Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2012

YOU will have to learn a few words that may be new to you to differentiate struck from cast medals. One of these words is meniscus.  If you look up this word in a dictionary you will probably find an illustration of two tubes, one filled with water, one filled with mercury. The surface of the water is concave. The surface of mercury is convex – that is, bowed down at the edges from a higher center.

Cast metal is like mercury. Metal has the same physical property as mercury that makes it bow at the edges in unrestricted form. Cast metal cannot fill tiny cavities in a medal die design because the meniscus prevents the liquefied cast metal from flowing into these small corners. Thus it cannot reproduce sharp, crisp edges at the juncture of two surfaces.

The most obvious evidence of this can be found where the top of lettering meets the sides, another location is where the rise of relief meets the background or field of a coin or medal. With typical casting, the human eye perceives these edges and corners as “soft.” Under magnification, relief, particularly lettering, appears with “rounded” junctures.

Some medalists were skilled at purposefully modeling soft texture and soft lettering. Louis Roty in France was one. Victor Brenner in America was another. Medallists not as skilled may produce edges of relief that will look indistinct and amateurish.

Collectors, it should be noted, seem to prefer sharp, crisp edges because this is closest to the uncirculated state of a coin. Once wear begins, the sharp edges, like highpoints, disappear.

For a coin or medal struck by a die, the metal fills these junctures and tiny cavities by the force of the die during striking. Struck pieces therefore can have sharp, crisp corners and edges where the junctures of two surfaces may come to a point.

Diestruck pieces will appear sharp and not rounded if that characteristic is in the die. (But here, again, the roundness may be modeled into the pattern and reproduced in the die, or, the piece may have circulated and become worn.)

[The sharpness of the rim / edge juncture, as on proof coins, is something else. This comes from the amount of metal mass in the planchet and the amount of pressure applied, not from any modeling or anything in the pattern.]

A second term to learn is porosity. The surface of a cast piece may appear to have tiny pores or pockholes. These vary in size and are caused by dust or dirt in the mold or from trapped air.

When casting, skillful molders will blast the mold with compressed air to remove all contaminants just before pouring the metal. (Prior to this the mold may even be chemically cleaned.)

Trapped air bubbles prevent metal from filling all the nooks and crannies in the mold. This trapped gas tends to congregate around the base of relief or letters on the field or background. Skillful molders like to mold in a vacuum, or tip the mold and lightly tap it to let the air escape, or make elaborate vents for the air to flow out as the metal flows in.

Humorously, these pores or holes are called “craters” like bomb craters. (I say in my best Yosemite Sam cartoon voice imitation “That’s a figure of speech, Son. I say, that’s a hyperbole. That’s an overstatement, I say, to make them tiny holes look extreme!”)

If porosity is present on the piece you are examining, there is a strong chance the piece was cast. (“I say it was cast, Son. Take my word for it!” Enough Sam.)

In contrast to craters are nodules. These are raised lumps, also called bosses. (I won’t even crack a joke on that – make up your own lumpy boss remark!)

Nodules also result from dirt or trapped air occurring in a previous generation in the casting process. They formed when the mold was made. Now use that pockmarked mold and you get raised nodules where tiny craters were located.

Pieces struck from rusted dies will also exhibit nodules. Here again, these will congregate around the base of relief or letters. This is where moisture settled and attacked the iron metal when the die was stored. Prolonged exposure to a moist atmosphere creates rusting of unprotected steel dies. (Even storing dies one on top of the other with a struck piece between prevents rust, as well as other methods.)

Only with experience comes the ability to identify nodules from poor casting techniques versus nodules from rusted dies on struck pieces. I didn’t say this was going to be easy. Casting nodules are usually smooth; rust nodules are usually jagged and uneven.

Next term to learn: chased. It is so common for cast items to have porosity and nodules formed that they are most often CHASED – hand tooled to remove these tiny imperfections. The term is almost one word: cast and chased. (Can you say “castandchased” as one word?) In some cases you can still see the tool marks, even though the CHASER has a toolbox full of tools (like burnishers) to smooth the metal surface after any gross amount of metal is removed or moved around during chasing.

The busiest worker in any foundry is the CHASER – cleaning up after the cast piece is broken out from the mold. All those casting flaws should be removed and all surfaces smoothed where they are supposed to be smooth. For cast medals the trick is not to remove any DETAIL, to retain all the MODULATED RELIEF, keeping it intact.

