Archive for the ‘Medallic Objects’ Category

Prompted by an Art Magazine Two Innovators Created a New Class of Numismatic Items

Not often is a new class of numismatic items born. We have seen this only twice in the last fifty years. The most recent is the bullion item – coins and medals struck solely for their precious metal content.

December 2015 is the fiftieth anniversary of the other, an entirely new numismatic genre that has swept the world for its popularity among medallic artists. This class of medals is unique to the numismatic field – the medallic object.

Created in the art world, but produced in the medal world, it was a marriage that occurred among three New York City institutions. Not an accident, it was a concept created by an art magazine, an art museum curator, and an art medal manufacturer. For medallic objects are an art creation, the mating of modern art with medallic form.

As a Christmas gift promotion in 1965, Art in America magazine wanted to offer its readers something available nowhere else. Their relationship with the leading artists of the time prompted them to promote a new format bas-relief created by top sculptors, yet in a size suitable for intimate display.

The magazine’s officials commissioned a curator of modern art at New York’s Whitney Museum, Edward Albert Bryant, to manage the project. He contacted the most prominent sculptors in the modern art field. Seven accepted his challenge – to create a modern art work that could be made in a small size.


Ernest Trova “Falling Man”

The variety of their creations expressed their current work. Sculptor Ernest Trova, for example, was at the time creating a series of major sculptures in a series best described as “Falling Man.” How to transfer this concept to a smaller venue?

Trova solved this with a brilliant design of seven human figures aligned inside a circle with a bright red enameled arrow pointing with a subtle thrust of a Man in downwards motion — no matter how the piece was rotated. He added a legend in a raised panel circumscribing the rim.

His design met the form of a medal but was unlike anything ever produced before. It was the birth of a new sculptural work in medallic form, embracing modern art in a new class of numismatic items. A class that was to remain unnamed for two decades.


Harold Tovish “Meshed Faces”

Six other sculptors created models where their imagination and mannerisms ran unfettered. Boston sculptor Harold Tovish interspersed two human heads he called Meshed Faces. His anepigraphic design denoted a dehumanization of our modern culture with mechanical forms.

Once curator Bryant had models in hand he sought a way to replicate them. His search did not take him far as he found nearby Medallic Art Company ideal for the task. He met with the firm’s president, William Trees Louth.


Edward Bryant and Bill Louth

The two men pored over the models discussing how best to make the final items. Accustomed to striking the company’s medallic output, Louth suggested striking the items in medallion size. Bryant wanted something larger since dies at that time were limited to no greater than five-inch diameter. The obvious answer, Louth proposed, was making them each as electrogalvanic casts – galvanos.

Once the size decision was made, Louth further suggested striking several as conventional medals, and creating even a smaller size as a pin that could be worn. Bryant was elated at those suggestions.

ArtInAmericaCoverTovish’s model then could be made as a 12-inch galvano – which Art in America called “wall piece” – a 2¾-inch medal called a “desk piece,” and a 1-inch “jewelry pin.”

Next discussion was the finish to be applied to each. Every design had to have a distinctive patina. Here, they felt, the artist should have some say to ensure the final work adhered to the artist’s original vision.

While Louth entered orders for his craftsmen to commence producing the items, Bryant wrote the article “Christmas For Connoisseurs” for the magazine, with full-page color illustrations of the seven avant-garde items.

The article appeared in Art in America’s December-January 1965-66 issued to be in readers’ hands during the gift-buying season. At the back of the magazine, among small gallery ads, was published a full-page ad offering the seven items for sale.


Constantino Nivola “Loving Couple”

The ad touted “An Exceptional Collecting Opportunity. Relief Sculptures in Limited Editions.” The work of all seven artists – well-known to the magazine’s readers for their reputation and celebrity status – were offered as Wall Pieces (galvanos), medals, and pins. Only two artists’ creations were offered in all three options: Tovish’s Meshed Faces, and Constantino Nivola’s impressionistic Loving Couple, an expression of Man and Nature beneath a dream cloud.

Four of the seven items were issued in circular form. In addition to Tovish’s Meshed Faces. Elbert Weinberg, working in Rome, submitted his Salome in four dancing poses within the circular format. Perhaps his creation could be considered humanistic as it displayed four human figures.


James Wines

The design by James Wines, known for expressing architectural influence in his sculptural work at the time, continued this theme in the medallic rendition. His design was the only one with open work, a small aperture near the lower edge.

Roy Gussow created The Flow of Water over the Edge of a Pool. Bryant described it in modern art language: “Elegantly refined relief represents the purists and geometric direction in contemporary sculpture. With admirable simplicity of pure form and inventive use of highly reflective surfaces, he has created a work with the magic of changing patterns.”


Roy Gussow “The Flow of Water”

The museum curator called Gussow’s design a kaleidoscope with its reflective surface highly polished by the craftsmen in the finishing department of Medallic Art Company. Other pieces were given more customary patinas, where acids were employed to apply color and protective surface.

Chryssa’s piece was, perhaps, most unusual of all. It replicated the surface of lettering found in newspapers of the time, where metal lines of type were gathered in columns and a curved mat made for printing on high speed presses. Chryssa, whose full Greek name was Vardea Chryssa Mavromichaeli, cast her model using a method somewhat similar to printer’s technology.


Vardea Chryssa Mavromichaeli casting

For the seven artists their intent was to create a suitable relief. For the manufacture the intent was to render those reliefs in suitable medallic form as attractively as possible, Not one of them knew they had created an entirely new art form. Yet they had given birth to the medallic object.


Six months later, in France, where modern art is de rigeur, the Paris Mint issued its first item that could be termed a medallic object. Roger Bezombes, an accomplished medailleur, created in 1966 his first of what was to become a persistent passion for the new art form. It was a uniface piece bearing a portrait of Ceres, the goddess of the earth and agriculture, with open work for eyes and mouth.


Roger Bezombes “Star of Joy”

His most noted work, however, is Star of Joy, which Americans call Sunburst for its multiple sunrays. The 24 rays surround the sun in the center, polished and containing the lettering. In contrast, the sun’s rays are style rude, an art term meaning “rough style.”

Bezombes’ imagination embraced an unfettered creativity, wild and highly imaginative. He pushed the envelope in design, shape, spatial form, and the use of fabricated objects. He made occasional use of buttons and sea shells, and delighted in making large eyes with tiny balls as the iris.

He once designed a stork, fully upright, made of two dozen scissors. Another work was a light bulb where the filaments appear in multiple shapes and discs. For another he added eyeglass frames on an obverse portrait that morphs into – what is it? – a severed bicycle on the reverse.

Like Bezombes, other abstract artists were attracted to the new art form for its ease of replicating their highly imaginative models. Picasso made a medal of table spoons, another as a dinner plate.

Once the Paris Mint began producing these unconventional medals it attracted artists throughout Europe and even the Orient as their popularity spread among the coterie of world artists.

The new form was encouraged by one devotee fortunately in a position of influence: Pierre deHay, one-time director of the Paris Mint. During his administration modern art was welcomed to be rendered into medallic form, and these creative objects were produced in increasing numbers. At the peak of this phenomenon, during Director deHay’s reign in the early 1980s, the Paris Mint placed in production one new art medal a day, predominantly medallic objects!

By 1985 its collection had grown to the point where it needed a separate catalog. The minions at the Paris Mint gathered and photographed the work of 124 artists, mostly French; 302 items divided into three classes – medallic objects, plaquettes, and what they called medallic enrichies, a medal with added adornments.

But what to name this modern art form? They chose “medallic objects” as the catalog’s title – la Medaille-Object – the first time this term appeared in print. The term became accepted first by the artists, then by collectors and ultimately added to numismatic lexicography.

American artists, however, could not match the French pace. Among a handful of early medallic objects made in America was one by modernist Roy Lichtenstein, Salute to Airmail, in 1969. But what American artists did was to band together in 1982, forming the American Medallic Sculpture Association to encourage all forms of medallic creations. Previously, artists in England had formed British Art Medal Society in 1979, followed by artists in Canada who established the Medallic Art Society of Canada in 2000. Similar medallic organizations have been established in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere.

Exhibitions of these national societies embraced medallic objects, as did the world organization, the Fédération Internationale de la Médaille d’Art, everywhere reverently called “Feed-’em” for its FIDEM initials. Its international exhibits of recently created coins and medals are held every other year or so. For thirty years, that which had been conventional, typical, medals gradually became dominated by atypical medallic objects.

Two FIDEM congresses have been held in America, appropriately at the American Numismatic Association’s Colorado Springs headquarters. The first in 1987 attracted 694 artists from 25 countries. Well-known American sculptor Mico Kaufman created the official Congress medal, an avant-garde design in oval shape.

The second American FIDEM Congress was held in 2007 with exhibits from 576 artists representing 30 countries. A dramatic, innovative medal, issued by ANA, was created by New England artist Sarah Peters. It was perhaps the most innovative FIDEM Congress Medal ever! Bearing a human figure on both sides, male on one, female on the other, it was designed in modified quadrant shape where four could be interconnected together forming somewhat of a circle and rearranged in three other shapes.

The bulk of both of these exhibitions, like others nationally, prior and since, were unquestionably, medallic objects.

Just what are medallic objects? How would one define them? Medallic objects are modern art in medallic form. While inspired by the medallic genre they do not have the restrictions of coins or medals.

They must be permanent, capable of being reproduced, usually made of metal and, in most issues, have a shape other than round. Medallic objects break the rules of circular coin and medal design, go beyond any limitations, transcend any technical restraint, overcome medallic prejudice, in order to become interesting, aesthetic objects for the eye to behold.

Usually medallic objects are free-standing; infrequently called “standing medallic art.” But to stand alone is not even a requirement. They are not small statues, they are not upright or overgrown medallions – medallic objects are a new sculptural entity, indeed, that in fifty years has found its niche in the art and numismatic world.

The painter crafts his art in color and shadows. The sculptor crafts his art in forms and planes. The medallist crafts his art in relief and miniature size. But the creators of medallic objects, while they may be guided by the precepts of these graphic and glyptic arts, are not bound by restrictions of any art.

If I had to characterize their form I would say medallic objects are bas-relief unleashed. Their appeal will grow as collectors discover there are art objects in the field beyond coins and medals, yet inspired by what they have been collecting all along.

Satisfying a Medallic Artist

Harold Tovish

The late Harold Tovish

Sculptor Harold Tovish visited Medallic Art Company’s plant in New York City in 1965 to choose the finish of the 12-inch galvano of his relief that Art in America magazine called “Dehumanization of Mechanical Forms,” but what we called “Meshed Faces.”

The smaller medal was satisfactory, but he wanted the larger galvano to be different, the best art possible. Customarily the artist picks a patina color from the finishes that can be applied to a medallic item. While brown and green patinas are most common — the easiest to apply — virtually any color can be applied with different acids and different procedures. These are not paints nor coatings, these are permanent color of the metal itself

Toviah was more concerned with the surface texture than color. The satin surface of the wide rim enclosed a clear background and a pair of “faces” — all of smooth texture. Having all three congruent surfaces smooth is a no-no. It’s bad art in medallic sculpture.

As the master sculptor that Tovish was he wanted a texture on the background between the smooth rim and the smooth faces. It is good art to have contrast adjacent to or between two smooth surfaces.

The craftsmen in Medallic Art’s finishing department, notably the late Hugo Greco was assigned the task to satisfy Tovish no matter what. Give him whatever he wanted. With Tovish by his side Greco tried the usual techniques using chasing tools — dapple and matting punches — to apply the texture to the surface of the copper galvano.

Nothing he tried seem to satisfy Tovish. Greco tried tiny beads of acid to form minute incuse areas in the surface. Even that was unsatisfactory, it looked like the craters on the moon.

In desperation, Hugo picked up a beer-can opener, the kind with a hard metal curved point that leaves a triangular opening in the can. He starting scratching the surface in the background forming hundreds of small incuse circles and arcs. After a few minutes of this he raised the galvano above his head for better light. Tovish raised his head to observe the result.

“That’s it!” shouted Tovish.


  1. Objects of Desire by D. Wayne Johnson, The Numismatist, September 2007.
  2. Paris Mint, la Medaille-Object, 1985.
  3. FIDEM Exhibition Catalog, ANA, 1987.
  4. FIDEM Exhibition Catalog, ANA, 2007.
  5. Report From the 2007 FIDEM Congress, E-Sylum, September 23, 2007, volume 10, number 38, article 9.

Read Full Post »

Wright Brothers Medal

Wright Brothers Medal

HERE’S a Top Ten Topic that is popular both with medal collectors and medal issuers. Aviation has inspired Americans even before the Wright Brothers momentous event at Kitty Hawk in 1904. As Americans became interested in airplanes, aviators and aviation, their interest in medals honoring these events in the skies have followed.

As a collecting topic it has just about everything a collector could desire. Fantastic medals. Great art. Famous people. Airplane images. Medals bestowed to well-known recipients. Medals in series. Medals of just about every kind. And some really rare items!

It’s a topic to consider in medal collecting whether you’re a frequent flyer or not!

Medallic Art Company has created its share of aviation medals. But when I started cataloging all the medals made by the firm, I choose a term to include more than just airplane medals. I included Balloon flights, preceding heavier than air, under the Aviation umbrella as well. In early 1960s, when all the talk was about space and space flight, I opened that umbrella even wider. The topic category I finally choose was Aviation and Space.

By the time I left the firm in 1977 – and had cataloged 6,121 medals up to that time – the card file was about two inches thick under that topic of Aviation & Space.. With about a hundred cards per inch there were about two hundred medals cited. This included every medal even if just one airplane was included in the air of a scene on the medal.

An airplane is a common device used by artists to fill in a blank sky. If it does not include clouds or birds, it has an airplane. But if the scene was intended to depict an era before 1900 then an airplane cannot be used – that would be incongruous.

But the interest in aviation is so strong that several medal publishers have issued series of aviation medals. President Art Medals of Vandalia Ohio – in the shadow of aviation history of Dayton and the Wright Brothers hometown – issued a popular aviation series. Most of the medals in the series were designed by Milton Caniff, cartoonist of Terry and the Pirates, who was himself an aviation buff. These were struck by Medallic Art Company.

The firm also struck a series of aviation interest, although it bore the name “Medal-of-the-Month Club.” Sponsored by Felicity Buranelli, an early aviation enthusiast, she started the series but was interrupted by World War II, so her ten issues were spread over 24 years. She ended the series with a portrait medal of her brother, Vincent J. Burnelli [he spelled his name different from her’s], a prominent airplane designer who was killed in World War II.

Her series of aviation medals so enthralled numismatist Harry Waterson, he wrote a book on Felicity and her medal series. The Medal-of-T he-Month Club Created by Felicity Buranelli, published 2012. He dug deep and found much background history on Felicity, the medals, and the aviators portrayed on her medals.

