Medals are like Rodney Dangerfield. They get no respect. I am as guilty as anyone at dissing the art form. I purchase them from time to time when I like the design or the theme, but I simply do not give them equal ranking with coins.
Part of this is due to my own interests. When I was a kid, coins were cool. Medals were substitutes when nothing else was available. It boiled down to the fact that coins could be found in circulation. Medals couldn’t. Case closed. There was also no price guide for popularly traded medals. As far as I knew, there weren’t any popularly traded medals.
Another part of my thinking is based on reader preferences. I monitor them. Medals still rank low.
Attitudes could be changing as we overcome old habits and a new generation of collectors takes over from those of us who remember the 1960s and whose outlook was formed during that period.
One piece of evidence of this is I had a call from a dealer who wanted mintage numbers for First Spouse medals – not the gold coins – the bronze medals.
This is the first time in over 30 years that I recall ever being asked for medal mintages. I don’t even think when the John Wayne medal came out in 1978 and Numismatic News was regularly running the ongoing sales totals that I was ever asked about it.
Needless to say, I couldn’t help the caller with numbers because I didn’t have them. The Mint Stats page runs the sales totals for Presidential $1 Coin and First Spouse Medal Sets, but that set includes a coin as well as a medal.
The individually sold First Spouse medals are not listed on the page. But as these designs go off sale, it is logical to ask what the total number produced of each design is.
When the American Arts gold medallions were sold 1979-1984, sales numbers were not very high relative to those of actual coins made out of gold, but this series has a place in American numismatic history because it was the federal government’s first attempt at selling gold to the public in numismatic form after gold became legal to own again at the end of 1974. As such, they are the forerunners of the popular American Eagle and Buffalo series.
I would be curious to know how all readers currently view medals. Are you buying the First Spouse medals? Certainly few are buying the coins. Those mintages are still in a down slide.
Setting aside U.S. Mint issues, there are enormous numbers of silver medals produced privately today to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other things. The fact they are widely advertised proves they are popular.
Most collectors think of these as an artistic way of owning silver bullion in a convenient one-ounce format. Nobody that I know of keeps track of mintages comprehensively because it seems to make little difference to value.
The silver art bar market of 1973-1974 didn’t start us out that way, but interest in production numbers and potential rarity fell dramatically after being among the hottest things going.
What does the future hold? Let me know what you think.