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Thousands of themes are found among the medals made by Medallic Art Company.  MACO has made so many medals, in fact, that collectors recognize they cannot collect them all – although that could be a collectors’ specialty itself — collectors tend to specialize and collect by theme, which they call a topic. Collecting is a very personal thing – every collector chooses his own topic.

The scouting movement, for both boys and girls, has been well represented within the archives of Medallic Art medals. We do not know the creators of all the scouting medals, but some very prominent sculptors are revealed here, Paul Manship and Laura Gardin Fraser top the list. The appeal of scouting collectibles is very strong. Even more so for adults as reflects a happy time in their youth.

Many of these items were ordered continuously and bestowed to youths over a sustained period.  Others, as Jamboree pins, were for only one event, one year. Medallic Art was a major supplier of these medallic items to the two scouting organizations.

A List of Boy Scout and Girl Scout Medals With Selected Photos From Medallic Art Archives

1918-015  Girl Scouts World War I Liberty Loan Medal  1918  Girl Scouts        Paul Howard Manship

1921-034-01  American Girl Scouts Brownie Pin   1921  Girl Scouts of America        Unknown Artist

1921-034-02  American Girl Scouts Cuff Links   1921  Girl Scouts of America       Unknown Artist

1921-034-03  American Girl Scouts Captains Pins   1921  Girl Scouts of America       Unknown Artist

1921-035  Girl Scouts of America Eaglet Emblem   1921  Girl Scouts of America    ½-inch       Unknown Artist

1921-036  Girl Scouts of America Merit Badge  1921  Girl Scouts of America    1-inch        Unknown Artist

1921-037  Girl Scouts of America Life Saving Emblem  1921  Girl Scouts of America  1- x 1¼-inch       Unknown Artist

1922-037  American Girl Scouts Thanks Badge  1922  Girl Scouts of America   Unknown Artist

1922-038  Girl Scouts of America Tenderfoot Pin  1922  Girl Scouts of America  ¾-inch      Unknown Artist

1923-005  Girl Scouts Camp Andree Clark Pin (Feather)  1923  Girl Scouts  2¼-inch       Hand Cut Die

1926-040  Boy Scouts Buffalo Charm  1926  Boy Scouts of America                                                     Unknown Artist

1926-041  Boy Scouts Life Saving Honor Medal  1926  Boy Scouts of America      Unknown Artist

1926-042-01  Girl Scouts Camp of the Hills Pin  1926  Girl Scouts of America  5/8-inch       Unknown Artist

1926-042-02  Girl Scouts Wind In the Pines Pin 1926   Girl Scouts of America  5/8-inch     Unknown Artist

1926-042-03  Girl Scouts Camp Longview Pin 1926   Girl Scouts of America  5/8-inch     Unknown Artist

1926-042-04  Girl Scouts Camp Seven Hills Pin 1926  Girl Scouts of America  5/8-inch     Unknown Artist

1926-043  Boy Scouts Double XX With Eagle Badge  1926  Boy Scouts of America  7/8-inch     Unknown Artist

1927-011  Girl Scouts Camp Edith Macy Pin  1927  Girl Scouts of America  1½-inch           Hand Cut Die

1927-026  Boy Scouts International Jamboree Medal  1927  Boy Scouts of America 1½-inch          Julio Kilenyi

1927-031  American Girl Scouts Fern Pin  1927  Girl Scouts of America                                                Unknown Artist

1927-032  American Girl Scouts Srsc Pin  1927  Girl Scouts of America                                                Unknown Artist

1927-033  American Girl Scouts Greenwood Pin  1927  Girl Scouts of America     Unknown Artist

1927-037  American Girl Scouts Maple Leaf Pin   1927  Girl Scouts of America    Unknown Artist

1928-014  Girl Scouts Golden Eaglet Pin  1928  Girl Scouts of America  1 1/8-inch       Laura Gardin Fraser

1928-058  Boy Scouts Life Saving Medal  1928  Boy Scouts of America  1 5/8- x 1 3/8-inch       Unknown Artist

1929-040  Girl Scout Feeding Rabbit Medal  1929  Girl Scouts of America  1¾-inch       Jessie Willing

1929-053  Boy Scouts of America Eagle Badge  1929  Boy Scouts of Am  1½-inch Alexander Phimister Proctor

1929-053-A  Boy Scouts of America ‘Be Prepared’ Bar  1929  Boy Scouts of Am  1½- x ¼-inch    Hand Cut Die

1929-060  American Girl Scout Lapel Pin  1929  Girl Scouts of America                                               Unknown Artist

1929-084  Girl Scouts of America Community Service Medal  1929  Girl Scouts of Am  ¾-inch   Hand Cut Die

1929-085  Girl Scouts of America Pine Cone Pin  1929  Girl Scouts of America  2- x 5/8-inch     Hand Cut Dies

Society of Medallists Series:

1930-001-046  Issue #46 Eagle Boy Scouts  1952  Society of Medalists  2 7/8-inch           Karl Heinrich Grupp

BSA Building Toward Unity, SOM Issue #46

BSA Building Toward Unity, SOM Issue #46

1930-036  American Girl Scouts Camp Giscowheco Medal   1930  Girl Scouts of America       Unknown Artist

1930-070-001  Boy Scouts of America Presidents Badge  1930  Boy Scouts of America  1- x 7/8-inch     Unknown  Artist

1930-070-002  Boy Scouts of America Presidents Badge  1930  Boy Scouts of America  1- x 7/8-inch    Unknown Artist

1931-040  Boy Scouts Quartermaster Badge  1931  Boy Scouts of America  1 3/16-inch      Hand Cut Die

1932-018  Beard (Daniel Carter) Medal  1932  Boy Scouts of Kentucky  2½-inch          Jeno Juszko

1933-043-012  Best Goodyear Boy Scout  1933  Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co    1 ½-inch     Unknown artist.

1933-043-024  Best Scout Advisor  1933  Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co    1 ½-inch       Unknown artist.

1944-010-001  Firestone Boy Scout Medallion (John W. Thomas) 1944   Firestone  3½-inch   Rene Chambellan

1944-010-002  Firestone Boy Scout Medallion (Harvey S. Firestone, Jr.)   19xx 3½-inch         Rene Chambellan

1944-010-003  Firestone Boy Scout Medallion (Raymond C. Firestone)  19xx  3½-inch           Rene Chambellan

BSA Firestone Award Medal

BSA Firestone Award Medal

1960-018  Boy Scouts 50th Anniversary Medal  1960  Boy Scouts of America   2½-inch           Curt Beck

BSA 50th Anniversary Medal

BSA 50th Anniversary Medal

1968-155  Boy Scouts of American Pedro Medal  1958   Robert Crozier  1½-inch            Hand Cut Dies

                        

History of America Series:

1972-182-135  Boy Scouts of America Founded  1972  Glendenning Co 1 9/16-inch      Model by Mico Kaufman, lettering by Ramon Gordils

BSA Founded 1910 Medal

BSA Founded 1910 Medal

1973-084  Boy Scouts of The Philippines Medal  1973  Asian Mint Corp   1½-inch           Joseph A. DiLorenzo

1975-099  Boy Scouts of America Bicentennial Commemorative Medal   1976  BSA  2½-inch     Ramon Gordils

BSA USA Bicentennial Medal

BSA USA Bicentennial Medal

1977-067  Boy Scouts of America Jamboree Medal  1977  Boy Scouts of America     Unknown Artist

1985-280  BSA International Year of the Youth Medal  1977  Unicover Frank Gasparro

1887-204  Ocean County Girl Scouts Coin Medal  1987  Ocean County Girl Scouts          Steve Adams

1987-205  Ocean County Girl Scouts Coin Medal  1987  Ocean County Girl Scouts           Tom Mangano

A SMALL group of American sculptors, meeting in Washington DC in 1928, discussed the sad state of the art medal in America. No one was promoting such a class of medals and a previous attempt, The Circle of Friends of the Medallion, had ceased after only 12 issues in a brief existence 1909-1915.

Whether they were aware of such art medal series in France and Holland is not known but the seeds of such a series in America began to take root. The discussion continued in New York City and such a plan fell on eager ears of Clyde Curlee Trees, who had only recently acquired ownership of Medallic Art Company the year before in 1927.  He would be only too happy to manufacture such art objects but could not sponsor it himself.

What was needed was an angel, a backer, a sponsor who could underwrite the expense of promoting such a venture, however magnanimous such an act for the art world would be. Trees was fortunate in finding such a person in art patron George Dupont Pratt.

Pratt was an amateur sculptor, the Weils, Henri and Felix, had reproduced one of Pratt’s sculptural creations, Mountain Goat, as a galvano medallion in 1914.  George Pratt was the son of Charles M. Pratt who founded Pratt Institute Art School in 1887, long a Brooklyn organization for educating promising artists. He was active in art organizations and a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Would he become the backer Trees needed to launch a series of art medals? It would be a large philanthropic step but Trees was persistent. Pratt agreed and the two proceeded. Trees promotional ability and Pratt’s backing worked well.

The two found an willing artist, Laura Gardin Fraser, wife of James Earle Fraser, one of those who had been in the early discussion of such an American series. Laura Fraser prepared the models for the first medal.

Like the previous Circle of Friends, the new Society of Medallists would be sold on a subscription basis, two medals a year. The goal was to showcase American sculptors’  bas-relief art in a most appealing way. Each of the medals was to be given a different patina finish (an ambitious goal which had to be modified after about forty such patinas – the limit known at the time). Cost of a year’s subscription was nominal, only $6 for two medals. Promise of fine art in medallic form was attractive.

The launch occurred at the beginning of the Great Depression, however, it proved one fact, even in such a dour economic situation people longed for contact with Beauty, with Art. A miniature work of art in permanent metal they could in their hand filled that angst within their psyche.

Trees manage to sell 1200 initial subscriptions, an ample press run for his tiny shop. With Pratt’s backing Trees continued to promote the art medal series. In all, his Medallic Art Company would produce more than 3,000 Issue Number 1s — Laura Fraser’s Hunter and Turkey. A scene of familiar genre as the heads of many households found a Thanksgiving Dinner among the wild birds common in America.

SOM-Issue1Hunter and Turkey

SOM-Issue1Hunter and Turkey

America’s top sculptor masters are found among he names of the artists creating the early Society medals. Here we find Paul Manship, Hermon McNeil, Frederick MacMonnies, Lee Laurie, John Flanagan, Carl Paul Jennewein, Gatano Cecere, Herbert Adams, Lorado Taft – all giants in the field.

A sculpture from these artists could command thousands of dollars. One could obtain a medal – expressing their chosen art in their own style – for only a few dollars. The economy dictated a low price, but the cost of production was not that great once the models were obtained from the artist. Trees was able to eke out a tiny profit to keep his shop open, even as commercial commissions for medals dried up.

Portraits on Society medals were discouraged, but not prohibited. Issue #4 bore a portrait of nation aviation hero Chares Lindberg by MacMonnies. It was left unsaid what themes could appear on Society medals; the artists were at liberty to choose their own subject and treat it in any artistic way they wished.

What tended to appear were scenes from nature, animals, birds, mythological subjects, Biblical topics.  Aviation and astronomy were popular. Subjects of current events, which seem important at the time  tend to diminish with time. Hal Reed’s Atomic Energy of 1981 seems common place now days.

Creation was a popular theme, first presented by Anthony de Francisci in a swirling universe of unusual shape with silver patina. This was followed by Albert Wein, Donald De Lue, Katherine Lane Weems, and Joseph Coletti, each with their own interpretations of Creation in medallic form.

SOM-Issue12  Creation

SOM-Issue12 Creation

Trees was able to maintain continuity with two medals a year throughout the turbulent 1930s. There were times when the medal shop did not have enough commercial orders for medals that he had to send the employees home by noon, or whenever the little work they had on hand got done. He was thankful for the medals he had to produce for the Society.

The quantity diminished from that initial multi thousand first issue. It first went below a thousand in 1936. But what could have been the kiss of death was World War II.  Bronze became a strategic war material, needed for war armaments and ammunition. Every shot in the war came from a copper shell casing.

Use of bronze for nonessential art medals was halted. Trees solved the problem – to his credit – by issuing two medals in the dept of the war years 1943 and 1944, in silver. Obviously in smaller size to offset the higher cost of silver.

An attempt was made to maintain the Society as a separate entity from Medallic Art Company. It used a mailing address of the National Arts Club in lower Manhattan – later the Architectural League on 40th Street — as a mail drop. This appeared on stationery, newsletters, advertisements, and return address on medals sent out.  This was convenient because as soon as William Trees Louth (Clyde’s nephew) was hired in 1946, his wife was placed in charge of The Society and handled all the correspondence.

She had tired of this chore, so in the Fall of 1969 Bill Louth sought someone to replace her. He commuted from his home in Weston Connecticut to Manhattan each day, frequently had a seat companion of Harkness Cram, an account executive at J. Walter Thompson Advertising Ageny. The subject of The Society came up in conversation.

Harkness Cram was interested, volunteered his wife, Mary Louise Cram’s services, so in December 1969 Bill appointed the Crams as managers. They issued the 80th newsletter leaflet from their address, West Branch Road, Weston, Connecticut – the Society’s new address.

The following year, 1970, was the 40th anniversary of The Society. A contest was held for an anniversary medal, won by Atlanta sculptor, Julian Hoke Harris. The Crams oversaw the marketing of this medal.

With this success, Bill Louth charged the pair to increase the membership which by then had slid to 800 a year, and to increase the profitability of the medals since Medallic Art Company had, in effect, subsidized the Society for 40 years.

The Crams were able to push the membership back over a 1000. For increasing the profits they proposed to issue current medals in both bronze and silver. And, if Bill agreed, go back and reissue the early medals in silver.

At this time, Medallic Art was planning for the marketing of medals for the American Bicentennial in 1976. This, obviously, would be a great occasion for issuing medals, which, did indeed, prove true. But it was also a great occasion for Bill Louth (and the two other owners, Julius Lauth and Francis Trees) to sell the company.

They found a buyer in Donald Schwartz, who owned two other family companies. They did not need his full attention, he was looking for another small company he could manage full time. Medallic Art, with its potential for American Bicentennial business, was ideal. Schwartz raised the money among ten stockholders and the purchase was finalized January 1972.

The first major problem was that the plant in New York City was too small, the property was owned by the Trees family who wanted to sell and new equipment was needed. Ultimately a 22-acre site in Danbury Connecticut was found and a new plant was build which was completed in June 1972.

The Society of Medallists was part of the deal. It came with Medallic Art Company.

Silver medals were issued along with the bronze beginning 1973 (#87) and continued until 1979 (#100).  Schwartz liked the idea of reissung the early Society issues in silver and this began also in 1973 and ran from #1 through #49.

A subscription for a membership received two bronze medals and the cost in 1972 was $16. Under Schwartz the membership cost rose (ultimately to $120 a year) the number of members fell. Sales of the silver, once as high as 250 fell to 50 in 1979.  To save expenses Schwartz dismissed the Crams.

He replaced the Crams with retired museum official Joseph Veach Nobel as art director. Under Nobel’s influence he introduced a great variety of sculptural art into the series. But also included models by two foreign artists.

By this time, 1989, Bob Hoff acquired the Company, moved it to Sioux Falls South Dakota. Hoff attempted to continue the Society issues, but had not obtained the membership list in the acquisition. After issuing medals through #129 Hoff allowed the Society to cease.

Before I finish with this Introduction of The Society of Medallists I would like to relate some of the charming things found among these early medals.

Concordant.  Issue #15 Love by Robert Ingersoll Aitken is like sculpture in-the-round – the reverse is the back side of the obverse figure – said to be concordant.

SOM-Issue15  Concordant

SOM-Issue15 Concordant

Hidden self-portrait.  Issue #7 by Carl Paul Jennewein placed a tiny cartoon portrait of himself in his monogram signature.

Family affair.  A father and son, and a husband and wife prepared Society issues.  Adolph Weinman (#39) is the father of Robert Weinman (#69). Laura Gardidn Fraser (#1) is the wife of James Earle Fraser (#45).

