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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 27, July 2, 2006, Article 33

INSTITUTE OF HERALDRY UNTAPPED SOURCE FOR NUMISMATIC RESEARCH

Dick Johnson writes: "Thanks to eagle-eyed Arthur Shippee for
the eagle-in-the-seal article from the New York Times mentioned in
the July 2nd E-Sylum. The ruling on which way the eagle should face
came down from the Institute of Heraldry, the government’s
authoritative voice in all things heraldic.

It reminded me of the last time I visited the offices of the
Institute of Heraldry. I was with numismatic film guru Michael
Craven (before his untimely death April 30, 2000). We were scouting
possible film locations, before we headed to off to film the U.S.
Mint’s ceremony announcing the 1999 Washington Five Dollar Gold
Commemorative. That ceremony was held at Mount Vernon and the
Institute of Heraldry – now at Fort Belvoir – was on the road
to Mount Vernon.

Decades before, I had had contact with the personnel of the Institute
of Heraldry, both military and civilian. They had visited Medallic
Art Company in New York City often when we were producing, or about
to produce, some medallic item for them. (The firm had been on the
list of military medal suppliers since World War I when it had
prepared the dies for that war’s Victory Medal by James E. Fraser.)

[Medallic Art management thought they had the inside track to strike
those medals in 1919 since it made the dies. It bid 43 cents to
manufacture the millions needed for all those WWI servicemen, but
lost out to a firm in New Jersey, Aronson, that had bid 19 cents each.
They produced them alright, but they were such low quality that the
firm never got a second order. In contrast Medallic Art became a
consistent supplier and produced millions of medals and decorations
long before, during and after through World War II.]

The Institute of Heraldry is headed by an Army officer (it was once
an Army unit) and dates its origin to 1919. In 1924 it was assigned
to the Quartermaster General, but was placed under the command of
the Secretary of the Army in 1957. At that time it was located at
Cameron Station in Alexandria, Virginia then moved to Fort Belvoir
in 1960.

When we visited there it had 33 civilian employees engaged in research
and design with one staff sculptor. At the time it was Donald Alex
Borja. Society of Medalists collectors will recognize him as the creator
of SOM #99. These people create the designs for all military decorations,
medals, insignia, badges, seals, flags and "other items awarded to or
authorized for official wear or display by government personnel." I
learned that any military unit with more than 15 members can apply to
have their own insignia designed - that includes cloth patches, hat
badges, standards and such.

But what I want to mention is its library. I would estimate it had
30,000 or more books on every aspect of heraldry, military history,
orders and decorations, seals and such. This is the untapped resource
I could recommend for any accredited numismatic researcher working on
orders and decorations, military medals and history. Does that fact
stir the blood in any E-Sylum reader?"

[WOW!  Now THAT’S a library!   -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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