Veterans, are your military medals in a drawer somewhere? Do you even know where they are? Your military service was rewarded by an appreciative government. The nation expresses that gratitude with medals – military medals and decorations.
There is a medal for each campaign in which you were engaged, for every theater of combat, for marksmanship, for good conduct, and a variety of other activities in which the citizens of this nation wanted to recognize your participation.
An entire class of military decorations are awarded for exceptional duty and bravery for the nation to honor its heroes, all the way up to the Medal of Honor. And if you were injured in that service you were honored with a “wound medal,” in America, it’s the Purple Heart, one of the nation’s prestigious awards.
Frank Foster, president of Medals of America, a firm that frames military decorations, medals and insignia, encourages this practice, says “Bring your awards out of the shadows!”
That’s good advice!
You may have been issued medals before being discharged. If not, you are qualified for these medals and that fact remains in your military records. You can still obtain the medals to which you are qualified, at least one of each. There is no time limit to apply for these. We have all read newspaper accounts when some senior citizen receives his medals decades later.
The government honors your service. It stands by that commitment.
But what to do with those medals? Medals of America is a member of a small industry, all run by veterans, that frame those medals for you. If you have lost a medal they can replace it. They can include your insignia – to record your highest rank – or add your service ribbon, or add a favorite photograph if you wish, even include your Challenge Coin if your unit issued one. You will be asked for the wording on the nameplate along with the proper medals.
The frames come in an assortment of sizes, woods, and background colors to customize your frame. Start by going online at – MedalsofAmerica.com – and design your own frame. You see everything in full color before you send off your medals to them and place your frame order. There are separate frames for the American flag, or the triangular panel for a properly folded flag can be included with the frame of your medals.
This is how your military medals should be housed and displayed. Place the completed frame on the wall in your den or office. No longer in the shadows, it is visible for all to see, including yourself. The colorful ribbons and handsome medals make an attractive wall decoration. It will enhance your pride.
Just how valuable are your medals? Money wise not a great deal. Most medals cost less than five or ten dollars. You can purchase a Purple Heart for $35. The more exotic decorations are more costly.
But it is not the money that makes these medals valuable. It’s the documentation, the physical record of your military service and the honorable awards you achieved. That framed collection of medals is a permanent artifact for generations to witness.
Your framed collection is easy to pass down to your descendants. Mention it in your will. If you have no descendants, instruct the executor of your estate to donate it to a local museum. They should preserve that fame, perhaps along with others, to record the military service of local citizens.
Medals have a very important characteristic of longevity. They last forever. That frame documents your service. That is why the nameplate is necessary. Along with your name include your branch of service, dates; list the campaigns if you wish. This is permanent documentation.
The frame serves to preserve the condition of the medals as well. The author was a dealer in medals for a decade and a half, dealing in all medals from all countries, decorations in addition to “table medals” – what collectors called medals that are not worn.
A customer wanted to know the value of a Panama Canal Medal he had inherited from an elderly uncle. It bore the portrait of Teddy Roosevelt and was designed by Victor D. Brenner, designer of the Lincoln Cent. He didn’t know how rare it was. The medal was badly nicked and pitted. “Where has this medal been?” I asked.
“I kept it in my fishing tackle box,” he said. Along with plugs and hooks. I had to tell him he put a $1,000 medal in his fishing tackle box, certainly not the best place for it, and took out a $200 medal. Its condition and value had been drastically lowered.
So use of frames will preserve the original condition.
Just as service personnel “preserve and protect” America in the military, in a statement by Ross Hansen, president of Medallic Art Company, maker of military medals, veterans should “preserve and protect their medals.”
Medallic Art’s connection with military medals goes back to World War I. The firm served sculptors, in fact the founders themselves were sculptors, Henri and Felix Weil. Another sculptor, James Earle Fraser, was commissioned to create the Victory Medal, to be given to ever person who served in that “Great War.”
Three million such medals were required. That’s a large order. Another sculptor, Herbert Adams, was hired by the Secretary of War to oversee that commission.
Fraser created his medal design in clay, nine to ten times the size of the intended medal, then he cast that in plaster for both sides. He brought these plasters to Medallic Art Company Weils, who made wax reductions on a machine they had imported from France.
Fraser had the Weils do this over and over until he was satisfied with his design. The Weils then made dies to strike sample medals to be turned over to the government. The Weils also helped write specifications as to how these medals were to be made.
The Weils also wanted to manufacture those medals for the great profits to be earned from striking so many medals. Dozens of firms were invited to bid. The Weils bid 75¢ each, where other firms bid as high as $1 each. But the contract went to a Newark metalstamping firm which had bid 17¢ each.
But the government learned a lesson. The quality of those World War Victory medals at 17¢ each were so poor the firm was never given another contract. In contrast, the Medallic Art Company was awarded contract after contract throughout the years, up to and following World War II where the size of the orders were for millions of medals.
In all, Medallic Art struck 58 different military medals and decorations for the U.S. government including the Congressional Medal of Honor. It worked with the Institute of Heraldry, which, for the most part, designed, oversaw, and ordered the medals. Medallic Art created all the tools, dies and punches needed for this detailed work. America’s military medals are some of the finest in the world.
The firm was so active in this business, now owned by an Indiana businessman, Clyde C. Trees, that Fortune magazine, in a June 1945 article, reported on this business, stating that Medallic Art was the leading producer of military medals among a group of New England firms striking medals for the military.
Ross Hansen learned of this military activity after he purchased Medallic Art Company in June 2010. Previously he was in the bullion business, dealing in precious metals. He needed to strike that bullion in a more convenient form than the heavy ingots used among the industry.
He built his own plant, Northwest Territorial Mint, in Auburn, Washington, to
mint one-ounce and similar bullion medals to accommodate investors with a more convenient form. These took the shape of tiny ingots, or more common circular form, called “rounds” for lack of a better term. Once he had an active mint he was asked to strike a challenge coin for a friend in the military.
This led to similar orders, until he became a major supplier of challenge coins to military units and individuals, stationed all over the world. Challenge coins had caught on in a big way as a popular practice in the military. Hansen established a shop in the Pentagon to service this medal business.
Everyone in the military, it seemed, was carrying a challenge coin, their own, or their unit’s custom coin, all the way up the chain of command. Chief Officers in all branches of the service, the Secretary of Defense, even the President of the United States, had their own challenge coin.
They were given to members of special units, or an individual could order his own. Soon they were exchanged, traded, until some individuals had sizeable collections. They make ideal additions to your own famed medals.
Woe be to the person who could not pull at least one challenge coin out of their pocket when challenged. If you forgot yours, you had to buy a round of drinks for all those who did.
Hansen was impressed by the military for which he now had great empathy. He knew his firm had once produced large quantities of medals and decorations. But two previous owners of the firm had not sought out this business. He visited the Institute of Heraldry at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to learn more and learn why.
He learned that one of the major producers of military decorations, once Medallic Art was not soliciting this business, was Graco Industries of Tomball, Texas. Ross Hansen like the firm so well, he bought the company.
With headquarters at present in Auburn, Washington, Hansen now has seven locations throughout the United States for the manufacture of dies, medals of all kinds, and the sale of all such medallic items.
In contrast to some medal business emanating overseas, particularly in China, Hansen stresses that medals produced by his firms are 100 percent made in America, at every step of production – from American artists to the processing of the metal composition, to the striking, fabricating, and packaging – is all performed in America.
For the American veteran, he can enjoy the knowledge of his American-made military medals in the frame on his wall are the finest in the world. That was worth fighting for!