Shortly after the Wright Brothers made their flight in 1904, the Chicago Coin Club issued a brief series of aviation medals. In contrast, much later the Franklin Mint issued a Flight History Medal Series and frequently had medals of aviation history appear in its other medal series.

Charles Lindbergh Medal

Charles Lindbergh Medal

So many medals were issued in honor of Charles Lindbergh that it forms a sub-topic of Aviation Medals, if not its own topic. The U.S Mint issued a Lindbergh Medal by Laura Gardin Fraser in 1928. Medallic Art issued Lindbergh Medals by Charles Hinton and Victor Holm. Lindbergh was also the subject on several relief portrait plaques.

Wright Brothers were obviously the subject of many medals. including the most impressive one for the pair’s installation of their busts at the Hall of Fame for Great American at New York University. Their portrait medal in this series was by created by Paul Fjele (MACO 1963-001-044).

Every medal museum and every aviation museum has medals in their collections and often on exhibit. Many of these are recipients’ medals bestowed to prominent achievers in the aviation field.

The list of medals that follows are those of American interest (from listings in my databank of American artists). It is not exhaustive, but I have tried to include something of every type of medallic item. That’s why you will find ingots, book ends and paperweights. I have not included medals issued from other countries, many of which – like Germany and France – were active issuers of aviation medals.

So the collector can be introduced to the broad spectrum of this topic, this list can serve as an enticement. Join in the collecting pool. Dive in and collect aviation medals.

Selected Aviation Medals

From Dick Johnson’s Databank of American Artists Copyright © 2012 By D. Wayne Johnson

1918 Airplane Pilot Badge (by Herbert Adams) Collection: ANS (IECM) 21
Archives: Inventory of Am Sculpture [>1] IAS 74930120
Collection: Institute of Heraldry IAS 74930118
Collection: Fitchburg Historical Soc IAS74930119
1918 Airplane Observers Balloon Observers Badge
Archives: Inventory of Am Sculpture [>1] IAS 74930123
Collection: Institute of Heraldry IAS 74930121
1954 Arnold (Henry H.) Aviation Medal (by Ulric Henry Ellerhusen) MAco 54-21
Society of Medalists:
1942 Society of Medalists 26th Issue.(Man’s Quest for Flight, by Benda Putnam MAco 30-1-26
Auctions: CAL 28:899, CAL 30:26, CAL 31:300-301, CAL 33:3026, CAL 35:2026; J&J 9:390, J&J 11:1046, J&J 23:48; PCA 48:1470, PCA 49:1218, PCA 55:1603,PCA 58:1840, PCA 65:1732, PCA 66:1241, PCA 67:857, PCA 69:1676, PCA72:1784, PCA 74:513,PCA 80:364[silver], PCA 80:1602
Collection: American Numismatic Society [>1] 1942.119.1
Collection: Cornell Univ Johnson Art Gallery 326
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) . . . . 1942a
Exhibited: AF6 {1955} F.I.D.E.M. Stockholm (1955) 52
Hall of Fame Series:
1967 Wright (Wilbur and Orville) Medal (by Paul Fjelde) MAco 63-1-44
Auctions: J&J 13:150, J&J 20:105; PCA 52:458[set/94], PCA 65:543[set/94], PCA 80:1732
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1903-12-17c
Exhibited: AE8 {1968} NSS 75th Anniv cat, illustrated 72
Medal of the Month Club Medals:
1941 Wright Brothers Medal (modeled by JulioKilenyi) MAco 41-68, (1)
Auctions: CAL 28:182; J&J 26:461
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1903-12-17
1941 Earhart (Amelia) Medal (modeled by Brenda Putnam) [three reverse die varieties] MAco 41-37, (2)
Auctions: CAL 28:182; J&J 25:140, J&J 26:461
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1937-7
1941 Hawks (Frank) Medal (possibly modeled by Julio Kilenyi) MAco 41-19, (3)
Auctions: CAL 28:182; J&J 26:461
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1938-8-23
Collection: Newark Museum, New Jersey [>1]. 26.2491
1941 Musick (Edwin C.) Medal (modeled by Julio Kilenyi) MAco 41-20, (4)
Auctions: CAL 28:182; J&J 19:796, J&J 26:461
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1938-1-11
1951 Mitchell (William Lendrum) Medal (modeled by Carl L. Schmitz) [two reverse die varieties] MAco 51-33, (6)
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1936-2-19
1951 Curtis (Glen H.) Medal (modeled by Carl L. Schmitz) MAco 51-35, (7)
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1930-7-23
1957 Sputnick I First Artificial Statellite Medal (modelled by Schmitz?) (8)
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1957-10-4
1957 Lahm (Frank P.) Medal (modeled by Carl L. Schmitz) [two reverse die varieties] MAco 57-90, (9)
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1963-7-8
1961 First Manned Orbital Space Flight Medal. (10)
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1961-4-12
1962 First United States Manned Orbital Space Flight Medal (obv port John H. Glenn Junior; modeled by Edmondo Quattrocci) MAco 62-89, (11)
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1962-2-20d
1965 Burnelli (Vincent J.) Medal (obv modeled by Edmondo Quattrocchi; rev by Joseph Di Lorenzo) MAco 65-65, (12)
Auctions: CAL 28:182; J&J 16:1240
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1964-6-22
Presidential Art Aviation Hall of Fame Series:
(Struck first by Medallic Art Co, then by Art Medals Inc; some portraits were designed by Milton Caniff; models by Rolf Beck.)
1971 Rickenbecker (Edward V.) Medal MAco 71-83-1, (1)
Auctions: J&J 11:213-214
1971 Doolittle (James Harold) Medal MAco 71-83-2, (2)
Auctions: J&J 11:213
1972 Lindbergh (Charles A.) Medal MAco 71-83-3, (3)
Auctions: J&J 11:214, J&J 11:218
1972 Cochran (Jacqueline) Medal MAco 71-83-4, (4)
1972 Earhart (Amelia) Medal MAco 71-83-5, (5)
Auctions: J&J 11:214, J&J 11:217
1972 Allen (William McPherson) Medal (portrait by Milton Caniff, modeled by Beck) MAco 71-83-6, (6)
Auctions: J&J 11:214
1972 Loening (Grover) Medal (portrait by Milton Caniff, modeled by Beck) MAco 71-83-7, (7)
1972 Kenney (George Churchill) Medal MAco 71-83-8, (8)
1973 Wright (Orville) Medal MAco 71-83-9, (9)
Auctions: J&J 11:213-216
1973 Wright (Wilbur) Medal MAco 71-83-10, (10)
Auctions: J&J 11:213-215
Complete Set of 11 medals:
Auctions: PCA 67:939, PCA 81:1928
Groups of less than Seven medals:
Auctions: J&J 11:214-215, J&J 14:504; CAL 33:1413
American Heritage Medallic Treasury of Am History Series:
1971 Lindbergh Solos to Paris 1927 Medal (by William Shoyer) FM AHS-15
Flight History Series:
1977 Biplane: World’s First Regularly Scheduled Airline Medal (by James Licaretz) FM FHS
National Commemorative Society Series:
1965 Wright Brothers Medal (by Albino Manca). . . . . . . .FM NCS-15
Auctions: J&J 16:1241
Collection: American Numismatic Society 1966.24.1
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1903-12-17b
1908 Aero Club of America Wright Brothers Medal (struck at U.S. Mint; Charles Barber copied Victor Brenner’s portraits on this by reversing the brothers for his 1909 Congressional Medal) ANS (IECM) 65, Smedley 81, Hahlo 107, 109; Baxter 134
Auctions: J&J 26:446
Collection: American Numismatic Soc [>1] 0000.999.6798
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1909-6-10
Collection: Smithsonian National Numismatic 381:300
Illustrated: The Numismatist 22:5 (May 1909) p134
Illustrated: F28b {1913} Kellog (2 October 1915) p22
Illustrated: van Alfen ANS Magazine 2:3 (Winter 2003) p68
Photo: Smithsonian Photo Archives Image J0123366
1909 Wright Brothers Plaquette (Mint Cat 343:55misattributes to Barber; obv only by Charles E. Barber, rev by Morgan) List 639, ANS (IECM) 19, 20; Baxter 211
Auctions: CAL 28:175; J&J 16:1218, J&J 19:1249, J&J 23:886
Collection: American Numismatic Soc [>1] 0000.999.45925
Collection: Cornell Univ Johnson Art Gallery 289
Collection: Smithsonian National Numismatic 343:55
Illustrated: The Numismatist 22:8 (August 1909) p231
Illustrated: Jaeger M61 {2008} U.S. Tokens, Medals, p128
1910 Progress in Aviation Medal (designed by Carl Schrieber as partof a Medallic Series. issued by Chicago Numismatic Society, struck by Whitehead & Hoag) Malpas 186
Auctions: J&J 15:23, J&J 17:607; CAL 32:1648, CAL 35:416; PCA 66:418, PCA 72:717
Collection: American Numismatic Society 1914.271.7
1912 Aviation Medal (struck by Paris Mint (by Francois Montagny))
Auctions: PCA 66:422
Collection: Cornell University Johnson Art Gallery 280
1918 Albert and Elizabeth Aerial Crossing of English Channel Medal (by Theodore Spicer-Simpson; struck by Medallic Art Co; issued by American Numismatic Society) [first time royalty travels by airplane: Belgian king & queen to attend King George and Queen Mary’s 25th wedding anniversary] MAco 18-9, Johnson 32, Baxter 282, Storer 960, Eimer 1961
Auctions: CAL 31:356-357; J&J 15:129, J&J 20:50, J&J 27:737; PCA 46:260, PCA 50:400, PCA 54:355, PCA 55:282, PCA 60:396, PCA 63:1889, PCA 65:1827, PCA 66:445, PCA 66:1293, PCA 67:343, PCA 69:1716,PCA 72:1907, PCA 81:531[silver], PCA 81:532, PCA 82:383;SCG 146:2086[Gorham archive]
Collection: American Numismatic Soc [>1] 0000.999.4421
Collection: Cornell Univ Johnson Art Gallery 365
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1918-7-5
Illustrated: The Numismatist 31:11 (November 1918) p 430
Illustrated: [Trees] Medallic Art in Commerce (1927) p 25
Sale pricelist: PCA 8:9 (23 October 2011) silver unc $395
Sale pricelist: PCA 8:10 (23 October 2011) bronze unc $195
1919 First Trans-Atlantic Airplane Flight Congressional Medal.(by Chester Beach)
Auctions: PCA 56:413
1926 Byrd (Richard E.) First North Pole Flight Medallion (modeled by Julio Kilenyi; struck by W&H) W&H (19)
Auctions: CAL 32:1653; J&J 12:320; NAS 72:444; PCA 43:443, PCA 50:480, PCA 57:493, PCA 63:431, PCA 73:682, PCA 81:543
Collection: American Numismatic Society 1930.163.3
Collection: National Air-Space Museum[>1] A19550089000
Collection: Newark Museum [>1] 29.2149
Illustrated: P15 {1974} Modern Medals (1974-75) p 14-15
Illustrated: van Alfen ANS Magazine 2:3 (Winter 2003) p 68
1927 Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce Charles Lindbergh Plaquette (modeled by John Gregory, struck by Robbins)
Auctions: CAL 29:453, CAL 30:214; J&J 7:174, J&J 22:839, J&J 25:154, J&J 26:471; PCA 42:1131, PCA 56:418, PCA 61:406, PCA 70:737, PCA 80:1696
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1927-5-20b
1927 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Spirit of Saint Louis Medal (also called ASME Aviation Medal) [dates/issue: 1927-29].(by Victor S. Holm) MAco 29-47
1927 Lindbergh (Charles) Transatlantic Flight Medallion (for Saint Louis banquet; modeled by Julio Kilenyi; struck by Whitehead & Hoag) W&H (16), Gabriel G3-9
Auctions: CAL 35:431; J&J 7:176, J&J 9:571, J&J 12:321, J&J 20:78; PCA 43:444, PCA 58:481-482, PCA 64:700, PCA 66:469, PCA 70:722, PCA 72:739, PCA 73:687, PCA 80:451, PCA 81:544
Collection: American Numismatic Society [>1] 1930.163.1
Collection: Newark Museum [>1] 29.2150
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1927-5-20h
Illustrated: The Numismatist 40:7 (July 1927) p 399
Illustrated: The Numismatist 40:9 (Sept 1927) p 522
Illustrated: M13 {1928} Medals Made in Newark p 15
1927 Lindbergh (Charles A.) Atlantic Flight Medal (by Armand Bargas, struck by Paris Mint)
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1927-5-20u
1927 Lindbergh (Charles A.) Cast Medallion (by Karl Frederick Skoog)
Auctions: J&J 7:175, J&J 25:151, J&J 26:470
1927 Lindbergh (Charles A.) First Sustained Flight Medal (by Adam Pietz)
Auctions: J&J 17:622; PCA 72:737, PCA 80:1517, PCA 81:1683
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1927-5-20j
1927 Lindbergh (Charles) Lone Eagle Medal (by Charles Hinton) MAco 27-7
Auctions: CAL 32:1654, CAL 35:429; J&J 8:154, J&J 13:140, J&J 15:34; PCA 48:1499, PCA 49:1293, PCA 50:1514, PCA 50:1516, PCA 55:1649, PCA 59:1920, PCA 60:1589, PCA 65:1834, PCA 66:1304, PCA 68:1667, PCA 69:391, PCA 70:723, PCA 73:685, PCA 74:689, PCA 81:546
Collection: American Numismatic Society 0000.999.45924
Collection: Cornell Univ Johnson Art Gallery 205
Illustrated: The Numismatist 41:3 (March 1928) p 150
1928 Lindbergh (Charles) Congressional Medal (by Laura Gardin Fraser, struck by U.S. Mint Philadelphia) Baxter 359, List 645, Reed 2860
Auctions: CAL 28:176; J&J 8:158-159, J&J 8:1110, J&J 10:65, J&J 16:1224, J&J 17:928, J&J 19:1263, J&J 22:841, J&J 23:37; NAS 72:445B; PCA 42:1132, PCA 43:1248, PCA 55:1652, PCA 58:1719, PCA 65:1701, P CA 69:1662, PCA 70:1292, PCA 72:1838-1839, PCA 81:1780
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1927-9-4
Illustrated: M19 {1963} Chamberlain figure 8
Illustrated: van Alfen ANS Magazine 2:3 (Winter 2003) p 69
Illustrated: Jaeger M61 {2008} U.S. Tokens, Medals p 129
1928 Ellsworth (Lincoln) Transpolar Flight Medal (obv by John R.Sinnock, rev by Adam Pietz; struck by U.S. Mint)
Illustrated: van Alfen ANS Magazine 2:3 (Winter 2003) p 68
Illustrated: Jaeger M61 {2008} U.S. Tokens, Medals p 128
1929 Curtiss-Wright Aviation Formation Plaquette (from the merger of Curtis Aeroplane & Motor Company with Wright Aeronautical Corporation, modeled by Jonathan M. Swanson) MAco 29-38
Auctions: J&J 25:133; PCA 49:1298, PCA 50:1517, PCA 55:1653
Collection: American Numismatic Soc [>1] 1981.11.32
Illustrated: M40 The Numismatist (October 1984) p 2071
Auction: Rago Art & Auction (12 May 2012) [1/11] lot .214
1929 Wright Brothers Medal (by Adam Pietz) MAco 29-29
Auctions: PCA 42:429, PCA 68:630, PCA 80:452, PCA 81:545 J&J 19:797
1930 National Air Races 10th Anniversary Medal. (by Oscar Hansen) MAco 30-53
Auctions: J&J 17:631, J&J 23:39, J&J 25:135; PCA 62:445, PCA 70:741, PCA 71:623, PCA 74:691
Collection: American Numismatic Soc [>1] 1940.100.2166
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1930d
Illustrated: The Numismatist 43:11 (Nov 1930) p 755
Illustrated: van Alfen ANS Magazine 2:3 (Winter 2003) p 68
1930 ca Elmira Glider Capital Plaquette (modeled by John Gregory)
1933 Balbo (Italo) Seaplane Squadron Atlantic Flight From Italy To Chicago World’s Fair Medal (struck in Italy, probably at Stefano Johnson, Milan; modeled by Publio Morbiducci, sculptor) Eglit CP.127
Auctions: CAL 28:261; J&J 8:149, J&J 23:45, J&J 25:242; PCA 63:439, PCA 64:713, PCA 65:525, PCA 67:418, PCA 72:753, PCA 80:330
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1933-6
1942 Curtiss-Wright Corporation Production Award Medal (unsigned but in style of Whitehead & Hoag)
Auctions: CAL 29:455, CAL 30:216; J&J 11:190
1961 Army Aviation Association President’s Medal (by Joseph E. Renier) MAco 61-50
1961 Naval Aviation 50th Anniversary Medal.(by Paul Fjelde) MAco 61-2
Auctions: CAL 30:501; J&J 7:692, J&J 16:1236, J&J 17:785, J&J 19:802, J&J 26:748; PCA 59:792, PCA 63:897, PCA 67:607, PCA 74:1521
Collection: American Numismatic Society 1991.115.9
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1961-2-17
Illustrated: P4 {1971} TAMS Journal 11:5 (October) p 188
1964 Saint Petersburg to Tampa 50th Anniversary Medal (by Ruth Harvey Hook; in style of Metal Arts, Rochester; issued by Treasureland Medallions, Florida)
Auctions: CAL 28:183, CAL 33:1411, CAL 35:422; J&J 15:62, J&J 23:65
Collection: American Numismatic Society 1984.97.73
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1914-1-1
1967 Kelly Air Force Base 50th Anniversary Medal (by Philip Kraczkowski)
Auctions: CAL 30:217
1969 Commercial Aviation 40th Anniversary Albuquerque Medal (by Paul G. Keith) MAco 69-176
Auctions: J&J 17:647, J&J 25:158
Collection: Princeton Library Newman (NC010) 1929-7-1
1977 Charles Lindbergh’s Transatlantic Flight 50th Anniversary Medal (by George Prud’homme; struck by Paris Mint)
Auctions: J&J 13:155, J&J 23:96, J&J 25:160, J&J 27:778
1973 Curtis Jenny Biplane Ingot (by Barbara Hyde) Baxter 296, King: 908, King 929
1927 Lindbergh (Charles A.) Plaque (by Lee Crawford)
Auctions: J&J 21:114
1930 Lindbergh (Charles A.) Circular Portrait Plaque (by William f. Englemann)
Auction: PCA 81:556
1940 United Air Lines Tennyson Poem Paperweight (48)
Auctions: CAL 32:1658
1927 Spirit of Saint Louis Bookends ((by Karl Frederick Skoog) with Charles Lindbergh portrait) [pair]
Auction:Rago Art & Auction (12 May 2012) [2/3] lot .183

