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Creating My Own Family Keepsake

The CoinArt Company

Posted on October 30 2018

Do you have a special coin passed down through your family? Here is one way to preserve and display your coin for future generations...

During a recent visit to see my mom in Oviedo, FL, we were going through boxes of old photos and cards in an attempt to scale down. Among the photos, I noticed a small handmade envelope with an 1884 Morgan Dollar inside so I was immediately intrigued. From first sight, I knew that from a collecting standpoint, it was only worth its silver “melt value.” The coin was so worn that the intricate details of the design were worn smooth due to years of use. However, from a sentimental standpoint, this coin was worth so much more.

I did a little family research and apparently, a handful of coins were kept for safe-keeping by my Great Aunt Viola (found in a safe deposit box). It was probably passed down by my great grandmother, Emelie (Schmale) Wagner, who was born in 1882. My Aunt Phyllis shared them on the occasion of my grandmother’s 90th birthday (Anita Gieselman) in 2003. Just the thought of it being touched and handled by generations of my family brought on a sense of connection and wonder. What was daily life like for my family in 1884? What was this silver dollar possibly used to purchase?

In the 1880’s, three out of four Americans lived on farms or rural areas – my family included. Our ancestors immigrated from Germany in the 1840s and 1850s and settled in various locations throughout the Midwest (including Blackburn, Missouri and later in Alma, MO). Life was simpler back then, but it wasn’t by any means easy. I ran across this snippet from a website that most likely depicts the daily life of my great great grandmother, Helena (Heisser) Schmale, born in 1852:

“The weekly schedule likely included laundry on Monday, ironing and mending on Tuesday, baking on Wednesday and Saturday, daily tidying of kitchen and parlor, and thorough cleaning on Thursday and again on Saturday. This was in addition to childcare, three meals a day, hauling water and keeping the fire burning in the stove, a chore that in itself took at least one hour each day. Then there was making the family garments and seasonal preserving of fruits, vegetables and meat. Often, too, the scope of work extended to the farm itself. Women had charge of the farm garden, livestock and poultry and work related to "civilizing" the farm. During planting and harvest, if she did not work in the fields herself, she provided room and board for the extra help that did.”


Thomas Edison had just invented the light bulb in 1879 and Levi Strauss invented blue Jeans six years earlier. In 1884, the cornerstone of the Statue of Liberty had just been laid and the Washington Monument was completed. AND, while baseball was growing in popularity, basketball hadn’t even been invented yet! (1891) Chester Alan Arthur was President of the United States and Mark Twain, also a Missouri native, completed The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin.

Now, back to the Morgan Dollar! The Morgan Dollar was minted from 1878 to 1904 and again in 1921. It was named after its designer, United States Mint Assistant Engraver George T. Morgan. The obverse depicts a profile portrait representing Liberty, while the reverse depicts an eagle with wings outstretched.

Minted in 1884, our family's Morgan Dollar was obviously used in everyday transactions – perhaps to purchase a pair of shoes or a pair of those “new” Levi Strauss blue jeans. Perhaps it was used to purchase farm equipment or fabric to sew Sunday church dresses. One thing is clear, this coin was used A LOT and I love thinking about where it might have been and how it ended up with my family.

As a way to honor my heritage, I decided to create a CoinArt with the Bible verse near and dear to our family – my Grandma's favorite verse, “This is the Day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 My Grandfather, Walter Gieselman, was a Pastor in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod and he served the state of Missouri and surrounding areas for over 30 years. Grandma was by his side throughout his ministry. Together, they raised five amazing daughters - Lois, Ruth, Mary, Angela and Phyllis. My mom, Lois Ann, was the oldest of the sisters and she is pictured on the left in the photo above. 

Here are a few photos given to me by my cousin of my grandparents, Walter and Anita Gieselman.

Early in our military years (1990), my husband and I were actually stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO and we had the opportunity to stay with Grandma on occasional weekend visits. At less than 5 feet tall, Grandma was small in stature, but she was a strong and beautiful woman who loved God and her family deeply. Every morning over homemade coffee cake, she would recite this very special Bible verse. Now, as I walk past the framed CoinArt in my own home, I am reminded of the generations who came before us and of my Grandmother’s positive attitude and strong faith. It’s as if I am still sitting in Grandma’s small kitchen, sipping coffee, with her bustling about. I am reminded that each day is a rich and precious gift from God. It is a day we should rejoice in, a day we should be happy. It is not a day where we should be burdened by the stress of our lives, but a day that we should be praising and thanking God.

The finished keepsake CoinArt above features a watercolor print of a green leaf wreath (Grandma loved to garden) along with her favorite Bible verse in a vintage typewriter font. I also included the names of my grandparents, Walter and Anita, joined together by the cross. Our Vintage Black frame with white mat board not only compliments the print but also my home's decor. This print can be customized and is available in our on-line shop. 

If you would like to preserve a coin and display it as a reminder of your family’s heritage, please visit our DIY Family Collection. We would be honored to work with you!

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