Inaugural Medals

Wm. Howard Taft official Inaugural Medal, 1909
Lyndon Johns Inaugural Medal, 1963, U.S. Mint
Benjamin Harrison commercial Inaugural medal without ribbon, 1880
George W. Bush, unofficial 2nd Inaugural Medal, 2005, reverse, 1st draft, not used
George W. Bush, official 2nd Inaugural Medal, 2005
Eisenhower Inaugural Medal, 1958, U.S. Mint

Benjamin Harrison commercial Inaugural medal without ribbon, 1880, reverse

It is well known that the United States Mint manufacturers the currency and coinage of the United States. What isn’t well known is that there are skilled craftsman who also shape American history in bronze medals and medallions for everyone to own and share.

Created in 1792, the U.S. Mint has been the primary source of coinage in the United States, but in their own words:

“The primary mission of the United States Mint is to produce an adequate volume of circulating coinage for the nation to conduct its trade and commerce. In recent history circulating coin production has varied between 11 billion and 20 billion coins annually. In addition to producing coins, the United States Mint has other responsibilities, including the following:

* Distributing U.S. coins to the Federal Reserve banks and branches.
* Maintaining physical custody and protection of the Nation’s $100 billion of U.S. gold and silver assets.
* Producing proof, uncirculated, and commemorative coins, and medals for sale to the general public.
* Manufacturing and selling platinum, gold, and silver bullion coins.
* Overseeing of production facilities in Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco and West Point, as well as the U.S. Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky”

It is the third mission that we are talking about today. Ata first, Peace medals were struck to use as friendship gestures on behalf of the president and the Indian nations. By 1869, these Peace medals became inaugural medals featuring the newly elected president of the United States with the dates of inauguration and other artwork on the reverse. Every Peace medal and every inaugural medal is still available today directly from the U.S. Mint.

Because the inaugural medals are still being reproduced, the demand has always kept up with supply and so there is only an antique value if one of the original strikes were being offered. How would you know? Mostly from the patina of the medal itself. If the patina on an inaugural medal dates to the 1870s, for example, it would have something of a darker hue to it rather than the shiny hue that accompanies a newer, more contemporary strike. These original strikes have a much greater collector value by virtue of its age alone.

Now, there are also officially produced inaugural medals for the president. These medals are also bronze like the U.S. Mint medals. The difference is that a relatively limited number are produced of each medal and once they are sold, no more are every produced unlike the U.S. Mint medals which continue to be reproduced each year.

The very first official inaugural medal, that is one that was manufactured at the behest of a specially appointed committee responsible for the official inaugural swearing-in of the new president and vice president and the accompanying festivities, was for William McKinley of 1901. Prior to that, inaugural buttons, badges, medals and medalets were produced by entrepreneurs wholly unconnected with the official swearing-ins or festivities.

So, how do you tell them apart. The quickest way to tell is that the U.S. Mint inaugural medal usually features a portion of the inaugural address on the reverse of the medal or the complete dates of service for the president. Official inaugural medals were produced from original artwork before the inauguration took place and therefore couldn’t have access to the official inaugural address.

The difference of values between the U.S. Mint and the official inaugural medals can be significant. The early official inaugural medals of McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Wm Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover are the most sought after because relatively few were ever produced.

Attached are photos of both U.S. Mint and official Inaugural strike medals for comparison. On January 20, 2008 we will have another official and U.S. Mint inaugural medal to add to our collection.

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