Collectors often think of commemorative medals in terms of a single
subject — tribute to an artist or military hero, a royal coronation,
inauguration of a president or an important anniversary of some
Experienced medal collectors soon learn that medals in their
collections may relate to two, three or more subjects. One such is the
38-millimeter 1916 medal released by professional numismatist Thomas
L. Elder (born 1874, died 1948) honoring the New York Numismatic Club,
which he helped organize in 1908 and 1909.
Elder was one of America’s leading dealers, who presented a
decades-long stream of high quality and collectible auctions, and sold
ancient, world, and American coins and medals at retail.
He was also famous for his many strong and freely expressed
opinions on numismatics and numismatists, temperance, sound money,
politics and current events.
Elder fastened on medals as his favorite medium of expression,
issuing a steady stream of them from about 1903 until 1939. These
ranged from celebrations of the life of President Abraham Lincoln to
savagely satirical forays into the politics of the American Numismatic
Association and American presidential elections.
Elder’s medals were definitively cataloged by numismatist Thomas
K. DeLorey in the ANA journal, The Numismatist, in 1980.
The “Five Presidents” medal reflects Elder’s deep interest in the
American Revolution with an obverse presenting an emblem used on
Continental paper currency, showing a beaver — representing the 13
Colonies — chewing through the trunk of a tall palm tree, which
European artists thought emblematic of America. The Latin PERSEVERANDO
translates to “Persevering.”
The reverse is devoted to the NYNC, another of Elder’s favorite
subjects. He listed four Club presidents: founder Frank C. Higgins,
artist-cataloger and Mint mark pioneer Augustus G. Heaton, collector
Elliott Smith, and Union News Co. mogul and mega-collector F.C.C.
Boyd. For some unknown reason, this medal is called “Five Presidents,”
though only four are listed! Elder himself never served in that office
but always enjoyed ballyhooing the club.
Despite his near lifetime as a New York City resident, Elder had
the Chicago firm of Charles Hanson strike most of his medals. This
issue, DeLorey 90, was produced in silver, German silver, brass,
oreide, aluminum, lead and red fiber.
Shown is the aluminum version. Like most Elder issues, it is
relatively scarce and difficult to find in 2014, but is of lasting
interest to collectors thanks to its multiple subjects.
DAVID T. ALEXANDER is author of American Art Medals, 1909-1995 and
a fellow of the American Numismatic Society. He is a
numismatist/researcher for Harlan J. Berk Ltd.