The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 42, October 18, 2015, Article 17


An E-Sylum reader was the purchaser of the Diplomatic medal, and provided this background on research materials related to the piece. Thanks, and congratulations on a great acquisition! -Editor

Here are the documentary references I have on the Diplomatic Medal. I believe most of this knowledge has been lost to time and that it should be once more part of our contemporary understanding about the Medal.

I found this information approximately two months ago while in the process of building my numismatic library. It was prior to having any knowledge that an original Diplomatic medal would be available for auction. I was quite excited to have it since I believed this provided me with more information than what most collectors had at this time. I confirmed this by asking the definitive expert on medals, John Kraljevich, cataloguer for the Stack’s Pogue and Rarities Night auctions, about what was the earliest auction reference that he recalled. We had only become acquainted with one another a week earlier. He responded that it was in the early 1880s in the U.S. and possibly the mid 1870s in England.

Woodward Coburn sale 1863 My search began when I found Lot 2691 in the Bangs, Merwin & Co. auction catalogue of October 1863 for W. Elliot Woodward, referencing a medal, “To Peace and Commerce,” “Jul. MDXXVI.” It took me a moment to realize that it was about the Diplomatic Medal since that title was not used. The medal sold for $100, a very sizeable sum back then, and also referenced another recent transaction of it for $100 as well. Using the amount I paid for the medal, this would work out to an approximate 5% compound annual growth rate, which appears to be low for items of such great rarity. Subsequently, I received the Bushnell auction catalogue where a Diplomatic Medal was sold for $50, Lot 313, and referenced this catalogue in the final sentence. Apparently this sentence has been overlooked, otherwise this auction would have been cited in your article about the medal I responded to.

The American Journal of Numismatics January 1875, volume IX, number 4, pages 78-80, had a wonderful discussion about the medal and its history. What was especially interesting is that H.R. Linderman, Director of the Mint, stated that, “I was not aware that such a Medal had ever been struck.” The time period referenced was 1867. This was in response to a letter from Professor Jules Marcou, who owned a led proof of the Medal which he acquired from Dupre’s son. It was at this time that I also learned another name for this Medal, the Medal commemorative of American Independence.

It was in AJN April 1875, volume IX, number 3, page 65, where I was really shocked. The final paragraph references a Mr. J. Francis Fisher, of Philadelphia, who communicated a description of the Medal to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1837. This moved a cited reference about the Medal to nearly 50 years earlier than anything I had read up to this point. On page 66, extracts of letters between Thomas Jefferson to William Short were also cited.

In the AJN October 1882, volume XVII, number 2, page 30, it states, that the Medal was in the possession of Mr. Fisher, who died in 1872, but a search of his effects failed to discover it. I thought this only added to the mystery and charm of the Medal. Did he in fact own one and thus, 1837 would be the earliest date of ownership for any Diplomatic Medal or had he only seen one and this explains why he only communicated a description to the MHS. We will probably never know.

I have included the AJN October 1882, volume XVII, number 2, pages 27-31, since it has an interesting discussion about a Centennial Anniversary of the Great Seal of the United States medal being struck. It explains that the led proofs of Professor Jules Marcou were used to reproduce perfect facsimiles of the original dies in 1876 . In the final paragraph, p. 31, it states that the original medal sold in the Bushnell auction should have been secured for the Mint Cabinet.

Finally, in AJN January 1883, volume XVII, number 3, page 70, in what may be the oldest transaction cited so far, “In the collection of D.B. Warden’s Books, Maps, Engravings and Medals, relating to America, sold at Paris, in 1840, was the following Medal….” It references the Diplomatic Medal.

I hope these references and “new” information help with our understanding of the importance of this medal. I could not be more ecstatic to be the latest curator of such a national treasure. To be able hold a part of our history where Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were so intimately involved with its creation is awe inspiring to me.

By way of background, I returned to the hobby 18 months ago after an absence of 53 years when I left it at age twelve. It makes me feel like I am a kid again.


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Wayne Homren, Editor

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