Read Full Post »

two-pound modern British coin bears the edge lettering WE STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS, a quote attributed to Sir Isaac Newton. By fate, we find Sir Newton one of the participants in the development of the field by his position as Warden, later Master, of the London Mint (see entry for 1696).

A variant of Newton’s quote is “We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us – we provide the shoulders for those who follow us.” Because of that truth, the development of art medals will continue as a vibrant field in the future.

Art medals, like their brethren coins, document current people and events and last forever! The longevity of both diminutive sculptural objects are unsurpassed by any other art media or form of artistic expression.

We know what figures of history really looked like — Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, obscure Kings of the Middle Age, Columbus — by their portraits on coins, and medals. (Cleopatra was not the raving beauty of an Elizabeth Taylor!)

We learn that this documentation of human events by the artistic expression of bas-relief on small permanent metal artifacts become the thrust of museum acquisition. Further we celebrate why these objects hold such fascination for individual collectors. Art medals are preserved, venerated and intended to be viewed forever! I have tried to identify the 100 most important developments of the past six and one-half centuries — and the people involved — that have brought us to our present position in the field of art medals. We are standing on the shoulders of a small group of dedicated artists, artisans, mechanics, innovators and inventors, authors and administrators who came before us.

Some objects called “medallions” were created in the Roman world. But that development did not have a follow up. Scholars tend to give Pisanello credit for the invention of the art medal as the first of a continuous movement of an image and caption preserved in metal as art medals.

Numismatists, writers and catalogers in the field will find this chart useful. It pinpoints the year in which a technology was placed in use by advanced medalists or a first event which influenced the issuance of some medallic operation or class of medalllic items.

As an example, electroplating first occurred in England in 1840. Thus any medallic item made before 1840 cannot be goldplated or silverplated. (It was FIREGILDED.)

Medallic technology is still advancing. The 20th century was known as the century of the die-engraving pantograph (not entirely replacing hand engraving of previous 25 centuries). The 21st century will be known as the century of computer engraving. We continue to advance.

The symbol ► leads to the next related development. Books are cited from author’s master bibliography with a letter-number bold-face catalog number.

