|by Robert Wilson Hoge|
A couple of months pass, and it is once again time to recapitulate some of the various goings-on in the curatorial realm at the American Numismatic Society. It’s almost breathtaking, sometimes, how busy we are—dealing with these little pieces of metal and whatnot, and the people who want to know more about them. Occasionally, I receive feedback from those who seem to enjoy reading about the activities of their colleagues, so I’m continuing to give some background on specific pieces and series in the collection and how they have come to our attention, and now yours!
Ancient and Medieval World Ramblings
Alexander tetradrachms, both specimens in the cabinet and the ANS’ extensive collection of plaster casts, were the subject of recent study in the coin room by Andrew McIntire. The ANS holds the premier collection of coins of the peerless Macedonian king Alexander the Great (ruled 336-323 BC) and later emissions with his name and types from various mints of the Hellenistic world. In a different vein, and moving on in time, Luciana Cuppo Csaki, from the Centre for Medieval Studies Leonard Boyle, in Vicenza, Italy, made a study of gold issues of the late Roman emperors. She is analyzing the script of the early 5th-century CARPILIO mosaic in the Cathedral of Vicenza, for a colloquium of the International Association for the Study of Ancient Mosaics (AIEMA) coming up in Portugal in November. She was able to find some correspondence with the letter forms on solidi of Arcadius, Honorius and Valentinian III. From farther afield in the ancient Mediterranean world, Biblical coins specialist and ANS Fellow David Hendin stopped in to assist with our work on ancient Judaean coins and other issues of the Holy Land.
Fig. 1. Roman Empire, Valentinian III (AD 425-455). AV Solidus, Rome mint. RIC.2014. (ANS 1977.158.991, bequest of Robert F. Kelly). 21.9 mm.
Li Tiesheng, a retired mechanical engineer and a council member of the China Numismatic Society, visited our coin room to learn about ancient Western coinage in the collection. He is the author of several pioneering introductory books about Greek, Roman, and Byzantine numismatics, which are all firsts in the Chinese language. He was referred to us by Dr. Richard Doty, of the Smithsonian Institution, and brought with him a gift of a book on statistical analysis of Ancient Chinese Coins as a gift to the ANS Library, from Mr. Chow of the China Numismatic Society, the author.
Gokul Sapkota, from Nepal, inquired about an imitation California gold piece, and informed us that he wished to donate miscellaneous ancient Nepali and Indian coins.
We are of course happy to receive gifts of any items that we do not already have represented in the collection here, as long as they are worthwhile and germane to the Museum’s scope. Readers will surely be aware that most of our collection is catalogued onto the online data base, which all those who may be interested can access and study at our internet website, http://www.numismatics.org, the foremost of its kind in the world (as I never tire of mentioning!).
Cambridge University’s Fitzwilliam Museum continues the Medieval European Coinage multi-volume publication project based upon the magnificent collection formed by Philip Grierson. In this connection, Dr. William Day contacted us again for information relating the forthcoming catalog of coins from the Italian States, inquiring about the Arezzo, Orte, and Peerless hoards in the ANS cabinet. The “Arezzo hoard” was a parcel—presumably an actual, intact hoard—of 338 late 13th century Italian billon pieces, denari, purchased by ANS benefactor Mark M. Salton from a merchant in the outdoor market in the main piazza of Arezzo in 1937. Salton donated 337 of the coins to the ANS in 1982 (one piece having been previously given to a New Hampshire collector). The contents included 330 pieces ascribed to Arezzo, five of Perugia, two of Viterbo, and one of uncertain mintage. The hoard was published by Dr. Alan M. Stahl in the Revista Italiana di numismatica e scienzi affini in 1988 (v. 90, pp. 483-493). The so-called “Peerless hoard” was a gift of 130 medieval silver coins (65 Venetian soldini of the Doge Francesco Dandolo and 65 various Lusignan grossi of Cyprus) which the donor, Dr. Sidney Peerless, acquired from American dealer John Aiello. Whether this accession consists of an actual hoard, part of a hoard, two hoards or part of two hoards (or something else) cannot be readily determined. The Orte hoard consisted of 39 early Italian silver grossi of the mid 13th century, acquired as a purchase in the 1950s. Again, this interesting group of coins was studied by Stahl and published in the Proceedings of the 12th International Numismatic Congress, held in Berlin in 1997 (Berlin: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz Muenzkabinett, 2000). A choice coin of Viterbo attributable to the interregnum between two popes, 1268-1271, helps to date the deposit.
