By Stacks Bowers ……
Following the decisive victories at Saratoga and Yorktown, Benjamin Franklin wrote to the United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs Robert Livingston:
“This puts me in mind of a medal I have had a mind to strike … representing the United States by the figure of an infant Hercules in his cradle, strangling the two serpents; and France by that of Minerva, sitting by as his nurse, with her spear and helmet, and her robe specked by a few ‘fleurs-de-lis.'”
That concept of Benjamin Franklin’s vision of Liberty — the beautiful Libertas Americana Medal struck in 1783 – struck a chord with the people and nations of the world, and ultimately became the inspiration for the flowing hair Liberty coinage of the First U.S. Mint.
From concept to realization, execution, delivery, payment, and worldwide press coverage, Benjamin Franklin truly was THE man behind the historic Libertas Americana medals. He leveraged his position in France as the Minister Plenipotentiary representing the United States to garner support and connect with the preeminent artists and engravers of the day, and he personally stewarded the process to bring the Medals into reality. Even after the designs and prototypes were approved and the completed medals were struck, Franklin continued on, ensuring that the entire world would know of the medals and the historic victories they commemorated.
Press coverage began immediately, with articles in the London Magazine March 3, 1783, the Gentlemens Magazine (London) for March 1783, the New Annual Register (London) for April 10, 1783, and the Hibernian Magazine (Ireland) for December 1783.
From the very beginning, the Flowing Hair image of Lady Liberty was described as a “fine woman” and a “beautiful maiden”. The lovely image of Lady Liberty inspired artists and engravers of the day, and became the genesis of the Flowing Hair Liberty Cap coinage of the First United States Mint. Yet, Liberty’s inspiration did not end there, but has continued on through generation after generation, enduring in the thoughts of the public and spawning official restrikes and tribute pieces through the present day.
Not surprisingly, it has remained the unanimous choice for the Number 1 spot among the 100 Greatest American Medals and Tokens. While the original medals of 1783 may be challenging to acquire (especially those struck in silver), a series of later restrikes have been issued officially in a variety of metals and formats, allowing this beautiful historic design to be within the reach of collectors everywhere.
The present sale includes several examples of the famous Libertas Americana design from the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation. Their collection of Libertas Americana medals was recently named a PCGS Set Registry Gold Award Winner for 2017.