Year Innovation
1439 Pisanello [Pisano, Antonio(1397?-?1455) Italian sculptor, painter, inventor] creates first art medal of John Paleologos by lost wax casting in bronze from wax pattern. (►1888)
Circa 1450 First medallic plaques and plaquettes cast in metal (usually bronze) from single-sided wax pattern similar to cast reliefs which had been made for centuries. Medallic plaques bore inscriptions which previous reliefs had not.
1500 Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Famed Florentine artist, engineer and scientist envisioned blanking, coining dies, striking presses and hydraulics. He made drawings of these, published in his notebooks. He recorded the earliest theory of blanking and coining presses, no documentation exists of da Vinci actually building or using these innovations. However, he created some highly thoughtful solutions to coin techno- logy problems. A model of his blanking press was built from his drawings (financed by IBM) now on view in the Smithsonian Institution. It shows two blanking heads back-to-back that could accomplish dual blanking on the same strip. Leonardo’s screw press for striking papal seals is on view in the museum in his home town in northern Italy, Vinci. (►1520s)
1506 The first screw press for striking coins, seals and medals was developed by an Italian architect, Donato Bramante, and by 1506 he was blanking sheets of lead for striking seals for Pope Julius II (1503-13). Other early screw presses where built by Nicolo Grosso and used at the Florence Mint for blanking at approximately the same time. (►1520s)
1520s Striking medals with dies in a screw press, rather than producing by casting, becomes common particularly in Rome where Cesati, Leoni and Cellini struck papal medals. This developed independently from a struck Carrara medal of Padua in 1390 and a Sesto medal of Venice in 1393. While still of small module, early medals take on a bolder appearance than coins and ultimately are struck in larger diameters.
1530 The principle of the screw press illustrated and described by Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1574) in his work on goldsmithing; he used a screw press this year for striking lead seals for Pope Clemente VII (1523-34). (►1550)
1550 Max (Marx) Schwab, Augsburg, Germany, develops screw press for striking coins exclusively. Builds these, and roller presses, as first supplier of mint machinery. He was rebuffed in Germany and Italy, Schwab sells French Henri II equipment for the Paris Mint, it arrives in 1551. (►1553)
1552 Antoine Brulier in France develops the first blank cutting equipment; although primitive, it works, in contrast to da Vinci’s blanker of 1500, illustrated in his notebooks but apparently never built. (►1790)
1553 Mint technology is spread among many European countries by Etienne Bergeron (active 1550-63), an Augsburg mechanic who brought mint technology to the Paris,Troyes, Lorraine mints. Gifted mechanically, he was able to produce well-struck coins at each of the mints he set up. This was, in effect, the birth of milled coinage. (But he was driven out of Paris in 1560 by the moneyers whose technology he replaced.) (►1555)
1555 In Paris, Aubin Olivier attempts to use a screw press to produce an engraved edge on a special collar, perhaps before the blank is struck with obverse and reverse dies. (►1651)
1560 Eloy Mestrelle (?-1578) developed first screw press for the Tower Mint of Elizabeth I. In 1570 he struck a medal to complain his tools were confiscated. The obverse bore a bust of the Queen along with the inscription: WHAT ARE WE WITHOUT THEE? The reverse’s central device is the Tower with the plea: WHAT IS THIS WITHOUT TOOLS?
1562 Dissatisfied with existing methods of suspending medals for wearing (by drilling a hole in the medal), Dutch and British medalists began attaching a loop to the edge of medals. William Herbert First Earl of Pembroke Medal by Steven von Herwijek contained an integral loop. (Eimer 44).
1663 Louis XIV establishes the Academie des Inscriptons to devise legends and images for his comprehensive series of medals celebrating the major events of his reign.
1684 First calendar medal issued as medals were the ideal device to bear a calendar to identify a date. A British manufacturer, W. Foster, made his first calendar medals this year. Despite their apparent uselessness after the year portrayed they are widely collected as a popular topic or thematic.
1696 First branch mints established by Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) the first year he was named Warden if London Mint (named Master 1698). While dies were made in London, coins were struck at Bristol, Chester, Exeter, Norwich and York for the same reason of branch mints anywhere: to meet local demand for coin, to reduce costs of transporting bullion or struck coin.
1750 Heavier screw presses with cast iron frames were made of a single piece for greater strength at the mint in Kremnica. It could strike a coin or medal up to 40mm diameter. (►1812)
1756 English manufacturer Benjami Huntsman (1704-1776), invented a method of making crucible steel that proved most useful for dies. Matthew Boulton used Huntsman steel for his dies at his Soho Mint. Huntsman’s firm supplied steel suitable for dies to mints and medal makers throughout the world for nearly 200 years, until 1950.
1762 First proof surface struck on a medal made in England for the Pitt Club (it was placed in a watch crystal to protect the delicate reflective surface). (►1855)
1775 Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) and James Watt (1736-1819) in Birmingham join forces for building steam engines, the forerunner of using steam power for minting, and of the establishment of their private Soho Mint for the manufacture of coins, medals and tokens. (►1788)
1788 In their pursuit to manufacture products using steam power Boulton and Watt obtain a screw press, and within a year they had devised a way to use their steam engines to power a screw press powerful enough to strike coins and medals. (►1789)
1789 Matthew Boulton establishes Soho Mint in Birmingham. With partner James Watt, he built factory to build steam engines (1775), used these to go into metalworking, button making, and ultimately into coining; built coining presses and executed his first coin-age contract (1786), in effect establishing the first private mint, Soho Mint (1789), Boulton hires accomplished engravers, first Jean-Pierre Droz (1789), then Conrad Heinrich Kuchler (1793), won British coining patent (1790), struck Britain’s (cartwheel) copper coinage (1797). Boulton was considered to perform the coinage for the fledgling American nation – even establishing a branch mint in America – because of his quickly earned reputation as the most technically advanced mint any where by 1791 (Thomas Jefferson opposed this, so a federal mint was established in Philadelphia in 1792 but obtained blanks and technology from Boulton, Jefferson even tried to hire away Boulton’s chief technician Droz). Boulton helped rebuild England’s Tower Mint (1805), constructing all coining machinery and installing steam power. So efficient were his coining presses constructed at this time, they lasted until 1882. Boulton made tremendous improvements in diemaking, hubbing, blanking, coining and striking both coins and medals. A leader in the Industrial Revolution he is recognized for creating the first private mint and is considered the Father of the Modern Minting. (►1799)
1789 Boulton hires Jean-Pierre Droz (1746-1823) a Swiss die engraver, engineer, from the Paris Mint to prepare dies, improve minting equipment and help obtain business for their fledgling mint (and become the first factory artist). Droz was exceptional in that he had great talent for die engraving, but also rare mechanical aptitude. He invents the first split collar (virole brisée) in 1783 for edge lettering and submits this to Paris Mint. At the Paris mint, Droz and mechanic Philippe Gengembre devised a way to feed the blanks and remove the struck pieces while the press was still manually operated. Droz adds his feed and delivery system to a screw press which Boulton had automated with steam power, in effect creating the first automated coining press. He prepares many patterns for coins and medals and installs equipment and processes making Soho Mint the most technically advanced in the world. Somewhat unhappy, however, in his position at Soho Mint and his relationship with Boulton, Droz returns to France. (►1799)
1789 First use of clad metal for medals. Newly hired Jean-Pierre Droz uses Barton’s metal to strike the George III Recovery Medal in 1789 (Brown 311). Barton’s metal was formed by rolling strips of silver or gold on a copper core, with adhesion much like that used for Sheffield plate.
1793-5? First noncoin item struck at U.S. Mint, the Rickett’s Circus Medal (Jaeger-Bowers 23rd Greatest American Medals & Tokens). Not only is it the first medal, but also the first private (nongovernmental or national medal) struck by the U.S. Mint. Medals continue to be struck of both kinds (national medals struck continuously thereafter, private medals until 1956). (►1855)
1795 The hydraulic press is invented in England by Joseph Bramah; but it is not fully used by the British Royal Mint until more than fifty years later, and a century later at the Philadelphia Mint in America. (Great Britain ►1850s; United States ►1892)
1799 Jean-Pierre Droz returns to Paris from his employment with Matthew Boulton at the Soho Mint in Birmingham. He becomes General Administrator of the coins and medals, keeper of the mint museum and consultant to mints of the world for processes and equipment for making coins and medals.
1805 Matthew Boulton, at his Soho Mint produces his first edge lettering in raised letters on a medal he created in Birmingham. He gave to each of the officers engaged in the Battle of Trafalgar a medal that bore a portrait of Lord Nelson. Around the medal was the edge lettering: TO THE HEROES OF TRAFALGAR FROM M BOULTON. This was accomplished by the segmented collar (virole brisée) technology he learned from Droz, but occurred after Droz had left his employ. (►1850)
1812 In Germany, mechanic Diedrich Uhlhorn (1764-1837) builds his first coining press based on a knuckle-joint rather than a screw for power in one of the most important breakthroughs in minting technology. (►1817)
1815 Medallist Benvenuto Pistrucci (1784-1855) was commissioned to create a medal commemorating the battle of Waterloo. He took over three decades to fulfill the commission. Pistrucci had engraved dies so large – 5½ inches – it could not be struck. So in 1849 Pinches wisely made the Waterloo Medal in galvano form. (►1849).
1816 Steam power arrives at United States Mint at Philadelphia for most machinery. Up to this time about half (including the screw press) were powered by man, others run by horse power (as a gin with horses walking around in circles). More powerful steam engine is build at the Philadelphia Mint (►1874).
1817 Diedrich Uhlhorn, patents his knuckle-joint press and paves way for creating an advanced coining press (surpassing the screw press) and establishes a factory for their production. His press (called a “lever press”) utilizes a flywheel to transfer power to the die by a knuckle-joint hinge. His factory is active for more than 60 years supplying 57 presses for coining to nine European mints by 1847. He had died in 1837, but the factory is continued (Uhlhorn & Sohn) by his sons, who had built and sold 200 more presses by 1876. The firm is out of business by 1882 but its influence on coin and medal making was unprecedented in history.
1819 Dupeyrat sells his die-engraving pantograph to the British Royal Mint (30 years after selling one to the private Soho Mint); also to the Karlsruhe Mint in Germany, and other European mints at same time. Italian medallist Benedetto Pistrucci, who is proficient in the use of the reducing pantograph, installs the machine and instructs workers at Royal Mint in its use. (►1824)
1820 In France an ingenuous machinist Ambrose Wohlgemuth builds a “medal and cameo reducing and engraving lathe.” He used modern principles of reduction but still employed pedal power, as had all previous copying machines. (►1830)
1825 French sculptor David d’Angers (1788-1856) creates his first portrait bas-relief of what was to become his Gallery of Contemporaries, a first sculptural portrait series of famous contemporary persons.While his relief portraits were similar to a medallic format – in effect the forerunner ofan art medal series, they were originally cast – it was not until later they were electrolytically cast as portrait galvanos. Although his relief creations preceded those of Ponscarme’s, those of d’Angers series were not credited with the innovation of modern art medals. (►1868)
1828 In Britain, first medals issued in series sold by subscription to the public by publisher Edward Thomason (1769-1849):. In all he produced three medallic series: 1) Medallic Illustrations of Science and Philosophy, 2) The Kings and Queens of England, plus 3) Thomason’s famed Medallic Bible. Previous medal series were papal medals since 16th century and Napoleon medals issued in France
Circa 1830 Medallist Armand Auguste Caqué (1793-1881), working in the Paris Mint, used the Hulot machine there; makes mechanical improvements on their pantograph copying lathe. (►1836)
1836 First die-engraving pantograph developed which employed a rotating cutter in effect making the pantographic reducer a mechanically controlled milling machine instead of a copying lathe. The inventor, Contamin (no other name or dates known) was French; he had adapted an earlier French mechanical pantograph by Jean Baptiste Dupeyrat, ca 1788. Contamin’s engraving pantograph was in widespread use for over 60 years sometimes in competition with the English mechanical engraver developed by C.J. Hill. (►1840)
1837 A German physicist and engineer, Moritz Herman Jacobi (1801-1874) develops an electrolysis process he calls “galvanoplasty” which today is known as electroforming, widely used for making oversize coin and medal patterns to be pantographically reduced. Process is ideal because it reproduces fine detail in hard metal necessary for coin and medal patterns. (►1840)
1840 George Richards Elkington and Henry Elkington (cousins) receive the first patent for silverplating, marking the date for the development of electroplating. Early electroplating was done with primitive batteries until commercial electricity became available. (►1889)
Circa 1840 Medallist Jean Baptiste Maire (1787-1859) in France, makes improvement on the reducing machine, has knowledge (or machine) of Contamin and/or Caqué. It is Maire’s (or Contamin’s) engraving pantograph that is first to use a hard metal pattern made by electroforming – Jacobi’s process – (previous patterns were cast metal). (►1842)
1842 The German-American painter Ferdinand Pettrich (1798-1872) was the first use of a fine artist to directly model a design in relief for an American coin or medal, the John Tyler Indian Peace Medal (Julian IP-21). He modeled a relief portrait that was cast in iron then reduced on the Philadelphia Mint’s Contamin lathe by Franklin Peal , who cut the Tyler Medal in three sizes. (► 1851)
1849 Pinches wisely made the Waterloo Medal in galvano form. The world’s most famous electroform was electrolytically cast by Pinches in a double-sided electrotype after Benvenuto Pistrucci engraved a die too large to be struck (but later stuck in smaller size (►1972).
1851 In England machinist C.J. Hill (active 1851-1866) begins work on his die-engraving pantograph, continuing to improve it, perhaps inspired by a Contamin or the reducing machine improved by James Watt at Soho Mint. (►1856)
1851 British improvement of hubbing, hobbing and the first use by this term; actual copying of relief designs in metal (iron) had been done (530 B.C.) almost since first coins (as hubs have been found of coins of 530 B.C.). Strong screw presses had been used for hubbing since the first screw press had been developed (1506). (►1892)
1855 A separate department for striking medals was created at the Philadelphia Mint by Mint Director James Ross Snowden. This despite the fact the Mint had made medals since its very inception. (►1879)
1856 C.J. Hill perfects his die-engraving pantograph. Solicits die work he can perform on his machine, preferring not to let the machine out of his control. (►1866)
1861 First medal design patented in America, the General Winfield Scott Patriotic Medal of 1861 by C.G. Quilfeldt and J. Lebretton. This 2½-inch white metal medal bears the legend in tiny letters on the reverse: “Entered According to Act of Congress in the Year 1861 by D.E. Hall in the Clerks Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.” (The use of the first copyright mark was not to come until 1909.) No national coin or medal needs to be copyrighted, they are protected by counterfeiting laws, but the design of private medals were protected, first by patent, then by copyright laws.
1863 First formal training in creating medallic art taught in Paris at Ecole Des BeauxArts where a studio was established for medal engraving. In 1868 Hubert Ponscarme was named professor in charge of medallic training where artists Bottee, Charpentier, Daniel-Dupuis, Roty and others were trained. (► 1868)
1866 C.J. Hill obtains a British patent on his die-engraving pantograph, then sells the machine and all rights to medallist William Wyon (for 2000 pounds). (►1867)
1867 United States Mint purchases Hill pantograph from William Wyon, September 1867. It is received and placed in use in 1868, but mint engravers still use the Hill pantograph like they had used their Contimin: only to make reduction punches of design devices from oversize models (and add lettering and figures with punches). In his 1867 annual report Mint Director Henry R. Linderman says “this important and interesting machine … reduces copies of bas-reliefs by which the freedom of execution of the larger model is susceptible in the hands of the artist, can be preserved in the most minute proportions … to the face of the coin for which it is designed.” (►1902)
1868 Hubert Ponscarme (1827-1903) considered the founder of modern art medalswith his creation of a medal for the Academy of Inscriptions for Belle-Letters bearing the portrait of Joseph Naudet (the Academy’s secretary for fifty years). Ponscarme rejected the staid design style existing for French state-sponsored medals, employing instead a new freedom in medallic design so different it launched the art medal movement.(►1899)
1878 After years of extensive research author Joseph Loubat (1831-?) published his sumptuous work on American national medals with the second volume containing line engravings of all 86 medals. M2 {1878} Loubat (Joseph Florimond) The Medallic History of the United States of America, 1776-1876. New York: privately published. 2 vols, pages. Reprinted (1967): New Milford, Conn. Norman Fladerman.
1879 The United States Mint strikes its first U.S. oval medal struck within an oval collar, the Rutherford B. Hayes Indian Peace Medal, 1879 (IP-42). In an attempt to imitate the hand engraved Indian Peace Medal bearing George Washington’s standing portrait, Mint authorities instructed chief engraver George T. Morgan to create the oval design and produce oval tooling (blanking dies, oval collar and housing). After some delays, the first oval medal was struck in November or December 1879. It first went on sale to the public (along with the oval Garfield Indian Peace Medal of 1881) in 1883 and continued to be offered until the stringent cutback of List Medals in 1986). (An earlier oval medal had been made at the mint, American Centennial Massachusetts Tree Medal, 1876, CM-38, but only 420 pieces were made, it is doubtful a collar would have been made for such a short run; these were probably trimmed oval after being struck on round gold and silver blanks.)
Circa 1888 French medallists refine process of artistic patina (similar to that placed on statues) to be applied to medals of exceptional artistic quality. Medallic portraits in the Famous Celebrities series by David d’Angers were electrolytically cast as galvanos were among the first medallic items to be patinated. (►1930)
1889 Commercial electricity became available in America ultimately to power machinery at U.S. Mints. It also eliminated the use of batteries for electrolysis work. (We have Thomas Edison to thank for much of the pioneering of commercial electricity, 1889, as generating stations, transmission of electric current and, thusly, modern electrolysis, despite his choice of direct current. It was, however, George Westinghouse choice of alternating current for commercial transmission required rectifiers to convert to direct current for electrolysis.) (►1901)
1892 Columbian Exposition in Chicago spawns tremendous activity in coin and medal field. Medal issuers as far afield as Europe and South America strike medals: engravers emigrate to America (as August Frank) for the purpose of this gigantic medallic opportunity. The number of famous firsts inspired by this World’s Fair is legion:

  • First commemorative coins issued by U.S. for the Exposition and the first for three commemorative denominations: quarter, half and silver dollar.
  • First product medal at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition..
  • First stamp and stencil medal for Expo delegates.
  • Aluminum first used extensively for medals made for this event.

The activity – industrial, commercial and artistic – generated by this event is unprecedented in history, reflected by the vast number of coins and medals issued for this event, unsurpassed until the American Bicentennial. (►1976)

1892 U.S. Mint at Philadelphia receives its first hubbing press devoted exclusively to hubbing working dies for coin production and a more powerful hydraulic press for striking medals. While these presses can entirely replace screw presses, they still remain in use in the engraving department. The new presses are now powered by electricity for the first time. (►1901)
1892 Victor Janvier (1851-1911) establishes his atelier in Paris to produce three-dimensional reliefs, models and statues. He begins experimenting with existing die-engraving and sculpture-reducing pantographs, develops his revolutionary twin-cone drive. (►1899)
1898 American engraver Victor D. Brenner travels to Paris to study medallic art under Louis Oscar Roty, world’s leading medallist; to learn how to model bas-reliefs oversize and have models reduced by die-engraving pantograph; he also studied with Alexander Charpentier and at Julian Academy. Brenner – under Roty’s guidance – models his self-portrait in a pallet shape, reproduced only in galvano form (electrogalvanic cast) in Paris; second self-portrait this year, in two methods.
1899 Brenner creates first medallic model: Motherhood, modeled from a similar work by Roty; it was pantographically reduced and 3-inch die cut; [later issued in America 1911as fourth medal in Circle of Friends medal series; replicated by Medallic Art Company in 1929, even made into a silver plate by MAco 1976].
1899 Victor Janvier patents his die-engraving pantograph creating the most successful reducing machine to be used by mints and medal makers throughout the world during most of 20th century; establishes factory to manufacture his pantograph machines. (►1902)
1899 French art critic Roger Marx creates first art medal society series, the Société des Amis de la Médaille François (Society of Friends of the French Medal).The series ran from 1900 to 1920 with 63 medals by 56 artists. Its history was published by Nicholas Maier, 2010. It spawned similar art medal societies in Belgium, Austria, Germany, asubsequent series sponsored by the Paris Mint, and, ultimately the Circle of Friends of the Medallion in the United States.(►2010)
1900 Universal International Exposition at Paris made extensive use of art medals for award medals and extensive exhibits of medalli c artists’ work of both European and American medalists. A medallist from each nation exhibiting was selected as a “president” of his nation’s exhibiting artists. Bronze medals were awarded to every exhibitor, silver to previous exhibitors, plus a gold GRAND PRIX for the most outstanding.
1901 First fully electrified mint in the world built in Philadelphia for the Third U.S. Mint, on Spring Garden Street, replaced the Second Mint that had become overcrowded and inadequate. The new building and new source of power created many opportunities for innovations. In his annual mint report for 1902, Director George E. Roberts related some innovations of equipment and processes installed in the new mint building:

