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The 1782 Libertas Americana Medal - America's First Pattern?

 
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 Posted 12/07/2021  7:17 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Including this here because, although it is not a coin but a medal, it is in effect a pattern for the design of so many Liberty Cap design coins. I feel fortunate to have acquired this example. It was produced while the American Revolutionary War was being fought and is earlier than the Nova Constellatio pattern coinage produced in Philadelphia by Robert Morris and Benjamin Dudley. To top it off, this design was adopted into our official circulating coinage.

Smithsonian: Comitia Americana Medals - Libertas Americana

The Libertas Americana medal was created under the direction of Benjamin Franklin. While stationed in France during the American Revolutionary War, Franklin received a detailed account of the Yorktown victory and was soon tasked to create a monument in its honor. Franklin responded with a proposal for a medal, rather than a monument, in which the United States would be depicted as the infant Hercules in cradle, strangling the two serpents sent by Hera; above him France personified as Athena (Minerva) would act as his nurse and mentor. The design became the medal's reverse and was further developed by both painter Esprit-Antoine Gibelin and engraver Augustin Dupré, each of whom furthered the design of France to also be seen as the protector of the infant as she fights the lioness Britannia who pounces at the child. The obverse iconography depicts Liberty with flowing hair. The obverse image would become the typical image of early American coinage.

Stacks: "The United States of America are represented by an Infant Hercules, cradled in a Buckler to shew that they are nursed in War. A Leopard, representing England, comes with two serpents to destroy the Infant. France represented by a Minerva, comes armed to his succour, and under her protection he strangles the two serpents, while she guards him from the Leopard, by her shield marked with Fleurs-de-Lis. The reverse Legend is a line of Horace, importing that the Infant was not without divine assistance. The Dates below are those of the two Capitulations of Saratoga & York-Town, whereby two entire English Armies that had enter'd and ravaged the United States with fire & sword, were extinguished." In Franklin's symbolism, this depiction recalls Hera, the stepmother of Hercules, releasing two snakes to kill Hercules in his cradle; those two snakes were the armies of Burgoyne (defeated at Saratoga) and Cornwallis (defeated at Yorktown).

PCGS Description: The unanimous choice for the Number 1 spot in the 100 Greatest American Medals and Tokens, the original 1780's Libertas Americana Medals have been famous for the entirety of their 200+ year history. Conceived, commissioned, and funded by Benjamin Franklin himself, the Medals were presented to the King and Queen of France, French dignitaries, members of the Continental Congress and the governors of each state. Ultimately, it became the inspiration for the flowing hair Liberty coinage of the First U.S. Mint, and an enduring emblem of the principles of Freedom and Liberty.

If you would like to dig deep into the most recent scholarship on this medal, see this Stacks Auction Catalog for the John W. Adams Collection of Comitia Americana and related Medals. Really worth saving and including in your numismatic library: https://media.stacksbowers.com/Virt..._Catalog.pdf

Finally the subject of this discussion. It is not the greatest in terms of grade, there are many finer examples, but it does happen to be better than the example that resides in the National Collection at the Smithsonian (see further below) and it is beautiful to me. Note the obverse die rim marker below the 4 in the date marking the birth of our Nation. A perfect match.






This is the Smithsonian Specimen which unfortunately is not on display but can be seen on its website here: https://www.si.edu/object/libertas-...nmah_1097427


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Edited by numismatic student
12/07/2021 9:11 pm
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 Posted 12/07/2021  7:23 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
My first question is do I own a double die Libertas Americana medal?







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Edited by numismatic student
12/07/2021 9:20 pm
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 Posted 12/07/2021  8:32 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add thq to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
That is incredible. I had heard of the Dupre design, but never had seen it nor heard the story about Franklin's involvement.

On a much more common level, I wish we had used this Dupre design instead of our succession of bust designs


"Two minutes ago I would have sold my chances for a tired dime." Fred Astaire
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 Posted 12/07/2021  8:41 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Dupré's Liberty is a little more elegant than what ended up on the Chain cent and left facing Half Cent, which I think were made to scare children and scar them emotionally for life.
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 Posted 12/08/2021  1:35 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Ty2020b to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very nice! On my bucket list as well!


Quote:
My first question is do I own a double die Libertas Americana medal?


Doubled not double

Can't really speak to it since this is wayyy outside my realm, but I'm guessing there was only 1 set of dies? If so, then no to the doubling. Possibly a double struck slightly rotated in collar? Others will have way better input than me, I'm sure.

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 Posted 12/08/2021  3:02 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add fortcollins to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Dupré's Liberty is a little more elegant than what ended up on the Chain cent and left facing Half Cent, which I think were made to scare children and scar them emotionally for life.




Now, now. Why would Medusa's ghost on crack be scary?
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 Posted 12/08/2021  3:23 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
This arrived and it is looking pretty spectacular.


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 Posted 12/08/2021  4:06 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
This arrived and it is looking pretty spectacular.
Outstanding!
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 Posted 12/08/2021  6:04 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add fortcollins to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
WOW! That is beautiful!
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 Posted 12/09/2021  08:32 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks!

I spoke with an expert and he told me that all of these medals were struck twice in order to bring out the detail in the high relief design. He believes that the medal may have shifted slightly between the two striking impressions.
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 Posted 12/09/2021  6:14 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Good too know my logic wasn't too far off.

"Good to know" not "Good too know"

Not far off at all. The extent of the double strike impression is pretty remarkable to me given that this issue did not have a high run. Approximately 200-250 are believed to have been struck in copper/bronze. NGC has certified 51 and PCGS 68 with the normal unknown resubmits.

Unbeknownst to me until recently, there was also a Libertas Americana French Presentation Saber that was produced in addition to the medals which is nicely written up here: https://americansocietyofarmscollec...-vol-118.pdf



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 Posted 12/09/2021  7:40 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Ty2020b to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
"Good to know" not "Good too know"


Well played sir, well played. I'm extremely guilty of rarely proofreading my own posts!

Interesting about the saber, was not aware either. Would be very cool to own both and create a display to house both together. Your next purchase?
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 Posted 12/10/2021  08:27 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
No, I'm not an arms collector. That seems like too far a stretch afield for me. War is a part of our history but I don't have an affinity for it. To me war is a lesson given to us by history to try to never get involved in that kind of senseless tragedy again if we can. That is all the use I have for it.
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