The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 48, November 13, 2005, Article 7


Dick Johnson writes: “I have collected the medals of Tiffany
& Company for almost forty years. The fact that Tiffany – the
famed jewelry firm on Fifth Avenue in New York City and now
with stores all over the world – made medals was brought
to my attention by a passage in one of Leon Lindheim’s
numismatic books. (Another reason was that I had to collect
something after I became curator of the Medallic Art Company’s
archives in the 1960s, as I did not want the temptation of
collecting my own company’s medals.)

I casually acquired a Tiffany piece now and then. Then I
discovered something astounding. I learned that Medallic Art
Company had struck all of Tiffany & Co’s medals since the mid
1930s. I kept record of these but collected only those that
predated this era.

Another discovery: The firm had their own Tiffany Pavilion
at the Buffalo Exposition in 1901. They had exhibited one
of every medal they had made in the 19th century. They even
gold plated every medal in that exhibit! Even better, they
had published a little pamphlet listing all these. I discovered
this rare pamphlet in the vertical files in the library of the
American Numismatic Society.

My cataloging work at Medallic Art Co brought me in contact
with the head of the art department at Tiffany’s. One time
I asked him: "Does Tiffany have an archive of all their medals?"
Yes, he said, some but not all. Come by some time and I will
dig them out and show you.

I was at his fourth floor office at the Fifth Avenue Store
in less that a week’s time. He had a couple of trays to show
me. They were all goldplated! These were the 19th century
medals that had been in that 1901 exhibit!

Recently, I learned that writers on silver had access to
Tiffany’s archives, writing about famed Tiffany silver designs.
I wondered if they still had records of their medals. I
mentioned this to fellow researcher Katie Jaeger, who said
she would like to visit the Tiffany archives as well.

Katie is a rising star in the field of numismatic literature.
An author of articles in history journals, some of her articles
will appear in numismatic publications shortly. She has worked
with Q. David Bowers for a book or two and currently she is well
into her own major numismatic book project. Watch for her name
on some gem numismatic books upcoming.

Katie is inspired. Her inspiration is the fact her great grandfather
was one of the Lovetts – George Hampden Lovett.  She had researched
the Lovett family history, learned the lore of engraving and is now
deeply immersed in numismatics.

To access Tiffany’s archives a researcher needs extensive credentials,
a letter from their publisher, and has to schedule an appointment
well in advance. Appointments don’t come easy. Ours took from May
to November. But we got in this week. Thursday we traveled to
Tiffany’s New Jersey headquarters to spend the day pouring over
the documents, papers, card files, photographs, journals, sketch
books, and scrapbooks.

I came with a list of 327 medals I knew Tiffany had made since 1851.
I found perhaps two to five times that number of medals which were
new to me. Katie and I were in our glory pouring over this untapped
source of numismatic treasure. Two heads are far better than one in
research, constantly seeking each other’s advice - and searching
takes half the time.

One series of boxes had small envelopes containing 3x5 cards (papers,
sketches, and sometimes sample die impressions!). There were also
black crumbs in every one of these envelopes – tobacco, I first
thought. No, these records were once held together by rubber bands.
In 70 years the bands had deteriorated to crumbs.

Perhaps we were the first eyes to see these documents in over
70 years!”

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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