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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 16, April 20, 2008, Article 5

MEDALS FIND THEIR WAY INTO THE RED BOOK

Discussing the latest edition of the classic reference, A
Guide Book of United States Coins, Dick Johnson writes: "The
American Arts Medals, gold bullion medals issued by the U.S.
Mint in the early 1980s, were priced and illustrated for the
first time in the new 62nd 2009 edition of the Red Book  just
published. Also the Libertas Americana Medal, débuted in last
year's edition, appears this year as well in a beautiful
illustration.

"Medals in the Baedeker of United States coins!

"These are not the first medals to be so recorded in the
vastly popular rubric-covered Guide Book. Previously a handful
of medals of Colonial issue were listed. They bore no
denomination but some actually circulated in the coin-starved
Colonies.

"Could this be a trend for the future?  If the criteria for
the Red Book is objects created by the United States Mints,
what's next?  Bronze Congressional Medals? The gold versions
are bestowed to the recipients where bronze specimens from
the same dies are sold to the public - a very democratic move
by the U.S. Mint. The custom goes back all the way to George
Washington.

"Then how about the official U.S. Presidential Inaugural
Medals? A gray area?  Some were struck by the Philadelphia
Mint, but more often than not these are produced by private
medal firms for two reasons:  expediency and flexibility.
Elections are held in November, medals are needed for the
Inaugural ceremony in January. The Mint cannot move that fast,
nor can it provide the many varieties, sizes and packaging
options that private mints can.

"I inquired of Red Book editor Ken Bressett.  He replied:
'Adding medals to the Guide Book is not a coming trend.
[However] we are still pondering over what to do with the
'First Spouse' medals, now that their bullion coin counterparts
are listed in the book.  All such pieces are there to guide
and educate the public.'

"For decades collectors have asked me to compile a 'Red Book
of Medals.'  It can't be done for several reasons. Award medals
are often inscribed to recipients, in effect creating a unique
medal. Some award programs are half a century old. Do you list
fifty unique medals, some of which may never come on the market?
Second, medals don't circulate, so no need for multiple condition
prices. Third, the quantities issued are nowhere near those of
coins. Thus they are held by fewer collectors, don't come on the
market as often, thus less need for a price listing.

"Frankly a 'Red Book of Medals' would only help antique dealers
who occasionally discover a medal or two in an estate. I like
watching them squirm when they realize they sold a medal to a
collector at a fraction of its worth. Or they sit on a medal
they can't sell for decades because they overpriced it. They
just don't know how to price medals correctly. These dealers
should get an appraisal from a medal dealer who knows the current
market and the potential for any given medal."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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