Dick Johnson submitted this review of the new Whitman book on Kennedy medallic
art. Thanks! -Editor
This book dramatically exhibits the fun
you can have with medals and forming a medal collection. Adding to a collection with related
collectable objects – called associated items – increases that collector pleasure all that much
greater. That is what author William R. Rice has done for the reader as he shares that pleasure to
the extreme in his new book, The Kennedy World in Medallic Art.
Some might say Bill Rice has done for John F. Kennedy what Fred Reed has done for Abraham
Lincoln in his two books on Lincoln collectables, all of which were published by Whitman. These are
books to read and to savor. I hope this is a trend that continues in the future with other medal
topics. Rice’s Kennedy book could thereby serve as a model for future medal authors.
This book is not a catalog, although it has a 49-page listing of 2,837 Kennedy medals. The scope
is that large. It continues the catalog numbering system established by Edward Rochette, who
compiled and wrote the first book on medallic Kennediana in 1966.
Because of its length the catalog listings are bare bones -- name, size, composition and a very
brief comment. The one-medal one-line list contains all varieties known to the author. However, the
author relates there may be another two to three hundred more Kennedy medals still to be
Collectors will undoubtedly demand a second edition with further data, such as who made the
item, artist and producer and the notable events in its creation, all the medal lore of collector
interest The author states he has a lot of this data already, it just wouldn’t fit in the first
volume. Three features dominate this book, notably: the absolutely stunning photographs, the
artistic layout, and the wide diversity of the associated items Bill Rice has gathered to
supplement his medals. This includes news photographs and articles, drawings, letters, posters,
jewelry items, advertisements, medal leaflets, statuettes, paperweights, cameos and cloth patches.
All this in addition to badges, decorations, stamps, covers, post cards and paper money you might
expect to find included.
The high quality photographs are the work of the author, a 40-year professional photographer. He
has gathered images from both institutions and private collectors – duly noted as Contributors –
and his own collection, first started with a gift of a Kennedy medal from his father in 1963.
Even with the such quality photographs, medals of varying medallic quality are shown. High
quality pieces – created by top artists, as Paul Manship’s Inaugural medal, Ralph Menconi’s
Presidential Medal, Gilroy Roberts' Presidential Series Mint Medal – are contrasted with medals
hastily designed and crudely produced.
Perhaps Kennedy would have liked the democratic cross section of his medallic art, allowing all
to express their adulation of a U.S. president. Many of these later medals exhibit portraits of the
35th president in flat relief with an unrealistic likeness.
However, all such medals should be included in a standard work – if they exist they should be
included. To the author’s credit he has captured as many of the Kennedy medals which exist or
caught up in his net. If, as the author expects, there still may be hundreds more, it does call for
a second edition.
When I met Bill Rice at the ANA Boston convention I mentioned to him I had a small version of
the Agop Agapop architectural portrait of the president, shown as the frontispiece in Ed
Rochette's 1966 book. The original was placed in situ on the wall of the Hyannis
Massachusetts Kennedy Memorial, which the author has pictured on page 91.The six-foot relief of
that wall portrait had been cast and the plaster original model returned to Medallic Art Company. I
stumbled over that giant plaster for the four years I had to visit the storeroom.
I had to find my 10-inch Kennedy cast of that giant
portrait listed in his catalog. Sure enough, there it was: K 63A-16. Medallic Art Company called it
the Barnstable John F. Kennedy Memorial Medal. Rochette had listed it as the Lindsay Morris Prize
JFK Medal – an award the artist won of this portrait – a name the current author retained.
The section on challenge coins is impressive. Because these collectables did not exist when
Rochette created his numbering system, Bill Rice had to create a new class of numbers,” KCC.” The
Kennedy connection is with the USS John F. Kennedy Aircraft Carrier, which spawned many challenge
medals. The 12-page section of these illustrates 92 items, many in enamel color with most produced
by Northwest Territorial Mint, a sister firm of Medallic Art Company.
At the end of a telephone interview the author extolled the art department at Whitman Publishing
for their excellent artistic layout of the book. He stressed that praise several times. This writer
echoes that sentiment.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW BOOK: THE KENNEDY WORLD IN MEDALLIC
Wayne Homren, Editor
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