US Coins

Medals highlight Stack's Bowers Baltimore sale

A gold Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to Argentinean Carlos Saavedra Lamas was the top lot during Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ auctions held during the Whitman Expo in Baltimore. The auction firm states that the medal’s price of $1,116,250 on March 27, 2014, makes it the first $1 million medal to sell at a numismatic auction.

But, as with many Stack’s Bowers auctions, many tokens and medals combined interesting stories with visual appeal. Many of these sold at rather reasonable prices, especially when compared with regular-issue U.S. coins of comparable quality and rarity.

1809 James Madison Indian peace medal: $23,500

Few 19th century medals are as enigmatic to modern collectors as original silver Indian peace medals. This large-sized one, measuring 75.5 millimeters in diameter, was graded Fine and brought $23,500. 

The family history of the medal indicates that it was “black with oxidation” when found, allegedly by a Wyoming shepherd in 1962. 

The lot is accompanied by Jan. 3, 1964, Idaho Free Press newspaper clipping with the story of how this medal was found in a field.

The catalog entry notes that while it is impossible to know to whom the medal was presented, “Many Shoshone and Arapahoe are today resident near the area where this medal was found, but many more tribes, including the Cheyenne and Crow, have called all or part of Wyoming home over the last two centuries.” It adds, “Madison medals were distributed far and wide among the tribes of the Missouri and upper Mississippi.”

The medal shows ample signs of use, from the worn surfaces to the fact that the suspension hole is slightly enlarged from years of hanging and display. 

William Barber 1876 U.S. Centennial medal: $329

In 1876 the United States celebrated its Centennial and among the numerous commemorative items produced were tokens and medals. This metal, 58 millimeters in diameter and made of gilt copper, was designed by William Barber.

William Barber was the fifth chief engraver of the U.S. Mint and served from 1869 until his death in 1879. His work is seen on many U.S. pattern coins of the era, medals such as this one, and the Trade dollar struck from 1873 to 1885. William was succeeded as chief engraver by his son Charles, who served in that capacity until his death in 1917.

On the obverse of this medal, Liberty places wreaths on the heads of figures representing Industry and Art. On the reverse, Liberty kneels with an unsheathed sword. The copper gilt medals originally sold for $3 and copper medals, which originally cost $1, can be found today for less than $200.

Charming gem Hard Times token: $470

Collectors are drawn to Hard Times tokens due to the varied, often charming designs and interesting subjects covered. Most subjects fall under two categories: political subjects and merchant advertisements. 

The 1837 “Illustrious Predecessor” Hard Times token is a collector favorite that will be featured, along with many others, in Q. David Bowers’ upcoming book, A Guide Book of Hard Times Tokens: Political Tokens and Store Cards 1832-1844. This one, graded Mint State 65 red and brown by Independent Coin Graders, was described by the firm as, “Among the finest we’ve ever seen or could ever hope to see.” It brought $470.

However, Hard Times tokens need not be expensive. A lot of eight different common types graded average Extremely Fine, but with minor problems, sold for $329, or around $41 per token.


Community Comments