The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 49, December 8, 2019, Article 22


A Stack's Bowers blog article by Senior Numismatist Ben Orooji highlights a very rare gold example of the classic Erie Canal Completion medal. -Editor

1826 Gold Erie Canal Completion Medal

Though our March Baltimore 2020 Auction is three months away, consignments have been rolling in for this popular and exciting event. One of the highlights received thus far is an exceptionally rare so-called dollar, the famous Erie Canal Completion medal struck in gold.

There are only three known examples of this phenomenal rarity, two of which are in private hands. The medal was struck to commemorate the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, an engineering feat that ushered in an era of economic, cultural and political prosperity in New York, specifically New York City, whose increasing importance as a port city outpaced competing ports along the Eastern Seaboard. The Canal was directly responsible for bringing the agricultural products of the western interior to markets in the East, and bringing finished goods from the port of New York City to the interior, all the while slashing the cost of transportation by 95% from the usual overland routes.

To commemorate the Canal's completion, the Common Council of New York City authorized a medal and put its execution in the able hands of Archibald Robertson, a contemporary American artist. Robertson designed the medal. Iron and steel worker William Williams made the dies upon which famed medalist Charles Cushing Wright engraved the designs and Richard Trested punched the legends. The medals themselves were struck by Maltby Pelletreau of Pelletreau, Bennett and Cooke, Pelletreau being from a family of New York silversmiths dating back to colonial times.

The medals were struck in white metal, silver and gold. White metal impressions were presented to invited guests of the Corporation of New York, while silver impressions were given to select dignitaries and government officials. Gold specimens were reserved for persons of the highest order including the surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence, the family of George Washington, the current and past (living) Presidents, Marquis de Lafayette, and other very select individuals. A total of twelve gold examples were distributed to named persons, based on contemporary newspaper accounts. Today, we know of three that have survived.

The piece to be presented in our March Baltimore auction is certified by NGC as EF-45 and features Pan and Neptune on the obverse with a distant view of the ocean and a lighthouse. The reverse shows the New York coat of arms with a representation of the canal and the city of New York. The surfaces are medium gold and retain a satin to modestly semi-prooflike finish. The detail is sharp throughout the obverse, and bold on the reverse apart from a touch of softness to the high points. The provenance is largely unknown apart from it coming out of a European estate.

President John Quincy Adams' example, certified by NGC as Proof-62, last sold at auction in 2014. President Andrew Jackson's example described as "Extremely Fine" was donated to the New York Historical Society in 1832. This example could very well be Washington's, Lafayette's, James Madison's or perhaps one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Speculation? Of course, but it doesn't hurt to imagine. Definitively concluding to whom this piece was originally presented is probably impossible, but in time, perhaps clues will surface that will give additional direction. In any case, this is a historic and exceedingly rare medal commemorating one of the most important engineering achievements of the early United States. We anticipate strong bids and heavy competition.

The medal's original owner may never be known, but it's clearly someone quite notable at the time. Great medal commemorating a great engineering achievement. -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
Exceedingly Rare Gold 1826 Erie Canal So-Called Dollar to be offered in our March 2020 Baltimore Auction (


CURIOUS CURRENCY— The new 2nd edition of Robert D. Leonard Jr.'s Curious Currency: The Story of Money From the Stone Age to the Internet Age is now available, with updated information on e-gold and PayPal, proximity payments, cryptocurrencies, and more. Winner of the Numismatic Literary Guild's "Best Specialized Book, World Coins" award. Order your copy for $16.95 at , or call 1-800-546-2995.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:



Copyright © 1998 - 2012 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster