ANA World's Fair of Money

HomeMedals and TokensThe United States Mint Employee Allegiance Medal

The United States Mint Employee Allegiance Medal

By Roger W. Burdette, special to CoinWeek …..
 

On September 2, 1861, officers and workmen/women of the various facilities of the United States Mint took an oath of allegiance to the United States. The oath was similar in form to this:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support, protect, and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign, and that I will bear true faith, allegiance, and loyalty to the same, any ordinance, resolution, or law of any State convention or legislature to the contrary notwithstanding; and, further, that I do this with a full determination, pledge, and purpose, without any mental reservation or evasion whatsoever; and, further, that I will well and faithfully perform all the duties which may he required of me by law. So help me God[1].

To help reinforce this declaration with employees and the public, Mint Director James Pollock had sculptor Anthony Paquet adapt a magnificent portrait of George Washington–originally prepared for the opening of the Washington Medal Cabinet Collection at the Philadelphia Mint–for an Allegiance Medal. An obverse inscription adapted from Washington’s farewell address in 1796 reads: “The Constitution is Sacredly Obligatory on All”

The reverse, also by Paquet, presented a laurel wreath surrounding the inscription: U.S. Mint / Oath of Allegiance / Taken By The / Officers and Workmen / Sept. 2. 1861 / Jas. Pollock, Dir.

Figure 1. U.S. Mint allegiance medal, 1861. This is a bronze official reproduction made in the 20th century. (Courtesy HA.com)
Figure 1. U.S. Mint allegiance medal, 1861. This is a bronze official reproduction made in the 20th century. (Courtesy HA.com)
Figure 1. U.S. Mint allegiance medal, 1861. This is a bronze official reproduction made in the 20th century. (Courtesy HA.com)
Figure 1. U.S. Mint allegiance medal, 1861. This is a bronze official reproduction made in the 20th century. (Courtesy HA.com)

These were made in “size 19” (30.1625 mm; 1-3/16 inch) and sold for $1.12 USD in fine silver and 25 cents in bronzed copper according to the Mint’s Medal Circular of November 1861[2]. The Medal and Pattern Coin Book (E-111A) shows that the first groups of 50 silver and 250 bronzed copper allegiance medals were delivered on November 8, 1861.

The Philadelphia Inquirer of October 23 published a small announcement about the new medal on page eight, but did not mention price or availability to the public.

The Philadelphia Mint’s “Medal Fund” journal reports the first sale on November 14, 1861. Thereafter, until the end of the Civil War, they were among the more popular medals listed in the Mint’s medal and Proof coin circulars (these show the silver medal priced at $1.12; presumably the ‘extra’ 12-cents was to compensate for paper-to-specie conversion, or for postage and registration).

The Coiner charged 80.05 cents for silver and 11.5 cents for labor, making the cost of each silver allegiance medal 91.6 cents, and producing a gross margin of 20.5 cents each. Copper medals had the same labor cost but the metal was worth only about two cents. This produced a profit of 11.5 cents for each quarter-size medal. As silver prices fluctuated, the Philadelphia Mint’s profit varied. Pieces manufactured at later dates, when silver prices were depressed, generated greater profit for the Medal Fund account.

Allegiance medals were popular from November 1861 to about July 1862. By that time, the novelty had worn off and collectors were inundated with patriotic tokens and medals. Sales continued at a low rate until the 1913-1916 period when international tensions, and growing antagonism toward German-American citizens, pushed sales of bronzed copper versions to over 100 annually over these three years. Beyond 1921, we have no reliable manufacturing data; however, the absence of Allegiance Medals in the post-World War II era imply that there was no surge in interest.

Figure 3. U.S. Mint allegiance medal, 1861. This is a silver official reproduction made in the 20th century. (Courtesy HA.com)
Figure 3. U.S. Mint allegiance medal, 1861. This is a silver official reproduction made in the 20th century. (Courtesy HA.com)
Figure 3. U.S. Mint allegiance medal, 1861. This is a silver official reproduction made in the 20th century. (Courtesy HA.com)
Figure 3. U.S. Mint allegiance medal, 1861. This is a silver official reproduction made in the 20th century. (Courtesy HA.com)

The Medal Fund journal also shows that, on December 3, 1861, the Coiner obtained $14.89 in gold to make one allegiance medal. On page 11 of the Medal and Pattern Coin Book, this is described as “Allegiance Medal (obverse as above with blank wreath reverse, 1 Gold (Value of gold $15.44.) For Mr. Myers.” “Mr. Myers” was possibly collector and attorney George A. Myers, who was very interested in Washington medals and tokens[3]. Meyers had made exchanges of Washington pieces with the mint director in 1859. A second gold Allegiance medal was made for J. Harrold on June 11, 1864. It is not known if this had a plain or inscribed reverse.

