US Coins

Harrison congressional gold medal re-enters the market

The William Henry Harrison congressional gold medal, housed in its original presentation case, last traded hands by private treaty in 2015 for $225,000.

Images courtesy of the Raab Collection.

The congressional gold medal presented to the future ninth president of the United States, William Henry Harrison, for his military role in saving the American Northwest during the War of 1812 is back on the sale block after selling by private treaty in 2015 for $225,000.

The private treaty sale of the Harrison medal is being handled by The Raab Collection from Ardmore, Pennsylvania, the same concern that brokered the medal’s 2015 placement with a collector from the “American South,” according to the firm’s president, Nathan Raab.

The Raab Collection originally acquired the unique medal from direct descendants of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president of the United States and a grandson of William Henry Harrison, in a private transaction for an undisclosed price.

Nathan Raab said the collector who purchased the medal in 2015 decided to put the medal up for sale. The Raab Collection is currently listing the medal for sale for $380,000.

The 65-millimeter gold medal had been passed down through the Harrison family for nearly two centuries.

According to the item description, the Harrison medal contains approximately 350 grams of pure gold, alloyed with copper and silver

Congressional recognition

Maj. Gen. William Henry Harrison was formally presented the medal by the fifth president of the United States, James Madison.

Harrison would eventually be elected as the nation’s ninth president, but served only one month in office in 1841. Harrison died of pneumonia April 4, 1841, following an illness worsened by his March 4 delivery of a 105-minute-long inaugural address.

The Harrison gold medal was congressionally authorized on April 4, 1818.

Harrison’s medal was authorized under the same statute as that authorizing a congressional gold medal for Gov. Isaac Shelby.

While governor of the state of Kentucky, Shelby personally led the Kentucky militia in the Battle of the Thames.

According to the U.S. Senate website, the Harrison and Shelby medals were authorized “in recognition of the ‘gallantry and good behavior’ of Major General William Henry Harrison and Governor Isaac Shelby, and the officers and men under their command, ‘in defeating the combined British and Indian forces under Major General Proctor, on the Thames, in Upper Canada, on October 5, 1813, and in capturing the British Army with their baggage, camp equipage and artillery.’ ”

The obverse of the Harrison gold medal features a portrait, facing right, of Harrison in his military garb. The obverse was designed and engraved by U.S. Mint engraver Moritz Furst.

The reverse was engraved by Furst based on a design by American portrait painter Thomas Sully. The reverse depicts a rendition of America crowning a pile of captured British and Indian arms with a wreath. The tablet on the arms reads FORT MEIGS BATTLE OF THE THAMES. BATTLE OF THE THAMES OCTOBER 5, 1813, is inscribed in the exergue.

According to R.W. Julian in Medals of the United States Mint: The First Century 1792–1892 where the medal is cataloged as MI-14, Furst had executed the Harrison medal’s obverse by October 1821, but the reverse was delayed by a dispute over the design.

Harrison insisted, unsuccessfully, that the reverse depict a battle scene as did the medals awarded other gold medal recipients for their service during the War of 1812.

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, oversaw the design process for the Harrison medal.

The Harrison medal was finally struck in May 1824, according to Julian.

Bronze duplicates of the gold medal were also produced by the U.S. Mint at Philadelphia.

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