  1. Heavier blanking presses, permitting dual blanking and sometimes even three blanks cutout with each press cycle of all dimes and quarters (larger size coins and all gold still blanked one at a time) [minor coin blanks still purchased by private metal suppliers].
  2. Automatic weighing machines; six new Seyss scales installed for weighing blanks – sorting out underweight (to be remelted), and overweight pieces (to be adjusted or remelted) – and to check weight of struck coins.
  3. Automatic adjusting of blanks, not by hand, but by shaving slightly overweight blanks in new upsetting machines.
  4. Gas furnaces replaced coal and wood burning ovens, for both melting metal alloy formulations and for annealing strip and blanks.
  5. Electric motors directly connected to all equipment including rolling mills, presses, blanking, upsetting – all now electrified.
  6. Electric generation, the Mint installs their own equipment to generate electricity, all mechanical equipment has individual motors – no longer were shafts and belts necessary to transfer power from their monster Corliss steam engine.
1902 First Janvier pantograph imported to America by Dietsch Brothers in New York, operated by Henri Weil (to produce die-struck decorations for lady’s handbags) and firm offered to cut dies for the jewelry industry. Weil cuts dies for decorative accessories until fashions change, offers to make medal dies. (►1907)
1902 England Spinks begins the serial book publication of mammoth work on world medalists by Leonard Forrer (1869-1953). E3 {1902-30} Forrer (Leonard) Biographical Dictionary of Medallists, Coin, Gem and Seal-engravers, 500 B.C–A.D. 1900. 8 volumes. London: Spink & Son. Reprinted editions (1965) London: Spink Son; (1970) New York: Burt Franklin; revisededition (1980) London: Baldwin & Sons and A.G. van Dussen (Maastrich). 5,2 pages, illus.This is the preeminent reference work for engravers, diesinkers and medallists. International and covers all time periods, from ancient to date of public tion (early 20th cent). Forrer began running biographical information in Spink & Son’s monthly Numismatic Circular as early as 1892. These were gathered in bound volumes beginning in 1902, and continued through 1930. Volume 1 was revised slightly in the 1980 Baldwin/van Dussen reprint (volume 1 page references may be different in other editions). An Index of 311 pages (compiled by J.S. Martin) was added to the 1980 set.Forrer’s style is eclectic; he included excerpts from many sources (now called “cut and paste”) These are often in the language of the original, thus styles of listings are those of the original source. Errors are amazingly light for such large volume of data, but he does include some nonexistent artists (e.g. “Beach, J.”) and medals that are not those of the listee (e.g. Sneider, Robert contains medals he sold rather than he created). One idiosyncrasy: All artists from North and South America are all classed as American.
1907 First medal cut on Janvier pantographin America portrays Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Produced by Henri Weil (employed by Dietsch Bros. in New York), for sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt. His oversize models of complete design for bothsides of a medal replaced need for hand engraved dies or dies made by reduction punches with lettering added later by letter punches. Medals struck by Tiffany & Co with Weil’s dies. (►1910)
1907 The United States Mint, Philadelphia, purchases its first Janvier pantograph at the insistence of President Theodore Roosevelt who learned from sculptor Augustus St-Gaudens of its existence. St-Gaudens model for high relief $20 gold coin was to be the first American coin reduced on the Janvier. Medallic Art founder Henri Weil, who had instructed mint engravers on how the Janvier pantograph was operated, was later asked by St-Gaudens assistant, Henry Hering, for assistance in lowering relief. Chief engraver Charles E. Barber professed St-Gaudens’s model was still unsuitable, the relief was too high, ultimately lowered for the two varieties of this coin in 1907.
1909 First American art medal series, Circle of Friends of the Medallion issued in New York City with Hudson-Fulton Medal by John Flanagan and struck by Medallic Art Company. Twelve medals were issued by eleven artists, two a year until 1915. Medals house in books written by Charles deKay. It was the forerunner of the Society of Medallists. (►1930)
1910 Medallic Art Company is incorporated under control of Henri and Felix Weil who acquired rights to the name and the Janvier lathe former owned by the Deitsch Brothers. As sculptors’ assistants, their intent is to offer their services to American sculptors for making bas-relief productions either as galvano casts or struck medals, literally the first firm in America devoted exclusively to art medal manufacture. (►1930)
1910 International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals at ANS, lasted less than a month, but of profound influence in the numismatic field; an extensive illustrated catalog published the following year. NE2 {1911} American Numismatic Society. Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals … March, 1910. New York: American Numismatic Society. With introduction by Agnes Baldwin Brett. (1911), 412 pages, illus.[2,052 numbered items]. Often cited “ANS (IECM)” initials of title. The medallic work of 194 medallists of Europe and America (56) who accepted an invitation to exhibit in NYC; this catalog is an expansion of a brief list published before the exhibition.
1910 United States commission of Fine Arts established. An arbiter of taste in all federal projects including coins and medals, as well as rchitecture and sculpture.
1914 First use of term “art medals” in an article by U.S. Mint curator Thomas Comparette; he listed one year’s numismatic creations in three categories: coins, commercial medals and art medals issued in 1913. N7 {1914} Comparette (Thomas Louis) Coins and Medals Produced in the United States in 1913, American Journal of Numismatics 47: (1914) pp 142.
1919 Saltus medal established by the American Numismatic Society to recognize American medallic talent. The J. Sanford Saltus Medallon was created by Adolph A.Weinman, who won the award the following year, 1920.
1929 American engraver, medallist, chief engraver, U.S. Mint John R. Sinnock (1888-1947) first to use ART MEDAL as inscription on two portrait medasl of Thomas Edison.
1930 First issue of the Society of Medalists, founded by art patron George DuPont Pratt and Clyde Curlee Trees, president, Medallic Art Company. It issued two medals a year continuously for 75 years, reproducing the medallic creations of the top Americansculptor-medallists of the 20th century. Each medal was given a special patina.
1946 The first commercial epoxy resin is offered by Ciba, based on 1936 patents of Pierre Castan of Switzerland and S.O. Greenlee of the United States. Industry gradually adopts this “plastic tooling” for making molds and master models, among other uses. However, it was not employed by mints and medal makers for casting bas-relief coin and medal models until the late 1960s (as the use of plaster casts and galvano molds continued). It was more readily accepted after 2000 when the “clay and plaster” method of modeling was replaced by computer engraving for less than artistic models (as for coin relief models).
1947 Fédération Internationale de la Médaille (FIDEM) is founded to encourage art medal creation by world artists, ultimately to hold biannual meetings and exhibitions, issuing a conference medal for each meeting. Sites rotate among European countries and America. Conventional art medals later supplemented by increasing number of medallic objects. (►1965)
1961 In Poland the first art medal with pierced open work is created by Bronislaw Chromy, Animal Lovers bearing three owl-like creatures on the obverse – the piercing allowing the third to be seen on the reverse bearing the inscription: PIERWSZA WYSTAWA RZEZBNA PLANTACH KRAKOW 1961, 0.6KG.
1964 An International exhibition of coins and medals was prepared by Dr. Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli, Curator of Monetary History and Medallic art at the Smithsonian. Shown at the ANA convention in Cleveland, over 20 nations participated with six of them exhibiting medals—Denmark, France, German, Great Britain, Greece and Italy. This was the first exposure the American collectors had to the modernism of art medals of the French, the Italians and the Dutch. The French mint picked up many new American members for their Society of the Medal.
1965 An experiment was conducted in New York City, perhaps ahead of its time. The art publication Art In America commissioned a curator, then at the Whitney Museum, Edward Albert Bryant, to manage a project of reproduced bas-relief. He sought William Trees Louth and the Medallic Art Company for the intended replications. The two literally had to invent a new art form! The Medallic Object was born. A10 {1965} Bryant (Edward) Christmas For Connoisseurs, Art In America 53:6 (December–January 1965-66) pp 38-44 [advertisement p 136].\In a rare collaboration between Art In America and Medallic Art Company, the art publication commissioned seven artists to each create a medallic relief. This was the birth of a new art form in America: the medallic object. (►1966)
1966 The following year in France, Roger Bezombes creates his first medallic object, the first art-numismatic item reproduced by a national mint. The Paris Mint, under director Pierre DeHaye encourages their creation and sponsors mostof them, ultimately producing over 300medallic objects in two decades. (►1969) O45 {1985} Hôtel de la Monnaie. La Médaille-Objet With introducition by Jacques Campet, Director. Paris: Monnaies et Médailles. 216 pages, illus. The work of 124 artists — all reproduced by the Paris Mint — covering the new art format of medallic objects
1967 With active art medalists in Finland the Finnish Art Medal Guild is founded. It issues an annual art medal.
1967 The first hologram in a work of medallic art appeared in a highly creative art medal by Israel’s Yaacov Agam, titled And There Was Light Medal.
1968 The first high relief proof surface art medal struck by Medallic Art Company in New York City. The 1½-inch medal was the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial Medal (MACO 1968-056) by Abram Belskie. It was issued by International Numismatic Agency (Neil Cooper) who wanted something different to make this medal stand out among hundreds of other medals issued on the death of the Civil Rights leader. Medals as large as six inches were ultimately struck with proof surfaces.
1968 The first free-standing art medal in America was created by Roy Lichtenstein called Salute to Airmail on the 50th anniversary of airmail carried by flight. It was electrolytically cast by Medallic ArtCompany (their Catalog # 1969-154) and issued by International Numismatic Agency. It was followed by an issue of The Society of Medallists issue #115, Cat and Mouse in 1988, also free-standing. (►1976)
1969 The first multipart medal was created Kauko Rasanen of Finland. His first of the new medallic form was the two-part medal, Jonah in the Whale. This inspired a number of these creative medallic objects and Rasanen continued to create many innovative forms in multiple parts, often fitting together like a puzzle. He was honored with a Saltus Medal by the American Numismatic Society in 1986.
1971 First book on art aspect of coins and medals, Cornelius Vermeule’s Numismatic Art in America is published A15 {1971} 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. Major work as historical overview emphasizing art and style in American coins and medals. Author creates term Federalist style to describe early American productions. [94 artists cited]
1972 Franklin Mint acquires Pinches of London and one of the first medals the acquired firm strikes is a reduced version of the Waterloo Medal of Benvenuto Pistrucci. (FM PWM-1)
1974 On December 31st the United States changed its gold policy. Gold is allowed to trade freely and U.S. private citizens are permitted to own gold. The immediate reaction was issuing gold medals and the American public could purchase gold in any form and any amount (lifting the ban in effect since March 1933). At one minute after midnight in the new day, Franklin Mint began striking gold medals for sale to the public.
1976 Great outpouring of art medals for American Bicentennial issued by every entity – national, state, local municipalities, organizations, institutions, even individuals – in every medallic format.
1976 Working independently, the first free-standing medal outside America was created by Alex Shagin. While still at the Lenningrad Mint, he ceated an art medal to stand as sculpture. It was to be exhibited at FIDEM 1977; but, according to Shagin, the authorities would not allow such a dramatic departure from Socialist Realism to be exhibited at an international meeting. Unfortunately, when Alex Shagin came to America, the Soviet government would not allow him to take these medals with him.
1977 United States Mint’s medal issues over 100 years documented and illustrated in book by Robert Julian published by TAMS. M37 {1977} Julian (Robert W.) Medals of the United States Mint, The First Century,1792-1892. Token and Medal Society. 424 pages. [573 items, 69 artists, index of artists, p 418-419, compiled by DWJ] Monumental work on 19th century mint medals. Artists are identified for 412 items; 161 items have unknown artists.
1979 Mark Jones’ book, first entirely on art medals published in England. A26 {1979} Jones (Mark) The Art of the Medal. London: Published for the Trustees of the British Museum by British Museum Publications Limited, 192 pages, illus.
1982 American Medallic Sculpture Association (AMSA) is founded to promote art medal creation by American artists by frequent exhibitions. Dr. Alan Stahl organized its first exhibition at te American Numismatic Soceity where he was curator. Exhibit catalogs issued, AMSA Members Newsletter published.
1982 Similarity in England the British Art Medal Society (BAMS) is founded. It promotes itsmembers’ creations and issues an annual medal.
1984 First International Medallic Workshop with concurrent exhibition “Resurgence of The Art Medal” was held at Penn State University in America. The symposium brought many international teachers to America and exposed American artists to art medals. The exhibition, traveled to four museums and had a great influence on American artists.
1987 Beaux-Arts Medal Exhibition at ANS; catalog by Baxter. M42 {1987} 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. [112 artists listed, 368 medallic items]
1988 First Medals in America Symposium held at American Numismatic Society. MA1 {1988} Stahl (Alan M., editor) The Medal in America. New York: American Numismatic Society. Coinage of the Americas Conference, Sept 26-27, 1987.
1996 Marqusee Collection donated to Cornell University’s Herbert Johnson Art Museum. C14 {1996} Marqusee (John E.) One Hundred Years of American Medallic Art, 1845-1945; the John E. Marqusee Collection. Ithaca, New York: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. 98 pages. [138 artists listed, 416 items].Collection in Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University. Margusee was a friend of sculptor Leonard Baskin who simultaneously donated a rare Saint-Gaudens medal which became the keystone medal of the Marqusee collection with a full-page catalog description of the medal (written by DWJ).
2010 First book published on French art medal series by Nicolas Maier. M65 {2010} Maier (Nicolas) French Medallic Art, 1870-1940. Munich: Author (2010) 415 pp, illus, in three languages: German, English, French. Discusses development of art medal in France, leading up to establishment, in 1899, by art critic Roger Marx, of Soceiet des Amis de la Medaille Francois (called SAMF throughout the book); illustrates 63 medals in SAMF series by xx artists until series halts in 1930. Author continues numbering system for medals of prominent French medallists (1863-1940) for a total of 336 medals by 73 artists.
2012 First American art medal with color applied by pad printing issued. The Guide Book of United States Coins – universally known as the “Red Book”– is illustrated in red and gold color on an art medal bearing portrait of editor Kenneth Bressett for his 50th year in this position. Sponsored by Rittenhouse Society, Bressett’s published books are listed on spines of books shown on medal’s reverse. Medal was struck by Medallic Art Company.
Acknowledgements: Art medal scholars Donald Scarinci, Alan Stahl, Ira Rezak and Harry Waterson aided the author in reaching the goal of 100 leading developments in the art medal field.

Copyright © 2012 by D. Wayne Johnson

Read Full Post »

Clyde Curlee Trees, owner-president of Medallic Art Company, was a tenacious, persistent, head strong, perhaps stubborn man. He took on the United States government on two occasions. His stance was a correct position on both counts, but he lost on one, and the second wasn’t resolved – to the exact position he had embraced – until after his death.

If the phrase “You can’t fight City Hall” comes to mind, imagine the force the United States Government has to its advantage. Our medallic hero of this story did just that. He chose to fight instead of buckle under to such a superior force. The Little Guy never wins, only achieves a Hollow Victory at best. That occurred here.

Medal making in America had been closely allied with the United States Mint since the inception of that institution in 1792. Although records are sparse, the first medal struck by the United States Mint was for a private enterprise, Ricketts’s Circus, an equestrian performance show first held April 1793. (It is believed these medals were struck between 1793 and 1795, certainly while the Mint was still in its infancy. It is cataloged by Robert Julian as UN-23.)

Prior to this, all medals larger than two inches, had to be made in Europe. Even the United States Congress had to order medals struck in France for the medals they wished to bestow to General Washington and military heroes of the American Revolution. (These are all called “Comitia Americana” – ordered in France by the American Committee.)

Thus the custom of the United States Mint making medals for private – that is, nongovernmental – organizations had a long heritage. Societal organizations went to the Mint to have medals made for award purposes as early as 1808.  (Earliest: Washington Benevolent Society Medal, 1808, Julian RF-23).

America had no facilities to produce a medal of substantial size during the entire the first half of the 19th century, other than at the U.S. Mint. If the Mint couldn’t make it, the medal had to be produced in Europe.

Engravers existed in major cities – New York, Boston, Philadelphia – but most of their work was not large in either size or quantity. A cent shortage during the Civil War created a demand for small coin size tokens and this kept these private engravers busy for awhile. But the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia was literally the only source for medals of importance to be struck.

[By mid-19th century heavy presses became available in America, at Scovill Manufacturing in Waterbury, Connecticut, but they did not solicit medallic work. If a difficult job came to the mint – as the award medals of the 1893 Columbian Exposition – the Mint subcontracted this work to Scovill.]

The U.S. Mint at Philadelphia continued to accept such medallic production well into the 20th century. Their own engravers were allowed to do the required die preparation for such medals. This had been allowed since the Civil War. The only proviso was it could not interfere with regular Mint work, and it could not be of a political nature (no campaign medals – this led to an active business among those private engravers).

With this entrenched heritage, Clyde Trees faced a formidable competitor in the United States Mint. This festered in his mind during the depression years of the mid-1930s. By contrast, in the 1920s, over 100 medal jobs a year were registered in the company’s order books and Trees had acquired the company in 1927.

Business slowed with new medal orders dropping to less than one a week. New orders became painfully sparse in these depression years. The small handful of Medallic Art employees were asked to take pay cuts week after week. Trees would send the workers home after what work on hand was accomplished. All prayed for more orders to come in so they could work more full days and gradually fill up a work week.

John Hartl, shop foreman, was even handed in this everyday occurrence. His son, Harry Hartl, worked for him and father would dismiss his son right along with the other workers showing no favoritism.