The next term may be familiar. It is resonance. That is the sound a coin or medal makes when lightly tapped on its edge. The tone or clarity is caused by the metal alloy, absence of trapped air internally and its thickness. A cast piece will tend to have a lower-pitched sound, a “dull thud,” in comparison to a similar struck piece which produces more of a “ring” of greater clarity and higher pitch.

A ring test, however, is not exclusive or foolproof. A suspect piece should be compared with known specimens if you are testing for genuineness. Both struck and cast pieces will ring – after all, bells are made by casting. The only difference is the resonance. Have you got a good ear for pitch and tone?

A last term to be familiar with is a form of casting, but its results are sharper than even a struck piece. That term is electroforming. This is how numismatic electrotypes are made. These are made in an electrolytic tank where the metal is deposited on a pattern, one ion of metal at a time.

Thus electroforms are noted for their sharpness, plus their extreme fidelity to their pattern, far more so than diestruck pieces. This sharpness has to be in the model, obviously. Electroforming reproduces exactly the surface of the model. This is why electroforming – creating galvanos – were used for over a century for coin and medal patterns (and reduced on the die-engraving pantograph like the Janvier reducing machine).

Here are the three methods of producing a coin or medal and the sharpness of detailed relief each method can reproduce:

Casting

Detail reproducible down to a hundredth of an inch.

Striking

Detail reproducible down to a thousandth of an inch.

Electroforming

Detail reproducible down to the width of a molecule.

The following table summarizes criteria for visual inspection. If you have access to a lot of scientific equipment, you can examine the surface substructure of the metal or you can take microphoto- graphs. There you will see how different struck metal is from cast metal after it undergoes the stress of striking.

Struck vs. Cast Diagnostics by Inspection

Property Struck Cast
Relief edges and corner junctures Sharp, crisp, pointed Rounded.
Surface state Smooth, detail where intended, field generally smooth, all relief fully struck up. May have pores or background nodules present, may appear uneven;flat; detail looks “soft.”
Nodules present None; struck from rusted dies if at all. From the cast mold.
Multiple specimens Identical. Pores, nodules may vary in number, size, position on each cast.
Chasing tool marks None. May be present.
Ring test resonance High pitch. Duller tone.
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

William Louth had a long shopping list of chores for me to do when he hired me in November 1966 to come work for Medallic Art in New York City. In a small company one person does many different tasks. That was certainly true when I walked in the door January 4, 1967.

He showed me to my office that first day, formerly occupied by a member of the sales force, who had died, and as Bill said “juggled reference books” to generate sales leads. I had to earn my keep, by doing the same – generate sales leads of firms, organizations, municipalities, and such of upcoming anniversaries. A major portion of the firm’s business was anniversary medals.

Also I had to answer inquiries from the press, from collectors and from the public in general about medals the firm had issued in the past. As such, I was the staff numismatist. Bill knew I was the former editor of Coin World, so another major portion of my tasks was to publicize the firm and medals made by the firm.

Any writing chore of the firm came my way. This included speeches for Bill, advertisements for the firm, some sales literature, and, of course, those leaflets distributed with the medals (if a client didn’t provide their own).

Among all this were press releases. Write up the initial announcements of new medals as a news item for the general press, trade publications, and, of course, for the numismatic press.

But the most important task was to catalog all the medals the firm had issued. No one in the firm even knew how many medals the firm had issued. Bill set some fixed criteria for such a catalog. It had to show an image of the medal, both front and back. It had to list the client for whom the medal was made, and since most of our medals were made from sculptors’ models, the artist name was mandatory.

Also, to be useful for the sales department, the catalog entry had to reveal how the medal was used. If it was a product milestone for example, like GM’S one millionth car, how many other product milestone medals had we made? These were useful for salesmen to show prospects an actual sample medal.

Also such data as the technical aspects of the medal – size and composition. I also added topical names from the field of numismatics. A final datum was the location of the client – city and state.

My research for how to present or record all this information took me to several locations. I interviewed Ramona Javitz, a 90-year old lady who had created the picture collection at the New York Public Library. She had overseen the creation of a multi-million collection of pictures. These were housed in trays of tall envelopes extensively categorized by subjects. This was her secret, she informed me, was the topic heads to arranged so many images.

I had contacted Eastman Kodak for aid in recording the images. The salesman they sent immediately grasped the problem. He took me to the Time Life building in Rockefeller Center. They had a 6-million file of photographs, their index was an aperture card with piece of microfilm embedded. This contained an image of the photograph where the negatives were in a separate file.