Famous photograph.  Issue #31 Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima was sculpted by Rene P. Chambellan after the famous World War II phtograph by T. Rosenthal.

SOM-Issue 31  Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima

SOM-Issue 31 Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima

Most charming of all!   Cat and Mouse (#115) by Robert Weinman.

SOM-Issue 115 Cat and Mouse

SOM-Issue 115 Cat and Mouse

When I was hired in 1966 by William Trees Louth, then president of the Medallic Art Company, I was charged with the task of cataloging all the medals that the company had made. There were no rules on how to catalog medals. I faced a chore of large proportion without any owner’s manual, without any guide book about how to do it.

In all, I cataloged 6,121 medals before I left the firm ten years later, then I cataloged 25,000 lots as a medal dealer in 35 auction catalogs. I had to name – or instruct assistants – on how to create a name for every one of those medals!

Thus I had to learn rather quickly how best to name a medal and put this in writing. I had to hone my technique with each new problem name. Those written statements became rules I could follow which made my task easier and provide uniformity in style of medal names for any large group of medals, any collection.

Three elements in medal names.  Every person and object in the world has a name. Medals are no different. An early concept I learned was that medal names could be formed from three elements, with one, two or all three of those elements in one name.  These are:

  • A person’s name – The person portrayed, or a person’s memorial, or a person honored, or a sponsor, or even the issuer of the medal. A person’s name could also be the name of a medal.
  • An Event – an anniversary, a convention or meeting, victory in a battle, any of hundreds of events in man’s history can be the subject of a medal, and therefore become the medal’s name.
  • Issuer or sponsor. An issuer is a person or organization which publishes a medal, pays to have it made and is in control of its distribution whether it is free or if it is sold. A sponsor is a person or organization that pays for the making of a medal, as for, say, a contribution to a non-profit organization, as a corporation underwriting the cost of a professional organizations award medal.

Five major families.  Then I learned every medal has a last name. That name is the medallic form of the item. It is as if the item belongs to a family, all of which are of similar type or form, all related. Like Smith for humans the most common name for medallic items is “Medal.”

Closely related to this family are the siblings “Medalet” and “Medallion.” Medalets are under one inch (25.4mm), medallions are large medals, over 3 1/16-inch (80mm). Cousins are “Plaquette” with longest side under 8-inch (20.32cm), “Plaques” over 8-inch.

Other family names in the world of medallic items are: galvano, relief, decoration, badge, emblem, ingot, medallic object, paperweight, plate, seal, token, key fob, watchfob.

The field is growing as multi-part medals and mixed-media medals were first created in the later part of the 20th century. Medals have been modified in several creative ways, by colorizing, by attaching items to make fabricated medals, and embedding material on the surface from relic metal to crystals. Each of these could be included in the medal name.

Rules for naming medals. 

Here, then, after all my experience are 15 rules for naming medals (from my list for cataloging):

4. Names

4.1  Last Word. All medallic items have a last name. It is the type of item it is. Obviously these include medal, medalet, medallion, plaque, plaquette, and the less common ones: galvano, relief, decoration, badge, emblem, ingot, medallic object, paperweight, plate, seal, token, key fob, watchfob. One of these is the last word in a medal name.

4.2 Put last name first of the name of a person that is also the name of the medal; all other elements of that personal name within parenthesis. A second person’s name in the name of the medal can be given in normal sequence. This rule grew out of a need to alphabetize thousands of names of quickly and accurately.

4.3 Capitalize the first letter of each word in the medal name (articles are exceptions – a, the – and some pronouns – of).

4.4 No abbreviations in the name of medals. Spell out everything. Saint, Street and all abbreviations.

4.5 No personal titles in medal names (no admiral, no doctor, no mister, no reverend, no military rank – exception made for Cardinal, however – use full formal names). Otherwise we have too many President X or King X medals in alphabetical lists).

We have three “General Washingtons” for example, it is more precise to identify George [who had no middle name], from John Macrae Washington and from William Henry Washington.

4.6 No nicknames in personal names; use full formal names. (Exception: Jimmy Carter who insisted on  “Jimmy” on his Inaugural medal – how informal and ignorant of medallic custom!)

4.7 Identify pseudonyms and stage names within parenthesis. If Mark Twain is the name of medal, put Samuel Clemens within parenthesis.

4.8 Use minimal punctuation in names. (A firm with three or more names with a comma or two in the firm’s name is the only exception that comes to mind.)

4.9 City identifiers are used to identify certain types of medals (e.g., storecards) and certain themes or devices; use name of city – and sometimes state where clarity is necessary – in name of medal to indicated such things as: expositions, monuments, public statues, conventions, buildings, churches, newspapers, Olympic Games (and bridges). And if it is in Springfield, the state must be added.

4.10   No comma between city and state in medal name (this is a name, not a mailing address).

4.11   Names of things – books, plays, songs, ships, airplanes, statues, works of art and such – which are italicized in normal text are not  italicized in medal names. They can be italicized in description.

4.12   Omit the word “Award” in a medal name. Such award medals are identified in descriptions by giving data within parenthesis. It is the Pulitzer Medal not the Pulitzer Award Medal.

4.13  Omit the word “Official” in a medal name. A description should be sufficient to identify the medal from any non-official medal.

4.14   Keep medal name as brief as possible. Keep the number of elements of a name to no more than three such elements if possible. As: issuing organization, named after person’s name, type of medal or award. (If there are four or more elements, pick the three most important.)