Trees decided to take on Goliath during this period. The Goliath was the federal government, in the form of the Treasury department allowing the United States Mint to strike medals for a number of private organizations (in direct competition to private medal manufacturers, like, obviously, Medallic Art Company).

Trees wrote Treasury officers, pleading with them to stop accepting orders for medals to be struck at the U.S. Mint. It was unfair, he pointed out, to use government equipment and government employees – and not to pay taxes – in competition with his private firm, which, of course, had to employ workers and to pay taxes.

Before and after World War II firms and organizations that originally had the U.S. Mint make their dies continued to order medals from the Mint. This was particularly so for organizations making a yearly award, until their award program ceased or for other reasons.

Trees continue his effort, appealing to the Treasury for years and to each new administration – without much apparent effect. This began to be felt in 1948 but did not completely cease until 1966 (six years after Trees’ death). Finally, the U.S. Mint did stop striking the last award medal that year in competition with American private medal industry.

Meanwhile Trees had built the small plant he had purchased in 1927 to a firm of national prominence. Ironically, he was able to do this with the profits following World War II of vast orders for military medals and decorations – orders that came to him from the U.S. Government!

Trees Hollow Victory. How the Secret Service learned of the cache of plaster models in Medallic Art’s second floor storeroom is not known. These were the models Henri worked for sculptor clients to reduce to size required by the U.S. Mint as early as 1909 but also during the 1920s and 1930s.

Other than their inscriptions, these models would not be recognized as coins to an unenlightened public since they were in plaster and look like large copies. But these were the very models for United States coins!

The United States Secret Service, it must be said, is charged with suppression of counterfeiting of all U.S. money, paper money for the most part, but coins as well. It is doubtful it was a competitor who had filed a complaint with the Service. (In historical perspective it could have been a disgruntled employee.)

Well if these are the models from which the dies for U.S. coins were once made, then they could be made again. Ergo, these are the tools for [potential] counterfeiting in the public’s hands and therefore must be confiscated (at least in the minds of the Secret Service agents). When demanded to surrender the models to these Secret Service agents, Trees refused.

The truth was, however, that Henri Weil had done more for the U.S. Treasury Department than any Secret Service agent who showed up at the door of Medallic Art Company demanding its property. The Weils had supplied the Janvier pantograph to the Philadelphia Mint plus train the Mint engravers to use it, and also by passing on technological advances in the medal industry to the Mint over the years, always eager to share this technical expertise.

Henri, and later, other technicians, had prepared those patterns that the U.S. Mint could use, where they could not have made such a pattern from the oversize models the coin designers had created for their coin designs. The company had the knowledge of electrocasting of the artist’s patterns and of reducing the resulting hard-metal pattern into galvano and hubs the Mint could easily employ in their process.

Technically, these patterns had been in custody of Medallic Art for decades. But the legal status was a very gray area.

Trees, when apprised of this demand by the Secret Service, rushed to his attorney’s office. After careful study the attorney told Trees: “You are up against the government, they have more resources than you do, they can bring great pressure against you, it isn’t worth your time and money to fight for these, even though they are the company’s own property, and you are supporting a principle, GIVE THE DAMN MODELS TO THEM!”

But Trees rejected even his own attorney’s advice! It didn’t help that Trees obtained letters from the Chief Engraver of the Mint supporting his position, explaining exactly the process of Medallic Art and the role the firm had performed for the Mint making patterns before they came to the engraving department of the U.S. Mint. While the Secret Service was obdurate, it could be said that Trees was even more stubborn.

Both sides refused to concede or even compromise. After considerable pressure, and near exhaustion, Trees and the Secret Service came to a compromise, sort of. Here is what happened:  The models never left Medallic Art premises, but both parties agreed to their destruction.

As three S.S. agents and the obstinate Clyde Trees stood around a 50-gallon metal drum, production foreman Ralph Kaplan picked up a hammer. One-by-one he picked up those plaster creations and reduced the coin models to plaster dust.

Here is a list of those plaster cast patterns of U.S. coins destroyed:

  • 1909 Lincoln Cent by Victor D. Brenner
  • 1912 Buffalo Nickel by James Earle Jones
  • 1916 Mercury Dime by Adolph A. Weinman
  • 1916 Liberty Walking Half Dollar by Adolph A. Weinman
  • 1916 Liberty Standing Quarter by Hermon MacNeil
  • 1921 Peace Dollar by Anthony de Francisci
  • 1932 Washington Quarter by John Flanagan

plus five commemorative half dollars.

Trees won a hollow victory: he didn’t turn the models over to the Secret Service. The Secret Service won a hollow victory in that the models no longer existed, no longer usable. The losers were, perhaps, the American public who lost the originals of some very attractive and significant artifacts of American coin art work.

[To appreciate today something that had been destroyed decades before is difficult. But perhaps each of those original plaster models would sell at auction in excess of $20,000 in the present art or numismatic market. Total value destroyed that day was probably worth a quarter million today had they survived.]

[It was not until the 1960s that the strenuous interpretations on coin replicas were relaxed; where before no three-dimensional replications of coins in any size were permitted. When the bars came down, it seemed, anyone could make a product like a coin in everything from drink coasters to giant wall plaques adorning bank buildings.]

[But the large original models from the hands of the artists, the irreplaceable commemorative patterns were destroyed. It must be said, however, that the U.S. Mint still retained smaller versions of these models in both galvano and master die form.]

Analysis of Post-1959 U.S. Mint Medals

Medals struck by the U.S. Mint following the moratorium of private medals issued by the U.S. Mint were cataloged by Howard Turner. Here is the author’s opinion whether these medals should be Government Issue or Struck by Private Industry.  Does the medal meet the “National Interest” criteria? National Event, States Yes; Cities, Colleges No.

Turner 1
1959 Nevada Silver Centennial Medal (by Frank Gasparro; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 1, HK 552
Government Issue – State  

Turner 2
1959 Colorado Rush to the Rockies Centennial Medal (designed  by A.R. Mitchell, modeled by Gasparro)  Turner 2, HK 542
Government Issue – State

Turner 3
1960 Pony Express Centennial Founders Medal (designed by Julian Author Links, modeled by Frank Gasparro; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 3, HK 582, HK 583
Private Industry

Turner 4
1961 Kansas Statehood Centennial Medal (by Gilroy Roberts and Gasparro) Turner 4, HK 586
Government Issue – State

Turner 5
1961 Pony Express Termination Centennial Medal (designed by Roy J. Olsen, portraits by Gasparro, modeling by Englehardus von Hebel). . .  Turner 5, HK 588, HK 589
Private Industry

Turner 6
1961 Mobile 250th Anniversary Medal (by Gilroy Roberts & Gasparro) Turner 6, HK 587
Private Industry

Turner 7
1962 Seattle World’s Fair Medal (also called Century 21 Exposition Medal; obv by ?; rev by George Tsutakawa; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 7
Private Industry

Turner 8
1963 West Virginia Centennial Medal (obv by Frank Gasparro, rev by Edward R. Grove). Turner 8
Government Issue – State

Turner 9
1963 Serra (Padre Junipero) 250th Anniversary Medal (by Frank Gasparro; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 9
Private Industry

Turner 10
1964 Nevada Statehood Centennial Medal Turner 10
Government Issue – State  

Turner 11
1962 MacArthur (Douglas) Medal Turner 11
Private Industry

Turner 12
1964 First Union Health Center 50th Anniversary Medal (by Frank Gasparro and Steever)Turner A12
Private Industry

Turner 13
Liberty National Shrines Medal Series: (Large dies made and bronze medals struck by Medallic Art Co; small dies made and silver medals struck by U.S. Mint, Philadelphia, all from same patterns.) 1965 Federal Hall Medal (models by Frank Gasparro; silver struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 13, Greenslet G7-13 1965 Federal Hall Medal (models by Frank Gasparro; bronze struck by Medallic Art Co) Turner 13, MAco 65-24-1, Greenslet G7-13
Medallic Art Did Strike

Turner 14
1965 Statue of Liberty and American Museum of  Immigration Medal. . . . . . Turner 14, Greenslet G7-14, MAco 65-24-2
Medallic Art Did Strike

Turner 15
1965 Castle Clinton Medal (obv by Gasparro; rev by Philip Fowler) . . . . .Turner 15, Greenslet G7-15, MAco 65-24-3
Medallic Art Did Strike 

Turner 16
1966 American Numismatic Association 75th Anniversary Medal (obv by Gasparro, rev by Gasparro and Edgar Steever; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 16, Harris 66.SM.3
Private Industry

Turner 17
1967 United States Navy Seabees Medal (modeled by Felix de Weldon; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 17
Government Issue – U.S.Org

Turner 18
1967 Federal Land Bank 50th Anniversary Medal Turner 18
Government Issue – U.S.Org

Turner 19
1967 Alaska Purchase Medal (designed by Joan Kickbush, obv by Edgar Z. Steever, rev by Philip E. Fowler, sturck by U.S. Mint) Turner 19

Turner 20
1965 Ellis Island Medal (obv by Gasparro; rev by Edgar Zell Steever). . . . . Turner 20, Greenslet G7-16, MAco 65-24-4
Medallic Art Did Strike

Turner 21
1968 San Antonio Texas 250th Anniversary Hemis Fair Medal (designed by John Philip Evett; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 21
Private Industry

Turner 22
1969 San Diego California 200th Anniversary Medal (obv designed by Keith Kaonis, rev by Eric R. Poulson; struck by Philadelphia Mint) Turner 22
Private Industry

Turner 23
1969 Golden Spike Commemortive Medal (also called First Transcontinental Rail Route 100th Anniv Medal) Turner 23 Auctions:. . . . . J&J 12:610, J&J 16:2062, J&J 21:1677;
Government Issue – Nat Event

Turner 24
1968 Marquette (Jacques) Tercentennial Medal (also called Michigan Exploration Tercentennial Medal; designed by Barney Brienza; struck by U.S. Mint) . . . . . Turner 24
Government Issue – Nat Event

Turner 25
1969 Memphis Sesquicentennial Medal (designed by Edward Everett Burr; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 25
Private Industry 

Turner 26
1969 Dartmouth College Bicentennial Medal (designed by Rudolph Ruzicka; engraved by Frank Gasparro, struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 26
Private Industry

Turner 27
1969 Churchill Iron Curtain Speech at Westiminster College Medal \(obv by Gasparro; rev designed by Edgar Z. Steever, modeled by Philip E. Fowler). . . .  Turner 27, Engstrom 86
Private Industry

Turner 28
1970 Wichita Centennial Medal (designed by Donald T. Gist, modeled by Frank Gasparro, struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 28
Private Industry

Turner 29
1973 Walt Disney 50th Anniversary Medal (obv by Blaine Gibson, rev designed by Robert Moore, modeled by Joe Kaba; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 29
Private Industry

Turner 30
1969 Alabama Sesquicentennial Medal (designed by John E. Schlader; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 30
Government Issue – State

Turner 31
1970 South Carolina Tricentennial Medal (designed bu Enrico Monjo; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 31
Government Issue – State

Turner 32
1970 American Fisheries Society Centennial Medal (obv by Steever, rev by Philip Fowler) Turner 32
Private Industry

Turner 33
1971 Ohio Northern University Centennial Medal (by Michael Iacocca and Sherl J. Winter) Turner 33 Auctions: PCA 58:1782
Private Industry

Turner 34
1970 Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Medal (by Abraham Belskie; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 34 1970 Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Medal (struck by Medallic Art Co, Borglum’s sculpture work) . MAco 70-23.
Medallic Art Did Strike

[Type of Turner 34] 1970 Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Medal (struck by U.S. Mint, of Borglum’s sculpture work) Turner 34

Turner 35
1971 Navarro (Jose Antonio) Centennial Medal (obv by Frank Gasparro, rev by Steever) Turner 35
Private Industry

Turner 36
1973 Clemente (Roberto Walker) Medal (designed by Virgil D. Cantini; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 36
Private Industry

Turner 37
1972 U.S. Frigate Constellation Medal (designed by Donald F. Stewart, obv modeled by ?, rev modeled by Winter; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 37
Private Industry

Turner 38
1974 International Exposition on the Environment Medal (designed by George Tsutakawa, both sides modeled by Winter; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 38 Auctions: PCA 58:1794, PCA 65:1706
Private Industry

Turner 39
1973 San Francisco Cable Car Centennial Medal (designed by Thomas R. McClure; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 39
Private Industry

Turner 40
1973 Thorpe (James Francis) Medal (designed by V. Thompson, D. Luke and Harold V. Brown; modeled by Joniece Frank) Turner 40
Private Industry

Turner 41
1976 Colorado Centennial Medal (signed by 4 artists:  obv designed by Sue C. Hughey, rev by Randy Moyle; modeled by Edgar Zell Steever & Gasparro) Turner 41
Government Issue – State

Turner 41A
1976 Denver Mint Colorado Centennial Medal (mule of Denver Mint from List 703 medal by Steever, rev by Randy Moyle from Turner 41)
Government Issue – Mint

Turner 42
1976 Carroll (Charles) of Carrollton Medal (reissue of PE-6 by Christian Gobrecht with addition of bicentennial dates; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 42
Government Issue – Nat Event

Turner 43
United States Capitol Historical Society Series:  1978 Washington National Medal. Turner 43 the rest of the series.
Medallic Art Did Strike

Turner 44
1988 America In Space Gold Medal (obv by Brian Kachel, rev by Robert Ahlcrona; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 44
Government Issue – Nat Event 

1988 America In Space Silver Medal (designed by Essan Ni, modeled by James Licaretz, rev by Ahlcrona; struck by U.S. Mint) Turner 44
Government Issue – Nat Event

Read Full Post »

Pegasus symbol on medal by Laura Gardin Fraser

Pegasus symbol on medal by Laura Gardin Fraser

Unicorns may be more popular as art pins and pendants than the Winged Horse Pegasus. But in medallic art Pegasus flies higher. This was evident recently as Pegasus medal specimens were gathered to illustrate the 2012 Medallic Art Company annual calendar. More than the 12 different specimens in the firm’s medallic archives were found to showcase one for each month in 2012.

Pegasus is popular as a device on medals, and for good reason. Pegasus is the symbol of Inspiration for artists, The Muse to prompt their actions, the Courser to guide their creations. Pegasus with his outstretched wings is an ideal element to feature on a medal – not only for  the shape of its wings fitting well in a circle – but also for the  universal understanding as a symbol for Inspiration for all artists, and for all art media.

But he hasn’t always been such a symbol. A mythical creature in Greek mythology, Pegasus was ordered by Zeus to bring lightning and thunder to Olympus according to mythological chronicles. By the Middle Ages, Pegasus became more a symbol of Wisdom and Fame.

Only in modern time is his relationship with mythical Muses recalled with influence on poetry. Muses were said to inspire poetry, and from this the Winged Horse became an inspirational symbol for all artists, for all art forms, music, painting, and, of course, sculpture and medallic art, in addition to poetry.