Fig. 2. Italian States: Viterbo, Sede Vacante (1268-1271). AR grosso, ex Orte hoard. CNI.12.5.13. (ANS 1958.122.1, purchase). 19.8 mm.
Another correspondent with an image to be identified sought information about a Medieval “casting counter” (in French, a jeton), a kind of token used by bankers and money changers and some merchants, probably dating from the 15th century. Such a piece is not actually a coin, but it does generally simulate the appearance of French blancs, standard silver coins of the era.
Dr. Jon Buck and Sheldon Peik submitted an inquiry regarding an odd Medieval silver piece which had been found while metal-detecting. So far it is unidentified, needing to be examined or at least shown via a better image. In Europe, coins of the Middle Ages are found all the time and appreciated as local issues, but in this country most people seem to have less understanding of them, and sometimes even less curiosity.
John Howes visited the coin room to research die characteristics on Massachusetts silver and also studied pieces in the collection of New Jersey State coppers. Writing a book on the history of advertising, Sara Bader also consulted with us to clarify descriptions of the coins of these kinds mentioned in Colonial history, such as those from the mint established in Boston in May of 1652. She was interested in correctly describing the issues in sequence for publication.
Fig. 3. Massachusetts Bay Colony. AR “New England” sixpence, Boston mint, (1652). Noe 1. (ANS 1946.89.5, gift of W. B. Osgood Field). 22.3 mm.
The first of these, to be sure, are the so-called “New England” coinage of the Massachusetts General Court—shillings, sixpences, and threepences struck with the “NE” logo at the mint of Boston in 1652. These rare and popular coins have been among my favorites since I had the occasion to authenticate what became the eighth known specimen of the New England sixpence, after it was found by a metal-detectorist some years ago on eastern Long Island. The mystique which these and their companion pieces—the succeeding “tree” issues—enjoy is unlike that of any other Colonial American money. The Society holds an outstanding collection of the Massachusetts silver pieces, many of the examples having come from the collection of William Bradhurst Osgood Field, whose family papers are now in the National Archives.
Another reference in the book by Ms. Bader related to an advertisement for a runaway, in which the advertiser offered a “three pistoles reward” for the slave’s return, in 1738 Virginia. This is apparently an intriguing mention of contemporary gold coins, certainly pertaining to the Spanish 2 escudos or the French Louis d’or—both pieces that could have been circulating in the colonies. The British usage of pistole was clearly meant to designate a foreign coin, but which? Although the French did use the term pistole in reference to the Spanish coin, and the British used it to refer to the French Louis d’or—its equivalent—as well, the Spanish 2-escudos gold piece (value, four silver “dollars,” or “pieces of eight”) was probably the coin generally called a pistole in the colonies due to the bustling illicit trade between British Americans and the Spanish colonial New World. A pistole would at that time have been worth 1/4 doubloon, so the reward offered in the advertisement was twelve dollars in gold of the period—probably roughly equivalent to two to four months’ wages for a typical laboring person (bearing in mind that comparisons in monetary purchasing power are notoriously tricky to make). A nice example of the kind of coin probably intended by this reference is a piece donated by ANS Life Fellow and benefactor Bernard Peyton. A contributor of wonderful gifts to the cabinet, this descendant of the famous du Pont family should rightfully be best remembered for his splendid gift of early United States gold coins, donated along with a fine group of comparable Latin American issues in 1960.
