Consumers became tired of the old Liberty Head five-cent that had circulated for thirty years; even congress passed an authorization to redesign the coin by 1890. The engraver, Charles E. Barber, on the other hand wanted to keep the design and was uncomfortable with Roosevelt’s interest in changing the classic coins. Barber shared his opinion with Roosevelt’s friend and renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and word quickly spread. Among those who heard about Barber’s distastes was Franklin MacVeagh, the Secretary of Treasury, who was originally appointed by Roosevelt and shared a similar interest in American coinage. With the redesign authorization MacVeagh jumped on the opportunity to change Barber’s “uninspired” liberty head coin by going over his head. In doing so, MacVeagh had creative freedom to stray away from classical designs like the liberty head and geometric patterns. Instead, MacVeagh chose to depict a Native American face that actually resembled a Native American unlike previous designs that portrayed Caucasian likenesses. Once the idea was finalized, MacVeagh hired James Earle Fraser, an assistant to Saint-Gaudens, to make his idea come to life. Fraser’s design was and is still considered one of the most beautiful and treasured coin faces ever struck.
Despite awing consumers, officials, and businessmen alike, Fraser’s design still received criticism from Barber and a vending machine company. Barber’s complaints about the large details that did not allow the inscriptions to be placed properly were quickly dismissed. The vending machine company, Hobbs Manufacturing Company, had valid reasons regarding their machine software that detected fraudulent coins. After multiple attempts to compromise with Hobbs, MacVeagh pushed the original design through production. Barber remained unconvinced of the coins beauty because it was not his, so when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped on the redesign. His final product, after removing minor details and solving wear problems, lacked much of the originality and beauty of Fraser’s design. Regardless, the coin remained unchanged for the remainder of the series throughout every mint in which it was struck: Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco.