Paquet’s Medalets Sold at the Philadelphia Mint

Posted on 12/11/2018

Anthony Paquet’s medalets make for an attractive addition to any collection.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, while America was encountering political and economic problems, it was becoming a golden era for numismatics. The panic of 1857 contributed to the hoarding of large cents, but the introduction of the smaller “Flying Eagle” cent boosted interest in new coin designs. The era also witnessed the talents of many now-famous private engravers, from Joseph Merriam to George H. Lovett.

M-NY-189: A store card for John K. Curtis cut by George H. Lovett of New York. It features a man in
colonial garb examining coins with a magnifying glass. The reverse shows the famous ship Great Eastern.
Click images to enlarge

By 1858, over a dozen coin dealers and firms established themselves in the larger northern cities, like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore. The demand for new medals commemorating events, historical figures, and politicians was at a high point. Die sinkers were commissioned by dealers and collectors to create hundreds of “fancy pieces” to fill collectors’ cabinets. The fierce election of 1860 also saw the production of many politically themed medalets.

Fuld-506/510A: An 1860 campaign medalet for Lincoln in copper
Click images to enlarge

With the Mint Cabinet program featuring Washington rolled out by Mint Director James Ross Snowden, and culminating with the dedication ceremony in early 1860, it became clear that the Mint could also profit from the recent enthusiasm for new medals.

Julian-PR-28: One of the first double headed medalets produced by the Mint.
This first bust of Washington was discontinued by 1862. The reverse features Andrew Jackson.
This piece graded NGC MS 63.
Click images to enlarge

Beginning in 1861, the Mint started producing dime-sized silver medalets featuring George Washington and Andrew Jackson (other presidents would soon follow). These and many of the following medalets are cataloged in R.W. Julian’s Medals of the United States Mint – The First Century 1792-1892.

J-MT-23: Musante notes that the first obverse for the Washington birth and death medal
was the same punch used on the reverse of the Mint Cabinet Medal.
Click images to enlarge

The bust sides for these medalets are struck with very high relief, and have no legend. The original silver medalets often have proof-like finishes. Small letters like “P” or “B” on the truncation indicate the engraver (Paquet or Barber), but many have no marking at all. Some say “PAQUET” on the truncation.

While Anthony C. Paquet receives most of the credit for these pieces (he engraved most of the dies), the early dies were privately owned by him or former chief coiners John Butler and Lewis Broomall. Later, William Barber was commissioned to engrave new dies to replace the ones never owned by the Mint.

J-PR-26: The second Washington obverse die, cut by Paquet in 1862.
This one has a small “P” on the truncation
Click images to enlarge

In 1861, there were multiple Washington medals a collector could purchase. A version paired with Andrew Jackson's bust, as well as one with his birth and death years. A 28mm "TIME INCREASES HIS FAME MEDAL" was also available.

J-PR-27: This larger (28mm) Washington medal was also first struck in 1861 to offer collectors another variety
for Washington medals, which were in high demand.
Click images to enlarge

Since the dies were privately owned, they were paired with new reverses later on, and copied extensively outside of the Mint by engravers like George B. Soley, who acquired the Mint’s old steam press in 1875.

George B. Soley’s copy of Paquet’s Washington, paired with the Liberty Bell. This is listed as GW-469.
Click images to enlarge

The first reference to the Jackson inaugural medal is in Snowden's 1861 medals book. While it was issued alongside the Washington medalets in 1861, it was likely first issued in 1833. This is evidenced in an 1869 letter by Mint Director James Pollock, mentioning that the enclosed silver medal was “issued shortly after his inauguration.”

J-PR-33: Two proof-like Jackson medalets struck in gold.
Click images to enlarge

The first order for Lincoln medalets came in August 1864 by Lewis Broomall, the former chief coiner. These were likely the medals with “AN HONEST MAN” reverse, which were struck for the election of 1864. While the dies were privately engraved by Paquet, they were struck inside the Philadelphia Mint. The notion of striking campaign pieces on government property might raise controversy; however, pieces were also produced for George McClellan’s campaign. The Lincoln medalets also proved to be popular, and continued to be struck after the election.

J-PR-35: Records show 29 gold, and 700 silver pieces were struck. This is also listed as Dewitt-1864-70.
Ironically, another order was placed for this piece the day before Lincoln’s assassination.
Click images to enlarge

According to Neil Musante, the Washington/Lincoln double head medalets were by far the most popular items sold at the Philadelphia Mint from 1865 to 1875. In the wake of Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, the Mint received a flood of requests for medals honoring the fallen president. Lincoln was instantly immortalized across from Washington as one of the nation’s greats. Washington was known as the founder, and Lincoln, its savior.