Fig. 4. New Spain (Mexico, under Spanish Colonial rule), Philip V. AV 2 escudos, Mexico mint, 1734/3 MF. (ANS 1960.166.154, gift of Bernard Peyton). 23.4 mm
Jesse Sheidlower, from the Oxford English Dictionary, inquired about the term “proclamation money” as pertains to the British Royal Proclamation of 1704, “according to which the Spanish dollar of 17 1/2 pennyweight was to be rated at six shillings in all the colonies.” This explanation is not quite as succinct and accurate as might be hoped. This proclamation in actuality was an attempt officially to monetize official silver coins of Spain and the Spanish Colonies, the Low Countries, France, the German States, and Portugal which were in general circulation in the British North American Colonies at that time. It sought to create a single coinage accounting system for all the colonies, which each had their own disparate exchange rates. An excellent discussion of this issue may be found in Philip L. Mossman’s Money of the American Colonies and Confederation: A Numismatic, Economic and Historical Correlation, Numismatic Studies No. 20 (New York: American Numismatic Society, 1993).
Proclamation values were calculated at the rate of 5 shillings 2 pence per troy ounce sterling. By overvaluing the coins (although Spanish pieces of eight may have been tariffed at six shillings, their intrinsic value would have been less than five), it may have been hoped that they would remain in circulation in the colonies rather than be used to discharge debt. However, the rate of overvaluation was less than that already prevailing in some of the colonies, and only Maryland and Barbados actually complied with the proclamation. The government basically wanted specie to flow to Britain in accordance with the current mercantile philosophy, so the motives may be suspect. The proclamation became law by act of Parliament in 1707, but to little effect. The overvaluation of hard money (as opposed to the paper currencies that were beginning to appear) provided less expensive payment of debt and higher price levels for merchants, so greater levels than those mandated by the Proclamation were popular. Massachusetts openly flouted the Proclamation from the outset. The whole arrangement is rather complex, and to some extent incomprehensible at the remove of three centuries. No wonder it didn’t work!
Fig. 5. Brazil (under Portuguese Colonial rule), John V. AV 20,000 reis, Minas Gerais issue, 1726. (ANS 1945.42.819, Avery Fund purchase, ex Beach Coll.). 38.0 mm.
Casiana Ionita, a Research Assistant at Harvard University, contacted us on behalf of English Literature Professor Marc Shell, who is working on a project called “Wampum,” about all the various kinds of money which circulated in the Early American period. They were seeking good quality pictures of items to include. The ANS’ overall collection of relevant items is probably unsurpassed, so this is the kind of enterprise with which we are able to assist a great deal. On the other hand, Ann Athraby inquired about Colonial North Carolina currency, of which she had obtained a group, but these, alas, turned out to be modern replicas. Well, maybe this is help, too.
Gabrielle Guise, a graduate student at Yale University in the PhD program in American Studies who is currently researching a project on Benjamin West’s painting of William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians (1771), wanted to consider contemporary Indian Peace Medals as a possible source for West’s binary composition of his painting. She was also interested in learning more about the Washington “Season” Medals, designed by John Trumbull when he was studying with West in London. The Society’s splendid Indian Peace medal collection is routinely the subject of many of our requests.
Dr. Carolyn Rose Rebbert, Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum of Arts and Science in Greenwich, Connecticut, contacted us concerning a planned exhibition, “Ben Franklin’s Curious Mind,” to be featured at the Bruce Museum from January 28, 2006 to April 23, 2006, to celebrate the tercentennial of Franklin’s birth and his achievements as scientist, inventor, printer, and statesman. Naturally, Franklin’s numismatic legacy can find a major place in such a theme, so she was interested in our 18th century paper currency and other items relating to him in our collection. While our collection of paper money actually printed by Franklin is relatively weak, particularly in terms of the condition of most of the few specimens we have, there are some nice surprises in this area. The ANS holds two of the 1776 Continental dollars—both presently on view in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. We also have a nice grouping of the “Fugio” coppers, which also utilized his sun and sundial/rings designs. Happily, we also have examples of a number of the medallic works that have featured Franklin or which have other connections to him.