Page 12 of the Medal Fund journal has an entry for January 17, 1862 stating that six (6) silver were prepared with what was called a “blank reverse” meaning “with wreath but no inscription.” These were made for collector Hermon Ely of Elyria, Ohio[4].

It’s likely that purchasers of plain reverse varieties were planning to have their name, or possibly those of friends, engraved on the medal as a testament to their loyalty to the United States. On December 24, Paquet was paid $30.00 “for die & hub for second reverse of allegiance medal.” This was probably the plain reverse without inscription mentioned above.

Restrikes in silver and bronzed copper were made in the first decades of the 20th century at the Philadelphia Mint. Allegiance medals occasionally bring several hundred dollars at auction for copper and several thousand for high-quality silver copies[5]. The gold examples without reverse inscription is unknown, and similar plain reverse original silver pieces have not appeared in any modern auction (a 30 mm diameter plain reverse reproduction appeared in Heritage’s 2005 Long Beach auction (#384) in lot #624 where it sold for $160).

Catalog Identifications and Mintage

The 1861 Allegiance medal is cataloged as Baker-279, (R.7), Julian-CM2, and Musante GW-476. Medals were struck in batches and individually as demand dictated. The quantities below are believed to be the minimums, with additional pieces struck during years were there are gaps in available records[6].

All medals called “bronze” in documents were struck in pure copper, then chemically bronzed. It was normal U.S. Mint practice to strike in copper. This made it easier to get consistent color from post-minting treatments. Use of bronze alloy resulted in medals with inconsistent composition, which altered the later coloring of medals before delivery.

Aside from three gold specimens, it is evident from mintage details that the most difficult-to-locate pieces will be copper with a plain wreath on the reverse (Paquet’s second reverse die). It will be interesting to see how collectors react to our revised and expanded mintage estimates the next time these historical pieces appear at auction.

* * *

Notes

[1] Treasury Department. “Circular to Collectors and other Officers of the Revenue and Customs,” August 16, 1861. Requires oath of allegiance per the Act of August 6, 1861.

[2] Neil Musante. Medallic Washington, Vol 2. Spink London & Boston, 2016. On page 447, the diameter of GW-476 is stated as “19/16ths” (30.1625 mm) rather than 18/16ths as shown on the Mint’s circular. The diameter shown in this and all subsequent editions is evidently a misprint. All known specimens of the medal are approximately 30.2 mm diameter despite there being more than 300 pieces in the first delivery in November 1861. No letters or other specifications state the medal’s diameter.

[3] In previous correspondence, Myers’ address was in Richmond, Virginia.

[4] RG104 E-1 Box 64. Letter dated January 27, 1862 to Pollock from Ely. A complete set of U.S. national medals was ordered and delivered on February 28.

[5] A 30 mm diameter version with plain wreath appeared in Heritage’s 2005 Long Beach auction (#384) in lot #624 where it sold for $160.

[6] A critical data source is RG104 E-105 Medal Fund 1861-1888, which is the most complete reference for medal production. Other medal journals and notebooks were also used to compile a partial list of production and sale dates through 1921.
 

Roger W. Burdette
Roger W. Burdette
Responsible for much original numismatic research in recent years, Roger Burdette was named the ANA Numismatist of the Year in 2023. Besides CoinWeek, he has written for Coin World and The Numismatist, among others. He is the author of Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921 (2005); Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 (2006); Renaissance of American Coinage 1909-1915 (2007); A Guide Book of Peace Dollars (Whitman, 2009); and Fads, Fakes & Foibles (2021). He also co-wrote the NLG award-winning Truth Seeker: The Life of Eric P. Newman (2015) with Len Augsburger and Joel Orosz. Burdette served as a member of the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) from 2008 to 2012.

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Heritage Auctions Consign

AU Capital Management US gold Coins

Blanchard and Company Gold and Precious Metals