While useful, each of these was not quite the answer to a catalog of medals. After three years researching how best to create such a catalog – and not having cataloged the first medal – I made my proposal to Bill.

Remember this was in 1970, before computers, and just at the beginning of widespread use of photocopying machines. My suggestion was quite simple. We photograph the medal with a 35mm camera. We cut up the proof sheets of those film shots.

We typed the descriptive lines on a 3 x 5-inch card and paste the photos in place. We then photocopy that master card as many times as necessary for as many ways in which the medal should be filed. While simple in theory, it did require extensive equipment.

The firm bought a special photocopy machine. The camera was rigged by our sketch artist to form a template inside the camera. We would focus the camera so a round medal would just fit inside that template.

We bought a special punch to cut out exactly 33mm circles from the 35mm photo proof sheets. We used a proportional-spacing typewriter to make print-like lettering on the typed cards. We bought special type characters of fractions so these could also appear print-like as well.

We bought a wooden library card file with rods in each drawer so a drawer could be used and the cards not fall out. Finally we bought special four-up card stock predrilled with holes already in them.

The system work!  I began cataloging. I had to examine the shop files, write up the text, have a secretary type it, proof read what she typed.

Each step was super simple, but consuming of my time and that of one secretary.

Bill came up with the solution. We would hire college kids during the summer. This worked as well. Some were even employee’s children; happy to have a summer job.

They were easy to train, caught on quickly and were processing medals, files, typed cards, photocopied cards, and filed in the library card file, all in quick time. We cataloged over 2,000 medals in a 3-month period. We repeated this a following summer.

Most of this was accomplished while Medallic Art was still in New York City. After 1972 and the move to Danbury the process continued. By the end of 1976 and the end of my employment, we had cataloged 6,121 medals. Finally we now know exactly how many medals the firm had made from the first – in 1907 – to the end of the Bicentennial era.

That library card file has served well in the intervening years. Wisely in the 1980s Bob Hoff entered all that data on to computer so now it is even more accessible. Rob Vugteveen currently has access to the original card file, ultimately destined for Medallic Art Company’s own museum.

My duties of publicizing the firm’s medal issues began immediately after I arrived at the firm. The first was a medal by Canadian sculptor-medallist R. Tait McKenzie, that MACO sold to the public, somewhat of a first.

To publicize the firm I got a photo essay “Home of the Art Medal” published in the December 1967 issue of Coinage magazine. This was from photographs by Larry Stevens. I wrote the text.

To strengthen my skills in publicity I took a night class in New York City offered by one of the professional PR organizations. Here I learned of PR Aids, a commercial firm that processed press releases. Ironically, it was located on the same block as Medallic Art, almost next door!

You could have preprinted press stationery, which they would store. Give them camera-ready typed text, a single photograph, and an order form. They would do all the work: print the releases, make the photos, address the envelopes, affix the postage, take to the post office. All for one fee.  Boy, did I use them a lot. I was sending out releases every week or so.

The Society of Medallists was the firm’s captive medal series. I sent out press releases on Issue #75 by Herring Coe, a Texas sculptor, my first for this series. And later that same year, 1967, Issue #76 by Donald Miller, featuring five forms of life in a five-sided medal.

At this time it was common for a local newspaper to have a coin columnist or a stamp-and-coin columnist. These would often carry new issues of medals. I compiled my own list of these columnists around the country. In addition to normal news outlets – wire services and large newspapers – I would include these local columnists as well.

But the big story was the New York Times. I made a point to befriend a coin columnist at the Times, which had three while I was at Medallic Art. The best was Tom Haney. He would run items in his Sunday coin column virtually everything I would send him. There were times, in fact, I would back off sending him something because I was in every Sunday for several weeks running.

He got a two part award from the Numismatic Literary Guild. The Guild sent a plaque to the writer for the newspaper, and a medal to the newspaper to be given to the writer. At a ceremony they would switch awards. Tom told me after his ceremony, it was the first time ever he had been invited to the Times’ publisher’s office.

Contact with book authors was also part of my duties. Since Medallic Art dominated the issuance of Presidential Inaugural medals, no book could be written on the subject without MACO input. This was true for the first of these, by Richard Dusterberg, and later by Neil MacNeil. Both authors visited the plant where we could assist in providing them with accurate, vital data.

