While at the Florida United Numismatists convention Jan. 5-8 I learned from retired congressman Jimmy Hayes that there will be no official inaugural medal for President Donald Trump. I had been hoping against hope that the low-key approach to inaugural medals taken by the two Barack Obama inaugural committees in 2009 and 2013 would be improved upon this year. Instead, the low-key approach has turned into a no-medal-at-all approach.
It is the passing of a century of tradition.
Trump ran on a platform of shaking things up. Not having an official inaugural medal is certainly shaking up this small corner of the numismatic collectible market.
The fact no official inaugural medal will be made in 2017 does not mean there will not be medals sold by private firms to commemorate the swearing in of a new President.
Hayes, who has handled the commissioning of such pieces for some past administrations, noted that inaugural medals were fund-raisers for the political parties. No official medal means no funds for the party. However, unofficial medals will route whatever income stream sales generate to the firm or individual that offers them. There are likely to be more than one of these privately produced medal offers. I have not seen any yet, but you might have already seen one before this column is published.
While having the official inaugural medal designation would give a medal a certain cache, the absence of an official designation does not necessarily make any of the new medals to be issued any less collectible.
Inaugural Day 2017 will stand as an important event regardless of what commemorates it.
What would be truly disappointing is if there were no medals at all by private firms. That would indicate less confidence in this particular numismatic art form.
While coins might be replaced by electronic payments, electronic payments will never stand as monuments for future generations to look at and study as medals do. History, the quality of the artwork, biography of the artist as well as the President himself passes down through the ages with a medal.
Whether the medal is gold, silver or bronze is an indication of the standing of the original buyer, or of his willingness to invest in it. Size of the medal also matters.
I have held a number of past inaugural medals in my hand. They have heft. I have even bought a couple, but I do not consider myself a collector of them. I recall that I even gave a silver one as a gift.
But more than anything, an inaugural medal indicates the passing of another four years and a renewal of hope for the country.
Is this tradition now gone for good? It has only been around since William McKinley in 1901. Perhaps it is time for a new private tradition. Whether it might be we will have to wait and see.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today
More Collecting Resources
• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2017 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.
• Check out the newly-updated Standard Catalog of World Coins, 2001-Date that provides accurate identification, listing and pricing information for the latest coin releases.