The Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 41, October 9, 2022, Article 28


Stack's Bowers published an article by Dave Bowers on the Washington Funeral Urn Medal in Gold. -Editor

  Washington Funeral Urn Medal in Gold

Washington funeral medals were produced in several varieties in Newburyport, Massachusetts by well-known engraver Jacob Perkins and are believed to have been distributed at or for the civic funeral procession held in Boston. However, there were numerous civic processions arranged for nearby cities, and these medals might well have figured into more than one official event, as numerous die combinations are known suggestive of a fairly large output. Most were made in silver, holed for suspension. Gold strikes are extremely rare.

Born in Newburyport in 1766, Perkins showed an early aptitude for art and mechanics, and apprenticed to a goldsmith and jeweler in 1779. In business on his own account by 1783, he engraved dies for Massachusetts copper one-cent pieces in 1788. In the next decade he created innovations in the manufacturing of nails and the printing of bank notes, among other activities. In 1792 he sought but failed to get a position at the new United States Mint.

In Newburyport in 1800, Perkins created the Washington funeral medals and other issues that are not as well documented. A few years later he introduced the Patent Stereotype Steel Plate, which became widely used to print bank notes, and the siderographic process of transferring bank note vignettes to printing plates. His other inventions ranged from ship navigation devices to a steam-powered gun, to fire engines.

Perkins moved to England in 1818, where he remained for the rest of his life. There he printed the first postage stamps in the world, the British penny black issues, with plates made by the siderographic process. After his death in London in 1849, the U.S. Patent Office devoted three pages of their annual report to his memory.

In our October 27-28 sale of the Sydney F. Martin Collection Part II at the Whitman Winter Expo in Baltimore, we are pleased to be offering Washington Funeral medals, including lot 2082, an About Uncirculated-53 gold medal.

To read the complete article, see:

Here's an excerpt from the lot description. -Editor

  Funeral Urn Medal in Gold obverse Funeral Urn Medal in Gold reverse

The earliest appearance we are aware of for a Funeral Urn medal in gold was W. Elliot Woodward's April 1863 sale, where one was secured by a Mrs. Paige for $55. Woodward commented that very few specimens exist in this metal and that it is of the most extreme rarity, the latter italicized for emphasis. Two years later, Woodward would describe another of these for sale, including the comment, a splendid original. Though no further discussion on the point was made at this lot, it is clear that a question had arisen as to the status of these medals. The following year, he described yet another, the Hoffman specimen, by which point it seems that the controversy surrounding them had boiled over. Woodward declared here that several of these pieces have, from time to time, been sold as genuine, but it is now known that they are counterfeits, the dies having been in the possession of the late Dr. Edwards; they are now destroyed, together with all the pieces struck from them, excepting the few mentioned as having been sold to collectors. The next to sell was cataloged by Edward Cogan in April 1866, for Colin Lightbody. That was noted as guaranteed original, and very rare.

It is difficult to know with certainty just what transpired, and it is easy to imagine that once the dies were discovered in Dr. Edwards' possession, Woodward (and others?) might have been too hasty in condemning them all. Jacob Perkins is known to have struck gold Washington funeral medals. An undated, but circa 1800 advertisement reprinted on page 140 of Neil Musante's, Medallic Washington, clearly illustrates that Perkins struck gold medals of Washington, and these, specifically for the ladies, have been taken to refer to the oval gold shells that are known to have been placed into lockets (as suggested directly by the advertisement). It is likely, therefore, that wealthy men of Boston or Newburyport might have wished gold impressions of Perkins' funeral medals for themselves and ordered them.

The dies were cut by the esteemed engraver Jacob Perkins, of Newburyport, Massachusetts and are believed to have been struck by him and distributed at or for the civic funeral procession held in Boston. As every town seems to have set aside its own day for memorial tributes, typically including well-planned processions, it is quite possible that Perkins could have capitalized on the opportunity in several nearby towns, if his work was complete in time. Processions are noted by us to have happened in Marblehead on January 2, Hallowell on January 8, Medford on January 13, and Haverhill on February 22. Certainly, there were many more. The number of dies prepared and the different compositions suggests a fairly large output. There were at least seven obverse dies and seven reverses used on medals bearing the funeral urn motif.

Gold funeral medals have long been markers of the greatest collections, as only the most advanced collections tend to include this most precious composition. Historic collections that included them go back to at least the 1860s and include owners such as Colin Lightbody (1865), Francis Hoffman (1866), Colin Lightbody (a second one, in 1866), Charles Bushnell (1882), Sylvester Crosby (1883), Lorin Parmelee (1890), Matthew Stickney (1907), Charles Gregory (1916), and W.W.C. Wilson (1925).

To read the complete lot description, see:
Circa 1800 Washington Funeral Medal. Funeral Urn. Musante GW-70, Baker-166. Dies 1-B. Gold. AU-53 (PCGS). (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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