In 1974 at the height of interest in limited editions, Terry Kovel, the wife and co-author to Ralph Kovel, visited Medallic Art for a 2-day stay gathering a list our medal issues that could be considered of limited issue. This was published in their book, The Kovels’ Collector’s Guide to Limited Editions, published by Crown.

Here we should mention a book we did not aid. Andrew J. Kozar wrote R. Tait McKenzie, The Sculptor of Athletes, published in 1975. The author rushed into print without fully researching McKinze’s medals or contacting the company. Despite the fact MACO reproduced most all of McKanzie’s medallic work, the author made only one fleeting mention of the firm.

As a result his text on medals is obscure, omitting several sports medals that should have been included, and duplicating the Playground and Recreation Association Medal (1929-031).

There have been many more book authors in which we furnished data on medallic work. Some of these were for individual artists, as Lea De Long writing on Christian Peterson, on topical interests, as Jewish medals by Daniel Fridenberg, or Statue of Liberty medals by Paul J. LaJoie, or Einstein medals by Harry Flower.

My greatest delight however, as a medal publicist was getting a medal struck by Medallic Art company on the cover of Time magazine. This occurred in the January 24, 1969 issue for the Nixon Inaugural Medal by Ralph J. Menconi. Ironically, here again it resulted from activity on the same block as the New York plant. A photomontage was made by a photographer whose studio was directly across the street on East 45th from Medallic Art. Great way to end that year and this report.

Nixon Inaugural Medal

Nixon Inaugural Medal

Read Full Post »

Copper alloys are widely used for striking coins and medals. Even those items struck in silver and gold are alloyed with copper. I once wrote that copper is the world’s most popular coinage metal. Certainly before the 21st century when we had coins struck in bronze, silver and gold they were alloyed with copper. That holds true for medals as well.

Both bronze and brass are copper alloys. Both have the secondary metal of zinc. The two elements are found merged in nature. The Bronze Age existed since 4,000 BC. So not only is copper one of man’s most useful metals, it has been so for a very long time.

Technically any copper-zinc alloy with a zinc content of ten percent or less is bronze (it can also have some of the zinc replaced with tin and still be bronze). A content of ten to 15 percent zinc is red brass. When the zinc content reaches 16 percent not only is it brass, often called medal brass, it displays the golden hue we all recognize as brass.

Coinability – the ease of striking – and malleability increase with greater zinc content. Copper is harder than zinc. More zinc content the alloy is less hard and easier to work with.

Color also changes with the increase percentage of zinc. Adding additional amounts of zinc in the alloy changes copper-red to brass-yellow. At that 16 percent – 84 copper 16 zinc – the gold brass color is firmly entrenched.

Toning of the final alloy also changes. Copper tones slowly. A freshly struck cent even in bronze will tone in time, about six month’s time in normal handling, from one hand to another, from copper-red to brown. (It can also tone in harsh atmosphere conditions.) In contrast brass does not tone like bronze, it is fairly permanent in its golden tone.

Numismatists – and certainly the public — who cannot determine any precise formulation of copper-zinc by inspection alone, must describe a coin or medal by its color. If the piece is brown, it is bronze. If the piece is golden yellow, it is brass. (If it is heavy and golden color could be gold, of course.) Brass is widely used because it does closely resemble gold.

In medal rank, brass is beneath bronze: Gold, Silver, Bronze, Brass. If there were four platforms at Olympic Games, the lowest one would be brass. Bronze is more important than brass in the public’s mind. Bronze is more expensive than brass. Zinc is cheaper than copper. The greater the zinc content the less the cost, and certain bronze alloys are four times more expensive than certain brass alloys.

Thus bronze has the perception of greater value than brass. Bronze is more éclat, it has a higher esteem, respect, repute, and is more desirable to everyone.

The chart below is a study of bronze and brass alloys, not from a metallurgical viewpoint, but from a numismatic viewpoint. Coins and medals have been made of virtually every one of these alloys.

