On July 21, Austin Auction Gallery will offer one of the finest-known examples of one of the rarest gold medals ever struck by the United States Mint.
The 1920 Wilson dollar is a seldom-seen numismatic rarity that is highly coveted by collectors of So-Called Dollars and by collectors of medals struck by the United States Mint.
The Wilson dollar was struck on July 16, 1920, to commemorate the opening of the Manila Mint, then a branch mint of the United States. According to so-called dollar expert Bill Hyder, the issue is one of the only so-called dollars to have been struck outside of the continental United States.
The medal was struck under the supervision of Clifford Hewitt, a Mint engineer, who for nearly a century has been wrongly credited with having a hand in the design. In reality, the dies were designed and engraved by Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, George T. Morgan.
Morgan’s design features a left-facing portrait of then-president Woodrow Wilson on the obverse along with the inscription PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
On the reverse, Morgan adapted a design featuring the goddess Juno as Juno Moneta that he first used on the U.S. Annual Assay Commission Medal of 1882. Here, however, the design is horizontally-flipped, with minor adjustments to Juno’s body shape and limb placement. In addition, Morgan added a coin press to the design. Wrapping around the perimeter is the inscription TO COMMEMORATE THE OPENING OF THE MINT, and in the exergue is the inscription MANILA P.I. and the date 1920.
The example being offered at Austin Auction’s July 21 sale has a providence that dates back to the 19th century and the estate of Victor E. Lednicky. Lednicky was an interesting figure that featured prominently in Philippine history during the first half of the 20th century. At the time the Wilson medal was struck, Lednicky resided in Manila and worked as the Chief of the Division of Mines and Mining of the Bureau of Science. This position helped him secure the job of President of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, the Philippines’ leading gold producer.
During World War II, Lednicky served as General Douglas MacArthur’s civilian liaison for Manila and after the war gave testimony about the actions of the Japanese military during its occupation of the Philippines.
A Desirable Medal with Crossover Appeal
Philippine coins and medals struck during the period of U.S. Administration (1898-1946) have broad collector appeal with U.S. collectors.
The Wilson medal was struck in limited quantities in silver (HK-449, 2,200 struck) and bronze (HK-450, 3,700 struck), with just five pieces reportedly struck in gold.
Contemporary reports of the gold medal’s issue state that one of the “five” medals was given to President Woodrow Wilson, a second to Secretary of War David Franklin Houston, and the remaining going to high-ranking Philippine officials.
Recent research has invalidated the gold mintage figure as the total number of pieces known or believed existent is higher. By our count, the Austin example, though tied with the finest, is likely the sixth example to currently reside in a certified holder.
Tracking the provenance of the “original” five may prove impossible, but we do know that one example is currently impounded at the Philippine Central Bank Museum, while a search through online auction archives verifies the existence of the five additional examples pictured.
Despite the clear evidence that the long-reported number of Wilson gold medals is likely wrong, this is an extremely rare and interesting numismatic treasure- one with great crossover appeal for collectors of U.S.-produced Philippine coins.
Austin Auctions has set a reserve price of $55,000 for the lot with an estimated range of between $60,000 and $70,000.
Previous Notable Auction Results for Certified 1920 Wilson So-Called Dollars in Gold
- NGC-graded MS-62 example realized $74,750.00 at Heritage Auction’s July-August, 2008 U.S. Signature Auction, Baltimore, Maryland #1114 (Lot 2151).
- NGC-graded MS-61 medal brought $50,525 at Stack’s Bowers’ August 2013 Chicago ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction (Lot 12444).
- PCGS-graded AU-55 specimen realized $44,062.50 at Heritage Auction’s January 6-7, 2013 Ancient & World Coin Signature Auction, New York #3021 (Lot 22446).
- NCS-graded UNC DETAILS – MOUNT REMOVED example brought $31,625.00 at Stack’s Bowers’ August 2011 Chicago ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction (Lot 21344)