4.15   Proper sequence in naming a medal. Most medals are easy to name by the person or event featured. Other medallic items have as many as four elements that are necessary to be incorporated in the name, as: the sponsoring organization, its parent organization, the name of the award and perhaps an individual portrayed or honored. Here is an example:

Edward Adolph Physiology Medal

Edward Adolph Physiology Medal

1976-033

The Edward F. Adolph award in physiology of the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester contains four elements (in 19 words).

Its proper name as a medal (reduced to 13 words):

University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry Edward F. Adolph Physiology Medal

Note: the word “award” is not included in the name. The medal is the award.

4.16   Omit legal forms in medal names.  No “Inc,” “ LLC,” “Corp.” in medal names. Identity of the organization is satisfactory without this designation.

I HAVE my own definition of the word “lore,” since I use it so often in describing medals. Learning the lore about an item adds to its collectability and supplements the usual data about the medallic items of who, where and when it was made.  Lore means to me:

Specialized knowledge about a historical item that adds, allure,  interest and desirability to the item. 

In short it could be – the story behind the medal.

I learned to seek out such a story for every medal I had for sale when I was a medal dealer at collector shows. When a prospective buyer asks to see a medal and he is holding it in his hand is the ideal opportunity for a high-quality sales talk. That’s the time to discuss the medal’s lore – to tell its history in as much detail as possible. Often it’s that lore, that story, that history, that sells the medal.

In an auction catalog, lore has the same importance. But the amount of space to tell the story is usually limited. You learn to pack a lot of lore into as few sentences as possible. You have to highlight its major points and feature the alluring details as space permits.

I also learned to discuss the Lore of a medal when answering an inquiry. These come to me from every direction since I have studied American medals and have specialized in 20th century issues, particularly those of the Medallic Art Company. The firm dominated the manufacture of the highest quality medals – art medals – for the entire 20th century.

For example, in answer to an inquiry sent to Medal Collectors of America — the letter was forwarded to me from the organization’s webmaster for a reply. The collector had a silver medal bearing the portrait of Michael DiSalle. He described its weight, identified the artist, mentioned the edgelettering: .999+ PURE SILVER MEDALLIC ART COMPANY 262.  He also asked if the medal was genuine.

1962-087

With this basic information, identifying the medal was easy for me and gave him the background information he was seeking. This medal had an interesting history, of considerable Lore. Here’s what I wrote about that collector’s medal:

DiSalle Medal

DiSalle Campaign Medal

Your medal is known as the Michael V. DiSalle Campaign Medal, 1962. It was indeed created by sculptor Ralph Joseph Menconi (1915-1972) and struck by Medallic Art Company, then of New York City (later of Danbury, Connecticut, and later of Dayton, Nevada). It is MAco catalog number 62-87 [now 1962-087]

The medal was issued by Presidential Art Medals of Englewood, Ohio.

How they issued this medal is an interesting story. This organization began issuing half-dollar size medals of the presidents of the United States (struck by Medallic Art Co). This series proved so successful they commenced plans also in 1962 for a second series of the States of the Union.

Since they were located in Ohio, they wanted to issued the Ohio Statehood Medal as the first medal in this series (MAco 62-2-1). They contacted the governor’s office for a suggestion for the most famous Ohio citizen(s) to place their portrait(s) on this medal. (The ultimate decision was to place the Wright Brothers portraits on this Ohio medal.)

The governor at that time was the very Michael DiSalle you see on your medal. He became intrigued with their project and invited them to visit him. All four principles of Presidential Art Medals visited Governor DiSalle. He was running for reelection in 1962 and asked if they would strike a medal for his campaign. The answer was obviously yes.

But that is not the end of the story. Later DiSalle became associated with one of the Presidential Art principles, Max Humbert, and the two became very active in the issuing and marketing of coins and medals. DiSalle, who commanded  an impressive appearance, large in stature, voice and intent, was an excellent negotiator. He traveled in diplomatic and political circles, was often in the White House. The pair even solicited foreign governments for issuing their coins, somewhat like the Franklin Mint was doing at the time.

Michael DiSalle (born January 6, 1908) died September 14, 1981. The duo had done quite well and Max Humbert bought a home in the Bahamas or West Indies but continued to run a numismatic firm out of Florida.

The DiSalle medal was issued in three sizes. The 2¾-inch (70mm) you have was issued in bronze and silver. A 1¼-inch (32mm) size was issued in bronze and platinum, and a 13/16-inch (21mm) size in bronze and silver.

The 262 on the edge of your medal is a serial number. There were 2,000 issued this size all serially numbered. There were 1,000 issued in bronze unnumbered this size.

The medium size is the most common, 17,000 in bronze were struck and these were widely distributed as campaign medals (a practice that goes back in American history to Abraham Lincoln and before). Of the platinum, only 10 were struck and these were serially numbered.

The small sizes were all made into jewelry items (ideal for charm size medalets). For women, 25 silver medalets were struck, for 12 pair of earrings, and 524 bronze struck for 262 sets of earrings. For men 1,000 medalets were struck in bronze for 500 sets of cufflinks.

About the genuineness of your medal; I would have to see the medal, of course, to attest that it is genuine. However, I have never heard of this medal being copied. In fact, very few medals have been replicated of Medallic Art Company medals because of their high quality (it is so difficult to replicate this quality).

Collecting these would be a challenge, imagine the thrill of the chase to find and acquire these elusive items! Other than the platinum medal, you already have the most expensive silver medal. Good luck in your further collecting.