Types of Bronze and Brass Alloys

Copper % Zinc % Tin %
Bronze or Brass Alloy Cu Zn Sn Other Notes
Medal bronze 92-97 0-2 1-8 Exact formulations not exclusive for medals.
Coinage bronze 95 1 4 Also called French bronze.
Modern coinage bronze 95 5 Most malleable bronze.
Phosphor bronze 90-95.5 4.3-10 T-0.2P Trace phosphor.
Statuary bronze (standard) 90 3 7 Best alloy for fine castings.
Commercial bronze 90 10 Easily available.
Gun metal 90 10 Strongest bronze alloy.
Red brass 85-90 10-15 Rich low brass, pinchbeck.
Jeweler’s bronze 88 12 Actually red brass.
Engraver’s brass 85 15 Red brass; ideal for engraving.
Medal brass 84 16 For brass “gold” color.
Oriental “bronze” 84 1 5 10 Pb High lead content.
Tombac 82-99 1-18 Also called Mannheim gold, Dutch metal.
Gilding metal 80-90 10-20 Not unattractive in natural state, but usually plated.
Tin brass 79 20 1 One percent tin content.
Nickel brass 79 20 1 NI One percent nickel content.
Bell metal 78-80 20-22 For bell casting.
Copper nickel 75-80 20-25 Ni British cupro-nickel; also called nickel bronze or coinage nickel metal.
Bath metal 75 24.7 0.3 Ag Wood’s metal; very soft, poor wearing quality.
Cartridge brass 67-70 30-33 Pb, Fe Trace of lead; iron 0.07% max.
Yellow brass 67 33 Widely called OROIDE or goldene.
Speculum metal 67 33 Takes a high polish. Sometimes found with minute arsenic, antimony or zinc to improve whiteness and reflectiveness.
Nickel-silver 66-72 10-24 10-18 Ni Formerly German-silver; expensive, high nickel cost.
Muntz metal 59-62 38-41 Pb Lead 0.6% maximum.
White brass 51 49-65 Gray-to-white color.

Read Full Post »

Manhattan Beach medal

Manhattan Beach medal

James R. Gill has just issued his first medal: A medal for the centennial of his hometown of Manhattan Beach, California. Struck by Northwest Territorial Mint, the medal was recently delivered, setting off a wave of marketing and publicity efforts by promoter Gill.

Google Alert sent me a news article where I learned of Gill’s medallic efforts which led me to his web site and further information about his town’s centennial activities. The more I read, the more I realized James Gill had done everything right in creating his medal. I contacted him asking for an interview for an article chronicling exactly how he did this.

I wanted to learn every step he took in the process of creating a city anniversary medal he had managed to establish as a tribute to his beloved hometown. This information, I thought, might be useful to others who would like to do the same for their city. Indeed, Gill had done everything right.

Where did you get the idea to do such a medal? I asked Gill.

“I’ve been a coin collector my entire life, since I was a kid. I loved them, collected them. I’m from Manhattan Beach, third generation, so I have a passion for our town. Some time ago I acquired a 75th Anniversary Medal somebody had done, but I wasn’t impressed by it. So for many years when we got to our centennial year I wanted to create one that was more special than that 75th one.”

And where did he obtain that 75th medal? He bought it on eBay. James Gill, 46, was a lifelong resident of Manhattan Beach on California’s southern shore.

“It’s a wonderful beach town,” he related in that interview, “a suburb of Los Angeles, but completely different atmosphere than anything in Los Angeles. The people are different, the way of life is different. Here we wear shorts and flip-flops at all ages, we are outdoors a lot. The beach is our front yard. We have lovely weather all year round, sixties and seventies in the winter time. You pay for that convenience and great weather that’s why mortgages are so high.”  I smiled at that remark.

One of the most important clues to the success of his medal project was that he started early, in 2008, four years ahead of the centennial year, 2012. He learned, early on, he had to deal with municipal bureaucracy, and ultimately a Centennial Committee.

“In the very beginning I began talking to City Council members. I knew since I would use the city seal on the medal, I would have to get the city’s approval. I began by talking to the Council members. They liked it. But they had to wait to see who was going to be on the Centennial Committee.

“Would it be a Centennial Committee decision? Nobody would be sure how to approach such a thing. So it was all up in the air in the beginning. I applied to be on the Committee, but I wasn’t chosen, and that was a good thing since it would have been, they tell me, a conflict of interest.

“The Centennial Committee was a little slow getting started. I would say they began a year before our centennial year, in January a year ago.

Gill had formulated his plan, underwriting the entire project. “From the very beginning I proposed that I would do it all, to create the medal, to pay the money to make the dies, and put up all the upfront money. Also that I would share those proceeds with the committee after I covered my costs. The month the Committee was formed they had an email from me with the proposal, with photographs, with artwork that had been created at that point.

