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Mint Engraver Frank Gasparro

By Q. David Bowers, Co-Founder

Author: Q. David Bowers / Thursday, January 07, 2021 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers

​Born in Philadelphia on August 26, 1909, the son of Bernard and Rose G. Gasparro, Frank Gasparro developed an interest in art at an early age and studied the subject at the Fleisher Art Memorial while still in grade school. He studied under Giuseppe Donato 1924-1929, who had worked with famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Enrolling in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1928, Gasparro studied there until 1931, later taking advantage of two European scholarships (studying in France, Italy, Germany, England, and Sweden), after which he became a professional sculptor. 

Private work was scarce during the De¬pression, and he joined the Federal Arts Administration as a sculptor in 1937. In 1942 he was employed as an assistant en¬graver at the Philadelphia Mint and in April 1962 was named as assistant chief engraver and sculptor. On February 11, 1965, he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as the tenth chief engraver, filling the post vacated by Gilroy Roberts. Frank Gasparro designed many medals at the Mint and a number of coins, including the 1959 Lincoln cent Memorial reverse, the reverse of the 1964 Kennedy half dol¬lar, the 1971 Eisenhower dollar, the 1977 U.S. Liberty pattern dollar, and the 1979 Susan B. Anthony dollar. Foreign coin designs included: Guatemala 25 centavos, 1943; Philippine 1 centavo 1967-1974, 5 centavos 1967-1974, 10 centavos 1967-1974, 50 centavos 1967-1975, 1 peso 1969 and 1970; Cuba 1953 1 centavo (reverse);  and various FAO issues for Panama. 

Medals done at the Mint include such subjects as Queen Elizabeth II Bicentennial Visit (1976), John Wayne, Lillian Carter, 1978 FAO, Roberto Clemente, U.S. chief justices series, Secretary of the Treasury A. Gallatin, 1968 and 1976 Assay Commission medals, Stella B. Hackel (reverse of medal), ANA Diamond Jubilee (obverse), Edgar Hoover (obverse), Benjamin Franklin, W.E. Simon, City of Philadelphia, Winston Churchill Iron Curtain (obverse), President Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Washington, and many more. Frank Gasparro retired from the Mint on January 16, 1981, after which he did many private commissions including several se¬ries for Paramount International Coin Cor¬poration and a group of annual medals for Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc. 

In his personal life, Gasparro graduated from South Philadelphia High School in 1927 and has been inducted into the SPHS Alumni Cultural Hall of Fame. On November 11, 1939, he married Julia Florence Johnston in Philadelphia and the couple had a daughter, Christina Julia. Frank Gasparro lived and maintained his studio in Haverford, Pennsylvania.  Unusual in the annals of Mint engraverships, he was a dynamic part of the numismatic community, attended some conventions, and was always available for interviews. He died on January 16, 1981, and was widely mourned throughout the numismatic community.