Harry Waterson submitted this piece on a medal whose proper orientation can be difficult to determine.
Every Which Way But Up.
Prompted by the recent exchange in The E-Sylum on medallic orientation I took a very suspect medal into the monthly luncheon of the Golden Eagles of the Ozarks' Coin Club on Friday March 9th. Here is a report that will be published in The Flying Eagle, the monthly newsletter of the club later this month.
The 1948 New York International Airport Dedication Medal was shown to the members and passed around the room with the question: Is the reverse oriented properly or not? One member, Don Eggerman figured it out. This is the medal; 3-inch version.
There is a small version of this medal and it is HK-499. The 1st edition (1963) of the So-Called Dollar catalog by Hibler & Kappan described the reverse as "Clouds at top above large radar-like installation." The 2nd edition (2008) got it right; "Clouds at top above layout of roads and runways at airport."
But is the 'top' the top? There are clues it might not be. Should not the bottom legend split the bottom of the medal? Not off-center into the lower right quadrant. But the biggest clue of all is the arrow pointing North in the far right field. If the medal is realigned so the arrow actually points North, that automatically brings the legend to the bottom of the medal splitting left and right.
See the result to the right. Once this is done the Jamaica Bay coastline becomes geographically correct and not a horizon line. The sculptor could have helped the orientation by making his water lines run West-East rather than Northwest-Southeast. Although from an aerial POV water would usually just look flat.
Of course, to add to the confusion the arrow on the medal points to True North while the airport is laid out to magnetic north. The angle of declination at JFK is 12.99°W. I’m sure the sculptor did not have a clue about that issue. So when the little arrow is pointing straight up i.e. True North, the layout of the airport is off 13 degrees clockwise. Another 'which way.' (I think I have my airport geometry right.) For those with local knowledge, the road coming out of the cloudbank is the Van Wyck Expressway.
This medal has confounded many people over the years including the team that struck it at The Robbins Co. There they organized the obverse to match the coastline of Jamaica Bay on the reverse as if it were an horizon line. And thus creating the 'large radar-like installation.' The two horizontal runways that almost match Jamaica Bay's coastline helped add to the illusion. They struck thousands with this orientation.
On December 24, 1963 the airport was renamed John F. Kennedy International just one month after Kennedy's assassination and from then on would be known simply as JFK. Two years later I worked as a ticket agent at TWA in their wonderful JFK Terminal Building designed by Aero Saarinen. He designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
The building was recently purchased by a hotel chain and they are remaking it into the TWA Hotel opening in 2019. 505 rooms. It is on my bucket list to spend a night there in luxury and to remember the miserable nights I spent there curled up in a steel chair in the agents' locker room waiting for late plane arrivals.
To read the complete article, see:
TIPS ON COIN DESIGN ORIENTATION
Wayne Homren, Editor
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