Editor John Adams of the MCA Advisor, where this reply to a collector’s inquiry was published, added his comment: “You ask a question of Dick Johnson and you get a world-class answer.”

________________

Letter Answered: Michael V. DiSalle Campaign Medal MCA Advisory 9:7 (August 2006) p19-20.

Medallic Art Company Book

Medallic Art Company Book

WHILE interviewing former employees of Medallic Art Company for the authorized history of the company, they kept mentioning that a book on the firm already exists.  How could that be? I hadn’t written it yet.

“Go on eBay,” they said, “you’ll see.” I didn’t find it on eBay but I did on my favorite book source Abebooks. Sure enough, I found it listed half a dozen times by different vendors.

The title was “Medallic Art Company.” The authors were three people I never heard of before – Miller, Vandome and McBrewster. How could these people write a book on the firm I thought? Was this something from news articles, clipped and pasted to form a book, I thought?

The description was terse:  “Alphascript Pub 01/01.2013. Paperback. New Book. Shipped from US. This item is printed on demand,” and it listed a bookseller’s inventory  number.

The price was $46.64. With shipping the price was over $50. I ordered it and it arrived this week.

Disappointment. The ‘book’ is small format, 6 x 9 inches with 80 pages. The contents listed eleven articles, two references, and a page marked “License” with two lines so small it was impossible to read.

The article on Medallic Art Company was two pargraphs! One line on recent events: “In July 2009 Medallic Art Company was purchased by Northwest Territorial Mint.”

The remainder of that page listed nine sources, one of my articles on Circle of the Friends of the Medallion, two articles by authors I know, and the rest was from the internet, most from MACO website.

The two paragraphs – 142 words! – came from Wikipedia. All the text, in fact, came from Wikipedia!

Here are some of the sections:

  • Sculpture – 26 pages (49-74).  Not one word on MACO.
  • Danbury Connecticut – 11 pages (9-20).  Not one word on MACO.
  • Medal – 7 pages (34-43).  Not one word on MACO.
  • Mint (coin) – 4 pages (44-47).  Not one word on MACO.
  • Award – 1 page (2).  Not one word on MACO.

The rest of the articles are on medals made by Medallic Art – Pulitzer, Peabody, Circle of Friends, Society of Medallists.

The article on medallic art (small m, small a) – the subject – contains long lists of medallic artists by country. Two lines on page 35 state: “Mints Specializing in Art Medals / Medallic Art Company,” the only one listed.  Hooray! One correct statement of fact!

Of facts, the publisher’s page was most revealing in its statements. “All parts of the book are extracted from Wikipedia … The editors of this book are no[t] authors. … Nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by people with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information.

“Some information in this book may be misleading or wrong.” It sure is.

The book’s publisher is Alphascript Publishing, a trademark of VDM Publishing House, with an address in the Mauritius.

The cover has a color illustration of a bowl of nuts, a container of oranges and a rolled up table cover. Hardly medallic.

At 50 bucks, it costs 62.5 cents a page or about 35.6 cents a word for those 142 words in the only two paragraphs on the company, costly for something that can be obtained off the internet for free.

The book was shipped, not with a paid invoice, but a “Dispatch Note” giving the order number and the title. If you have a query about the book, an email address in the UK is provided. (I’ll bet that is where Miller, Vandome and McBrewster reside.)

The remainder of the form concerns returning the item. I’ll bet they get a lot of returns.

The firm has printing operations in the U.S., England and Germany. But one line was curious. “This book is not produced in the Mauritius.”

This wasn’t my first encounter with this outfit. Here is an article I wrote last year for the April 24th issue of E-Sylum, a weekly internet newsletter for numismatic book lovers:

The strange, lengthy book title hit me right between the eyes. It read “Medal: Sculpture, Molding (process), Casting (metalworking), Machine Press, Stamping (metalworking), Insignia, Portrait, Medallic Art, Devotional Medal, Exonumia, Militaria, Pendant, Commemorative Plaque [Book].” Whew!

Was that a list of chapters or a book title? Published in 2010 by Alphascript Publishing, the internet entry listed it as having 180 pages and appended its ISBN number.

A little pricey at $70, but if all that was in one book, it would be worth it. I was interested. I printed the one-page data sheet off the internet. But before I hit the “add to shopping list” button I got the call to dinner.

After dinner my son, visiting from Cleveland, joined me in the office. He picked up that page and handed it to me. “You know, of course, this is all copied from Wikipedia?” “What!” I exclaimed. “Is that legal?”

This German publisher gathers a group of related items from Wikipedia, designs a colorful cover, prints and binds it all together in one pamphlet. And, yes, it’s legal. In this case, a 180-page pamphlet sells for $70. That’s about 39 cents a page that you could print yourself for free from Wikipedia.

Bit of a scam?

“How can I find out more about this outfit?” I asked my son. “Check out VDM Publishing on Wikipedia,” he said, as he brought it up on the screen.

This is a legitimate self-publishing firm in Germany. They publish under the title Alphascript, Betascript and Fastbook Publishing, all English names, and Doyen Verlag in German among 14 other imprints. They specialize in publishing anything any author sends to them. They do NO editing, no fact checking, no peer review, no proofreading, no additional illustrations — whatever the author sends is what they print and bind. They do add a color cover, but the covers all look alike with only one illustration per cover.

The firm specializes in print-on-demand and publish, so they claim, over 10,000 new titles a year. In 2007 they had 70 employees.

