Eagle cents, and more, but as you see, her focus largely remains on cents.
Today, Charmy Harker is a full time coin dealer, the President of Women in Numismatics (WIN), and the Chair of the ANA’s Dealer Relations Committee, among numerous other accomplishments. She also writes for several numismatic publications, including a blog on her website, and she can also be found engaging with collectors and dealers alike at most of the major coins shows! Charmy Harker is a prime example of what following a passion can achieve, as well as how women influence numismatics in the modern world.
Women in Numismatics (WIN)
In addition to the specific women previously mentioned, there is the Women in Numismatics organization, also known as WIN. Don’t let the name fool you, this organization is made up of both men and women. This non-profit was formed in 1991. The members aim to promote networking and recognition within the numismatic community.
WIN maintains a website with current news regarding women in the numismatic community. They also publish their own magazine for members called Winning Ways.
Women in Numismatics actively encourages new membership. With this organization’s focus on education, networking, and recognition, they are sure to continue growing.
Where would Numismatics be without Women?
Women have contributed to the field of numismatics in many ways. They have modeled, they have inspired, they have represented sections of the world, they have created art, and they even continue to promote the growth of the community through organizations like WIN.
It would be difficult to imagine the U.S. Mint’s modern commemorative program without the success of its first design that was created by Elizabeth Jones, or the Morgan Silver Dollar without Anna Willess Williams as the model.
With active organizations like Women in Numismatics and inspiring artists like Elizabeth Jones, there are sure to be even more women joining the numismatic community in the future.