Medallic Art Company did not strike its most valuable bronze medal, but its founder, Henri Weil, was very much involved with its creation, he made the dies. That medal was the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Inaugural Medal of 1905.
Why is that particular medal so valuable? It has everything going for it. It has tremendous appeal to collectors of medals, art, historians and presidential artifacts. Here are the pertinent points of that appeal:
- It honors and portrays an American president, Theodore Roosevelt.
- It was issued for his Inauguration to America’s highest office in 1905.
- It was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), America’s greatest sculptor and designer in 1907 of two U.S. gold coins.
- It was modeled by Adolph Weinman (1870-1952), another top sculptor, who also created two U.S. coins, both in 1916, the Mercury dime and the Liberty Walking half dollar, the later of which was made into a bullion coin by the Treasury Department in 1986.
- It was struck by Tiffany & Co, America’s premier jewelry firm. Actually its issue was managed by this firm, who sought the best artists and craftsmen for its creation, and that is how Medallic Art’s founder Henri Weil became involved, to make reductions of Weinman’ models and cut the dies.
- It has great collector rarity – only 125 were struck in bronze – enough to come on the market often enough, but still scarce enough to never fulfill the great demand for it at any time.
- It has great artistic appeal, in both design and execution, and – at Saint-Gaudens insistence – was made to look cast like Renaissance medals, but actually struck.
- It has historical significance, the inaugural event has a great heritage, occurring only once every four years at the start of each president’s new term.
In our post of Saint-Gaudens Medals Made By Henri Weil of Medallic Art Co. of June 20, 2011, I discussed the career of Saint-Gaudens as a medallist, and listed his entire medallic productions. I could only allude to his contact with Henri Weil and Weil’s actual participation in the creation of this medal.
Here is what author Michael Moran states of Adolph’s Weinman’s actions to place his model that Saint-Gaudens designed and that he modeled in Henri Weil’s hands:
The following day, Weinamn called on Henri Weil of Deitsch Bros, in New York City. Weil, a Frenchman trained in Paris, was working the firm’s Janvier reducing machine, the first of its kind to be imported to America. Weinman was seeking from Weil a second bid for the making of the dies and striking of the Roosevelt medal. Clearly Gus was seeking a fallback position if the committee and, more importantly, Roosevelt rejected this latest cost escalation.
Weil could make the reductions at once. However, the model was 20 inches in diameter. There was a probability that Weil would have to make an intermediate reduction down to 10 inches in … paraffin and from that reduction cut the steel die in a second reduction. Next Weinman went to Tiffany’s to inquire as to whether they would insist upon putting their name on the medal and its presentation box.
The fact Henri Weil made these reductions and cut the dies is well documented. What is not fully ascertained is exactly where the medals were struck as the Deitsch Brothers, for whom Weil was working, did not posses a press capable for striking such a large medal.
It could have been struck in Tiffany’s silverware factory in Newark, New Jersey. Or Tiffany could have subcontracted the striking to one of the metalworking plants in New York City or elsewhere.
[This was one of the subjects I wanted to research during my recent trip June 28, 2011, to Tiffany headquarters. Unfortunately, this fact is buried in one of 84 boxes marked “medals” as their files are not by name of company or individual, but by name of client.]
Just how valuable is a Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Medal? In an appraisal I made last December for a gentleman who was donating an inaugural medal collection to the Smithsonian Institution, I placed a value of $35,000 on his specimen. It was in gem uncirculated condition.
Most specimens that come on the market are in nice condition. They have been well preserved. The case they were originally placed in helped preserve their original condition. But, more importantly, the owners knew of the importance of the medal and took pains to preserve it as best possible.