J-PR-30: Records show that 169 gold, and 5,677 silver examples of these medalets were struck. For the Lincoln die,
some have a “P” on the truncation, and some say “Paquet” like the one above.
Click images to enlarge

Two assassination reverses were also made to pair with the Lincoln bust, a simple legend inside a wreath, and a broken column reverse made by Paquet, who had left the Mint by 1865. The broken column reverse features an unrolled document in front, symbolizing the Emancipation Proclamation. King’s reference classifies the difference between “large groundwork” and “small groundwork” reverses, albeit without illustrations.

Here are two reverse varieties for the broken column reverse illustrated. Since there is no letter
on the truncation, it is unclear whether they should be listed as PR-37 or PR-38.
King lists these pieces as #550 and #552
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These small medalets prove to be a challenge for the modern collector for multiple reasons. First, there are many die variations that have never been properly categorized. While the medals were sold at the Mint, the earlier dies were engraved and used outside the Mint. To date, there is no complete resource that catalogs all of the medals, their mulings, and die varieties. Although Julian catalogs the main varieties, his listings are incomplete. However, Robert King’s reference Lincoln in Numismatics covers some additional varieties for the dies involving Lincoln, and Musante’s Medallic Washington has added further clarity on die variations involving Washington. Finally, the dies for these medalets continued to be used into the 20th century, so only date ranges can be assigned. The restrikes have drastically different values compared to originals, which are easily worth 10 times as much.

J-PR-39: This medalet of Lincoln/Grant was first struck in 1869, during the first year of Grant’s presidency.
Lincoln was the “savior” of the union, and Grant was labeled the “defender” of it.
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Mass strikings of these medalets continued until late 1875, when production fell off sharply. Following the assassination of President James A. Garfield in 1881, the Mint quickly prepared a Garfield obverse to pair with the Lincoln obverse, honoring the two fallen presidents. 425 gold, and 2,200 silver medals were made. Slightly larger birth/death medals were also produced that year. The large ones sold for $9 in gold, and 60 cents in silver, and the small ones were sold for $4 in gold, and 25 cents in silver.

The smaller (18.5mm) Lincoln/Garfield medalet (J-PR-41) and one of the larger (25mm) Garfield Medals (J-PR43).
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While these medalets were primarily struck in silver, a minute number were stuck in gold. Bronze, white metal, and aluminum strikings were also produced for some of the dies. Because these dies were used outside the Mint, other metal types are feasible. NGC recently identified a brass variety for a Lincoln/Washington die, which is listed in King’s reference as number 529 (it is unlisted in brass, however). This die is another close copy of Paquet’s Lincoln, and the initials “A.H.T.” appear on the truncation.

King-529: The initials “A.H.T.” appear very small on the truncation of Lincoln
Click images to enlarge

NGC has also identified an unlisted reverse die for the Ulysses S. Grant medalet, the obverse for which is listed as Julian PR-42.

An unlisted variety of J-PR-42, struck in silver
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Though the medalets were first produced in silver and gold, Julian notes that in the 1870s, bronze examples were occasionally made. These “original” bronze strikes are actually more rare than their silver counterparts. Bronze strikings of most of the dies continued in the 1880s, and early restrikes were made after 1904. Restrikes continued throughout the 20th century. The restrikes have a different look and composition from originals. While originals were composed entirely of copper—with a bronzed finish—restrikes were produced in true bronze, having a composition of 90 percent copper and 10 percent zinc.

The top image is an early 20th century restrike, while the bottom is a late 20th century restrike.
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Restrikes produced as late as the 1970s are more yellow in color, and have a dull, sandblasted finish. These can still be acquired for only a few dollars, often finding their way into dealers’ “junk” bins. NGC distinguishes these late 1970s restrikes from the earlier ones by using the language “modern restrike” and simply “restrike”. The modern restrikes are far more common than the originals.

As with many of the Mint medals, unscrupulous individuals have attempted to soil, darken, or add wear to these restrikes in an attempt to pass them off as originals. These can still be easily identified, however, as the restrikes are usually thicker, and will still evidence the sandblasted finish on the surfaces, and yellowish color on the edge. They are usually slightly larger in diameter as well. Some bronze medalets have also been silver-plated to fool collectors.

A small number of restrikes were also made in silver. The difference can be seen through the dull, grainy surfaces, thicker planchets, and slightly larger (19mm) diameter.

J-PR-26: Here, an original (top) and a restrike (bottom) are compared.
The restrikes have significantly less detail from the sandblasting.
Click images to enlarge

With NGC honed in on attributing, differentiating and authenticating these medalets, the collector can have confidence buying and trading for these beautiful vintage Mint souvenirs. The extraordinary high relief they exhibit, combined with their simple elegance, makes them an attractive addition to any collection. Though he never assumed the position of chief engraver at the Mint, Anthony Paquet will be enshrined in numismatic history for his contributions and ingenuity for these medalets.

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