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Overstruck 1881 Yorktown Centennial Medal

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Overstruck 1881 Yorktown Centennial Medal

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Details

1881 Washington Battle of Yorktown Centennial medal. Copper, 33 mm. Baker-451. MS-64 BN (NGC). A distinctive and very scarce Washington piece, featuring a three-quarter left bust of Washington, something a bit different from the usual bewigged profile. Struck in very high relief, the force of the deep and sculptural obverse die has left the reverse fields with a wavy look. This medal was created by William H. Key for the Philadelphia coin dealer S.K. Harzfeld, whose brief cometic career clustered for just a couple years on either side of 1880. Harzfeld left his family in Philadelphia soon thereafter and died in Germany in 1885, aged 35. That same year, Baker took note of this medal in his Medallic Portraits of Washington, mentioning that the bust was patterned "after the print by Longhi" and had previously appeared on his number 286, Harzfeld's Bookplate medal. Harzfeld apparently liked it, as this bust is also used on Baker-302, another Harzfeld commission, and Key must have liked this design punch too, using it again in 1893 for a Masonic medal that Rulau-Fuld catalogue as Baker M-297.

None who have written about this medal have noted that it is an overstrike, though Jack Collins gets half-credit for pointing out that the F.C.C. Boyd specimen, offered in his legendary 1991 fixed price list, was "struck twice, the second impression rotated about ten degrees." Rather than being double struck, it was almost certainly overstruck like this one, which shows the word THE at the reverse periphery above 3:00 at L of CENTENNIAL and LERY of some word between VA and the end of 1881 in the lower right corner. Perhaps the purchaser will be able to identify the undertype, likely another contemporary production of William H. Key. This piece was last offered in the 1999 sale of Harry W. Bass's numismatic Americana, there offered as Lot 2158 and described as "light brown with splashes of amber and blue, and with traces if original red. A superb example, with satiny lustre and mirrored fields around the bust." The Bass provenance is noted on the NGC holder. The eye appeal remains superb, with just a bit of cabinet friction on the tip of Washington's nose and a couple minor marks in the left obverse field. The reverse shows die spalling, common to other examples of this very scarce little medal. Interesting and attractive, this medal allows us a glimpse of the story of Sigismund K. Harzfeld, who called himself a "Professor of Numismatics" when interviewed for the 1880 Census, and also reflects the wide-ranging interests of Harry Bass beyond his world-class collection of U.S. gold coins.

Additional Information

Grading Service NGC
Grade MS64
Designation BN
Mint Location No
Strike Type No
Circulated/Uncirc Uncirculated
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 3712541007

Listed below are blog articles related to this product listing, if applicable:

Description

Details

1881 Washington Battle of Yorktown Centennial medal. Copper, 33 mm. Baker-451. MS-64 BN (NGC). A distinctive and very scarce Washington piece, featuring a three-quarter left bust of Washington, something a bit different from the usual bewigged profile. Struck in very high relief, the force of the deep and sculptural obverse die has left the reverse fields with a wavy look. This medal was created by William H. Key for the Philadelphia coin dealer S.K. Harzfeld, whose brief cometic career clustered for just a couple years on either side of 1880. Harzfeld left his family in Philadelphia soon thereafter and died in Germany in 1885, aged 35. That same year, Baker took note of this medal in his Medallic Portraits of Washington, mentioning that the bust was patterned "after the print by Longhi" and had previously appeared on his number 286, Harzfeld's Bookplate medal. Harzfeld apparently liked it, as this bust is also used on Baker-302, another Harzfeld commission, and Key must have liked this design punch too, using it again in 1893 for a Masonic medal that Rulau-Fuld catalogue as Baker M-297.

None who have written about this medal have noted that it is an overstrike, though Jack Collins gets half-credit for pointing out that the F.C.C. Boyd specimen, offered in his legendary 1991 fixed price list, was "struck twice, the second impression rotated about ten degrees." Rather than being double struck, it was almost certainly overstruck like this one, which shows the word THE at the reverse periphery above 3:00 at L of CENTENNIAL and LERY of some word between VA and the end of 1881 in the lower right corner. Perhaps the purchaser will be able to identify the undertype, likely another contemporary production of William H. Key. This piece was last offered in the 1999 sale of Harry W. Bass's numismatic Americana, there offered as Lot 2158 and described as "light brown with splashes of amber and blue, and with traces if original red. A superb example, with satiny lustre and mirrored fields around the bust." The Bass provenance is noted on the NGC holder. The eye appeal remains superb, with just a bit of cabinet friction on the tip of Washington's nose and a couple minor marks in the left obverse field. The reverse shows die spalling, common to other examples of this very scarce little medal. Interesting and attractive, this medal allows us a glimpse of the story of Sigismund K. Harzfeld, who called himself a "Professor of Numismatics" when interviewed for the 1880 Census, and also reflects the wide-ranging interests of Harry Bass beyond his world-class collection of U.S. gold coins.

Additional

Additional Information

Grading Service NGC
Grade MS64
Designation BN
Mint Location No
Strike Type No
Circulated/Uncirc Uncirculated
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 3712541007

Related Blog Article(s)

Listed below are blog articles related to this product listing, if applicable:

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