The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 11, Number 40, October 5, 2008, Article 15


Dick Johnson submitted the following about a rare work on medals which is now available online. -Editor
One of America's classic medallic books -- now a rare work selling for $600 or more -- is the American Numismatic Society's publication of an exhibition of medals the New York City museum held in 1910. Google Books has digitized a copy in the library of the University of Michigan and placed it online for anyone to examine for free.

No announcement was made after the book was digitized June 3, 2008. I happened to come across its availability while searching for galvano plaques. Although the book has been in my library, it seems like forever, it is good to know it can be accessed online. It is long out-of-print and, of course, its copyright has expired.

The 1910 exhibition of medallic items was held, along with coins, in the new building of the ANS, that the organization had just occupied on Audubon Terrace in New York City with three other museums at the time, all built with the benevolence of Archer Milton Huntington. The exhibition was so large, it actually spilled over (maybe that's a poor choice of words -- better say, some of the coins were exhibited) in its neighbor museum, the Hispanic Society (now in the news a century later for wanting $30 million of its coins back from ANS because they moved away).

Under committee chairman Edgar H. Adams, invitations were sent out in the Autumn of 1909 to medallic artists and mints all over the world. The response was so great that the resulting exhibition was the World's Greatest Medallic Exhibition Ever Held! It has not been surpassed since, not even by an international organization, FIDEM (Federation Internationale de la Medallie), holding biennial international medallic exhibits since 1949.

In theory, FIDEM biennial exhibits are the latest works international medallists, engravers and diesinkers have created in the two most recent years. What the ANS 1910 exhibition contained was the best work every world medallists had created at anytime in their career! Artists were not limited in the number of medallic items they could submit. French medallist Louis Oscar Roty sent 83! Victor D. Brenner submitted 69 medallic works for exhibit.

The ANS exhibit cases were packed and overflowing. It filled the exhibition gallery on the first floor, center cases, and a mezzanine above in the new building. Mounting all the medallic items must have been a chore!

One hundred ninety-four artists from 11 different countries, three mints and three medallic societies sent medallic items for exhibit. French artists (49) sent the most, following native artists understandably here in America (56), emphasizing the fact medallic art is somewhat a French art. German (23), Austrian (19), British (16), Belgium (11), Italian (9), Dutch (7), Spanish (2) Norwegian (1) and Swiss (1) artists also participated.

In all 2,043 items were on exhibit. No limit on composition, how made, style or themes. Eight were hand engraved, 45% were struck, 30% cast and 319 (15.6%) were in galvano form. There was a handful of terracotta, porcelain, marble, wood, stone and ivory items. Seven items were in wax (the only requirement here was wax items had to be under glass).

A small (octavo) format catalog of the coins on exhibit was published in time for the 1910 exhibition, on view March 9 to April 1, 1910. The 252-page catalog listed 3,506 numismatic items. There were only 8 plates. A similar catalog listed medals; it is not, however, to be confused with the 1911 catalogue of medals, now considered a second revised edition. Records at ANS indicate 5,547 visitors viewed the exhibits.

Thanks to Agnes Baldwin Brett, a volunteer who oversaw the preparation of the larger quarto format medal catalog, every item was photographed, some singularly, others grouped as mounted by artist for the exhibit. She wrote one of the most authoritative Introductions, with a masterful understanding of the field, the history of medals and the many ways in which medallic items can be produced. She even chose to illustrate a Janvier die-engraving pantograph (at Medallic Art Company), which had been in America for only three years at the time, but it was considered the ultimate tool for coin and medal production at the beginning of the new century.

It is a miracle this massive 412-page book was published even within a year after the exhibition with all the photographs. Titled Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals, all were issued with a tan paper cover in a white cardboard box. Printed tissue interlays for many plates identified medallic items by catalogue number. A reply post card was inserted to mail back to ANS to indicate the purchaser of the book. If you found a bound copy for your library it was bound by a previous owner. One thousand copies were printed.

In conversation and among its scholarly references the book is cited by its title initials, "IECM." In almost a century no other publication has come anywhere near matching it. We wonder if a similar medal exhibit could even be mounted today. In August 2002 I sent a letter to the officers of ANS to consider a similar exhibition in 2010, eight years in the future. They never even answered my letter. We may never have another World's Greatest Medallic Exhibition Ever Held!

You may access the catalogue at the following URL: To read the complete article, see: Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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