A major part of their in-print list are academic dissertations and research reports. They invite these from every university and print those in English, German, Russian, Spanish and French only. The firm offers one copy free to each author who accepts their proposal to print their work.

For what they copy from Wikipedia, as long as they state these are, indeed, from Wikipedia they are home free. It is legitimate. They can charge whatever they wish by selling free information. Whether to purchase is the buyer’s decision.

The VDM mastermind is Wolfgang Philipp Muller, who founded Verlag Dr Muller — that’s the VDM initials — in Dusseldorf in 2002. He moved to Saarbrucken in August 2007. The book titles are listed on Amazon (in America and UK), Lightning Source, and Books on Demand in Germany.

The Wikipedia VDM entry has a section critical of VDM’s publishing practice. But it also includes a convincing VDM retort for reprinting Wikipedia articles:

Wikipedia is a valuable, quality resource, that the company has no problem asking authors for content, that buyers are informed of where information comes from, that books are a convenient form to collect articles about interesting subjects, and that its customers are satisfied with VDM’s products.

Both the firm and those three editors who are not authors have been busy recently. The new data from the current VDM entry in Wikipedia reveal they now have 78 imprints, not the 14 mentioned before.

Miller, Vandome and McBrewster have conjured up 180,707 titles! All by copying articles in Wikipedia.

Sorry, one of those titles is Medallic Art Company. Not worth the paper it is printed on.

Don’t buy this book. Get the data from Wikipedia yourself.

On January 15, 2013 an Op-Ed article I wrote was published in the Wall Street Journal.  NPR, the national public radio network, picked up that article. Scott Simon’s January 18th segment of Simon Says was based on that article.

Simon introduced a bit of levity in his commentary by saying that Larry, Curly and Moe’s portraits are not on our coins. Instead the coins feature past presidents and Congress would find a difficult time replacing them on any future coins. (In my plan to revamp our coinage system I would promote those same presidents to a higher denomination coin, but, of course, Simon was unaware of that.)

Thirty-eight listeners responded to his commentary before this Report was written, recorded on NPR’s website. If this brief response was indicative or typical of radio listeners it provides insight into the medium’s audience.

Analyzing those comments is quite interesting. They range from intelligent and insightful to near gibberish. The largest percentage had comments about the design appearing on coins – and in particular whose portraits appear – irrespective of what denominations. People are vocal about what appears on all coins.

The second most common group were evenly divided among those who made comments on economics, and the purchasing power of coins and those who commented on their experiences with coins in other countries, particular the Euro.

The remainder were scattered among accepting new coins, rounding up or down – insisting a loss in most transactions of those few pennies – and a couple that were anti-government, no mater what.

One suggested the same concept offered by Chicago Federal Reserve Bank senior economist Francçoise Velde, to revalue lower denomination to the next higher. Too late for that for the American penny however.

One was critical of both this author and Simon on his broadcast, claiming we were not considerate of the homeless who exist on donations of lower value coins. And one was a poem by someone who must have had a lot of time on his hand.

Here are some selected extracts from those comments:

  • Willius M:  Great idea! Let’s do it.
  • Oscar Myer:  This isn’t a problem with the coins themselves. It’s a problem with government policies.
  • Travis Petengill:  Do it already, U.S. Mint, stop gabbing about it.
  • Peter Barrett:  I think I see the situation more clearly than I ever had! I have been in denial as to why the 1979 dollar coin never caught on
  • Matthew Fry:  For electronic transactions you can pay down to the [exact] penny as always.
  • Katthy Applebaum:  Why not just fix our manufacturing process? Smaller coins, cheaper metals, more efficient techniques can go a long way.

The voice of the listening public is naive perhaps and without the full knowledge of the overall problem, nor of possible solutions. They are quick to sound off. Their comments indicate an expression, a need of a far more reasoned study and intelligent thought of the problem and all possible solutions.

Here is Scott Simon’s full text on his January 18th broadcast from NPR’s website:

A Thought That’s Worth More Than A Penny (Or A Nickel)

by Scott Simon
January 18, 2013 2:27 PM

It costs more than a penny to make a penny, and more than a dime to make a nickel. Would it make better business sense to simply round up?

You might want to look at the profiles of presidents — current, past and aspiring — attending President Obama’s inauguration on Monday and imagine how they’d look one day on a coin.

But a few voices are beginning to propose that in these times, when newspapers cost a dollar and more, and people pull out credit cards to buy a cup of coffee, small coins may soon be relics.

A penny costs more than a cent to mint and circulate. The nickel costs more than 10 cents. This is not a good business plan for a nation that is kazillions of dollars in debt.

This week, D. Wayne Johnson, historian of the Medallic Art Company, proposed in The Wall Street Journal that the U.S. government get rid of the penny, nickel and quarter. You can’t buy a pack of gum with a quarter these days. Pennies and nickels are often just cast into bowls, drawers and jars, useless and unspent.

So Mr. Johnson suggests we round off prices to the nearest 10, and start minting just 10 cent, 50 cent and $1 coins. The dollar coin would replace the bill, which gets worn, wrinkly, and then won’t work in vending machines.

It’s one of those ideas that sounds sensible every way but politically. And politics is what truly counts.

That’s not Larry, Curly and Moe on the penny, nickel and quarter; it’s Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington — two founding fathers and the president who saved the Union. Can you imagine any Congress taking those profiles off of coins?

