Skip to main content

Will medal sales get a boost?

Whatever you think about the ability of Congress to function, it certainly knows how to hand out Congressional Gold Medals.

The front page of Numismatic News for two weeks running had details about the awarding of a medal to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King and another to President of Israel Shimon Peres.

Another will be awarded tomorrow in the Capitol rotunda to honor Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who helped many thousands of Jews in Hungary escape the gas chamber in 1944. He disappeared in 1945 as the Red Army pushed back the Nazis and occupied the country.

The individuals honored are certainly worthy, but it does seem like the process is turning into an assembly line.

This might be a good thing.

The Mint sells duplicates of the gold medals in bronze to collectors. Collectors tend to be skittish about buying medals, preferring coins to something that carries no denomination and is not legal tender.

Part of this reluctance might simply be due to a lack of familiarity with medals. They are not listed in standard guide books and they do not usually appear in advertisements. Many collectors might simply not know that they exist.

Having three ceremonies in a short span of time might be just the thing to introduce medals to collectors who know nothing about them.

While the purpose of the medal has nothing to do with collector commerce, the Mint would not make duplicates for sale if Congress intended commerce to be completely out of the picture.

A new generation of collectors might become acquainted with medals because of the quick repetition of the subject matter.

They might come to appreciate medals from the artistic point of view, because they are much better examples of what can be created on a round disk.

Medals have much higher relief. The artists and the Mint do not have to worry about how a medal will wear in circulation nor devote space to denominations and standard coin language.

Use in circulation is not the purpose of the medal. The purpose is to call attention in the best way possible to the achievements of the individuals being honored.

Repetition reinforces this idea.

I have often been told that someone needs to see something three times to truly remember it.

For Congressional Gold Medals, tomorrow is the third time. Let’s see how sales go.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."