When was my silver John Paul Jones medal made, and what is it worth?
I have a silver John Paul Jones medal that was presented to Charles Stilman Sperry, a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy in the early 1900s, by the U.S. government. Sperry served in the Pacific Rim as sort of an ambassador.
The medal is marked DUPRE, F and edge marked with ARGENT. The medal measures 63.5 millimeters in diameter and is in Mint condition, crisp, clean and sharp, in an original velvet box.
When was it made, and what is it worth?
- Judith Martin
by Coin World Staff
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The John Paul Jones medal is among the most famous early American medals and the first naval medal authorized by the American Congress.
Struck at the Paris Mint to commemorate a major American naval victory in British waters, it shows a bust of Jones on the obverse and a battle scene on the reverse.
The gold version of the medal given to Jones is lost to time. A gold restrike authorized in 1947 was presented to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Your medal is a later restrike, not among the limited number of medals issued in the late 18th and early-to-mid-19th centuries.
Two characteristics give it away as a restrike - size and the edge marking - according to "Comitia Americana and Related Medals," by John W. Adams and Anne E. Bentley. The Jones medal is in a class of early medals named for the American Congress that authorized them ("Comitia Americana" in Latin).
Original silver medals are slightly smaller, measuring 56 millimeters, and do not have the ARGENT on the edge.
Adams said the medal appears to be one restruck by the French Mint from the original dies after they were sandblasted sometime between 1880 and 1898. The box accompanying the medal "seems more Japanese than French," said Adams, who believes the provenance adds a lot of value to the medal.
Medal expert Alan Weinberg is less bullish, noting that old cases are abundant and often paired with more modern medals to make them appear older.
However, another medal expert, Anthony Terranova, concurs with Adams, identifying the piece as a late 19th century French Mint product, worth maybe $1,000 to the right buyer.
According to Weinberg a French Mint restrike would be worth $800, while an original silver medal would be worth perhaps $15,000.
Extremely common 1970s-era pewter examples abound, worth only a few dollars each.
by Coin World Staff
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