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DICK JOHNSON: ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION WHEN RESEARCHING MEDALS
Dick Johnson submitted this note about some recent research he performed on two medals. -EditorI received two inquiries on American medals this week, one from Canada and one from Australia. A writer in Canada had been commissioned to write a biography of a person named Fields. In her research she had discovered a medal made by Medallic Art Company. Her inquiry on this medal eventually reached me since I had cataloged all the medals made by this firm.
She furnished the time frame, 1932 or 1933, and the name Fields. She also knew it was by the Canadian-American sculptor R. Tait McKenzie. I searched my records but came up blank. Nothing by that name, for that period, or under artist McKenzie. A second email mentioned a mathematics congress. Bingo! I located a reference to an International Congress of Mathematicians Medal, 1933.
I had assigned the medal a catalog number, 33-37, but had not prepared a catalog card for this medal. This usually meant I did not have a specimen in the company archives to photograph or to finish cataloging. Occasionally when this occurred a search would be made for dies, and a sample medal would have been struck for archive purposes. No such specimen.
In my list of medals (called "shelf list" a term I learned from libraries) I would type in the name and number but would pencil in "nc" obviously for "not cataloged." For that year 1933 -- a year of low production in a depression time -- only 63 medals were made. Ten bore the "nc" notation.
Fields was either the first recipient or the client who ordered the medal. I had first thought his portrait might appear on the medal. Wrong! My correspondent later told me it bore a portrait of Archimedes. It proved to me I should ask the right questions in the beginning. It might save a lot of time.
The second inquiry, from Australia, was for a Tiffany medal for the Berwind White Coal Company. I recognized this right away. The inquiry had been sent to John Sallay of Medal Collectors of America, who, in turn, directed it to Joe Levine and myself. Before I answered it, Joe replied leaving nothing more I could add:
"BERWIND WHITE COAL MINING COMPANY 50TH ANNIVERSARY MEDAL, 1936. Marqusee 375; Museler 72/20. 81.3mm. Bronze. (Tiffany & Co.). Choice Unc. Obv: A kneeling miner holds a chunk of ore and a pickax. 50th anniversary legend. Rx: A steamship, and a train with a factory behind, both in square panels. EUREKA inscribed on a banner above, and 1886-1936 on a banner below. Signed at bottom: TIFFANY & CO. Edge marked BRONZE and an Old English “m” (for Edward C. Moore, superintendent of manufacturing and a company director.
E. J. Berwind, the founder of this company is renowned as the original owner of The Elms, one of the famous Newport, R.I. 'cottages.' The Berwind Corporation is still in business today."
This was right out of one of his auction catalogs. He further stated the last few examples have sold in the $100 range. A tribute to his comprehensive and accurate cataloging! (Hint: if you collect or are interested in medals you should subscribe to his Presidential Coin & Antique auction catalogs!)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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