While surveying the Early American pieces in the cabinet last year, in preparation for the Coinage of the Americas Conference, I had come across two uncatalogued examples of the handsome terracotta 1777 portraits of Franklin by Jean-Baptiste Nini. Not only are these among the most important specimens of Frankliniana and a nice addition to the catalog of “Betts” (Early American) medals I was preparing, but they are at the core of another of the talks presented and the conference, a study of Nini’s works by Richard Margolis, which we look forward to publishing before long. These are just two more instances of the treasures that have been awaiting attention; I was glad to have been able to catalog them and thus make this information available to the outside world.
Fig. 6. France. Terracotta medallion of Benjamin Franklin, 1777, by Jean-Baptiste Nini, with knotted string loop hanger; back marked “G. C. Verplanck/ [?] Historical So.” Betts 548. (ANS 0000.999.53932). 114 mm.
The Saint-Gaudens Legacy
Augustus Saint-Gaudens is one of the very few medallic sculptors whose name has entered the national vernacular in the field of art. While it may be his achievements in monumental sculpture that have most captured the imagination of the public, few would deny the claim that his designs for United States gold coinage, and for some of his medals, are basically unsurpassed. I mentioned in the last issue of the ANS Magazine, in this column, the lovely traveling exhibit of the master’s work that is presently touring the country under the auspices of the Trust for Museum Exhibitions, presenting a choice selection of his creations from the collection of the American Numismatic Society. Other specimens may be seen on display in our “Drachms, Doubloons and Dollars” exhibit at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Awareness and appreciation of Saint-Gaudens only grow as we approach the centennial of his death in 2007.
Roger Burdette wrote, “I am currently researching the Saint-Gaudens United States $20 gold designs of 1907 and note that the ANS has item #1907.469.1, described as “high relief, plain edge” in its collection.” He was curious about the actual relief on this piece and others, notably the lettered edge high relief specimens and the ANS’ extremely high relief example, currently on view in our exhibition “Drachms, Doubloons and Dollars,” because in March, 1907, the Philadelphia mint struck eight experimental pieces from the sculptor’s second set of models (very high relief) on which the relief was nearly as high as on the well-known first set of models. (These second models were later used with additional reduction in design height for the high relief pieces issued for circulation.)
Fig. 7. United States. AV $20, Philadelphia mint, 1907; original high relief Roman date design by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, completed by Henry Hering. (ANS 1907.469.1, gift of J. Sanford Saltus). 34.2 mm.
I examined the pieces in the collection on his behalf (although I could not at this time gain access to the Ultra High relief piece, which is sealed into a high-security case). I found that there are some incorrect descriptions in our data base catalog. For one thing, ANS 1907.469.1 does not have a “plain edge;” rather, it has the normal lettered edge and a so-called “flat rim” (as supposedly in contrast to the “knife” rim, although it clearly shows traces of the “wire” or “knife” rim; I think this is what the original description had been intended to mean). Appraisers have called it a “proof,” but it is not readily distinguishable in particular details from the ordinary high-relief strikings. We have another example identical to this one, ANS 1964.136.1, which is also called a proof. It too is described as a “flat rim” piece although it shows the “knife edge”—particularly on the reverse; its rims are very sharp, but details do not seem different from the other High-relief examples.
Burdette commented, concerning the fin rim (aka “knife” rim) vs. flat rim, that the fin is present on nearly all high relief specimens made before December 16, 1907. Specimens made after approximately December 16 show little or no fin and usually have better detail in the stars and less tendency to have “ghost” outlines caused by the three strikes necessary to bring up the design. Mint Director Leach had complained to Charles Barber and John Landis about the fin, and both poor appearance and potential for the coins being under weight. Leach came up with a solution based on experiments he did while Superintendent at San Francisco. The problem was solved by changing the milling angle and diameter of the planchets.