Major institutions have this medal in their collections. Here again, they welcome owning such an important and valuable artifact. These are the public collections I have found that have this medal in their collections:
- American Numismatic Society(bronze) accession 1961.137.1
- Princeton Library Vermeule bronze (NC001) inventory number 160
- Smithsonian Institution, Division of Numismatics (bronze)
- Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, New York
City (two bronze)
- Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire (seven models, galvanos, and bronze medals)
Private collections come on the market and are usually documented by their appearance in auction sales. The most recent major medal collection was that of Washington, DC, real estate investor David W. Dreyfuss. His collection, was auctioned jointly by Bowers & Merena and Presidential Coin& Antique, April 12, 1986. Here are the lots of this medal:
5779 Bronze $5,720
5780 Pair Galvanos $12,100
5781 Obverse Plaster model $1,100
I sold one of these bronze medals in my Johnson & Jensen Auctions:
J&J 5 (December 10, 1978) lot 155, bronze $5,500
But Presidential Coin & Antiques has sold more of these medals through their
auctions than any other auction firm:
PCA 43 (December 5, 1987) lot 22, bronze $4,950
PCA 44 (June 25, 1988) lot 239, bronze $4,950
PCA 55 (December 4, 1993) lot 116, bronze $3,800
PCA 64 (July 10, 1998) lot 275, bronze.
PCA 68 (October 28, 2000) lot 239, bronze $12,600
PCA 70 (December 2, 2001) lot 291, bronze, withdrawn
PCA 71 (November 9, 2002) lot 14, bronze $9,200
PCA 73 (December 4, 2004) lot 443, bronze.
Numismatic Citations and References
Moran (Michael F.) Striking Change; The Great Artistic Collaboration of
Theodore Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Atlanta GA: Whitman (2008) 432 pp, illus.
Color illustration C18, p 230.
The author performed elaborate research to write this book.
It is an excellent and marvelous book, covering the relationship
between the two men in revealing and thorough detail. I served as technical editor furnishing the author details on the proper technology of several medallic creations.
Levine (H. Joseph) Collector’s Guide: Presidential Medals and Memorabilia. Danbury, CT: Johnson & Jensen (1981) 120 pages, illus
Levine TR 1905-2, illustrated p 37, text p 37-39.
I was co-publisher of his with partner Chris Jensen; I compiled
the artist biographies and furnished the photo essay on the
creation of the Reagan Inaugural Medal.
MacNeil (Neil) The President’s Medal, 1789-1977. New York: Clarkson N.
Potter in Association with the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (1977) 160 pages, illus.
Color illustration facing page 64, text, p 55-62.
As director of research, furnished author with Medallic Art Co.
Dusterberg (Richard B.) The Official Inaugural Medals of the Presidents of
the United States, Cincinnati, OH: Medallion Press, (1971) 106
pages, illus; Second revised edition (1976) 140 pages, illus.
Dusterberg 2, illustrated p 30-31, text p 29-33.
Likewise as director of research furnished details to author who visited the plant in New York City for his research.
Smithsonian Institution. Augustus Saint-Gaudens The Portrait Reliefs, The National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian Institution. New York: Grossman Publishers (1969) unpaged. Compiled by John Dryfhout, Preface by Marvin Sadik.
Saint-Gaudens Relief 55
Baxter (Barbara A.) The Beaux-Arts Medal in America. New York: American Numismatic Society. For Exhibition Sept 26, 1987 to April 16, 1988. 92 pages, illus.
Baxter 78, illustrated p 29, text p 28-31.
Dryfhout (John H.) The Work of Augustus St- Gaudens. Hanover & London: University Press of New England (1982) 356 pages, illus. Catalogue raisonné of artist’s work.
Dryfhout 197, p 271.
Vermeule (Cornelius C.) Numismatic Art in America; Aesthetics of the United States Coinage. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (1971) 266 pages, 249 illus.
Illustrated p 109, text p 107-111.
Jaeger (Katherine) and Bowers (Q. David) 100 Greatest American Medals
and Tokens. Atlanta, GA: Whitman Publishing (2007) 120 pages, color. Number 27, p 38,
Jaeger (Katherine) The Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals.
Atlanta, GA: Whitman Publishing (2008) 289 pages, color illus.
Illustrated p 198.
Anonymous Art & Archaeology, vol 8 (July-Aug 1919) p 199.
Description of this medal:
Obverse: Bare head of Roosevelt facing left; legend above
THEODORE ROOSEVELT, below in two lines PRESIDENT OF THE /
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; inscription at right AQVVM / CVIQVE.
Reverse: Eagle perched on rock facing left; legend above
WASHINGTON D C MARCH IV MCMV; inscription left E / PLVRIBVS,
at right VNVM.