Medallic artists have shown Pegasus flying in the air without a ground line – the wings can be conveniently shaped to fit the curve of a circular medal. Or Pegasus can be shown with a globe, flying over or touching the globe. Paul Manship shows his Pegasus symbol over the sun on two of his medals. A Poetry Society Medal shows a flying Pegasus over a single star.

For the Architectural League of New York Frank Eliscu displays Pegasus in repose atop a three-column pillar. He fashioned Pegasus’ head in regardant pose looking back over his wings.

Ernest Haswell fashions Pegasus flying over what looks like gears. This is in contrast to Albino Manca’s flying Pegasus in a Suermanish pose leaping over tall buildings for a medal in honor of another sculptor, Henry Hering. This was for the National Sculpture Society award medal bearing Hering’s name.

Several medallic artists researched Pegasus early mythological origin where Greek hero Bellerophon captured Pegasus and rode bareback into battle defeating the dreaded monster Chimera. Pegasus helped the Good Guys win that combat.

For one of those Manship medals with Pegasus over the sun, a musician is shown riding the Winged Steed. We know it is a musician because he is holding a lyre. On the reverse an artist is shown holding a pallet.  Manship was a master of symbols and tied in all the arts together with flawless use of only three symbols for this Art Directors Club Medal creation.

Manship's Pegasus medal for the St Paul Institute

Manship’s Pegasus medal for the St Paul Institute

For that other Manship medal the sun serves as a reserve – a circular cartouche – where a recipients’ name can be engraved on the struck award medal. That’s the reverse iconography. The obverse shows a kneeling female with lyre again in one hand, and a winged angel statue in the other. The repetition of the winged image on both obverse and reverse is Great Medallic Art. One could expect no less from Manship in this medal for the art organization, Saint Paul Institute.

Rene Chambellan displays Pegasus in an ethereal view amid clouds as a scientist below peers in a microscope. A similar view of Pegasus in clouds is shown by Laura Gardin Fraser for the Centennial Medal of the American Numismatic Society in 1858.

Forty years earlier for the same organization sculptor Chester Beach created the Peace of Versailles Medal ending World War I. Beach shows Pegasus being led by a male and female figure. Bellerophon is shown astride Pegasus as symbol of Victory from the early Greek mythological history. That’s good use of mythical symbols.

The most artistic use of Pegasus in this group, however, is Marcel Jovine’s Brookgreen Gardens Medal. The sculptor is shown carving the head of Pegasus on the obverse with mallet and chisel. It’s a close-up view with the horse’s mane flying in all directions. Jovine modeled a nose and mouth on the horse that’s uncanny, it’s so realistic. The reverse is dominated by the wings that curve around half the medal’s circumference.

First two-part medal. I have saved a favorite for the last. It is the first two-part medal issued in America. Created by Frank Eliscu at the top of his career, he modeled a Pegasus for the Plant Dedication Medal for Medallic Art Company’s new headquarters in Danbury, Connecticut.

This led, with further Inspiration, a year later to create the two-part medal shown here. The obverse shows the Hand of God releasing Pegasus. Inspiration is released for the use of Man is the symbolism implied here.

The two interface surfaces – shown when the medal is parted into the two halves – displays Pegasus in fine flying form. The two surfaces are convex and concave reliefs of the same image, both made from a single sculptural model.

The reverse shows Man and Inspiration in harmony. The heads of both are shown in artistic repose. The harmony is accomplished, the creativity is produced, the work is done.

I liked that medal so well, I wrote the leaflet that accompanied the medal when issued. I even signed my name to it. That was the only leaflet among dozens I wrote for company medals that I signed. In that leaflet I wrote about the first two-part medals in Europe, artist Eliscu’s efforts in creating the model and the symbolism represented in the design. I mentioned all the firsts the firm had issued before.

I posted about this medal along with the press release here.

Here is how I ended the leaflet:

So innovation is not new to Medallic Art Company. It is proud to have produced Frank Eliscu’s Inspiration medal and to have added it to a growing list of famous firsts. Here, then, is America’s first multi-part medal, inspired by Inspiration itself, stimulated by the invention of a new medallic art form in Europe, created by a talented and gifted artist in Connecticut.

It remains only for art lovers and collectors the world over to accept it for what it is, a thing of beauty and a joy forever!

Read Full Post »

Lumping art medals in with tokens and the multitude forms of tokeniana was never a good fit in the first place. I know how it came about and the reason why all forms of non-coin diestruck pieces are called “exonumia.”

But I believe it is now time to undo the connection between the two fields. There are a multitude of reasons for such a separation, both technical and commercial. To support this proposal I will examine the characteristics of each, list my reasons to part ways, and offer the reader a pledge in this editorial appeal to disconnect the two, to change a very large segment of established numismatics.

While I would like to see Art Medals divorced from all other forms of numismatic collectibles under the collective umbrella of “exonumia,” I recognize the problem is akin to separating Siamese twins. Tokens and medals go together like bread and butter, Laurel and Hardy, night and day.

The problem is with the word “medals.”

The problem is not with the word “tokens,”  but rather “medals.” The word medal has changed meaning and has been misused for nearly a thousand years. I wish it had a finite definition, like dynamite, and would have remained that precise meaning for all time. But such is not the case.

A form of medal – medallion – first meant a trophy brought back from the Roman wars carried on a staff above the heads of the victorious warriors. In 1438 Pisanello (Antonio Pisano, 1397?-?1455) created a small metal relief portrait object to be hung around the neck like a pendant. His cast object was soon called a medal. (Later Pisanello earned the title, Father of the Art Medal.)

Royal families in Europe liked Pisanello’s relief medals so well they commissioned other artists to copy Pisanello’s format. These families exchanged such family portrait medals with other royals like we exchange family photographs today. A handful of Renaissance artists kept busy fashioning such portrait medals for royal families and wealthy merchants who imitated royal princes.

Later the term meant obsolete coins. British author, poet, man of letters and member of Parliament, Joseph Addison (1672-1719), wrote a book – Dialogues on the Usefulness of Ancient Medals – that was on ancient coins. (To their discredit librarians have assigned it a Dewey decimal number under medals not coins!)

Worst of all perhaps, today unknowledgeable people use the term medallion for just about any form of medal (when it means a large medal). Current usage has so further corrupted, transformed and misused medals in so many forms the word today does not have a clear meaning at all. Just click on Views in Google, type in Medal and see what comes on screen. The result turns my numismatic stomach.

I hold the word medal in high regard, having a decade of hands-on experience working in a medal plant in the 1960s-70s where I was trained in medalmaking. I learned the extent to which craftsmen must perform their tasks with great skill and devotion to fashion the finest art medals. I was trained to appreciate these manufactured products as art objects.

The experience brought me in contact with a vast archive of the finest 20th century art medals. I had to catalog these art medals and I was exposed to a cadre of modern American medalists, the sculptor-artists who created these miniature works of art with their bas-relief models from which these medals were made. My medallic education was not complete until I learned to appreciate both art medals and the artists – the medalists – who created them.

Just what is an art medal? Working with William Louth, president of Medallic Art Company, together we formulated a definition that took us months to put into words (I wrote of this experience in a previous article published in TAMS Journal, September/October 2011):

Art medals are medallic works of art, ranging in size generally from two to ten inches; they must be reproducible – by casting, striking, or other metalworking techniques – but one important thing they are not:  They are not struck on coining presses.

Token-Medal marriage and the birth of the private mint.

With medal the elder of the two terms, medals became joined at the hip with tokens when a coin shortage in England caused enterprising Birmingham metalworkers in somewhat of a cottage industry to carve dies and strike British penny-size discs.

Hard-pressed merchants employed these tokens bearing the name or nature of their business to make change. Endless varieties of these homemade coin substitutes exist as the demand by merchants spread throughout the English commercial nation.

An Ipswich businessman and part-time minister, Reverend James Conder (1763-1823), began collecting these and cataloged them. They became known as Condor tokens. The minister joined the two terms forever in the title of his catalog, An Arrangement of Provincial Coins, Tokens and Medalets, first published in 1798. Tokens and medals as a compound term have been married ever since.

Boulton Portrait

Boulton Portrait

Birmingham also became famous in the numismatic field, not only for the term “Birmingham minters” which was a pejorative for false coin, but very much so for the birth of the private mint. It was Matthew Boulton (1728-1809), who established his Soho Mint in Birmingham in 1789. Numismatists owe their most esteemed gratitude to Boulton for he did more to advance numismatics – coins, tokens and medals – than any other living soul.

Boulton’s contribution to numismatics.

Matthew Boulton had inherited, at age 29, a metalworking factory from his father. Boulton joined forces with James Watt (1736-1819) who had invented and patented the steam engine. Boulton built a separate factory (1775) to manufacture Watt’s steam engines. He then proceeded to seek new ways to use – and new products to create – using these steam engines. An early product was buttons, this lead to his desire to strike coins.

He build coining presses, based on the screw press in use at the time, powered by Watt’s steam engines. These were so successful they enabled him to obtain his first coinage contract (1786).  In effect he established the first private mint, the Soho Mint (1789). Boulton hired accomplished engravers, first Jean-Pierre Droz (1789), then Conrad Heinrich Kuchler (1793); he won a British coining patent (1790), and struck Britain’s cartwheel copper coinage (1797).

His employment of Swiss die engraver and engineer Jean-Pierre Droz (1746-1823), enticing him away from the Paris Mint, was an inspired move for many reasons. Droz not only prepared dies, but also improved equipment, created new coining methods and processes. Only one of which was edge thickening of blanks, which the British called “rimming” (but Americans call “upsetting”), necessary for automatic feeding of blanks at the time (which Droz and Philippe Gengembre had invented back at the Paris Mint in 1783) and for high speed coining later on.

Droz inspired Boulton and Watt as what could be done at a private mint, not only to be able to strike coins and tokens, but also large size medals. Droz created the Battle of Trafalgar Medal bearing Lord Nelson’s portrait which Boulton gave to each of the military officers (with edge lettering made by a segmented collar mechanism, virole brisée, invented by Droz). Droz became, in effect, not only the first factory artist in the coin and medal field, but also minting technology’s most ingenious engineer.

Boulton’s development of the steam engine and his metalworking factories – including the Soho Mint – was to make him a leader in the Industrial Revolution.  His innovations at the Soho Mint, aided by Droz and Watt’s help, led to improvements at every step of coin and medal manufacture, from die engraving, to hubbing, to blank preparation, to striking.

Not only did Boulton strike coins – and make the equipment to manufacture them – he also sold that equipment to national mints, even setting up complete mints in Spain, Denmark and Russia. It can be said, without question, that Matthew Boulton was the Father of the Private Mint.

Boulton spurned many offers to make tokens like those coin substitutes his fellow Birminghamers struck off in their cottages. Instead he advanced minting technology, and when he issued medals, they were the finest his advanced technology could produce. He recognized, at this early stage, medals – particularly high relief art medals – were different and should be respected more so than native tokens.

The need for a non-coin term.

The term “exonumia” was coined in 1960 by numismatist Russ Rulau. He was seeking a term to cover all the items numismatists might collect that are not coins. At that time a new organization was being established just for the collectors of these non-coin numismatic items.

At first, it was planned to include paper money, but this class of numismatic collectibles was quickly spun off; paper money collectors ultimately formed their own specialized organization. Everyone then recognized that paper money did not fit with what the organizers had in mind, the tokens and medals that were to be the prime interest of the new organization.

The organizational meeting was held during the 1960 Atlanta American Numismatic Association convention (at Atlanta coin dealer Blaise Dantone’s home, who had invited all numismatic notables for a pre-convention gathering). I was there and observed the proceedings. Choosing a name was one of the first items of discussion.

Should the new organization be called Tokens and Medals or Medals and Tokens?  Numismatist Eric Newman spoke up at the meeting noting the inevitable use of initials for the organization’s name. He said: “TAMS are what you put on your head, MATS are what you step on.” So tokens took top billing.

Russ Rulau reasoned he wanted a single word to apply to this class of collectibles, and their adherents, even if he had to coin a new word. He chose exo- a prefix meaning from or outside of, and numia, meaning money or coins. The person, therefore, would be an exonumatist.

At the time I was editor of Coin World, where I took a slightly different view of exo- plus numia. To me it meant outside of numismatics. I said so in a Coin World editorial, critical of the term.

Time has been kind to Russ’s coined word, however – it has been accepted by numismatists, included in Webster’s dictionary, and even widespread use on the internet (including Wikipedia). He has had the last laugh over my original criticism (and he doesn’t let me forget it!).

But more to the point, in the intervening five decades, the Token And Medal Society has concentrated more on tokens than on medals. The pages of its journal – and the books it has published – have weighed for heavier on the token side of the scale than on is companion medal side (with one major exception: Bob Julian’s Medals of the United States Mint, The First Century).

The distance between the two fields was evident when, in 1998,

a new organization was established for medal collectors alone, Medal Collectors of America. This was intended to fill the niche, the void, that the medal field was not adequately covered by any national specialized collectors’ organization.

Medal collectors adopt a new organization.

Collectors of medals, particularly art medals, embraced the new organization and it has prospered. It now has its own monthly organ, MCA Advisory, still somewhat slim and devoid of advertising, but the content is strictly medal oriented. No tokens are to be seen.

This brings us to the point: Just what are the differences between the two similar collectibles? Mostly they are both struck from dies, but differ in their use and intent. Tokens have a value, expressed or implied, intended to serve a local area, in effect, a substitute for coins. Granted, some of their expressed value is in merchandise or services – good for a loaf of bread or some service. Collectors call these “good fors.”

Medals have no expressed value. They are not substitutes for coins – despite the fact they sometimes look like coins, made of the same metal compositions, and are often struck on the same presses.

Frequently they are struck at the same national mints that create coins, or at private mints. Medals serve a commemorative, historical, or award purpose. Or, they are medallic items of art – miniature works of art as art medals.

In that article, mentioned before, I explained this difference between art medals and token medals in an attempt to develop a definition of art medals. The difference I learned – after months of careful determination – was the press on which they are struck. Token medals are struck on a coining press, art medals require a far more sturdy press, of greater pressure, and often of multiple striking.

Art medals differ from other medals and all tokens.

It is this later class of medals I would like to single out, to separate from the class of single-struck tokens and token-like medals struck on coining presses. It can be stated, the field of medals is so large that it covers a broad spectrum. Also medals have been manufactured by every production method possible. In addition to being die-struck – on every type of press – to casting, by every method of casting, to hand engraved, and even by photoetched and drop hammer metalworking technology.

There are medals struck on coining presses. So-Called Dollars fall into this category. They can remain in the category of exonumia. I wish to distinguish the art medals – those that are multiple struck, of higher relief, and given a finish or patina – those of somewhat greater substance from these single struck, lower relief medals.

