Jeff Burke submitted this article based on his recent interview with medal researcher and author Scott Miller. Thanks! -Editor
LEFT: 1930 Southern Railway medal by Paul Manship
RIGHT: Salmagundi Club medal by Ulysses Ricci
Medal researcher Scott Miller kindly took the time to answer my questions about how he first started to collect coins and medals. I conducted a Q & A
interview with Scott through an exchange of e-mails in July 2019. The following information is a synopsis of our exchanges and discussion.
On a personal note, we are delighted to have Scott as a new member of our New Jersey Numismatic Society (NJNS)! I have learned more about medals through our
conversations and by seeing Scott’s show-and-tell items at NJNS monthly meetings.
1. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY; I moved to the mainland in 1997.
2. What year did you start collecting coins or medals? Did a grandparent or another figure pique your interest in collecting coins? Can you recall any
stories about your early years of collecting?
I am actually not sure when I began to collect. I recall that by the time I was seven or eight (1963), my older brother and I had a small, shared
collection. This consisted of a few Whitman folders, Indian Head cents and Barber coins that my father pulled from circulation, and a few silver dollars
received as birthday presents from our grandparents. My father, who collected stamps, encouraged collecting and added to my small collection by bringing coins
home from his overseas trips.
Soon after starting college in 1972, I was offered a job at Gimbels coin department, where I handled medals for the first time and was soon hooked. One of
the other employees took me to the ANS, which was at Audubon Terrace. I asked to see some British medals, and Jeremiah Brady, who was the curator at the time,
allowed me to go through the trays of medals provided I checked their attributions.
Once I began to focus on medals, first British commemoratives, and then medals from the Beaux-Arts period, I received help and encouragement from dealers,
such as Bob Levin of World Art Medals and Joe Levine of Presidential Coin and Antique Co. I have also been fortunate to have had a good relationship over the
years with the ANS and its curators, including Alan Stahl, who invited me to join the Medals Committee. Gordon Frost was another long-time friend who taught me
a great deal about books.
Currently, there is no Standing Committee on Medals and Decorations. At one time, the ANS had a number of standing committees that worked with the curators
in specific areas. The 1994 Annual Report listed fifteen committees, such as East Asian Coins, Greek Coins, Medals and Decorations, and Medieval and Early
Modern Coins. There were also committees for Education, Long Range Planning, and other areas of interest. As of the end of 2018, there were eleven committees,
but they are mostly restricted to the Board of Trustees and none appear to relate to specific areas of the collection.
3. You volunteer a few days a week researching and cataloging medals at the ANS. Can you describe how you study and catalog each piece? What have been a
few of the highlights from your labor of love at the ANS?
At the moment, I am checking medals against their entries in the MANTIS database, updating information as appropriate. My real interest is in medals from
the Beaux-Arts period, an area that has not been well catalogued. I am looking forward to updating the civil war medals, as there are a large number of
commemoratives from that period that also need to be researched and catalogued. Old newspapers are a great source of information, and are increasingly easy to
use through several on-line sites. I recently started to look at the Society’s Comitia Americana medals, and have already noticed a few things that seem never
to have been published.
4. How have medals played a key role in the history of the New York Numismatic Club?
The New York Numismatic Club has been in existence for a bit more than 110 years, and has issued a medal for each club president, as well as a few
commemoratives. Having a presidential portrait medal is a great way for the club to get members to commit to the six years of work as Secretary-Treasurer, Vice
President, and then President. Besides having a medal struck with my portrait, it is a great feeling to be part of a tradition that included past presidents,
such as F.C.C. Boyd, Howland Wood, Edward Newell, and Albert Frey.
5. What suggestions do you have for getting more numismatists involved with studying and collecting medals from the United States and other
One of the great things about collecting medals is the amazing variety of topics and styles of art available. I also found that a lack of specific reference
books inspired me to do research, as I try to write books or articles I wanted to read but did not yet exist. It’s also good to know that medals in a couple of
specific categories are referred to by Miller numbers.
6. Are you currently engaged in some new and exciting, original research on medals that you could share with readers without revealing too much
I am working on an article about the Columbian Anacreontic Society (CAS), a musical Society in New York City from 1795-1803. I first learned about the CAS
after seeing the Society’s badge, probably the one from the Yale University Art Museum. It can be found on their website and is part of their numismatic
collection. The Columbian Anacreontic Society issued an engraved silver ticket to each member to present at meetings. When a member’s silver admission ticket
showed up at auction some years ago, I already knew something about the Society, and that led to additional research. Other projects that are fairly well along
include an engraved coin related to someone who was associated with the Lafayette Escadrille, and the 1769 Jubatus Bison medal, which was sold in Amsterdam by
J. Schulman in 1930 as part of the Fernand David Collection. I am not aware of any other publication listing this medal, which I now know has a fairly
Over the years I put together medal exhibits at Medialia Gallery in New York. The most recent exhibit, which closes this month, is entitled Medallic Images
of War: Death and Destruction 1850-1950. It explores how technological and social changes, such as photography, affected images of war on medals.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: COLUMBIAN ANACREONTIC SOCIETY MEMBER'S MEDAL
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, or call 1-800-546-2995.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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