US Coins

Silver Hayes Indian Peace medal unique, in auction

An oval 1877 silver Rutherford B. Hayes Indian peace medal reported to have been presented to first lady Lucy Hayes is one of 303 lots offered online Oct. 20 and 21 by Early American Historical Auctions Inc.

The 60-millimeter by 76-millimeter medal, with an estimate of $40,000 to $50,000, is believed to be unique.

The medal is identified by the auction company as a variant of IP-43, the attribution number for Hayes issues as detailed by author R.W. Julian in Medals of the United States Mint: The First Century 1792–1892.

Designed and engraved by U.S. Mint assistant engraver George T. Morgan, the silver medal’s obverse features a portrait of President Hayes facing left. 

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The reverse is inscribed PEACE and 1877 in a glory above a vignette of a farmer showing an Indian chief the benefits of civilization. Morgan’s signature, MORGAN, appears to the right on the exergual line. A wreath encircling a crossed peace pipe and tomahawk is in the exergue.

The auction lot description suggests the medal may be the example presented to Mrs. Hayes in May 1879 by the Mint. The medal is identified as the only example known of the type, bearing the date 1877 below the inscription PEACE at the top of the reverse.

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Although the piece offered is considered an official U.S. Mint-struck silver Indian peace medal, no silver examples of the Hayes medal were ever struck for presentation to Native Americans. Hayes medals were the first issue to be issued in an oval format since the Washington oval Indian peace medals of the late 18th century. Between Washington and Hayes, the Indian peace medals produced for presentation to Native American Indians were round.

The IP-43 medals in bronze were produced in late fall of 1879 at the discretion of the Mint, since the Bureau of Indian Affairs did not order dies to be executed.

According to Julian, the oval shape was intended to more historically represent the Indian peace medal issues, since the inaugural hand-engraved issues in the 1790s depicting George Washington were oval.

The bronze versions were formally placed on public sale by the Mint at $2 per medal in September 1883.

Numismatic Guaranty Corp. certified and encapsulated the 60-millimeter by 76-millimeter oval Hayes medal as “Genuine.” Early American describes the medal’s condition as “Very Choice About Uncirculated.” The medal is holed at the top, into which is inserted its original loop.

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