Months before Gill had done extensive work on the design. Taking photographs. Searching the internet for desired images. Selecting those that were significant to the local area. He had taken a bowl from his kitchen to draw a large circle and began arranging design elements – the city pier for the obverse, the city seal, a surfer, a volleyball player for the reverse – all to fit inside that circle.

As a savvy internet user he had gone on the net to find a medal producer who could mint the “coin” he had in mind.  “Northwest Territorial Mint popped up as being one of the leaders, so I contacted them. I learned they are here in the United States of America, it is their main business. I knew that is where I wanted to go.

“I emailed my designs to them. Beginning in 2009 I began working with Northwest Territorial Mint designers on their end, and come back to me with that they thought would work on a coin. We went back four or five times changing the art. I think they felt bad, they sat around on my designs for a year and a half until we finally got the go-ahead.

“The Committee had no input. Their only concern was that if a medal was to be done by the committee it would have to be a public [design] contest, people would turn in art work and [a winner] chosen. I know that would be a problem. But as I learned about this process, that somebody with a beautiful design, artists at Northwest Territorial Mint would have to change it around dramatically and it would look nothing like the one designed.

“I tried to express [the impracticality of a design contest] to them, but the bottom line was the committee was not interested in doing a coin, even though they did one for the 75th, they just didn’t care.

“The leaders of the committee didn’t care. They were already involved with T-shirts and hats, not selling as many as they had hoped, and it was more work than they had hoped. They felt like getting involved in more merchandise was not what they wanted to do. They hadn’t taken time to read my proposals that I was going to take all the risks, do all the work, and share the money.

Then how did you convince them? I asked.

“After going to four or five meetings, speaking up, asking have you looked at my coin proposal? Anybody have any questions about it? Finally, there was a meeting I got to speak, It was literally November [2011], a month and a half before the centennial was to begin. I had almost given up hope, and I got a chance to explain to them, you are not at risk for anything, I am doing the whole thing, I want your permission to go do it. They took a vote and I got approved and off I went.

Step by step.

I asked Gill to relate the steps he had taken to create his medal.

“Around 2008 I got this idea I was going to do this, I got it in my head. I grabbed my camera and went down to the beach. Our iconic image here in Manhattan Beach is our pier. There have been several versions of it but it goes back to the 1900s. It’s an iconic image for us here. First thing I did was I ran down there and took pictures of the pier at different angles in how I would want it to appear on the medal. I came home and printed these on my printer.

“For the reverse I tried to think of the biggest things in Manhattan Beach I would want to have on the medal. Surfing and volleyball are two things that are extremely popular here. I played around with images from Google, I printed those, cut them out, and arranging them on the medal, and see how those would come out.

“Beginning in 2009 I began working with Northwest Territorial Mint designers on their end, and come back to me with that they thought would work on a coin. We went back four or five times changing the art. I think they felt bad, they sat around on my designs for a year and a half until we finally got the go-ahead. I think several employees and come and gone before I actually got the okay to do it.

“I got the all [the images] in there. The one thing I was excited to get in there, and leery what the committee would say about it — my initials. On one of the coins I own was the 1909 VDB penny. I knew I wanted to have my initials on this coin. I stuck them in there on the reverse and hear of anybody on the committee complain about them. But they didn’t. Had they caught it. That was the one piece I was worried about. I got the surfing in. I got the volleyball in. I got the city seal in. I got the pier in.

Persistency pays off. I was impressed with the tenacity Gill had toward this project. I said “Sounds like you were pretty persistent.”

“I was,” re replied. “That was one thing that the council members I had spoken with said — to be persistent, to keep going to those meetings and keep speaking out. It paid off.”

I turned the conversation to the actual medal. “What was your first impression when you first saw the medal?” I asked.

“I was very nervous to see it. I had never dealt with Northwest Territorial Mint before. I had very high expectations. In my coin collection I own some of the most beautiful coins in the world, a 1910 gold coin and the 1905 Indian gold coin, and I even have one of the one-ounce Indian head gold nickels.”

“I had high hopes. Very high hopes. When the box came and I opened it I was ecstatic. I think the [medals] turned out exceeding my expectations!

There’s a testimonial statement from a very satisfied customer:

              The medals turned out exceeding my expectations!

I asked how the sales staff had treated him.  “Sales staff was good. They gave me what I wanted. I knew what I wanted. Sales staff was great working with me. What was interesting was dealing with the artists.

How was that? The contact with them?

“No. I never had any contact with them. I never spoke with them. I never had a direct email with them. It was [always in contact with] the sales staff for the art.

“That was a little scary, because, you know, I didn’t have a direct conversation with any [artist]. But the bottom line they did do a great job, they got [understood] what I was trying to do. And they knew

what actually works on a coin. They did a great job. They never really complained when I had an issue with something minor. So that all went rather well.

Company artists can take a bow.

Marketing the medal.   I then asked about how he was marketing the medal.  Who are you selling it to?  

“This has been the exciting part about it. I am a big social person.

My career has been based around the internet and computers. I was a financial stock trader, working with computers for 16, 17 years. This was an interesting part of it for me, selling the coin.

“I knew the reality, truly the market was Manhattan Beach people, cause the coins are twice the value of silver, so its not the collector who will go for my coins, for intrinsic value or whatever. Its just the people who love and want a keepsake from Manhattan Beach. So I knew my target market was Manhattan Beach.

“I knew I wanted to have a web site. I knew the fastest and easiest way for me to reach a lot of people and get the word out was Facebook. Within a week of receiving my coins I had a Facebook page up and running. The day I received my coins I had it for sale on Facebook.

“So that was all free, easy and very viral. You get your friends looking at it and the minute you hit the like button for your fan page, for your coin, their friends see that they liked on your fan page. That was the fastest, cheapest way to get busy with this. So I was immediately selling coins on Facebook.

“Phase Two was eBay. A very inexpensive way to get it up and running right away was on eBay. So I have an ongoing auction on eBay for people who search eBay for Manhattan Beach stuff. Had that up and running.

“Phase Three for me was to get its own web site up. So now there is a web site called MANHATTANBEACHCENTENNIALCOIN.COM

That is the main web address and I have even created a short web address so I could advertise it faster to the locals. MB100COINS.COM points straight to MANHATTANBEACHCENTENNIALCOIN.COM

“So I have a shortcut one that I can easily advertise that people remember quickly and then a longer one they can find when searching the web.”

Gill reported sales have been “moderate. He has sold 45 silver coins, and 20 brass medals.

“In two months I have about fifty percent of my initial investment back. That includes a second order of silver that is coming in a few days. The bullion payment is also in those figures. I had about fifty percent recovery at this point. I am happy now with that as I feel I will not have trouble breaking even. And that was my main goal — just get it made, break even, and be a part of Manhattan Beach history with this coin.

You mentioned that sales are coming in through three avenues. Is there one that is more successful than the others or is it spread out?

“It’s definitely spread out. Facebook was the fastest thing up and running so I probably had more sales via Facebook, whether or not they purchased them on Facebook or went to my web site from Facebook. I would definitely say my best marketing was Facebook.

“I have also begun another phase here which is publicity. I got it in the local newspaper here. That’s how you learned about me. So I have been in the local newspaper. I am kind of surprised I expected a huge slug of orders come through after that article got out. I think I have sold only five coins from that article.

“Its cumulative.” I said. “Are you planning on getting on local TV?”

“I got on TV in the very beginning. I got a few orders from that too. I tried to record. But I never caught it. It was late in the afternoon. I hope to get a little more of that out.

“Then I am going to local businesses to put a flyer in their windows.

The sales pitch being that the proceeds also benefits the centennial. Hopefully I can put some flyers up in the windows.

“Also I will go to local meetings. I will go to a Rotary meeting. I will go to organizational meetings to also get the word out.”

“Are any local merchants selling the medals for you?” I asked.

“No. I spoke to the Chamber of Commerce about getting it in their office because they do sell items of merchandise about Manhattan Beach there. It would be a perfect place to have it, but they are in a transitional period right now, they just let the CEO go and I am not getting a lot back from them.

“Also if I am selling the silver medal for $85, could they buy it from me at $70 and then sell it for $85? I am a little leery of doing that because I don’t have that many medals to sell to recoup my investment. So I would rather have them refer people to my web site, [but they declined].

Always thinking ahead, I asked: Are you ready to design your second medal? Any subjects in mind?

Gill replied: “You know, all sorts of ideas run through my head. Where could I go with this? If I considered this a very big success. I guess I have an eye for coins and what [designs] looks good on a coin. I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t know what’s out there to design.

Overall, James Gill, how do you view your experience with your first medal project?

“I enjoyed it very much. I am very proud of the results. It was a great experience. I would open my eyes to a second medal.”

Read Full Post »