But even if you put those old presidents on new dimes, half-dollars and dollars, you’d have to scrap Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Sacagawea. Half-dollars and dollars aren’t used much right now, except by casinos and the Tooth Fairy. But imagine the outcry if Congress proposed removing from our money the president who won World War II, the president who personified youthful vigor, and a woman who helped open the West?

Can you see why when the European Union started minting money, they chose stylized architectural details instead of people?

Reducing the number of coins in America would bring down the number of pedestals on which to put national heroes. But imagine the debates if Congress had to decide whom to put on just three small coins. Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez? Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs? Jackie Robinson or Jim Thorpe? Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony or Sandra Day O’Connor? FDR, not Lincoln? Or vice versa? At least after this week, Lance Armstrong wouldn’t be in the running.

In a sense, it helps us appreciate that the United States has grown so rich in history, diversity and depth that no three, four, five — or a hundred profiles can express it.

What about Marx — Groucho, Chico and Harpo?

A version of this article appeared January 15, 2013, on page A17 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Melted Penny for Your Thoughts.

The Obama administration has officially repudiated the idea of minting a trillion-dollar platinum coin to address some of its fiscal problems. Washington shouldn’t stop there. Next to go should be not only the penny but the nickel, too.

Already each penny costs the U.S. government more than a cent to manufacture and distribute, and that cost is only rising without a suitable substitute for the raw materials. The coin has less purchasing power today than the U.S. half-cent coin did when the government abolished it in 1857.

But how to eliminate a coin? There are 150 billion pennies in banks, the cash drawers of retailers, the pockets and purses of citizens, and the jars atop dressers. Françoise R. Velde, chief economist of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, suggests the government revalue (or “rebase”) all cents to the value of a nickel so that they would circulate side-by-side, both worth five cents. A Treasury proclamation would do the trick at no cost.

This change would cause mini windfalls all over the nation, as 100 pennies in that dresser jar suddenly become worth five dollars, but it would prevent the problem of scrapping all those loose pennies.

Sooner or later, the government should also rebase nickels to the value of dimes, since nickels also cost more to produce than they are worth. A Dallas speculator whom I know (but who wishes to remain anonymous) has already hedged for that event by squirreling away $1 million worth of nickels in a Texas warehouse.

At least the U.S. is lucky that it has only five coin denominations in circulation. Italy struck seven denominations of euro coins in 2002, but by 2012 merchants and the public were throwing away the two lowest ones, deeming them valueless. There is a sixth U.S. coin—the dollar piece—but Americans have largely rejected it. Though Washington has struck 2.38 billion dollar coins since 1979, the bulk (1.2 billion) now reside in Federal Reserve storage.

Fourteen countries have now eliminated their lowest or two lowest coin denominations. All then rounded prices up or down to the value of the nearest coin still in active circulation. “Merchants will always round up, costing more for buyers!” screamed the naysayers. Not so. A 2006 Wake Forest University study of 200,000 convenience-store transactions in the eastern U.S. revealed that the rounding tends to balance out in a year’s time.

After Israel dropped its one-agorot coin in the 1990s, a drugstore chain there established a policy of always rounding down, trumpeted the policy in advertising and gained a marketing advantage over competitors. Thrifty customers increased the chain’s sales.

So what coin denominations should Americans plan for in the long term, as the value of low-denomination coins declines further due to inflation? Keep the dollar as the unit, as well as a 10-cent and 50-cent division of the dollar. That is three coins to keep while eliminating the cent, nickel and quarter.

Then, add five-dollar and 10-dollar coins, and the U.S. would again have five denominations to fill the drawer of every cash register. Stop printing paper currency in these denominations and accrue even more savings, as coins outlast paper 20-to-one in circulation.

Australia made a transition like this in two steps, abolishing its one-cent coin in 1990 and its two-cent coin the following year, melting both to make medals for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. But it is more efficient to do it all at once—and more considerate to the vending-machine industry, the largest user of coins. Industry spokesmen in the U.S. estimate it could cost up to $3.5 billion to recalibrate all their machines, and they shouldn’t be expected to do so twice.

In the plan to eliminate the cent, nickel and quarter, the latter two could be melted and recycled into new denomination coins. But what about all those cents?

Here is where the Treasury deserves great respect. In 1982, it began making cents with a zinc core and copper plating, rather than with a copper-zinc alloy. A gold star award to the Treasury official who made that decision. The brilliant part is that when all those cents are scrapped—those minted before 1982 and those minted since—the result will be a mixed alloy of copper and zinc. Voilà, brass. Add a little virgin copper and you have bronze.

Thus all those cents could be melted and used for bronze statues or bronze bells. But it is tricky to achieve the proper resonance for a perfect bell sound. So I have commissioned a top American sculptor—Elizabeth Jones, former chief engraver of the U.S. Mint—to sculpt a life-size or larger statue of David Rittenhouse, the first director of the U.S. Mint and a prominent astronomer and financial officer for Pennsylvania.

Gathering 23.7 million of those unwanted cents would furnish ample metal for a bronze statue of Rittenhouse to stand in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. The surplus metal would be sold to pay the artist, foundry expenses and other costs. The city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania would receive a bronze statue at no cost, and Rittenhouse would be honored with the metal from coins created by the Mint he founded in 1792.

The Rittenhouse statue should be reason enough for the Treasury to issue a waiver to its 2006 policy outlawing the melting of pennies. An added bonus are the hundreds or thousands of other bronze statues and bell towers that could go up in other cities across America.

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