Heritage political memorabilia auction includes inaugural medals

Frent Collection of Political and Presidential Americana offered in February sale
By , Coin World
Published : 02/08/18
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Many tokens and medals are included among the offerings of Heritage’s Feb. 24 presentation of Part II of the David and Janice Frent Collection of Political and Presidential Americana.

Heritage writes, “The Frent Collection is perhaps the last of the old time ‘general collections’ covering the vast expanse of our political history,” and it represents a lifetime of collecting for the couple. David Frent told Heritage, “Going to shows of all types, indoor and out, became a way of life for us,” adding, “The American election is the only event since the inception of our country that can be collected every four years in the form of memorabilia. Moreover, politicals take many forms, from canes with heads of the candidates to beer steins to the magnificent posters and flags, along with buttons, ribbons and medals. One never knows what you’ll find on some weekend journey into the country.”

The first of a planned eight offerings of the Frent Collection realized nearly $1 million on Oct. 21, 2017. Like many collectors, the Frents always tried to obtain items in the finest condition. David told Heritage, “If we had the opportunity to upgrade, we always took it. We weren’t thinking investment terms in those days. We just wanted the most appealing examples we could find.”

What coin struck in the second half of the 20th century has a doubled die obverse, dates of two sizes and an RPM? John Wexler explains. Also inside this issue, Joel Orosz checks out what was in the first “superstar” collection’s auction catalog.

Especially considering the sheer volume of the collection, it might surprise readers that the collectors actually kept and displayed the collection in their home. As Janice told Heritage, “It’s hard to imagine living without the collection, but over time the burden of being its custodians has grown harder to bear; it’s a great responsibility.”

The Feb. 24 offering has a nice offering of inaugural medals, which enjoy their own collecting base along with more general political and presidential history collectors. Among the earliest inaugural medals are those related to the election of John Quincy Adams in 1824. The one offered at Heritage measures 51 millimeters in diameter and is struck in white metal. Researchers believe this medal was probably struck at the Philadelphia Mint.

Both sides were designed by Moritz Fürst. The obverse depicts Adams in profile and reads: “John Quincy Adams President of the United States March 4. 1825.” The reverse has an allegorical scene with Minerva (representing science) passing a laurel branch to an Indian (representing America) seated on a cornucopia. An eagle perched on a broken tree is perched behind Minerva. SCIENCE GIVES PEACE surrounds above, with AND AMERICA PLENTY below. The artist’s name appears on both sides: in sunken lettering on the truncation of the bust on the obverse, and below the horizontal exergual line on the reverse.

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This well-circulated example is graded Very Good by Heritage, which observes rim bruises on both sides. Another example, graded About Uncirculated, realized $4,750 in a 2016 Heritage auction.

Fürst was trained in Vienna and moved to the United States in 1807 when he was 26 years old.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art noted in its description of a silver example of this medal in its collection, “Fürst’s prolific output made him the most important engraver in American medallic art during the early nineteenth century.”

As Chris Neuzil observed when presenting an article on the engraver at the 1997 Coinage of the Americas Conference at the American Numismatic Society, “Fürst himself remains a shadowy figure, with many questions surrounding his professional and personal life.”

Hoover, Taft medals

Later examples of inaugural medals offered include a 69-millimeter bronze medal issued for the inauguration of Herbert Hoover, which Heritage grades Uncirculated. It was the work of Henry K. Bush-Brown, who was well-known in his day for his realist depictions of historical American subjects who also served as a member of the Inaugural Committee. Just over 1,000 examples of the Hoover inaugural medal were produced by the U.S. Mint with dies produced by the Medallic Art Company.

The obverse reads INAUGURATION • MARCH 4 1929 and has the designer’s initials in the lower left field before Hoover’s bust. The reverse reads “Herbert Hoover/ President/ Charles Curtis/ Vice/ President” above an American eagle with spread wings.

Surrounding the eagle are highlights of Hoover’s career, with a star shining on Europe, reflective of his support of European relief efforts post-World War I at the left. The artist described it as an American Star of Hope, sending its rays of relief to the people of Europe, represented by a map that highlights France, Germany, and Austria. Mining equipment and symbols reflecting his position as Secretary of Commerce during the Warren G. Harding administration are on the right.

Another example of the medal in comparable condition sold for $881 at a 2012 Cowan’s auction.

More simple in its design is an inaugural medal celebrating William Howard Taft’s March 4, 1909, inauguration. The medals were struck by the Joseph K. Davison’s Sons firm and the bronze 50-millimeter medal is offered in its original white pasteboard box. A description of a gold example in the Smithsonian American Art Museum states, “The inclusion of Vice President James S. Sherman on the obverse, while unusual for an inaugural medal, recalls late nineteenth-century pieces, when portraits of both leaders were presented side by side.” Indeed, William McKinley’s 1901 medal and Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 medal featured busts only of the president, in contrast to the medals of 1889, 1893 and 1897, which depicted both the newly elected president and his vice president.

Taft and Sherman did not pose for the Davison’s Sons company artist, who worked from photographs. Three thousand were originally issued and examples in compromised condition can be found for under $100. A particularly nice example, graded Mint State 63 brown by Numismatic Guaranty Corp, sold for a bid of $250 at Ira and Larry Goldberg’s September 2014 Pre-Long Beach auction.

The collectors said that they were hesitant to sell, but told Heritage, “After giving much thought, we made an extremely difficult decision. At this juncture, we want to give the opportunity to others to enjoy the items we have cherished for so long and feel this is the only way to be fair to all.”

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