Gilroy Roberts served as chief engraver at the Mint from
1948 through 1964 after working as the top assistant to then Chief Engraver
John R. Sinnock. He retired from the Mint in 1964 and went on to become an important
part of the Franklin Mint, founded by Joseph M. Segel.
Gilroy Roberts was born in Philadelphia on March 11, 1905,
the son of John Taylor Roberts and Blanch Dawson Gilroy Roberts, both of whom
were professional artists. Talent came naturally to him, and early in life he
began modeling clay and carving wood. He was educated in New York City and
Bedford Village, New York, later attending classes at the Frankford Evening Art
School in Philadelphia and the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. Among
his instructors over a period of time were Paul Remy, Eugene Weis, and Heinz
In 1936 Gilroy Roberts was appointed assistant
sculptor-engraver at the United States Mint, as understudy to Chief Engraver
John Sinnock. He later reminisced: “The commemorative half dollars of our
country were in full swing at the time, and artists’ models were arriving for
processing to coining dies on a regular basis. This happened at a time when I
was striving to improve my skill as a low-relief sculptor and engraver. It was
a wonderful opportunity to study the creations of some of our country’s leading
medallic artists, both good and not so good. It was a great influence on
furthering my career.” (This is from a letter to the author, March 1.
After working for the Mint for two years he joined the
Bureau of Engraving and Printing as a portrait engraver, returning to the Mint
as assistant sculptor-engraver in 1944. Appointed as chief engraver of the Mint
by President Harry S Truman on July 22, 1948, Roberts designed many coins and
medals during the following years and became well known as the designer of the
obverse of the 1964 Kennedy half dollar. Among his other works are the items
Coins: 1970 Panama 5 balboas, Central American and Caribbean
games; Liberia $1, 50-, 25-, 10-, 5-, and 1-cent obverses, 1959; Haiti 10- and
5-centimes obverse, 1958; Cuba 1 peso, 50-, 25-, 5-, and 1-centavo obverses; El
Salvador 50 and 25-centavos obverse, 1953; Denmark 5 kroner, 1944.
U.S. Mint medals: Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and
Lyndon B. Johnson in the presidential series.
Congressional medals: Irving Berlin, 1954; Dr. Jonas Salk,
1955; Sir Winston Churchill, obverse, 1955; U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee,
honoring the surviving veterans of the War Between the States, 1956.
Stamps (at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing): Famous
Americans postage series of 1940 including Ralph Waldo Emerson (3¢), Stephen
Foster (1¢), and Eli Whitney (1¢). In addition he produced numerous private
He resigned his post as chief engraver on October 8, 1964,
to become chairman of the board of the General Numismatics Corporation (later
known as the Franklin Mint) for whom he sculpted many art medals. His medals
have been exhibited worldwide, and he has received numerous awards and honors.
In 1927 he married Lillian Sharpless Pancoast in
a Philadelphia ceremony. The couple have a son, John Taylor Roberts, and two