One of the True Columbian Rarities–Die Used To Strike Medals

The die pictured here isn’t “just” a unique piece but a very interesting one at that. To find an actual die used to strike a medal from the 1893 Exposition is quite rare, although we have had the privilege of offering them on rare occasions previously. This is what would probably be called the reverse die as the other side is the one that carries the Deering Company name. I find it interesting just how very inexpensive the Deering medal is today, even in gem BU quality. It is available most any time you would want one–they show up perhaps 10-15 times a year on Ebay, perhaps even more. Still that is hardly what one would call common; many other medals  can be found far more frequently. But collectors decide the prices, and there is essentially very little to NO demand for Deering medals.

It’s not at all unusual to find BU examples for $15-$20. Even novice collectors are entirely correct to pass Deering medals by and to purchase the best and most desirable piece they can afford first whenever they are buying for a budding collection. It is also very unusual that so many of the medals found are in choice to gem BU condition. This is one of the myriad conundrums of Columbian collecting (forgive the alliteration). I have uncovered many wonderful stories in so many years researching the 1893 fair, but have simultaneously found seemingly countless mysteries as well. Why Deering medals are generally found in high grades is just one little unanswered question.

The die on the other hand should be in very high demand by even the most experienced/sophisticated collectors. An actual die is simply unique. This die raises one question. If you examine the actual medal and compare it to all the detail on the die there is one difference. The die does NOT carry the type that is on the roll of twine in the center reading “twine from wood fiber patented.”

One can only speculate on the reason behind this. I do not recall ever seeing a Deering medal without this type, although never paying any attention to it I easily could have missed some number of medals that might have been struck without the small additional type. It is possible that the company, upon examining test strikes, decided that the text should be on the medals and a new die was created. I would be very interested to know if any collector has ever noticed a Deering medal without the motto. If indeed a small number were struck from this die, before it was reengraved and the bulk of the medals struck, we could have just found a variety that could add demand (and price) to Deering medals.

One area I have always looked for in my 40+ years researching the and writing about the fair is detail about the companies that struck the myriad medals produced at and for the Columbian Exposition. We know the names of a very few designers or die sinker/engravers (often included in the die for the medal) but we know very little about the companies employed to strike medals for the fair. A few companies in both New York and Chicago, for example, are known and a very substantial number of dies have been reused paired with many other dies. One would assume that in these cases one company was responsible for the dies and ultimately the reuse of them in multiple die pairings.

The reverse Deering die. Note that the medal you may own probably has small words on the ball of twine in the center.

I would guess that in writing three books about the expo and researching what could only be described as obsessively, if such information were at all easy to locate I would have by now. I suppose a good place to start would be city directories at the time of the fair to see what companies existed in 1892, time enough to have created and struck medals before the fair opened; I am sure many were not struck until the fair was underway. “Medals” specifically is a category/word that is almost entirely absent from the list of concessions at the fair. What that means is that the medals were simply sold at the expo by someone/some companies other than those with a specific fair concession.

If you have any WCE dies in your collection please contact me. I’m working on that third book, COLUMBIAN RARITIES, and would love to add material to it any chance I get. I am including this and a couple of other dies I have located over the years. Right now my file (and material I have been writing) for the book is far more than I will be able to use, but I have vowed NOT to delete anything until I have written all of the text. I am quite confident that at that point the book could well be twice the planned size, but that is when I will do the final edit/determination of just what I will have room to include. I’ve been quite open to making additions throughout the entire process; in the last six months I have added a few new finds.

As we begin 2022, I have been listing even more Columbiana for sale in both my online store, and on Ebay. Please check them both at least occasionally as items have sold at a record pace for me, with some 200 items (including non-WCE items) in December 2021. The History Bank is not one of the big boys of selling, but I pride myself on the quality of material I offer.

The John Kennel Collection’s 6,000+ items are a great example of this: I know of larger collections but I doubt that any of them contain more rare medals and tickets than John’s—and since April 2019 we have sold virtually all of them. These form much of the core of COLUMBIAN RARITIES.

Finally, please remember that we are always open to handling consignments and most definitely the Kennel Collection was the largest. But some of the collections we have sold have been very exciting, for the sellers and buyers, and the smallest to date was just 25 items—all gem and 80% of which were extremely rare tickets.

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, and certainly pretty poor about following through on the ones I did make. But for 2022, one goal—not really a resolution, per se, is to find time to write more articles for THE WORLD’S COLUMBIAN JOURNAL. If there are specific research topics about which you would like to learn more, please let me know and I will try to find information in my own files and/or spend time to unearth additional details you might be seeking.

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