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Regard for medals rising?

In my collecting career, medals have been the stepchildren to coins. Most collectors I knew years ago had no interest in them. After all, they weren’t coins. They were second class.

That may sound a little harsh, but the words capture the attitude. Sure there are niche collectors of Inaugural medals and other things. Generalists will become reacquainted with them as we near the Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration of the next President. The quadrennial bloom will be on that particular rose.

Nearly 30 years ago the John Wayne medal took the hobby by storm. I didn’t buy one, but I remember reporting on the phenomenon.

I raise this particular topic this morning as I look at the sales totals for First Spouse bronze medals. We know the gold coins for Martha Washington, Abigail Adams and Miss Liberty standing in for Mrs. Jefferson sold out in hours. Those totaled 40,000 apiece.

The bronze medal sales totals for the same three are 39,016, 36,426 and 34,268. Buyers of these pay far less for the same design as appears on the gold coins – just $3.50. But there is no real hope of making any kind of speculative profit, so the purchasing impulse has more to do with the collector impulse and the simple pleasure in owning them.

Those totals rise by 50 percent if you count the pieces included in the 2007 Presidential $1 Coin and First Spouse Medal Sets. These were priced at $7.95 each.

Admittedly, these totals are small when compared to, say, the 480,176 Presidential $1 Coin Proof Sets sold so far for 2008, but they strike me as significant.

Now I am tainted by my generational attitudes to medals. Has that attitude been thrown off by newcomers who have no memory of circulation finds, proof Ike dollars and the first U.S. Olympic coins?

Perhaps. What do you think?