Forty years ago the Franklin Mint struck one of the most historic,
strangest and oddly least valuable of all U.S. presidential inaugural
medals — the 1973 Richard M. Nixon second inauguration medal.
Never before had America experienced a pair like Nixon and his
vice president, Spiro T. Agnew. The disreputable duo appears on the
obverse of the medal, which is notable for several reasons.
It is the only inaugural medal to show a president and vice
president who later resigned. It has the largest mintage of any
Nixon was sworn into office for a second term on Jan. 20, 1973. In
his second inaugural address he said, “Let us pledge together to make
these next four years the best four years in America’s history, so
that on its 200th birthday America will be as young and as vital as
when it began, and as bright a beacon of hope for all the world.”
The enthusiasm would not last long. On Oct. 10, 1973, Agnew
resigned just before he was convicted of felony tax evasion charges
stemming from a highway construction kickback scheme.
Two days later Nixon appointed Gerald R. Ford to serve out Agnew’s
term as vice president. In less than a year, Ford would be sworn-in as
U.S. president following Nixon’s resignation on Aug. 9, 1974.
Nixon’s inauguration committee had awarded the medal contract to
Franklin Mint, a private mint. Gilroy Roberts, former chief engraver
of the United States Mint, oversaw the firm’s artistic side. Roberts
engraved the obverse of the Nixon medal himself.
Ironically, as chief engraver he had designed the obverse of the
Kennedy half dollar, honoring Nixon’s nemesis in the 1960 election.
From the firm’s creation in 1964 through the early 1980s, Franklin
Mint’s marketing materials appeared in major magazines, daily
newspapers and as direct mail pieces.
Noncollectors bought medals by the millions, apparently unaware
that few people actually collect medals. On the secondary market,
supply outstripped demand. Franklin Mint medals today trade largely as bullion.
The Franklin Mint produced two gold inauguration medals for
presentation to Nixon and Agnew, and 23,162 silver and 106,036 bronze medals.
The silver medals contained nearly 6 ounces of silver and
initially sold for $80 to $85, depending on finish. Today silver
medals selling on eBay command a small premium over bullion.
Bronze medals, which were issued at $6 to $10 depending on finish,
have a hard time finding buyers at any price. At any given moment
dozens are listed on eBay. Some sell for $5 to $10. Many attract no
bids at all.
Gerald Tebben is editor of the Central States Numismatic Society’s Centinel.