France 1920 Silver One Franc, ‘La Semeuse’ (The Sower), Gorgeous PCGS Gem Mint State

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France 1920 Silver One Franc, ‘La Semeuse’ (The Sower), Gorgeous PCGS Gem Mint State. KM-844.1, Gadoury-467. 23 mm, 5.0 gm 0.835 silver, ASW 0.1342 oz. The lovely La Semeuse one franc pieces designed by sculptor Oscar Roty (whose signature appears on the lower obverse) were struck yearly from 1898 until 1920 in the millions of pieces, save for the two key dates, the 1900 (99,000 business strikes and some matte proofs) and 1903 (472,000 circulation strikes). The design seems clearly the inspiration—and some might argue, the imitation—for the obverse of Adolph Weinman’s U.S. Walking Liberty half dollar coins. This piece seems genuinely undergraded by PCGS, but in any case its amazing color clearly puts it close to the top of the pack of survivors. The entire series would be a rewarding one to attempt completion.

Background: In addition to the famous ‘La Semeuse’ design which appeared widely on French coins and stamps, Oscar Roty (1846–1911) designed a wide variety of medals and plaquettes, and his art can be seen in many European museums. He became a professor in the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1888 and president of the Académie in 1897.

Numismatic art critic Cornelius Vermeule writes of the U.S. Walking Liberty half dollar, “The debt to Roty’s Sower is obvious, but the Liberty Walking is an original creation, not a slavish copy. … [Designer Adolph A.] Weinman’s creation was governmental art, like a memorial at Arlington or the facade of a post office, but new vitality permeated traditional elements with a power worthy of the exquisite timelessness of the Greek engraver Euainetos at the end of the fifth century B.C.”