US Coins

Medal symposium in Boston to bring experts together

The Medal Collectors of America and the Massachusetts Historical Society will be hosting a conference titled “Art and Memory: The Role of Medals” at the society’s headquarters in Boston on Saturday, Nov. 10. 

The theme was selected to have broad appeal with medal collectors and scholars, “with social events added to provide some fun, and encourage discussion among medal collectors and others who are not yet collectors, all in an extraordinary location,” according to the organizers. 

Speakers at the conference will explore the various roles medals have played in American history and how they reflect that history, along with the evolution of the art of the medal. 


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Presenters will include Len Augsburger, coordinator of the Newman Numismatic Portal, Washington University in St. Louis, who will speak on the history of medal books, utilizing resources from the NNP.

Anne Bentley, curator of Art & Artifacts at the Massachusetts Historical Society, will speak on the society’s extensive medal collection and its fascinating history. The society was formed in 1791 as the nation’s first historical society and in the two centuries since has established itself as a resource for American history, life and culture. Beyond numismatics, it is well known for its extensive holdings of personal papers from three presidents: John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson. 

Bentley will also arrange a special exhibit of medals from the society’s collection, including the unique Comitia Americana set of silver medals presented by Thomas Jefferson on behalf of Congress to George Washington in 1790, the unique gold Manly medal, a silver Columbia and Washington medal, and many more rare and extraordinary pieces.

So-called dollars

Jonathan Brecher, co-author of So-Called Dollars: An Illustrated Standard Catalogue, will speak on so-called dollar medals as a reflection of 19th and early 20th century American culture.

Patrick McMahon, director of exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will speak on the early work of Victor David Brenner, today best known to collectors as the designer of the Lincoln cent in 1909. Brenner was a prolific creator of many medals, including several in the museum’s collection. 

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Alan Stahl, Princeton University’s curator of numismatics and former longtime curator at the American Numismatic Society, will speak on the role of medals in American history. Stahl served as editor of the key ANS publications The Medal in America, Coinage of the Americas Conference, Proceedings 4 (1988) and The Medal in America, Volume 2, Coinage of the Americas Conference, Proceedings 13 (1999), all of which remain indispensable references in the field of medals. 

Two more panels

Two additional panel discussions will address stylistic developments of the medal from the Renaissance to the present while the other will explore the individual motives and passions that drive collectors. 

The two panels — “The Art of the Medal” and “Why Collect Medals” — will feature presenters John W. Adams, Q. David Bowers, Cory Gilliland, Scott Miller, Ira Rezak, Rob Rodriguez, John Sallay and Stephen Scher.

The Medal Collectors of America is a national organization dedicated to the study and collection of artistic and historical medals. Its quarterly publication, The MCA Advisory, and the MCA website provide a forum for research, news, and views in the field of medallic art. 

The Massachusetts Historical Society is located at 1154 Boylston St. in Boston and the conference will take place from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. with a reception to follow. 

Registration for the conference is open at the society website and the fee is $75 per person, which includes lunch and a cocktail reception. An optional dinner afterward at Brasserie JO, a celebrated French bistro near the MHS, is available for a cost of $95 a person. 


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