Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts on the study of recipients or awardees of award medals, and the information available to researchers in the Medallic Art Company medal archive.
Scott Miller should be thanked for revealing the book on a recipient of the Vail Medal. The study of recipients or awardees of award medals is useful for the background it furnishes on such award medals.
Whenever a collector acquires an award medal with the name inscribed his first reaction is "Who was that person and how famous or what did he do?" It adds to a medal's lore to research this information It might appear at first to be outside the realm of numismatics for such data, but often it has a relationship to the value of the piece. Famous names bring higher sales prices.
When I was charged with cataloging all the medals made by Medallic Art Company I saw in the company records the names of all such recipients in the shop orders. These had to be inscribed by a staff engraver before the medal was finished and shipped. [You engrave a die but you inscribe a medal. However medals are inscribed with engraving tools or by machine engraving.]
I faced the question -- should I record those names, some of which went back to the 1920s. I was recording the name of the medal. date it was first issued, artist(s) names, all sizes and compositions in which the medal was struck, client's name and location, how the client used the medal, and a number of keywords of design elements. This was the essential data the company needed for future use. All this was entered on a 3 x 5 card. (This was before computers.)
What I didn't record was a numismatic description, quantity struck -- and the names of all those recipients. I felt it was not our right to reveal that data. It was the client's responsibility to publish those names. Often at a presentation ceremony, it was the client's intention the name should be a surprise. Woe to anyone who revealed the name in advance of their ceremony or press release.
Thus for 70 years the firm never released recipients'' names. I learned later there exists books on these awards -- as Scott had found -- on one or even the entire list of recipients. Some award programs are decades old, ongoing, some awards made every year, some only occasionally (I assume when someone merits the award).
I add those award books to my library whenever I learn of them. I feel this information adds allure and lore to a medal which is named.
By the way, that 3 x 5 card file still exists. I had cataloged nearly 7,000 medals. Photographed the medal (both sides), that image is on the card with the data above mentioned. The medal photographed became the archive medal. Six cabinets of those archive medals also exists. These have gone through several owners but now reside at MACO's plant in Dayton, Nevada. One of those owners had all the data on the cards entered in a databank.
Note that the catalog number at the upper right on illustrated card has now entered the 21st century. The first two digits was the last two digits of the year issued. These have all been brought up to date because we now have 2000 years conflicting with early 1900 years. The new catalog number for this medal is: 1930-001-069.
The information can be easily retrieved. MACO has a full-time archivist. She answers questions on one or two past issues from collectors and the public by email only: Cathy.Swinburg@nwtmint.com (Include a scan and diameter or dimensions of the piece.)
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
THEODORE N. VAIL NATIONAL AWARD MEDALS
THE BOOK BAZARRE
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