Mike Diamond suggested that I reach out to you on an item that I
came across a while ago. It looks like a splasher of an Adm. George
Dewey medal of some sort, and up to now I have had it in my error
collection. In general it is just a really neat item, but if a cool
story were behind it, well — it would make it that much more cool!
I determined the composition as follows: Pb, 92.01; Fe, 3.47; Cu,
2.63; Pt, 1.82.
Paul Heinent, via email
The design on the reader’s splasher (a uniface trial strike) was
used for small medals commemorating both the USS Maine and George Dewey.
The Maine was an American battleship destroyed by an explosion
while at anchor in Havana Harbor in Spanish-occupied Cuba in 1898. The
Spanish-American War was declared following the Maine’s sinking
(though popularly blamed on Spain in 1898, the explosion’s cause
remains unidentified). Dewey commanded the American squadron that
defeated an outgunned Spanish naval force in the war’s Battle of
Numerous numismatic souvenirs arose from the war, many of them
featuring the Maine and many others depicting Dewey.
Medals bearing the same design as the reader’s splasher were
composed of metal recovered from the Maine — making those pieces
The relic medals were introduced Feb. 15, 1899, a year to the day
after the sinking of the Maine.
They were struck by W.F. Doll Manufacturing Co., New York City.
The company obtained about 1,200 pounds of metal from the New York
Navy Yard. The medals were accompanied by a handbill attesting to
their authenticity as genuine USS Maine relic souvenirs. The medals
were sold in several forms: attached to a straight pin, to an
eagle-shaped hanger and to a butterfly-style U.S. flag ribbon. The
firm also made watch cases, souvenir charms, pins, buttons and other
souvenirs from metal recovered from the Maine.
These relic medals are simple disks of metal, into which the image
of Dewey and sparse inscriptions were impressed. The obverse features
the raised image, with the reverse being a rough, incused, mirror
image of the obverse. However, many pieces have a backing plate to
hide the incused image. The design was engraved by C. Kunze.
The composition of Heinent’s piece, more than 92 percent lead,
suggests that it is not a “relic” piece, since the relic pieces are
made of steel. Splashers are often struck on soft metallic
compositions to test a hub’s or die’s appearance.
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