US Coins

‘Well-balanced’ baby medal fascinating buy

A gold example of Laura Gardin Fraser’s Better Babies medal awarded in 1913 sold for $2,585 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ March Baltimore Auction.

Original images courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries

The first quarter of the 20th century was an incredibly rich time for the art of the medal. While many medals were produced for a pure artistic reason, others had more practical purposes, such as those presented as award medals during the international expositions that were incredibly popular at the time. These award medals were designed by many names familiar to collectors today, because these artists also designed coins.

Here is the first of three particularly gorgeous examples offered at recent auctions that demonstrate the sheer beauty of these also functional medals.

The Lot:

1913 gold Better Babies medal, designed by Laura Gardin Fraser, AU-50

The Price:


The Story:

Laura Gardin Fraser executed her 1913 Better Babies medal before she married James Earle Fraser — well-known to hobbyists as the designer of the Indian Head 5-cent piece. She was a very skilled and accomplished sculptor in her own right.

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Medal scholar Elaine Leotti wrote in her assessment of female medal sculptors that the Better Babies medal “is her only piece which can truly be called feminine,” adding, “It is a well-balanced medal, nicely executed if a bit on the sentimental side. The babies’ bare flesh is soft, almost palpable, their curls and dimpled elbows invite touch, thus appealing to exactly the audience the medal was meant to impress.”

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The medal was sponsored by Woman’s Home Companion magazine and the publication’s name is on the reverse. Leotti estimated that the medal was presented for around a decade. This gold example was hand-engraved to Nettie Dixon Robertson of Montgomery, Alabama, in 1913. The medal, graded About Uncirculated 50 by ANACS and measuring 34 millimeters in diameter, sold for $2,585 on March 29.

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