Archive for the ‘U.S. Mint’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some selected extracts from those comments:

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

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

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

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

by Scott Simon
January 18, 2013 2:27 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about Marx — Groucho, Chico and Harpo?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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FOR MORE than ten years I have been studying the future development of the coins and coin denominations of the United States. Our coinage system and the coins themselves drastically need revision. But the institutions which have the power to change our coins have been hesitant to act and we face the most inept situation in that two of our coins now cost more than their face value to make!

At present we have a situation where the zinc industry is lobbying Congress to retain the one cent coin, even though it has passed its time as a viable coin of commerce. The cent coin needs to be abolished, like Canada has done earlier this year. The cent denomination will still exist, transactions can still be made in cents and dollars, it is just the final amount will be rounded off to eliminate any necessary payment of cent coins.

What is needed is to study our entire coinage system with an unbiased view, establish a well thought-out plan, and have this vetted by all organizations and institutions which have an interest in the outcome.

Better yet, invite these organizations to have a part in forming that basic plan. They could be represented on a committee to study and make recommendations for what coin denominations the U.S. Mint should manufacture – and their characterizes.

One of the fields of American commerce with the greatest activity in circulating coins is the vending machine industry. Their trade association would be ideal to be involved in determining what coins would be best for future circulation.

As a numismatist, I would recommend a numismatic association as well.  This is important because there are forces in existence at present which desire to replace coins where all transactions are electronic transfer of payments. This would be a death knell for the hobby of coin collecting which needs new coins issued every year, if only a change of date or mintmark.

I won’t say numismatics is at a crossroad. But it is a serious situation, which, if not confronted, could lead to the elimination of modern coins.  (We would still have ‘old coins” to collect, but new issues keep new people entering the field, as evidenced by the Statehood Quarter series.)

What I propose is to establish a study group – a Committee for Determining America’s Future Coins. The committee would do some creative “think tank” reasoning. Then make a report of their recommendations.

The recommendations can be as specific as metal formulas for coin compositions to reconfiguring new cash registers of the future – where perhaps no one touches the coins, the machine does all that. To perhaps, embedding a microchip in high value coins which records, say, the last ten transactions.

We are in a new century. We need not utilize last century’s coinage system. Below is a letter I have written to the new executive director of the ANA to initiate the formation of this Committee.

An Open Letter to Jeff Shevlin, ANA Executive Director

Jeff Shevlin, Executive Director
American Numismatic Association
818 N. Cascade Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO  80903

Dear Jeff:

There are very strong forces in existence today that if allowed to continue will ultimately abolish the need and use of coins. Namely, the electronic transfer of money. If we are to see the continued use of coins in the future  – of viable coin denominations, the continuance of our hobby with new coin issues, and the sheer existence of numismatics! – there are some actions that must be taken fairly quickly to ensure the abolishment of coin issuing will never happen.

Fortunately we have a strong ally, the vending machine industry. While this industry has continued with inadequate coin denominations – and plagued with problems of paper currency in their machines – they are one of the greatest users of coins in our economy. We assume they would want to continue to use coins in preference to any other system of collecting payments for the small transactions generated by their vending machines.

Therefore I propose the ANA, as the largest coin association, join forces with the largest trade association of the vending machine industry for the purpose studying what coins – denominations and specifications – would be the most viable for future use in America. In effect, establish a Committee for Determining America’s Future Coins.

This committee would determine not only what coin denominations are necessary, but also their specifications – composition, diameter, thickness and such. Further, it could make suggestions as to design but the basic factors are the important considerations since designs can change often.

Organizations which have an influence in Future Coins should be represented on this committee:

  • ANA – two members
  • Vending Trade Association  – two members
  • U.S. Treasury Department  – one member
  • U.S. Congress  – one member
  • U.S Mint – one member
  • Futurist Society – one member.

There is one person whose credentials recommend him to be the chairman of this committee. That person is François Velde. He has written a book on the subject of small coins in world coinage systems and is currently Chief Economist, Chicago Federal Reserve Bank.

For ANA to join with a trade association of the vending machine industry to sponsor such a committee would benefit both fields. It would benefit the numismatic field by insuring the continued, well planned, use of coins far into the future. It would benefit the vending machine field by giving them the most useful coin denominations and a time schedule to reconfigure their machines for the most efficient use in the future.

Heretofore the Treasury has made coin decisions on one situation or crisis at a time. This should be replaced by an overall established plan for the most efficient coinage system covering any circumstance in the future. This should eliminate such actions as issuing a dollar coin near the same diameter as a quarter. Or the continued manufacture of cents and nickels costing more to make than their face value.

Can you make an arrangement with the vending machine trade association to form such a committee?


D. Wayne Johnson

D. Wayne Johnson,
Corporate Historian, Medallic Art Co

Jeff Shevlin and Dick Johnson at the 2010 ANA Boston convention.

Jeff Shevlin and Dick Johnson at the 2010 ANA Boston convention.

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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

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