US Coins

FDR medal struck by Mint not official inaugural piece

Readers Ask column from Feb. 20, 2017, weekly issue of Coin World:

Please help me identify this Franklin Delano Roosevelt Inaugural medallion. I cannot find an example of it on the internet. I purchased it in the 1990s from the Washington, D.C., Treasury Building museum as a U.S. Mint product. The full silhouette portrait is different from all the images I have found on the internet. The reverse  has an eagle on a shield with John R. Sinnock’s initials at the bottom. I would appreciate any historical information on the medal.

Kenneth Rajspis  /  Via email

You are correct that this is a U.S. Mint-produced medal designed and engraved by Chief U.S. Mint Engraver John R. Sinnock.

It was struck at the Philadelphia Mint and notes the inauguration of President Roosevelt to his first term, but is referred to as a “Presidential medal.”

It is not to be confused with an official presidential inaugural medal, which is traditionally commissioned to a private mint by an incoming president’s inaugural commit­tee and generally also portrays the new president on the medal’s obverse. The medals commissioned by these successive inaugural committees form a collectible series as well. 

For specific information on your Presidential medal, I enlisted the expertise of H. Joseph Levine, from Presidential Coin & Antique Company in Clifton, Va., who specializes in both official presidential inaugural medals and Presidential medals. 

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Your medal bears what are called the “First Obverse and First Reverse” designs. The 76-millimeter bronze medal’s obverse features a portrait right of FDR executed by Sinnock, with the inscription FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES around. In very small letters beneath the bust, J.R. SINNOCK F. AD. VIVUM. MCMXXXIV. The reverse exhibits an eagle without rays perched on a U.S. shield super­imposed over fasces and inscribed INAUGURATED/ MARCH 4, 1933. Sinnock’s initials, J.R.S., appear in tiny letters at the bottom. The illustrated variety of medal was struck for only a short period of time before it was replaced with a modified version.

Over the course of Roosevelt’s four terms, the Mint struck Presidential medals of various designs. The version now offered by the Mint is the memoriam version, created after his death in office in 1945.

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