Re: “Proof” HR specimens. This seems to have been “interpolated” from Walter Breen’s descriptions of differences in edge lettering shape (not the font or layout). The differences could have also been caused by the two different mechanical edge collars that were tried on some of the HR specimens. All the coins were struck the same way: three blows of a 150-ton medal press; annealed between blows; no post-striking alterations such as sandblasting. This was the same for the EHR experimental pieces, except they took seven blows to finish.
United States Miscellany
Over the past couple of years, our move to the new facilities prevented my own desire to work on a study of the Colorado coiner Joseph Lesher, with material initially collected by Robert Kincaid. But luckily, since the move, we have found and now catalogued into the collection the original Lesher dies, which had been donated to the Society by Farran Zerbe in 1941. ANS Fellow Robert J. Leonard came to us regarding a proposed book he is working on about Lesher, was enthused by this development, and ordered photographs. Looking at these pieces for Leonard, I observed that the octagonal collar, which had been used to shape the unusual Lesher “referendum dollars,” had been clashed by one of the misplaced matching dies, thus clinching their relationship, as it were. The Lesher “dollars” were minted in Denver by the Colorado Badge Company, which was still operating in recent years. In fact, we were able to obtain many of its tools for the Museum of the American Numismatic Association while I was Curator there, before coming to the ANS in 2001.
Fig. 8a. United States: Victor (Denver) Colorado. Joseph Lesher “Referendum” souvenir medal, 1900, steel die. (ANS 1941.173.2, gift of Farran Zerbe). 35 mm.
Fig. 8b. United States: Victor (Denver) Colorado. Joseph Lesher “Referendum” souvenir medal, 1900, steel die. (ANS 1941.173.1, gift of Farran Zerbe). 35 mm.
In this column in the Spring 2005 issue of the ANS Magazine, Richard Crosby noticed that Jim Sweeney is in the process of cataloging American calendar medals, especially issues of Anderson & Sons, and sought to contact him on account of his own small collection of these. Manuel Chacón Hidalgo and David Hirsch both had inquiries about George Washington medals of what would appear to be unidentified types. Leah Hochberger, of the University of Delaware, asked about informational websites for data on recent U.S. coins. Donald Kasprzak was interested in the dies cut by Emil Fuchs for the Hudson-Fulton Celebration medals, which were produced by the ANS—particularly those employed for the striking of the gold medals (it is fascinating to observe how frequently we receive inquiries regarding this issue).
Steve Grabski visited the coin room to study American large cents in the cabinet, specifically issues of 1794 and proofs as well as a few other pieces of particular interest. Betsy Melvin, granddaughter of famed numismatist George H. Blake, stopped by for a visit to the new ANS facilities and donated to us a 19th century ferrotype image of him for our archival collections. She also had a few other items once owned by Blake (who was best-known for his splendid paper money collections), with which we were able to assist through consultation. Dr. Satyakam Sengupta wanted help with an American 1904 $20 gold piece. Alex Zaddach reported a coin with which he asked for assistance to determine the mint mark, which appears to be the “S” mintmark of San Francisco as found on a dime of 1943.
Fig. 9. United States. Ferrotype photographic image of George H. Blake, c. 1885. (ANS 2005.25.2, gift of Betsy Melvin). 23 x 38 mm.
Since the announcement of the discovery of an error variety of the Wisconsin State quarter dollar, there has been a renewed barrage of questions about the quarters and error coins in general. Indeed, the subject of mint errors elicits frequent inquiries without help from sensational reports of new discoveries. This atmosphere should contribute to the popularity of the new exhibit “Oops!” in the Museum of the American Numismatic Association, our sister organization, where there is a handsome collection of United States error coins.
World Coins Queries
Venezuelan dealer Antonio Alessandrini visited the coin room as part of his on-going research on the great 17th century silver pieces—the rare cinquentines or 50-reales coins of the Segovia mint—struck by Philip III (1598-1622) and Philip IV (1622-1665). Most of these impressive pieces in the ANS cabinet are from the collection of the Hispanic Society of America, formed by Archer M. Huntington. Our 1613 example was once thought (by Huntington?) to be a forgery, but this great rarity has been studied by authorities Adolfo Cayon and Mike Dunigan, who believe it to be quite genuine. The Standard Catalog of World Coins reports two known specimens in existence, but Cayon has recorded four, including ours.
Fig. 10. Spain, Philip III. AR 50 reales (cinquentín), Segovia mint, 1613 AR. (ANS 1001.1.27118, collection of the Hispanic Society of America). 74.7 mm.
ANS Life Fellow Ken Bressett was enthused in reading our recently-released book Cobs, Pieces of Eight and Treasure Coins, by Sewall Menzel. A quick glance through the book brought to mind a curious piece in his own collection that had yet to be tracked down. After studying the listings a bit more, he became convinced that the coin was not included in Menzel’s work. It is a 1652 8-reales piece of Potosí, similar to the Type VII reverse, with B obverse (as discussed on page 311). But the Bressett coin has the letters HP and a dot in place of the normal value numeral. It would be part of the 1652 Transitional series lacking the value (8) shown anywhere on it. Ken reported that “The coin is well struck and in high-grade condition, so the value is not simply obscured; it never was in the die.”
Guillermo Castellanos had a question about another Potosí cob 8-reales piece, purportedly a round “royal” issue of 1697. As treasure salvers continue to recover evocative coins from the wrecks of sunken ships, their familiarity and popularity seem to increase. In this case, however, the coin would seem not to be a memento from the sea, from the glory days of the Spanish Main, but a modern forger’s contrivance.
Continuing his research on early Venezuelan mintages during a recent visit to the coin room, Luis R. Ponte Puigbo had a chance to see some items that had not been available for viewing previously when he had visited the coin room at our old location. During the course of our move last year, and our subsequent efforts to improve the arrangement and storage of the collections now that we have much-improved vault conditions, I had encountered some additional coins of the revolutionary period which had been consigned to a tray of Latin American “counterfeits.” One of these, a 2 reales with the pseudo date of 931, is a variety unrecorded in the Standard Catalog of World Coins. Technically, all of the earliest Venezuelan silver may be considered as counterfeits of a sort, since they copied the basic design elements of the old Potosí and Lima “cob” coins minted from 1652 to 1772, and are rather cryptic and abbreviated in their markings. But modern research by Tomás Stohr and others has elucidated their production and revealed their status as important coins on the world economic scene in the first decades of the 19th century.
Fig. 11. Venezuela: Caracas Revolutionary series (ca. 1812-1817). AR 2 reales, Santa Marta(?) mint, “931.” (ANS 1916.147.6, purchase). 24.1 mm.
Canadian “Blacksmith tokens” were the focus for a recent visit by Early American collector John Lorenzo. These interesting pieces, which are essentially contemporary counterfeits of British halfpenny pieces—made very crudely so as to “fly under the radar” of the public (and the authorities!) of the time—are important as some of the oldest locally produced and circulating money of our neighbor to the north, no doubt also playing a similar role in this country as well. Having a look at Caribbean cut and countermarked pieces too, Lorenzo was pleased to be able to see a previously unreported (so far as we know) example of a New Jersey State copper countermarked by what was supposed to be an indication of authorization in Barbados. (He took advantage of his visit to reexamine the New Jersey coppers in general.)
Fig. 12. “Barbados” (New Jersey State issue). AE “copper,” 1787, Walter Mould’s Morristown Mint, crudely countermarked I:B within a heart shape on both sides. Maris 6-D. (ANS 0000.999.55204). 30.2 mm.
