According to the consignor, these items were likely the property of Victor DeMeo, who passed in 1947 and were subsequently inherited by William DeMeo. Victor was a sculpture artist and photographer who had a longtime professional relationship with James Earle Fraser. He frequently brought his son William to the Fraser NYC studio. There they met such luminaries of the time period as Charles Gibson, Lindbergh, Ann Harding. Jack Johnston, Charles Atlas, Elihu Root, Edwin Robinson. Victor photographed James Earle Fraser and Laura Gardin Fraser in studio settings as well as his and Laura's sculptures and sculpture subjects.The association of James Earle Fraser and Victor Anthony de Meo has been noted in various areas, including attribution of period photographs of James Earle Fraser's work to Victor de Meo, including his End Of The Trail Sculpture.
William served as an apprentice with James Earle Fraser around 1932, then opened a NYC studio of his own for 12 years before serving in World War II. William worked with many well known sculptors including Anthony DeFrancisci, Paul Manship and others, making plaster pieces. These rare coinage related items being offered for auction currently were handed down through the DeMeo family, gifted from the original artists and later acquired at the estate sales of relatives of William. The most solid information surrounding these relationships came from a loose-leaf book that William produced, a notebook included in the group with hand written historical content and sketches dated 1935-36, as well as from letters and correspondence between James Earle Fraser and William DeMeo.
I have the honor to submit models [samples] of the proposed designs for the Standard Silver Dollar. [...]Roger W. Burdette adds that the models mentioned were likely lead splashers.
The model as now submitted as the approval of the Fine Arts Commission, and is in compliance with the requirements of the law.
R.T. Baker, Director of the Mint
The samples were likely lead "splashers" or small plaster casts, there being no time to harden the hubs and make dies. Undersecretary Gilbert approved [...] and the mint continued preparing master and working dies. Baker wired his approval on December 24.
Anthony de Francisci had been on site at the Philadelphia Mint during this time, having been requested by James Fraser to be present to work with George Morgan on refining the design. Given this, it is possible that this is one of the US Mint splashers created on December 23, 2021 for review by Treasury and Mint officials, and was retained by Anthony de Francisci.
Andy Lustig, a U.S. pattern expert and Mint Error News consultant, was shown this piece and indicated his opinion that it is a genuine U.S. Mint product from an original die:
I have performed an in-person evaluation of the unique 1921 Peace Dollar Splasher (cataloged as Judd A1921-1), and am of the opinion that the splasher is a genuine U.S. Mint product.
Indicators that it is genuine include:
- Highly concave fields, unlike a normal 1921 Peace Dollar, and more comparable to a 1922 Proof High Relief. As such, the piece could not have been created from copy dies, or from a casting mold, and I am convinced that it is a direct impression from an original die.
- The rim is squared, unlike a normal 1921 Peace Dollar. Again, this leads me to believe that the coin is a direct impression from an original die, not a copy derived from some means from another coin.