2004’s Coinage of the Americas Conference (COAC) convened in the ANS’ new facilities, at 96 Fulton Street (140 William Street), in lower Manhattan, Friday evening, May 14, at 6:30 p.m. Attendees found the building well on its way to readiness for occupancy. A welcome from Executive Director Dr. Ute Wartenberg-Kagan, expressing appreciation to the Stack family for its commitment to support this major annual function of the Society, was followed by a statement of acknowledgment and satisfaction from Larry Stack. The theme for this year’s COAC was “Medals Illustrating American Colonial History, the Work of C. W. Betts Revisited.”
Opening remarks were followed by the initial presentation of the Conference itself. This was a talk by Anne E. Bentley and John W. Adams, respectively Curator of the Massachusetts Historical Society and Trustee of the American Numismatic Society, on their large-scale project entitled “An International Survey of the Comitia Americana Medals.” Their goal is to locate and identify original and early restrike specimens of the Comitia Americana series extant in the world’s collections. Interesting preliminary results showed that original issues are considerably rarer than may have been heretofore supposed, and that the numbers reflect the political situations dominant at the time of their minting. These are the first medals that are attributed to the fledgling United States of America, although they were struck in France, at the Paris Mint (Monnaie de Paris).
Robert Hoge (l.) and John Adams (r.)
Participants congregated after the Bentley/Adams address for a sumptuous official dinner at nearby historic Fraunces Tavern, a location very much in keeping with the subject matter of the occasion. The 2004 COAC reconvened in the Society’s new facilities at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 15, for coffee followed by a full program of studies broken by a buffet lunch at noon. Eight presentations explored a number of the areas initially investigated and catalogued by early ANS member Charles Wyllys Betts in his 1894 work, American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals.
D. Wayne Johnson, well-known specialist in American Medallic productions and former officer of the prolific Medallic Arts Company as well as a one-time major dealer in medals, delivered a paper entitled “How Many Betts Medals are ‘America American.'” He identified those medals in the Betts canon of issues from various sources which are truly a part of the history of the geographical region which is now the United States of America, and discussed the origins and criteria for selection of such pieces.
D. Wayne Johnson
Robert W. Hoge, Curator of American Coins and Currency at the American Numismatic Society, in his talk entitled “A Survey of the Betts Series of Medals in the Collection of the American Numismatic Society,” delineated the extent of the Society’s collection of this material, noting some pieces of particular attractiveness and interest among the extensive holdings which have been donated over the years. Of particular importance are the gifts of Daniel Parish Jr., around the turn of the last century, and the more recent contributions from the renowned Norweb collection.
US Comitia Americana Series, John Paul Jones, 1779 by Augustin Dupré. Early silver restrike, Paris Mint Betts. 568 (ANS 1967.225.518, Wadsworth Atheneum J. Coolidge Hills bequest).
Eric Goldstein, Curator at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, discussed “Exonumia of the British Armed Forces, 1740-1780.” Using contemporary source illustrations, he elucidated the interpretation and context of a wide variety of little-recognized pieces of numismatic militaria, pointing out the importance of social club insignia among officers.
Vicken Yegparian, numismatist and researcher with the Stack’s firm, unveiled his original research on the exceedingly rare academic medal issued by his alma mater, which had not yet been uncovered in Betts’ day. His talk, “The Premium Medal’s Awarded by the Literary Society of King’s College in New York 1767-1771,” utilized unpublished materials from the archives of Columbia University (formerly King’s College) and elsewhere.
A leading specialist and researcher in the period of French Revolutionary numismatics, Richard Margolis presented the results of his long-term extensive research in original archival sources in France. In his talk “Benjamin Franklin in Terra Cotta, Portrait Medallions by Jean Baptiste Nini and Jean Martin Renaud,” Margolis covered these remarkable series of ceramic images and discussed their background and creation.
David T. Alexander, scholarly researcher, writer and numismatist with the Stack’s firm, presented “The Enigmatic John Stewart Comitia Americana Medal,” in which he pursued the occasion, the preparation and the post-humous awarding of this the most rare and least understood of the original Congressional series of medals.
In his “Thomas Jefferson, Medal Collector,” researcher and dealer John Kraljevich investigated the third president’s place in numismatics in terms of the coins and medals he is known to have handled and issues with which he was involved, reporting observations drawn from the collections of Jefferson’s papers and discussing his diplomatic activities and travels.
Researcher David Menchell summarized the extensive material which, for a variety of reasons, did not find its way into Betts’ catalog. His “‘Betts Medals’ Not Included in the Betts Canon” focused largely upon those medals relating to European treaties which contain specific provisions dealing with American subjects but which were not previously regarded as necessarily having American connotations. He included particular examples of items unknown to Betts but to be found in the ANS collection.
The working title for the eventual ANS publication of the proceedings from the 2004 COAC is The Medal in America, Volume 3: Medals Illustrating American Colonial History, the Work of C. W. Betts Revisited.