From the time of the founding of the American Numismatic Society in 1858, medals and decorations have held an important role in its holdings and activities. While only representative in its holdings of Italian Renaissance Medals, the collection is strong in the earliest struck pieces, especially sixteenth and seventeenth century silver from England, Germany, Netherlands and Italy. It also has a strong collection of the medals of the Beaux-Arts era, particularly from France and Austria, and a definitive collection of the twentieth-century German medalist Karl Goetz. Outstanding among its holdings of European decorations are the insignia of foreign orders from the J. Sanford Saltus collection.
It is in the area of American medals that the ANS holdings are clearly unsurpassed and of the greatest research utility. Its Indian Peace Medals, from the colonial period to the late nineteenth century, represent the most comprehensive public holdings of this series extant, and the collection is also definitive in such areas as political Americana, the issues of the Society of Medalists and the works of such prominent American medalists as Victor D. Brenner and A. A. Weinman, represented in their own private collections donated by heirs. With the acquisition of the J. Coolidge Hills bequest in 1967, the ANS has an exceptionally strong collection of American decorations, including military awards and the insignia of private societies.
In addition to acting as a repository of the history of the medal, the ANS remains an active part of this lively artistic medium. Through its close ties with the American Medallic Sculpture Association (AMSA) and the Federation Internationale de la Medaille (FIDEM) it supports the contemporary medals movement in America and abroad. Over more than a century, it has produced a series of medals of its own. Its periodic J. Sanford Saltus Award ceremony features the work of an honored artist in a retrospective exhibit and an illustrated talk in the series of Stephen K. Scher lectures on the history and art of the medal.
Inquiries about the Medals and Decorations collection should be directed to Peter van Alfen.
To search this department please click here.