The Collector’s Minute: Calendar Medals

This brass calendar medal, minted in 1858 to commemorate President George Washington, sold for less than $150.

Calendar medals are often items of speculation, and they’re frequently though to be one-of-a-kind, rare presentation pieces. But like paper calendars, they only appear rare because they were often discarded once their useful life was over.

Some were made as perpetual calendars, others with a 28-year cycle. For this reason, they’ve been kept around as keepsakes or for sentimental value.

These medals do have a long history. Calendar medals first appeared in Europe during the 17th century. The simplest of them told the date on which the Sundays occurred, or perhaps when the first of each month occurred, plus the number of days in those months. These medals were often commemorative, minted at the time of a new king being crowned, the death of an old one or, in more recent times, presidential inaugurations or commemoration of their deaths.

Later examples were use as advertising or given as premiums. The brass calendar medal pictured is a rare example, as Peter H. Jacobus of Philadelphia minted it in 1858 in commemoration of President George Washington. Jacobus is credited with also minting Civil War tokens.

The front of the Washington calendar medal shows the “Father of Our Country” on horseback.

Later examples, circa post-1895 tended to be made out of the new lightweight wonder metal, aluminum, which was an easy and cheap-to-produce medium for advertising. Large numbers of company-sponsored calendar medals were produced until World War I.

Demand for calendar medals like this come from a specialist market of coin and medal collectors, but even values for rare examples like the Washington commemorative are still relatively modest. This one sold at auction for less than $150.

Values for the 20th-century variety tend to be even more modest at this point, with a great many selling at auction in the $10-to-$45 range.

Even though values for calendar medals are now modest, markets are known to change. Coins and medals of all types should be left as found and unpolished. Handling them with cotton gloves will keep them from reacting to acids and oils found on skin that cause discoloring and tarnishing, maintaining their highest value down the road.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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