A look at Jeffersonian rarities, including a discussion of Schlag's framed certificates was originally published under the title, Cingular Certificates, Souvenir Cards & Proof Nickels, in the January 2018 issue of The Numismatist.

The gallery below displays information pertaining to the 150 autographed, serialized, and notarized proof displays made by Felix Schlag in 1939. You may also view the FULL REGISTRY HERE.  

Items included represent pieces we have been able to collect information on; as you will see there are MANY holes to fill. If you are the owner of one, or have any knowledge you want to share, WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! The goal is to locate as many of the 150 as possible with the intent of publishing the number of the certificate and a general geographical location as demonstrated below.


In August 1973, COINage Magazine published an article by Lee Martin entitled, "The Rarest Nickel of Them All."  In this piece, Felix Schlag described the origin of the "Certificate with the 1938 Proof Nickel."  Following are Schlag's words:

Dear Lee:

In your last letter you were curious as to the organization of the Certificate with the 1938 Proof Nickel.  May I just reminisce now and set the mood for the background. My thoughts lately have retraced my past efforts; the factors and decisions which shaped and influenced my life.

The movements and changes in environmental conditions and technology (either man-made or through the elements) have forced tensions upon humans resulting in many falling by the wayside, and others seeking new horizons, discoveries or adventures.

I was caught up in the economic disaster 1929-30 in New York and felt an irresistible desire to change locations, looking for a better climate to find sculptural work. Rumors were, one could find a normal existence in Chicago. So I went by bus to a strange city, arriving after midnight on the South side, not knowing a soul. Lean, difficult years followed. I learned there is no situation worse than not knowing where the next meal is coming from or how to obtain money for the room rent.

But the health of youth can survive much abuse, even periods of starvation. Life was hostile and a struggle for self-preservation. I had practically nothing. Sometimes I felt as though the ground had given way under my feet. But I also met and befriended gentle people; Italians (in the plaster field), Jewish friends, inviting me to their homes, giving me moral support, French, Polish, Germans, politicians of every faction.

Artists lived in different sections of Chicago - in cluster groups. I can speak only about those around the North Avenue, Wells Street in the 1930's.  They were a close-knit group, sharing knowledge and ideas bolstering each others' courage unselfishly. Compare that with a shallow sophistication too often found on a higher social elevation.

In the unique hours of silent nights, when most are asleep, there is a certain mystic. It is a time that provides a kind of peace, a retreat from the agitation of life. Imagination holds full sway and gradually takes shape in the form of a vision of intuition which offers the artist a way to express his inner self. In this aura, the work of the Jefferson Nickel had its start. Bone weary, after a hard day, I worked nights only on this project, but curiously was always reluctant to quit.

After winning the contest – our small group suggested that I should create a plaque to commemorate these years of deep, sincere friendship. I designed every letter by hand in the lay-out and had 150 printed. Some were given freely away at once.  Number 1, I dedicated to the Chicago Historical Society who had favored me with help in my Americana research; Number 3 to the American Numismatic Association.

I placed an ad in a numismatic magazine, but did not receive one reply; no promotion was involved. So after moving to Michigan, I put them in my attic. Many years later, when my wife became ill, I cleaned out many belongings and included the Certificates with a small coin collection which I sold. You might say I gave the Certificates away for nothing.

The dealer put on an advertising campaign, and to my amazement I heard from a Physician later who told me of paying $300 for one. I kept a few of the Certificates for myself and my wife.

Thank you for your patience in lending an ear to this story of MY DEPRESSION. People have come a long way since then; unbelievable changes in attitudes and habits.

Personal regards to you and your family.

Sincerely yours, Felix

For those seeking further confirmation of the authenticity of these items, references to them may be found in well known coin books and magazines, all of which are quoted below, as well as online at Variety Nickels.

"Number 5 of 150 framed souvenir displays. Felix Schlag had made in 1939. Each was signed by him and notarized. At the
center is a Proof 1938
nickel with obverse facing; at upper right is a photograph of his original 1938 Monticello design."

-The Official Red Book a Guide Book of Buffalo and Jefferson Nickels: Complete Source for History, Grading, and Values (Official Red Books) by Q. David Bowers. Whitman Pub Llc (January 30, 2007). Chapter 7.

"Some 150 are on large (8" x 12") cards reading 'First Prize Winner among 390 Competing Artists in the National
Competition for a New Five
Cent Coin, April 20, 1938. Felix Schlag, Sculptor' with Schlag's autograph, a serial number, a notarized statement about the number so issued, and a drawing of the original reverse (far better artistically than the version adopted). During the middle and late 1960's these historically desirable cards sold between $150 and $250 apiece after a Chicago dealer's hoard (possibly 2/3 of the original issue) was dispersed."

-Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins, 1722-1989 by Walter Breen. Bowers & Merena Galleries; Revised edition (June 1989). Chapter 11, Page 2. Readable online

“Schlag would have preferred his even more innovative three-quarter view of Monticello.  He obtained some proof 1938 nickels and mounted
them on autographed cards bearing photographs of his original models.  The cards were numbered and autographed by Schlag, and notarized by Paul Wagner on September 29, 1939.”

-LaMarre, Tom. "Schlag’s Mr. Jefferson. Nickel has historic appeal." Coins Magazine May 2011. Pages 30-32.

"In addition to business-strike nickels for circulation, the Philadelphia Mint struck proofs for collectors.  Schlag acquired 150 proof 1938 Jefferson

Coins Magazine. July 2013
nickels and mounted them on notarized plaques with his autograph and photos of his original plaster models."

LaMarre, Tom. "Schlag’s Five-Cent Piece: Jefferson design stood test of time." Coins Magazine July 2013. Pages 18-20, (Digital Download).

If you would like to support this project either with information or monetary donations, either would be greatly appreciated.

Subpages (1): Registry