Old World, New Ideas
Kevin D. Goldberg began collecting European coins as a Middle School student in suburban Philadelphia. Three decades later, he still collects European coins, but now in suburban Atlanta, where he teaches in the Department of History & Philosophy at Kennesaw State University. He earned his Ph.D. in European History from the University of California, Los Angeles, and was a postdoctoral fellow in the International Humanities at Brown University, 2011-2013. Kevin has been planning on expanding his collection beyond Europe for the past decade, but is only now getting around to it.
Orders, Decorations, and Medals
Living in a popular convention city like Atlanta has its privileges. I was reminded of this as the annual gathering of the Orders and Medals Society of America (OMSA) descended upon the leafy confines of suburban Dunwoody last weekend.
Though I’ve picked up a few table medals here and there, I don’t consider myself an avid—or even casual—medals collector. This weekend may have changed that. Frank Draskovic, 45-year member of the ANA, co-author of the Standard Price Guide to World Crowns & Talers, President of the California Orders & Medals Society, and super-sharp guy,was kind enough to spend an hour with me, sharing his passion for medals and introducing me to the OMSA domain.
Frank was quick to clear up someterminological matters. “Medal” is too broad a term. What most numismatists refer to as medals (including myself) are not actually part of the repertoire of a medals and decorations collector at all. Nor is this exonumia, or the various tokens, chips, badges, wooden nickels, elongated coins, etc., that many coin collectors dabble in. OMSA members collect so-called portable medals and decorations, often issued by various orders, militaries, and governments. The sources and types of these medals are vast. They can include, for example, aUS-government issued lapel piece, complete with ribbon, commemorating a soldier’s service in the Spanish-American War, or a pin issued by the RoyalOrder of Vasa for service to state and society in Sweden. Thousands of beautiful and collectable orders, medals, and decorations were on display this weekend inAtlanta.
It was fun and enlightening tocompare and contrast numismatists and OMSA collectors. Things that we place areal premium on, including toning, condition, and metal content are incidentalto orders, medals, and decorations collectors. On the other hand, they tak every seriously some things that we hardly consider, including attribution, or being able to identify the original recipient of a decoration or medal. Another difference is geographic. At the risk of trumpeting American exceptionalism, I think it’s fair to say that while worldwide numismatics is centered in theUnited States, the global hobby of orders, medals, and decorations is clearly anchored in Great Britain.
For all of the differences between the hobbies, there is much that unites us. We all share a passion for history, and we revel in nuance. There is an element of artistic appreciation in both hobbies, though I would venture to say that orders, medals, and decorations are even more aesthetically appealing than coins. Even though it was my first time walking the bourse floor at the OMSA convention, this was not an unfamiliar experience. Passionate collectors, many of whom were long-time friends, joyfully discussed the latest trends and news. The only missing pieces were the coins.
I encourage any numismatist to give this sibling hobby a look. The path is well-trodden by former coin collectors, including Frank Draskovic.
I came to the show armed with an old adage in coin collecting (“buy the book before the coin”) and left with a pair of hefty catalogs on German and British medals. I don’t think it will be too long before I put these books to work.
You can learn more about theOrders and Medals Society of America here: http://www.omsa.org/