Lorenzo was also able to examine the fine new donation of 17th, 18th, and early 19th century lead bale seals—mostly salvaged and provenanced from 20th century construction projects in New York City—donated by astute local historian and amateur archaeologist William Asadorian. I am presently sorting, identifying, and cataloguing his group of about 230 items, including pieces collected from the Philadelphia waterfront area and from the site of Fort Ticonderoga. On first examination, I note that the attributable seals appear to be largely of British, Dutch, and German origin, with a few from France, Russia, and elsewhere. The ANS collection formerly included very few such seals at all, and these seem to have mostly come from England.
Professor Clare Hills-Nova, of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, inquired regarding an image of an 1848 Milanese 5 lire of the Provisional Government (of Lombardy and Venetia), a coin purportedly depicting revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini. Her research showed that the peculiar piece in question actually had a painted image—no 1848 coin is known to have been minted with Mazzini’s portrait. In actuality, coins of the Revolutionary Provisional Government struck in Milan in 1848 are available and quite collectable, although their mintage figures are seemingly unknown. They are in 5 (silver, in at least three varieties), 20 (gold) and 40 lire (also gold) denominations—all minted without reference to Mazzini, however.
Slav Shaparov was interested in finding out more regarding an 1819 British half-crown with a countermark he could not place—probably a 19th century merchant or banker’s private mark to validate the quality of the coin. The mark somewhat resembled the “sun” shown on some Thai coins of that era.
Musings on Medals
The Society is fortunate to have at least five medals from the major retrospective exhibition on the great Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, held in Florence in 1875. Dr. Clara Hills-Nova posed a question concerning the medals of this celebration. One can check for information about them (just as I did) via our web site at http://www.numismatics.org. Their accession nos. are: ANS 1940.100.1154, 1940.100.1155, 1940.100.1156, 1940.100.1149, and 1940.100.1168. Medals relating to Michelangelo have been well published by our donor, Robert J. Eidlitz, in his work Medals and Medallions Relating to Architects, Compiled and Edited and Reproduced in Great Part from the Collection of Robert James Eidlitz. Certainly Michelangelo has been an inspiration and the subject of quite a few medals over the centuries; the ANS cabinet offers a fine perspective on other sculptors’ conceptualizations of him.
Fig. 13. Italy: Florence. AE commemorative medal of Michelangelo Buonarroti, by N. Farnesi, 1875. Eidlitz 190. (ANS 1940.100.1154, bequest of R. J. Eidlitz and gift of Mrs. R. J. Eidlitz). 54.0 mm.
Thomas J. Leib, AIA, a Senior Associate with the architectural and planning firm of Arrowstreet Inc., has been conducting research on American Institute of Architects (AIA) Medals, Architectural Award Medals, Architectural School Medals and Architectural Society Medals, both American and French. Having completed cataloging the Medals in the AIA Archives, in Washington, and visited the Paris Mint, and the Département des Monnaies, Médailles et Antiques at the Bibliothèque Nationale, in France, he was ready to begin addressing the foremost collection of such material, here at the Society. Little has been written about the types of medals he is researching, so his research requires original investigation at primary sources and collections. The ANS is most fortunate to have the magnificent Robert J. Eidlitz collection of medals relating to architects and architecture as well as many other relevant pieces, including examples in some cases actually donated by the artists who created them. One particular rarity in the cabinet is a marvelous cast piece by Daniel Chester French, executed as a presidential prize for the Architectural League of New York. In “The Medals of Daniel Chester French” (in Coinage of the Americas Conference Proceedings No. 4: The Medal in America, Alan M. Stahl, ed., New York: American Numismatic Society, 1988, pp.135-156), the author, Michael Richman, erroneously reported that this medal was not known to exist. Leib has since located one additional example. The image of “Art” as a winged victory on this piece foreshadowed French’s modeling of a commemorative plaque for Spanish American War hero Admiral George Dewey’s flagship Olympia, depicting a similarly posed and draped classical figure.
