US Coins

Big, historical gold medals sell in the ANA auctions

Medals are a fascinating, and often affordable, area of numismatics though when produced in gold, they can get expensive.

Three medals presented at the official auctions of the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money each combine great designs with equally fascinating stories. They serve as permanent reminders of long-finished events. 

Heritage began offering the Alan V. Weinberg Collection at its 2019 Florida United Numismatists auctions, and its ANA sales presented Part II, which included many of his medals. Among the most charming was an 1893 Columbian Exposition, National French Draft Horse Association gold award medal measuring 58 millimeters in diameter and weighing 67.5 grams. It was awarded to El Paso, Illinois, horse breeder Ed Hodgson and came with its original plush-leather lined box of issue, though it is now housed in an oversized Numismatic Guaranty Corp. slab where it is graded Mint State 66. 

The maker is unknown, but it might have been produced by New York jeweler Theodore B. Starr, who created similar medals.

The National French Draft Horse Association was organized in 1876 and sought “to advance the interests of the importers and breeders of French Draft horses in the United States of America, and as a means to that end to provide for the proper registration of the same under such rules as may be prescribed by the Association.” The draft horse medal brought $14,400. 

Coveted railroad history

The National Exposition of Railway Appliances took place in Chicago from May 24 to June 23, 1883, and 79 gold medals, 233 silver medals, and 135 bronze medals were produced as awards at the event, though Heritage writes, “The rarity of the gold medals suggests that only a few of the 79 were likely awarded, and the rest were probably melted.” 

These medals were designed by U.S. Mint engravers Charles Barber and George T. Morgan. The busy obverse features a contemporary locomotive with coal and passenger cars, framed by telegraph equipment. Above are two figures flanking a shield and below is the early steam locomotive Rocket and the year 1829.

Heritage writes, “Despite the signed design, no evidence of this medal has been located in the National Archives, and it is not listed in R.W. Julian’s reference on 19th century Mint medals,” leading some researchers to believe that it was not struck at the U.S. Mint. The offered medal was presented to The Pintsch Lighting Co. for their ‘Superior and most Comprehensive Compressed Gas System for Railways.’ ” With dual interest from numismatic and railroad enthusiast collector communities, the NGC certified MS-62 gold medal brought $7,800 on Aug. 14. 

Gold ‘V.D.B.’ medal

Stack’s Bowers Galleries presented an important 1904 New-York Historical Society centennial medal containing nearly 6 ounces of gold, weighing in at a hefty 211.52 grams at its Aug. 13 Session 1 ANA auction. 

It was designed by Victor David Brenner — best-known to collectors for his Lincoln cent design — and was graded MS-62 by NGC. The obverse depicts the busts of society founder John Pintard and first president Egbert Benson while the reverse shows the original and the then-new headquarters buildings, with the society’s seal below.

The edge of the medal in the auction is inscribed CHARLES LANIER, ELECTED LIFE MEMBER, 1856, followed by seven stars in the formation of the Big Dipper. Stack’s Bowers writes, “This was most probably given to Charles Lanier by one of the recipients or purchasers of a gold medal.” 

Lanier, who lived from 1837 to 1926, was an American financier and railroad executive, and a close friend of John Pierpont Morgan. Lanier joined the New-York Historical Society at 19 and helped raise funds for the society’s new building. The catalog adds, “Why Mr. Lanier, among many NYHS members, merited one of only two 6-ounce gold medals produced is today not known.” The handsome medal sold for $10,200, a modest premium over its $8,970 gold melt value on the date of sale. 

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