The adjacent chart lists the differences of the two classes, but of more importance is the preparation of the dies. Token dies are often of simple design, sometimes of lettering alone. Medal dies are of more complex design, with devices and symbols, often with portraits, in addition to the required lettering, requiring far more preparation, far more artistic content.

Token dies require little planning and brief execution. A competent diesinker can make a token die in a few hour’s time. With simple equipment as letter punches, or more elaborate equipment, as machine milling pantographs – a Gorton or a Datron – a diesinker can even make a pictorial die in a morning’s time.

An adequately equipped toolroom located in any metalworking shop can make a token die. In fact thousands of token dies were made in America by rubber stamp firms in the 19th and 20th centuries with the simple equipment they possessed.

This was subordinated even further by the “stamp and stencil” firms who made what they called “medals” embossed on one side only on thin sheet metal. (Schwaab Stamp & Stencil in Milwaukee made such medal badges for two dozen U.S. state delegates to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1892.)

Medal dies differ from token dies.

By contrast, medal dies require far more planning and execution. It is not unusual for a medallic artist to mull over in his mind a proposed medal design for weeks, often while doing other work, before he even attempts an initial sketch.

The artist imagines what he wants the finished surface to contain, images, symbols, lettering with emphasis on the main device. At the sketch stage he may modify the design over and over until he sketches an outline – called a cartoon – of what he will render into glyptic form later.

One seasoned medallic sculptor, Albino Manca, prepared over one hundred sketches for a proposed medal for the Museum of the City of New York 50th anniversary. Often the element of symbolism on a medallic item is of supreme importance. Not only must a medal design be pictorial, it must be significant in its symbolic meaning, appropriate to the subject at hand.

So the medallic artist has the freedom of unlimited images he may try out – in his mind or on paper – before he accepts one he is most comfortable with. He modifies and polishes the images until he is satisfied. Then he renders the sketch into bas-relief form by modelling, either in clay, or wax, or plaster, or more recently, on the computer. It is in the modeling stage the artist can add detail and texture to his images – this is what gives medals their charm!

From this oversized fixed image a hard-surface pattern is made (formerly in metal, more recently in epoxy). This pattern is mounted on a reducing machine – the best is the Janvier – on which the die is cut to the required size. This amazing process renders the modulated relief in that metal pattern with supreme exactitude while simultaneously cutting cavities in the steel die in reduced size to form the images to be stamped into metal blanks.

Token makers seldom employ this artistic effort or employ the luxury of detailed relief charm found on art medals. I can think of only one or two tokens that were modeled oversize and reduced. Thus the difference between tokens and medals is evident in stark contrast.

For all these reasons, the author proposes the field of art medals should be separated from the field of token interest. Since the field of tokens – and their related collectibles – is now so closely connected to the term exonumia, the only path seems for art medals to go it alone, to distance the art medal field from the exonumia field.

Strong reasons to separate the two fields.

But the differences in design, die preparation – and the press on which they are struck – are not the only reasons to single out art medals from the multitude of exonumia items. They differ in other characteristics and physical appearances as well – most obvious of all, by the finish or patina applied to the medal after it is completely struck up.

Art medals – like bronze statues – are clothed in one of many patinas which add color, protection and further significance to the total work of art. Tokens, on the other hand, have no applied finish, their two surfaces, both obverse and reverse, are left to tone naturally.

Some writers have attempted to make size a diagnostic of the two numismatic forms. Art medals – as stated in its definition mentioned above – are, generally, more than two inches diameter; token medals are, generally, less than two inches. But these are not hard rules. Both kinds can exceed these boundaries.

Every collector in the numismatic field, it seems, knows art medals differ from token-like medals. But for the last fifty years collectors have kept both types in the same family, in the same company of each other.  They collect both kinds, as they should, often within the same topical or specialized collection.

Therefore, I proposed the field of art medals be a separate field unto itself, divorced and no longer be lumped in with all the items of exonumia. I do not propose that any collector limit what he collects, I could never presume to do that. Every collector chooses his own topic, collect both, collect all in one topic, several topics, or whatever.

But please consider this proposal: Whereas, art medals are in a class unto themselves based on every aspect of their existence – how they are made, their artistic content, the status of their creators – they rise above most exonumia objects.  If that is considered elitist by some collectors, so be it. Even if art medals are not considered a class above token-medals, they should be considered in a class by themselves.

Read Full Post »

When we read about Renaissance medalists and the earliest examples of art medals, we encountered the term “school of art.” Many of these early medallic artists were said to be a member of a certain “school of art.”

This was an attempt to bring together the medalists who had a similar style. The term was created by art historians and writers who grouped artists by their style and techniques used in the creation of their medallic works of art.

No “school” was involved. If any training was involved, it was not in a formal academic setting. Instead the artists talked to each other and shared methods and techniques about how they accomplish their tasks. This interchange of methods resulted in similar appearances of their final work. The work of two or more artists all began to look alike.

Often the style is the result of a technique of modeling or production which is intentionally passed along – or copied – among friendly artists, often repeating desired mannerisms. Art historians recognize this similarity and class these artists as members of a “school of art.”

Early Italian medals were studied, for example, by British Museum curator George Frances Hill who coined the name of a dozen schools of Renaissance medalists. Hill’s Corpus includes medallic works up to 1530. Later work by Alfred Armand continued to use some of Hill’s designated names of Renaissance schools of art. These were: Mantuan, Neopolitan, Venetian, Bolognese, Milanese, Roman, Florentine, Paduan and Emilian.

The name of the school as evidence here is a geographical name, the artists must exist close to one another at the same time and place to be able to exchange methodology. Infrequently they are named after a founder or leader of the artist group.

Schools of art do not last for more than a generation or two, but their influence may last longer or be more widespread, as succeeding artists emulate a favored style. The common denominator, of course, among members’ work is its similar appearance, a result of using a common style or technique in the creation of their art works.

Such was the case in America where a beaux-arts school of art existed near the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. With Augustus Saint-Gaudens as the forerunner, it included a dozen American medalists, including John Flanagan, Chester Beach, Daniel Chester French, Adolph Weinman, Victor David Brenner, James Earle Fraser, and ultimately Paul Manship.

These American medalists’ work were all characterized by an idealism and naturalism of their subjects rendered in a softer modeled technique. It took the French name and was influenced – if not in direct imitation of French medallic art of a previous generation. The style was greatly influenced by French medalists David d’Angers, Henri Chapu, Jules Clement Chaplain, Alexandre Charpenter and particularly Louis Oscar Roty.

This United States school of art has been documented by two numismatic writers in the field. Cornelius Vermeule, a classical curator at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, who had a fondness  for American medallic art, wrote a book Numismatic Art in America  (1977),* where he traced the development of styles in all our coins and medals. These ranged from what he called “Federalist style” of our earliest coins, to the 20th century medals of the above mentioned beaux-arts style.

The other work was by Barbara Baxter, a graduate art history student, entitled The Beaux-Arts Medal in America [see citations at end]. This was a catalog published in conjunction with an exhibit of this class of art medals she helped prepare at the American Numismatic Society in 1988.

What has not been published anywhere before is that another native school of art preceded the American beaux-arts movement. While the author was cataloging consigned lots for his auction sales when he was a medal dealer (1977-89) he noticed the similarity of a large group of American medals. These were all from a period following the Civil War until the end of the 19th century.

Ironically, the artists of these medals were hand engravers all located in Philadelphia! Since that was where the U.S. Mint was located I wondered if there was any connection.

Private engravers had always existed in Philadelphia in a consistent if not vibrant trade ever since the Mint was founded in 1792. These were the diesinkers whose work was always of smaller size, and, perhaps of less importance than what was produced at the Mint.

After all, any organization or private individual could petition the engravers at the Mint to create a private medal for them and the Mint would strike the desired quantity. The reason for this was the Philadelphia Mint had a press in America capable of striking a medal larger than two inches. (Although Scovill Manufacturing in Waterbury, Connecticut, had such press equipment as well.)

Mint engravers faced some restrictions, however. This outside work could not interfere with required Mint duties. Also, the Mint could not strike any medals of political nature, no medals for any person running for any political campaign.

Philadelphia Mint in mid 1800s

Philadelphia Mint in mid 1800s

Thus the private diesinkers in Philadelphia created, on the small screw presses they possessed, the small items – tokens for merchants and medals for political candidates – among others. At the time, the custom for candidates was to issue medals, often with their portrait, always with some campaign slogan, prior to any elections. News of who was running in elections was not all that widespread in 19th century America. Distributing small inexpensive medals was an ideal way to do this.

Philadelphia engravers received a consistent flow of medallic work that was not directed to the diesinkers in Boston or New York City. If any of these medallic artists received an order for a large medal, they could engrave the dies themselves and have the Mint strike it. (If not, they had to order large medals made in Europe.)

The author’s opinion is that some technology of preparing dies was exchanged between the private hand engravers of Philadelphia and the engravers at the Mint. It was inevitable that artisans of similar craft in the same city were apt to meet and talk, to exchange ideas, to pass along tips and tasks, methods were shared.

Thus I noticed the style of private Philadelphia engravers was similar to that used by Mint engravers. I suspect their technology for creating that style was similar and shared as well.

As a result, I determined a Philadelphia school of art existed for certain engravers which were active in that city in the later third of the 19th century.

The typical style of Philadelphia School of Art medalists was most evident with a single device. Their medallic work lacked subsidiary devices; no lesser design elements supported the main device. No attributes accompanied the main device. There were no, what British numismatists call, “accessory symbols.”

No seals or logos were associated with the issuing organization and none appeared on the same side as the device. The obverse design was a bare minimum occupied by a single device only accompanied by only the necessary lettering, almost always as legend around the periphery of the medal’s edge.

The technology to produce these medals was to engrave a device punch, sink this in a fresh diestock, then add the lettering a single letter at a time with letter punches. This was all done at the exact size of the intended medal, no reduction involved.

The staid, unadorned obverse design usually accompanied a reverse of all letters. In total, it was a simple style and its execution was devoid of all unnecessary elements. In art style terms it would be called minimalist.

Perhaps the popularity of this style among Philadelphia engravers, and members of this school of art, was exemplified by the small size of the medals they created.

If I had to characterize this Philadelphia style I would say: it was the least amount of work the engraver felt he could get by with. As such the style was the opposite, the antithesis, of Great Medallic Art of larger medals, which embraced the luxury of design, highly detailed relief, strong subject matter, often extra ornamentation and full use medallic format and principles.

For the hand engravers in 19th century Philadelphia this would not come – and their style would not be replaced until the introduction of the die-engraving pantograph, notably the Janvier, was introduced to American medalists early in the following century. Highly detailed relief and luxurious designs were easily obtained by oversize models reduced on this engraving machine, replacing these artists’ simplistic medallic style.

Members of this School of Art are listed below, but this list is not all the hand engravers which could be placed within this group, all living and working in Philadelphia in the last third of the 19th century.

DIEHL, John H.  (active 1869-83) medalist, Philadelphia.
Also struck many medals engraved by William H. Key.
Diel signed his dies J.H.D.

FRANK, August Conrad  (1864-1946) German-American
engraver, diesinker.
Born Germany, 1864.  Came to America 1893.
Founded August C. Frank Company, Philadelphia, 1894.
He was probably the only engraver for the firm in early
years, later he accepted dies engraved by others that his
firm would strike. After he died the firm was operated by
his sons but ultimately sold to Medallic Art Company,
15 September 1972.
Died Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 31 October 1946.
Signed Dewey Medal A.C.F.

JACOBUS, Peter H.  (c1836-c1904) German-American engraver,
diesinker, Philadelphia.
Born in Prussia about 1836.
Came to America and Philadelphia before 1852.
Partner in engraving firm Jacobus & Schell (1856-59)
with John J. Schell. On his own after 1860. He engraved
a crossbelt plate for several military organizations for
Civil War and after.  He was captain in 2nd Regiment,
Pennsylvania National Guard. Philip Jacobus (q.v.)
also an engraver, was a younger brother of Peter’s.
Listed in city directories until at least 1904, but his
date of death still remains unknown.
Signed some dies with initials PHJ.

KEY, William H.  (c1820-c1902) diesinker, engraver,
Philadelphia (c1844-50); U.S. Mint (1864-1885).
Born Brooklyn, New York (circa 1820).
Learned engraving from his father, Frederick C. Key
and in business with him (1854-60) as F.C. Key & Son,
then in partnership with John C. Odling, as Key & Odling
(1863-67). Employed at Philadelphia Mint after Civil War
(1864) as assistant engraver to William Barber; he was
dismissed in 1885. Listed as engraver in city directories
until 1885, but afterwards as engineer, until 1902.
William Key signed dies with full initials WHK (and
one die KEY F, later often misattributed to his father,
Frederick). Many uniform diameter dies were often
muled, frequently with their own F.C. Key & Son
storecard die; other mules of William Key and George
Hampton Lovett (q.v.) dies. Key may have engraved
the dies for Lingg & Brother’s American Centennial
1876 medalets.
Philadelphia medalist William Warner acquired many of
Key’s dies produced privately (no Mint dies) and struck
these on his own. Key was one of the most productive
American engravers (and possibly some unsigned dies
of the U.S. Mint and of Warner were his creations).

KRIDER, Peter L. (1821-1903?) engraver, diesinker, medalist, silversmith,
Philadelphia (active 1873-1903).
Established 1850 as silversmith, first with R. & W. Wilson,
later in partnership as Krider & Biddle with John W. Biddle
(1867-72) but whose only major numismatic work was the
Cincinnati Industrial Exposition Medal of 1872 (engraved
by Anthony C. Paquet). Later in business by himself as
Peter L. Krider Company, until 1903, during which he
executed many medals.
Because of his location in Philadelphia and relationship
with Mint personnel he did medallic work that came to
the Mint but they could not do (as political, campaign
medals), he also struck private medals by Mint engravers
(Paquet, Charles Barber) and perhaps did their overflow
work as well.
Died 1903 or later.

MORIN, Anthony C.  (fl 1849-60, died 1873) Early American
engraver, diesinker, chaser, seal engraver, Philadelphia.
Signed dies A.C.M. initials.

QUINT, Silas H.  (1849-?) engraver, Philadelphia, founder
Quint firm.  Silas was the son of Louis H. Quint, an
engraver from Maine (ca1824- ), but Silas was born in Philadelphia.

WARNER, William H. (fl 1868-1899) engraver, medalist, Philadelphia.
William formed a firm, Wm. H. Warner & Brother (1868)
with brother Charles K. Warner.


* A15  {1971}  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. Reprinted (2010) Whitman Publishing Co.
Major work on art and style in American coins and medals.
[94 artists cited]
Cataloger’s Note: Before he died, Vermeule wrote the Preface to a printed version of the Dick Johnson’s Artists Databank in which he called the compiler “the American Forrer” in comparison to Leonard Forrer, the British numismatist who compiled the six-volume work of all the world’s medalists.

M42  {1987}  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.
[112 artists listed, 368 medallic items]

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »