Editor’s note: In his July monthly Coin World cover feature,
noted medal expert David T. Alexander traces the path of the Art
Nouveau and Art Deco design movements through the beautiful designs
of European and American art medals. This is one of a series of
articles from this feature that will appear online at CoinWorld.com.
Read other posts in the series:
Private mints soar
The United States Mint had ceased to be a leading force
in medallic art in the 19th century. Its productions were uniformly
staid and traditional, further limited by the uninspiring dull
yellow-bronze patina adopted around 1913 and still in use today.
Virtually all advances in design and medal manufacture in the United
States were made by private firms, notably Medallic Art Co., Whitehead
and Hoag, and the Robbins Co. of Attleboro, Mass.
firms struck several American Art Deco medals that made the 1930s
memorable. Appearing in 76-millimeter bronze silverplate, Norman Bel
Geddes’ medal marks the 25th Anniversary of General Motors
Corporation, personification of U.S. industrial might. Struck by
Medallic Art Co., it combines incuse and relief elements with broad
expanses of smooth field.
The ultra-modern obverse is
highlighted by a tall vertical wing over a speeding eight-wheeled
experimental automobile in what appeared to be a wind tunnel. This
vehicle was designed by Bel Geddes in 1928. The reverse is divided
vertically by a stylized automotive engine piston suggesting vigorous
motion. Tiny incuse dates 1933 – 1908 are placed near the rim;
recessed segments bear the concentric legend COMMEMORATING THE
TWENTYFIFTH – ANNIVERSARY OF GENERAL MOTORS. This medal designed by a
nonmedalist remains immensely popular today.
similar stark simplicity is the unsigned 76-millimeter bronze
silverplate medal for the 10th Anniversary of National Broadcasting
Company struck by the Robbins firm. The obverse presents a cross
formed by two reiterations of NBC, with arms of stylized lightning,
the incuse dates 19 – 26 and 19 – 36 appearing in the fields.
The reverse is surrounded by the incuse-relief legends National
Broadcasting Company Inc. and a Radio Corporation of America Service,
which together form the outer rim, around TENTH ANNIVERSARY and TO
THOSE WHO HAVE SHARED WITH US IN THE ADVANCEMENT OF BROADCASTING.
More from David T. Alexander's feature on Art Nouveau and Art Deco
is on the way. Check back with Coin World for the rest of the
series, or better yet: