US Coins

Other than Presidential inaugural medals: Alexander

The Research Desk column from June 13, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:

The inaugural medals of the presidents of the United States have gained enormous popularity since 1961, when the gala swearing-in of John Fitzgerald Kennedy introduced thousands of Americans to medal collecting.

Official inaugural medals issued by the inaugural committees had been around since at least 1889, but had attracted little notice from collectors focused on U.S. coins by dates and Mint marks.

Today official presidential inaugural medals enjoy a robust market, sure to fire up in late 2016 with the creation of the 2017 medal of whichever candidate emerges from a fiercely contested presidential contest.

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All this being said, there remains a related area that is still virtually unexplored: inaugural medals of state governors and mayors of major cities.

With the increasing popularity of medal collecting, signalized by the founding of Medal Collectors of America in 1998, the spotlight will one day turn on such items as the medal hailing the inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt as governor of the state of New York on Jan. 2, 1899.

The 41-year-old governor-elect was fresh from the battlefields of the Spanish-American War, where his U.S. Volunteer Cavalry gained acclaim as the Rough Riders. The 27.5-millimeter bronze medal portrays him in Rough Rider uniform complete with wide-brimmed slouch hat and legend INAUGURATED GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK JAN. 2, 1899. THEODORE ROOSEVELT. (“TR” wore a silk top hat and formal morning coat at the inaugural but did have an escort in Rough Rider gear.)

The reverse presents the state arms supported by Liberty and Justice. No artist’s signature or maker name appears, but the style identifies Joseph K. Davison’s Sons, prominent Philadelphia medalists.

A rich glossy mahogany patina adds to this medal’s visual appeal.

Somewhat more mysterious is a slightly off-center uniface 33- by 30-millimeter strike of the obverse only presenting the gleaming copper surfaces of a newly struck cent. This is a believed to be one of many circa 1960 strikes from the hoard of usable dies acquired by the late Robert Bashlow, who created controversy with his aggressive marketing of what he called the “Confederate Cent Second Restrike.” 

Bashlow reportedly died in a hotel fire in Zaragoza, Spain, but his creations still appear on the market from time to time.

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