World Coins

Before Wright Brothers, two others rose to fame

A 19th century restrike of a 1783 silver medal honoring the Montgolfier Brothers realized $654.50 during a recent auction.

Medal images courtesy of Stephen Album Rare Coins.

Before Orville and Wilbur Wright made history on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with the spirit of Dayton, Ohio, in their veins, another pair of brothers were instrumental in opening the sky to air travel.

The Montgolfier brothers, a pair of Frenchmen, are best known as inventors of the Montgolfière-style hot air balloon. On June 4, 1783, they launched the first piloted ascent, carrying Jacques-Étienne (Joseph-Michel is the other brother) at Annonay in front of a group of dignitaries. 

The 10-minute flight would earn them far more than their 15 minutes?of fame. Word of the heights of their achievement spread to Paris, where Jacques-Étienne traveled to represent the pair. Numerous accolades were bestowed upon the brothers, and this included several medals depicting the inventors and their new invention.


1904 Louisiana Purchase Expo medalInside Coin World: 1904 Louisiana Purchase Expo bronze medal: Columns exclusive to the June 24 issue focus on a $25 coin shop purchase and an affordable 20th century wartime overdate variety.


A 19th century silver restrike of one of those medals was offered in Stephen Album Rare Coins’ auction 34 from May 23 to 26, 2019 at its offices in Santa Rosa, California, where the medal realized $654.50, including the 19 percent buyer’s fee.

The medal was designed by Nicolas Marie Gatteaux and shows conjoined busts of the brothers on the obverse.

The reverse depicts Genius riding clouds and lighting the ascending balloon, as the allegorical figure of Earth, accompanied by two lions, looks on from below.

The medal weighs 35.94 grams and measures 42 millimeters in diameter.

The restrike carries the Paris Mint’s bee privy mark, identifying that it was struck sometime between 1860 and 1879.

The auction firm notes that the medal is “very lightly cleaned.” 

For full details of the auction, visit the firm’s website

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