Robert C Whitehead submitted this article on an unusual gilt John Paul Jones medal. Thanks!
The travel and visitation restrictions during 2020 and 2021 for Covid made life difficult for all of us. Perhaps out of boredom, or the need to scratch that collecting itch, I started a collection of Comitia Americana medals. On-line purchasing for many of us was the only way to continue collecting. Along the way I grabbed this unusual John Paul Jones medal mainly because it just looked different than anything else I had seen, and sometimes these prove to be gems. It turned out to be a Mint issued gilt medal that so far is a 1/1 with PCGS and I believe none recorded by NGC.
Armed with this limited knowledge I began to search for more detail about the medals and the when and why they were issued. It did not take long for me to exhaust the resources at my disposal including about a dozen books on the Comitia Americana series or medal issues in general. My search for the information on-line produced no better results. Even my search of the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University on-line resources produced no results. But we know that on-line research often involves the marriage of the knowledge of both subject matter and the resource being searched.
Having exhausted my sources, I turned to Roger Burdette who has a knack for finding these elusive details within both the NNP and other government records. What took me days of research with little success took Roger only a few hours.
It turns out that in 1843 the Mint offered to gilt medals in their offerings for a small fee. This medal would have cost $2.50 plus the gilding fee. It seems that they also offered to make 8 ounce, solid gold pieces for $160. It will take more research to determine how many were made, but I cannot believe the count would have been very high. This might be a piece of the puzzle that is never solved since record keeping on medals was inexact.
As we end another Covid year we need to stop and realize the vast research resources that have been created by organizations like the NNP, but also thank people within the numismatic circle who help make the hobby what it is today. Maintaining the linkage between our history and the items we collect or find fascinating is a key to making numismatics a hobby for the future, not just the past. This medal might have remained a mystery for a long time without the NNP resources and the help of researchers like Roger.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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