The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 39, September 24, 2006, Article 7


The catalog for the next in the series of Ford sales has already
been issued.  Sale XVI features the first part of Ford's collection
of Indian Peace medals. The formal title of the sale, scheduled for
October 17, 2006 in New York, is "Medals Struck for Presentation to
First Peoples by Spain, France, Great Britain and the United States
of America 1680-1890."  The second part, scheduled for sale in May,
2007, will include duplicates of the U.S. series in silver and the
bronzed copper medals.

The centerpiece of this first sale is Ford's collection of silver
Indian Peace medals struck by the U.S. government:  "There has never
been a collection of United States Indian Peace Medals struck in
silver as large, comprehensive, significant or ground-breaking as
this one.

The one hundred and more medals that will cross the block in this
and the second sale represent a very significant percentage of the
total number of such medals that has ever been available for purchase
by private and institutional collectors.  In some cases, such as
Harrison's round medals, the number present here is nearly half of
the total number believed struck at the time they were ordered from
the Mint!" (p62).

John Adams writes: "I had the great good fortune of learning from
John Ford for 25 years. We shared an interest in the early Indian
peace medals and helped each other to build our collections.

As the catalogue for Ford XVI shows, John did not hesitate to buy
duplicates. He did this not out of greed but, rather, out of a
reverence for the material that appeared to be greatly underappreciated.
His accumulation of the large undated medals of George III makes my
point more eloquently than my words. These medals are among the very
few objects of any sort that one can buy and be assured of sharing
stewardship with a native American owner. Here is a feast in which
collectors should revel.

The only weak points in John's collection are medals issued by the
French and the Spanish. These medals are exceptionally rare, to be
sure, but he did have chances to own them.  I do remember a Spanish
peace medal in a Bosco sale that was brilliantly catalogued by Paul.
It was "good", in my opinion, but, lacking easy access to comparables,
John convinced himself that the piece was "Mickey Mouse" and did not
pursue it aggressively. So also on other occasions. These small holes
in the collection are overwhelmed by John's accomplishments in the
U.S. and English sections - we never have and never will again see
the like."

Cataloguer Mike Hodder writes in a one-page appreciation of Ford,
"Indian Peace Medals were Mr. Ford's most favorite collectible.  He
lavished more study and spent more money on them than anything else
he collected.  If there was one numismatic project he wanted to start
more than any other it was an in-depth study of the American medals
in this series."

"We worked well together, ferreting out information about coins and
medals or tokens that added to their interest and value.  He could
talk about Tom Elder and Henry Chapman as if he had been brought up
at their feet.  His library was unexcelled and he never begrudged
sharing the information he found in it.  He was proud of his collections
and very aware of their importance."

"For almost all his career Mr. Ford was a step ahead of the rest.
He always seemed to already have a mature collection of a numismatic
area that everyone else was only just beginning to think about...
His knowledge seemed to be uncanny and his memory for detail unnerving."

The catalogue is issued with an Estimated Values insert sheet.  I
believe this is the first time Stack's has published pre-sale estimates
and it's a great idea for the highly esoteric series.  Estimates range
from as low as $50 (for a related Jeton) to $125,000 (for a large size
1801 Thomas Jefferson Indian Peace medal).  Are the estimates too
conservative?  Time will tell. The sale has only 189 total lots, one
medal per lot, which is the smallest Ford auction offered by Stack's
in the past three years.  I wonder how the prices realized will stack
up to the prior fifteen Ford auctions on a per-lot basis?

Every lot is pictured in color.  Included are several photos and
portraits of Indian awardees wearing their medals.  In addition to
Hodder's excellent description and commentary of each lot, the
catalog includes reprints of a 1982 Coin World interview with Ford
on the Betts-Astor Peace Medal, and a 2001 Coin World article by
George Fuld titled "Where Are All the Indian Peace Medals?"

I noticed one error in the catalogue - the obverse of one of the
most important and valuable medals in the sale is not pictured -
the lot 107 plate shows the same obverse as lot 109. The obverse
of lot 107 (the large size silver shell 1801 Thomas Jefferson Indian
Peace medal) is not pictured - oops!

Although it is not an identical shot of the obverse of lot 109
(the suspension loop is in a different position), the discoloration
on some lettering and the "dot" below the letter D in President are
tell-tale diagnostics.  The reverse photos are different, though -
look at the length of the extended index finger and positioning of
the thumb.  It would be helpful if Stack's were to insert a plate
of the missing medal obverse in the post-sale hardbound catalogs;
it would be a shame for the omission to go unaddressed.

It will come as no surprise that the latest of the Ford sale catalogs,
like most (if not all) that have come before it is destined to be a
classic reference.  The breadth and depth of Ford's numismatic holdings
are absolutely stunning.  Bibliophiles who haven't been assembling a
set of these sales should be ashamed of themselves.  I've purchased
every one in hardcover for my library; this set will be a cornerstone
of American numismatic libraries for decades to come.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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