coinsbygary's Blog

08 Jan 2022

The Branding of the Medallic Art Company

Medals-So-Called Dollars | coinsbygary

The branding of the Medallic Art Company really began with the founding of the Art Students League of New York in 1875. In the early 20th century New York City became the arts center of America. It is no wonder with instructors like Augustus Saint-Gaudens, James Earle Fraser, Daniel Chester French, and students like Laura Gardin. (This same Laura Gardin would later marry James Earle Fraser in 1913).

The Medallic Art Company of New York was founded in 1903 by French brothers Henri and Felix Weil. The proximity of the Medallic Art Company and the Art Students League soon developed into a symbiotic relationship. The Art Students League provided the medallic designs, and the Medallic Art Company struck and distributed the medals. As a collector of Laura Gardin Fraser's coins and medals, I learned that most of her medals were struck by the Medallic Art Company of New York.

In celebration of the 1917 completion of the Catskill Aqueduct in New York, the American Numismatic Society based in New York issued a three-inch (75.6mm) commemorative medallion. It was modeled by Daniel Chester French. (Daniel Chester French is the sculptor of the seated Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial). The medallions were cast, not struck, in bronze and silver by the Medallic Art Company. Mintages were limited by subscriptions to 57 bronze and 12 silver pieces. 38mm bronze replicas of the official medallions were also struck by the Medallic Art Company. The mintage of the so-called dollars (HK-667) is unknown, but they have a rarity of R-5. (Fuld rarity scale for tokens of 75-200 pieces). My recently purchased medal is one of the so-called dollars.

The obverse features a right-facing bust of a laurel-crowned woman in high relief. As such, this beautiful young woman probably represents Greater New York. The reverse features a male figure with water gushing out of a vase resting on his shoulder against the faint outline of the Catskill Mountains. The reverse represents the 92-mile Catskill Aqueduct that still supplies New York City with 40% of its water. The reverse inscription reads, "To Commemorate the Completion / of the Catskill Aqueduct / An Achievement of Civic Spirit / Scientific Genius and Faithful Labor / 1905 New York 1917."

Daniel Chester French died on October 7, 1931. In 1932, the Medallic Art Company struck a tribute medal to him using the obverse laureate head of the 1917 medal. The reverse without any devices has the following inscription, "A / token in / remembrance of / Daniel Chester French / National Sculpture Society / February 10, 1932 / Medallic Art Company / New York." The obverse head became known as the "French Head" when in 1932, Clyde Trees, president of Medallic Art Company, chose this obverse device as the company's official trademark. Soon the iconic French Head appeared in the company's advertising, on its stationery, and quite often on medallic work. This continued until Medallic Art & Mint (The combined Medallic Art Company and Northwest Territorial Mint) was bought out by Medalcraft Mint, Inc. in 2018.

An intriguing golden thread links Laura Gardin Fraser, Daniel Chester French, and the Medallic Art Company. In 1929 Laura Gardin Fraser designed the National Sculpture Society Special Medal of Honor. This medal was struck by the Medallic Art Company and presented to the Society's first recipient, Daniel Chester French, for his seated Lincoln sculpture.



Level 5

Great blog Gary. I knew that I live near a cultural center, but just didn’t realize the depth of the talent. I may have to revisit the Catskills area of New York again! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge in this area. Great pictures also!


Level 5

Nice blog. I enjoyed the information. This is an interesting coin. Thanks for sharing!


Level 4

I agree with Longstrider, picture quality is good.


Level 6

Great blog and beautiful medal! Thanks Gary! ; )


Level 4

The medal is a rarity. And in good condition too.


Level 5

Thanks! It's graded MS-66 by NGC.


Level 6

Great blog Gary. Full of fantastic information. A beautiful photo as usual. I need to read this again. I am starting to appreciate the strike on these works of art even more than I did before. So much more area for the artist to play with as well. Thanks.

AC coin$

Level 6

Beautiful medal , great blog . Thanks for sharing .


Level 7

As usual a great read. He they have made great medals. Thanks my friend. My device is dying. Had to make it quick!!

Long Beard

Level 5

Outstanding blog. Few mints, if any, compare to the high reliefs which they struck. As I'm sure you are aware, current market prices will attest to this comparative to all others.


Level 4

A unique medal. Good description to go with it.


Level 5

Awesome medal. The last couple years I have acquired a few medals and so called dollars. Great area to collect. So many options in medal area. Nice blog. Thanks


Level 6

Nice educational blog! Thanks

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