Fig. 14. United States: New York. Architectural League of New York, AE award medallion, 1896, by Daniel Chester French. (ANS 0000.999.48535). 137 mm.
Kenneth N. Traub contacted us in connection with his research on the Queen Victoria Canadian Indian Treaty Medal. Specifically, he was ascertaining “the rarity of this medal struck in copper, possibly for collectors, as was the practice with United States Indian Peace medals and other United States Mint medals of the 19th century.” This of course led him to seek information as to whether examples might reside in the ANS collection, and if so, of what might they be made—silver or copper (typically bronzed to a chocolate or mahogany patina). These medals are the series listed in British Historical Medals, 1837-1901, by Laurence Brown; 1987 (London: Seaby’s, 1987) as number BHM 2961, the “American and Canadian Chiefs’ Medal.” They measure 76 mm in diameter and are dated 187_ (with the last digit punched into the silver presentation medals, as was the treaty number); they were used for Indian Treaties 3 through 8, between 1873 and 1899. Brown noted that examples of this medal reside in the collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; the Museum of London; and in the Royal Collection, at Windsor Castle. The ANS cabinet is fortunate to be graced by several silver examples of this attractive medal—ones actually awarded to Indians. They feature on the reverse a British officer and an Indian chieftain clasping hands, with a tipi village and sun on the horizon in the background.
Fig. 15. Canada (Great Britain), Victoria. AR Indian treaty medal, by J. S. and A. B. Wyon, Royal mint: Treaty No. 3, 1873. (ANS 1923.185.1, purchase). 76.0 mm (excluding loop and hanger attachment).
The great 19th century American medalist Charles Cushing Wright was the reason for a visit by Holly Clark, who is a descendent of the master and who wanted to get a perspective on some of his works. The Society is fortunate to have a fine assortment of Wright’s medals in the cabinet, perhaps the best in the existence. Medallic works of the ingenious 20th century American sculptor Marcel Jovine were the subject of a visit from Charles and Patricia Westwater, who had known Jovine as friends and neighbors. One of this artist’s great works, of course, is the 1983 piece celebrating the ANS’ 125th anniversary, commissioned under the presidency of Harry W. Bass. In an interesting subject-area specialization, Dr. Jay Galst has been working with us to prepare for eventual publication a catalog of medallic works relating to ophthalmology and related references, his field of professional practice.
An Enticing Treasury
I don’t believe ANS members really need to be told how important their Museum’s collection is. Any consideration of the extent of it, and the grand uses to which it is put will clearly highlight what a wonderful treasure it is. But it is all too easy not to think about its many needs and shortcomings. A lack of available funding makes the process of getting the items fully catalogued—not to mention photographed—for our digital data base very slow. And beyond the processing bottleneck, there are many important single items, and even entire ranges of numismatic materials, which are represented poorly if at all in the cabinet. Prices of desirable items are now so high that in many cases the Society can no longer plan to make judicious purchases when opportunity permits, as was once very commonplace. Yes, the Society can use a lot of help.
Were it not for the extraordinary generosity, intelligence, and foresight of a relatively small group of dedicated donors in the past, the collections might be more like those of some many other institutions today, ones which dabble with numismatic holdings, most of them not even having a staff member who knows or cares particularly about these remarkable bits of cultural heritage. Oddly, we often learn of small museums, governmental entities, and universities being given significant numismatic collections, and considerable amounts of revenue—and these are institutions where the numismatic items, as history has shown, are very likely to be either buried from view by the collecting fraternity or simply sold off. The ANS offers the opposite of this situation. Here, the collections are kept, studied, and catalogued for the benefit of all who are interested—routinely made available for research or even just to answer questions for the curious mind or to delight the beholder! We invite you to join donors and scholars of the past, and participate in and support the ANS’ many curatorial cabinet activities where you can really make a difference.