Dick Johnson submitted this review of the 2nd edition of Agricultural and Mechanical Society Award Medals of The United States by Andrew Harkness in the form of an open letter to the author. Thanks!
My order from Lulu including your book Agricultural and Mechanical Society Award Medals of the United States arrived this week. I am impressed with the collection of the excellent specimens you have gathered in your outstanding collection. The color photographs are magnificent. But I was disappointed in the text.
Essentially what you have placed on Lulu is a check list illustrated with those exceptional color illustrations. I was also impressed with your numbering system -- technically called a geographic-numeric open number system -- for the ease in which to add more specimens in the future while retaining the existing numbers. You are also to be commended for not waiting to publish before you collect every specimen possible in your chosen medallic topic.
But you have a lot of work to do. As a collector it is your duty to acquire as many types as possible within that topic. As an author it is your duty to write a text that would answer as many legitimate questions an intelligent reader -- and potential collector of that series -- is likely to ask. Thus in examining your book, I cry out for more information on these medals that you have chosen as your specialized medal topic.
I would have liked for you to have furnished the following: (1) a description of each medal, obverse and reverse, (2) background on that medal award program, (3) the first and last year such an award medal was issued by the architectural or mechanical society, (4) the artist, the engraver who cut the dies, from which these medals were struck [you have mentioned the artist if it appears on the medal itself -- what about all others?], (5) the "collector lore" additional data on the medals, the arcane information that adds such a delight for collectors to learn, and finally (6) background information on the issuing organizations themselves.
Andy, you have performed your collecting function extremely well, but you have failed your readers in providing all that additional information. I know the job is not easy, but doesn't your collection and now your specialize knowledge of this field compel you to compile that data?
Here are some suggestions that might aid in this endeavor.
State Libraries. Start by contacting the State Librarian in each state where these medals were issued. State libraries should have extensive resources on their state fairs, expositions, and organizations -- and if you are lucky -- some original records of those organizations and functions. It would be ideal to uncover the invoice, or order to the artist to engrave their dies, and the number and cost of the medals the artist or medal company supplied each year. Otherwise you might find some news article on the issuance of the medal which just may have identified the artist or where the medals were obtained.
Digging in the records. Don't expect library officials to do your work for you. If they have a lot of material you will have to go to their institution and plow through the records yourself. They will guide you and and show you as many published and unpublished works they think in their professional view may have the information you are seeking. The deeper you dig the more apt you are to find the treasure. Keep digging.
Ask for help. Ask people who might have the data you are seeking, this obviously would be numismatic people -- collectors, dealers, curators -- also historians within each state, possible other collectors of state fairs and such, and ... use your imagination in who might have specialize data. The information will come in bits and drabs at first, and occasionally big chunks of data. But gather all that is relevant.
Hire paid researchers. If you feel you cannot extend yourself across 50 states you might consider hiring paid researchers. Here again the State Librarians might have suggestions. The researchers themselves will also have suggested sources.
Use the Internet effectively. You can gather some data off of the Internet, but not as much as you require, and it must be verified since anyone can put anything on the net. There are also blogs where you can ask questions, which might elicit an answer from some kind person reading your inquiry. People like to share their knowledge.
Andy, you have done a fabulous job up to now. Please give us medal collectors the book on your medal specialty we would all like to have. We know it will be a labor of love --you won't make a lot of money from the book -- but we would like to share that love with you.
The second edition of Andrew Harkness book, "Agricultural and Mechanical Society Award Medals of the United States" is available from Lulu.com
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW EDITION: AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL SOCIETY MEDALS OF THE U.S.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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