Dick Johnson submitted this report on his recent work to catalog the work of medallist Marcel Jovine.
I turned over the final report today (August 9, 2009) to the daughters of medallist Marcel Jovine. The results surprised us all. There were far more coins and medals he created than any of us had expected.
It began back in 2002 when Marcel Jovine, a jovial and highly talented medallic artist -- and very much alive at the time -- talked about having me prepare a catalog of all his coins and medals. He had started a first effort of a dozen or so titles he wrote on a sheet of paper. We intended to meet. But appointments got postponed that year by a multi-month trip he took back to his native Italy.
After his return he called and wanted to meet the first week in December. I postponed that meeting until "after the holidays." I will never forgive myself for that delay. After the holidays Marcel became ill. He died January 20, 2003. (See E-Sylum Vol 6, no 4, art 9, January 26, 2003.)
His two daughters, Andrea Jovine Coppersmith and Marcia Jovine, knew of their father's wish to have a book about his work and his accomplishments here in America. After all, he arrived here first as a Prisoner of War, repatriated and then returned to find in time, a wife, a profession, success, and ultimately great fame as the inventor of two toys -- Visible Man and the Visible Woman -- which brought him great wealth. The American dream come true!
Creating coins and medals came late in life for Marcel. But because of that our paths crossed, as the bulk of his medallic creations were produced by Medallic Art Company. Here I had to help promote the sale of medals of his design.
He was most noted for one of his medal series, the annual Medallic Art Calendar Medals, some 14 medals (1976-1990). These were of immense creative design, of American bicentennial events, the circus, the automobile, the history of flight, of Old Glory, of the Statue of Liberty, of sailing ships, tall and true. His Apollo Soyuz was in English on one side and Russian on the other. He even added his monogram in Russian letters on that medal.
His American Numismatic Society's 125th Anniversary Medal is considered the most attractive medal in modern America. His medal on Creation for the Society of Medalists is a close second. At his Symposium I stated Italian artists are the top designers of medallic art in the world. "There must be something in the drinking water in Italy," I stated. That brought applause from a highly concentrated audience of Italian heritage.
Marcel also created models for seven coins struck by the U.S. Mint. For his first -- the 1987 U.S. Constitution commemorative $5 gold -- he did both sides. It went down hill from there, where the U.S. Treasury selected only one of his designs to pair it with another artist's design. His seventh coin hit rock bottom. His reverse design was mixed with that of Alex Shagin's -- to neither artist's credit -- for the 2001 U.S. Capitol Visitors Center commemorative clad half dollar. He refused to do any more designs for the U.S. Mint thereafter.
Last year Marcel's two daughters contacted me to reinstate the chores of cataloging their father's work. I gathered a team to photograph all his plaster models in his New Jersey home studio. (This was reported in E-Sylum vol 11. no 14, art 7, April 6, 2008.) Then the fun began of matching obverse with reverse, and identifying every medallic item. Marcel liked series, he participated in ten of these. I had to organize all these from photos, often with multiple images from plaster models in ongoing stages of creation.
Research took me to many sources: manufacturers, sales literature, auction catalogs, and of course, my own files. I gathered data where I could find it and asked a lot of questions among a lot of people.
However, even as recently as March this year, at that symposium in his honor, I was still saying Marcel's lifetime medallic production was less than a hundred. (Report on that Jovine Symposium: E-Sylum vol 12, no 11, art 5, March 15, 2009.) I had to drastically revise that figure.
Bottom line as evidenced in the Final Report: 178 known coins and medals, plus 22 undated items.
Wow! What a fabulous project. Dick has more energy for numismatic research than most men half his age. Congratulations on another milestone. We'll eagerly await the book!
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
MEDALIST MARCEL JOVINE DIED THIS WEEK
JOHNSON'S TEAM CATALOGS MARCEL JOVINE STUDIO COLLECTION OF MODELS
SYMPOSIUM HONORS MEDALLIST MARCEL JOVINE
Wayne Homren, Editor
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