US Coins

Bush legacy recalled in medallic art

With the Nov. 30 passing of the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, at age 94, Americans can reflect on the medallic legacy of the Texas military hero and statesman.

In 1989, the U.S. Mint produced 1.3125-inch and 3-inch bronze presidential medals to celebrate President Bush’s single four-year term. The medals are still a part of the Mint’s ongoing medals program.

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Collectors interested in obtaining examples can acquire the 1.3125-inch versions for $6.95 and the 3-inch version for $39.95.

When the Bush medals were introduced by the Mint in 1989, the price was $1.25 for the 1.3125-inch version and $21 for the 3-inch size by mail or $20 over the counter. Prices have been adjusted several times since, most recently in 2012 to their current $6.95 for the 1.3125-inch medals and $39.95 for the 3-inch medals.

The 1989 Bush bronze presidential medal is composed of 90 percent copper and 10 percent zinc and struck without Mint mark at the Philadelphia Mint.

Designed and engraved by then U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver John Mercanti, the Bush medal’s obverse features a portrait of George H.W. Bush with the White House in the background along with the inscription GEORGE BUSH centered along the top left border of the medal.

The reverse of the medal, designed and engraved by then U.S. Mint Sculptor Engraver Chester Y. Martin, features the Presidential Seal, flanked by draped, burning torches of liberty. The inscription OUR TIME IS A / TIME OF HISTORIC / CHANGE, WHEN MEN / AND NATIONS CAN / TRANSFORM HISTORY is centered at the top of the medal. The inscription INAUGURATED JANUARY 20, 1989, is centered along the lower border of the medal.

Inaugural medal

Collectors may also consider the official presidential inaugural medals for George H.W. Bush struck by Medallic Art Company and stamped ABPIC – 1988 along the rim. 

The official inaugural medal is approved and issued through the Inaugural Committee for the incoming president.

The 1988 inaugural medal was designed and engraved by sculptor Mico Kaufman.

The obverse features a portrait of Bush, half left, with his facsimile signature below. The reverse depicts a rendition of the Statue of Freedom from atop the U.S. Capitol dome. Inscribed is 200TH / ANNIVERSARY / OF THE FIRST / PRESIDENTIAL / INAUGURAL encircled by 50 stars.


H. Joseph Levine, from Presidential Coin & Antique (on Facebook) has bought and sold official presidential inaugural medals for more than four decades. Levine can also be rachedd vi  P.O. Box 277, Clifton, VA 20124. Telephone the firm at 571-321-2121 or email the business at

Levine explains that for the George H.W. Bush medal, the inaugural committee authorized a variety of product options in different diameters, metals and packaging options.

The bronze medal was issued in 1.5-inch and 2.75-inch bronze versions; the .999 fine silver in 1.5-inch, 2.5-inch and 2.75-inch sizes with different finishes; and the 14-karat gold medal in two sizes, measuring 19 millimeters and 28.7 millimeters.

A handful of medal sets combining examples of different diameters and composition are also available.

Kaufman also designed and engraved the second term bronze presidential inaugural medal of President Ronald Reagan in 1985 that features on the obverse conjoined portraits right of Reagan and Bush as his vice president. 

The reverse of the 1985 medal features as its primary design element an eagle with its wings fully extended as it projects through an ornate wreath.

The 2.75-inch medal was also struck by Medallic Art Co., then located in Danbury, Connecticut. Bronze versions can be found for under $100, with the silver version found offered often at four times the price of a bronze version.

Whether a president serves one term or two, the first inaugural medal always bears on its obverse a portrait of the incoming president.

Development and consideration of proposed designs are often responsibilities delegated to the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s medals subcommittee.

The medal for a second term conventionally includes the administration’s vice president in the obverse design. 

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