One of the highlights of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) 2017 Summer Seminar in late June was the class, “The Medal in America,” an in-depth look at medals relating to the New World and specifically to the United States.
Serving as instructors were David T. Alexander and Dr. David Menchell, both of New York, life members of ANA, leaders of Medal Collectors of America (MCA) and the New York Numismatic Club (NYNC).
The 2017 event was the ANA’s 49th Summer Seminar, taking place in the 50th anniversary year of the ANA Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. Classes and social events were held at headquarters and in the nearby buildings of Colorado College which adjoin ANA.
Largely devoted to United States coins in the early years, the seminar has branched out into a wide spectrum of U.S. and world topics, including coin grading and authentication, ancient and world coins, U.S. type coins and many other heavily attended areas. Medals were first explored at the 2016 seminar.
Nine medal collectors signed up for the 2017 course, ranging in age from 14 to the mid-70s. Some could boast of a lifetime of collecting, others were relative newcomers in the first flush of enthusiasm. For the purposes of the seminar “Medals in America” opened with the colonial era of the European powers that was first chronicled in the 1880s by C. Wyllys Betts of Connecticut in “American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals,” first published in 1894.
The term “Betts Medals” often confuses European dealers and collectors but the medals so described are the cornerstones of medal collecting in this hemisphere. The course continued through the historic Comitia Americana medals of the American Revolution, struck at the Paris Mint for the Continental Congress and involving Patriot leaders including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
The founding of the U.S. Mint at Philadelphia and its earliest medal issues received attention, leading to in-depth review of mainstream medals including the War of 1812, military and naval, Presidential, Indian Peace, exposition and commemorative medals produced by the Mint down to our own time.
Examined in detail were methods of engraving and striking, with close attention to methods of patination that gave Mint medals their distinctive colors and surfaces. Medals on display came from the instructors’ collections and the holdings of the ANA museum, keyed to R.W, Julian’s “Medals of the United States – the First Century,” published by the Token and Medal Society in 1977.
Medals created outside the Mint that received brief mention included Presidential Inaugural Medals. Produced by the official inaugural committees from 1888 down to our own time; this series unexpectedly lapsed in 2017. Highlighted were such great names as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
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