Dick Johnson's up to something - a new business. Here's the scoop.
I added a new line to my résumé recently: medal publisher. This was added to writer, editor, cataloger (and formerly medal manufacturer and dealer). With a very talented and savvy partner, we have just published a medal -- actually a plaquette -- honoring Abraham Lincoln and Victor David Brenner. After all, the year 2009 is the bicentennial of the birth of Lincoln and the centennial of Brenner's Lincoln Cent.
It started March 2008 when I received a phone call from Mark Schlepphorst, a medal collector from Groton, Massachusetts. Mark was enamored with Brenner's Lincoln and wanted to learn more about Brenner's medallic work and everything I knew about the 1907 plaque of Lincoln which Brenner had created. This plaque -- the one mounted on the green marble -- was the impetus for his inquiries and the subject of our many conversations.
It lead Mark to become quite knowledgeable about all Brenner's Lincoln medals and acquiring every size and variety in existence. That includes the super Brenner Lincoln rarity, the Lincoln Medal Desk Plaque (King 303 obverse and reverse shown side-by-side separated by eagle overhead). We speculated about what would be issued medalically for the Lincoln birth bicentennial as we reflected on the enormous outpouring of Lincoln centennial medals for 1909.
I don't recall who had the idea first -- why don't we issue a Lincoln Bicentennial Medal? I did mention to Mark I knew Medallic Art Company acquired a number of Lincoln items on two separate occasions from Sam Brenner, Victor's younger brother, once in 1929 that included the original mold for that 1907 Lincoln Plaque and a second time, in 1931, when the firm acquired four dozen or more galvanos and medallic patterns.
Mark was ecstatic. Could that original 1907 mold still be in existence? Could it be used for a 2009 medal? "It was in Medallic Company's die vault when I left the firm in 1977," I stated. The firm had moved several times since then. From its original location on East 45th Street in midtown Manhattan, to Danbury Connecticut in 1972, acquired by Bob Hoff in 1989 and moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and finally relocated to Dayton, Nevada in 1997.
Mark flew to Nevada to meet with Bob Hoff, owner of the firm. The original mold was indeed still in custody of the company! Mark contracted for a 2-year exclusive use for that mold. Now, when he returned, he approached me. Let's set up a new firm to issue a Lincoln Bicentennial Medal. "How best can we do this?" he challenged me.
The original was a foundry cast, I replied. It was acquired in 1929 and issued by Medallic Art in the 1930s as an electrolytic cast, a galvano. "We must do something entirely different" I stated. I insisted it be a struck piece. A die could be cut from the original image. And make it as large as could be struck on an existing medal press.
How large? We tossed that question back to Bob Hoff at Medallic Art. He speculated it could be exactly half the size of that original to be struck rather than cast. The original cast plaque is over ten inches tall. That would make the half size plaque more that 5 inches tall. Could a press strike that? And what could be the design for the reverse?
For answers to those questions check out next week's issue of E-Sylum. I'll finish the saga -- the accomplishments and delays, the peaks and valleys, the elations and frustrations -- of bringing such a unusual and distinctive piece to market, for collectors to own and enjoy.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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