Medal Commemorating the
~~ Original US Mint Medal ~~
Original (this medal):
Front: COMMODORE M.C. PERRY.
Back (13 lines of inscription):
Below the back inscription is MISSISSIPPI and above that the profiles of five ships.
The medal is bronze and 2 1/2 +/- inches in diameter and weighs 5+ to 6+ oz. The original medal was produced in gold, silver and bronze in 1856. I have recorded two distinct restrikes of the medal from c1891 to c1970.
This medal clearly is not a Congressionally authorized medal as was the one received by his brother, Commodore O. H. Perry. Congress never awarded a gold medal to Commodore M.C. Perry. He was, however, rewarded financially receiving a grant of $20,000 and 500 copies of the Narrative of the Expedition. Since the Narrative cost the Government $20.00 each to produce, these copies were valuable and sold for far more than the government cost on the open market.
A contemporary report regarding the medal was made by the merchants of Boston in an 1857 report which stated:
Samuel E. Morison refers to this medal in his biography of Perry, Old Bruin. He states:
And the merchants of Boston struck for him a gold medal, his handsome profile on the obverse, and on the reverse an inscription thanking him for negotiating treaties of Kanagawa and Naha. Silver replicas were given to his officers and bronze ones to the men. (at page 417).
The medal has the engraver's name inscribed at the bottom of bust of Commodore Perry.
The inscription reads: "F. N. MITCHELL. F."
This medal is listed in Medals of the United States Mint, The First Century, 1792-1892 by R. W. Julian, edited by N. Neil Harris, 1977. It is listed as a "Personal Medal" and assigned the number PE-26. The catalogue notes that in 1856 the U.S. Mint struck one gold, twenty silver, and one hundred four bronze (copper-bronzed) medals and that the bronze medals were first sold to the public in October, 1861. The name of the engraver is given as "Francis N. Mitchell." While the catalogue listing of the medal does not mention later restrikes, that was a common practice and this medal was restruck. The catalogue lists the diameter as 63 mm but I find both the original and the early restrike measure 66 mm later restrikes are slightly larger (66~67 mm) than that. The author of the catalogue notes that many measurements were taken from pictures and "It is probably (sic) that many of the measurements will be one or two millimeters off for that reason alone." Regarding rarity and value, the author states that most of the medals struck at the mint prior to 1892 "...must be considered, at best, very scarce." No values are ascribed to any medals in the catalogue.
Market Value. The original medals rarely appear on the market, to include the bronze.
A Word of Caution. I have found nothing published regarding the original medals and restrikes. Frankly, this is a rather obscure area and doesn't appear to have been the subject any serious research. I have personally examined only 2 original medals, 1 early restrike and 10 or so modern restrikes. Weights were not take on a jeweler's scale. Please consider the above in this light. I do not consider my classification anywhere near definitive and perhaps additional information will contradict them.
Modern US Mint Marketing of Restrikes. The modern 20th century restrikes are seen on the market from time to time. It would be a mistake to presume that a dark color medal is an original. The dark color could result from normal or artificial processes. All factors above should be considered in evaluating a medal. As late as 1972 (probably even later) the US Mint was offering a restrike of this medal. It designated the medal No. 526 in the sales catalogue. I have seen a restrike in a mint box with the No. 429 and a price of $15.00. I presume this predates the restrikes marketed under No. 526. It appears to me that the lighter the medal and smaller the rim the more modern the manufacture. The mint described the size of the medal as 2 1/2 in. I do not believe the Mint is selling restrikes in recent years. These modern restrikes are occasionally found in the original small sealed plastic sack and white box (3.5 x 3.5 x .75 in) in which the Mint sold them.
Pattern of Distribution of the Original Medal. The medal was produced by the U.S. Mint on the request of the Merchants of Boston and probably followed the customary pattern of distribution for US Mint medals of this type. It was customary to give the person honored the gold medal. Silver medals would go to higher ranking individuals closely associated with the event commemorated. In this instance, the commissioned officers in command or higher positions on the Expedition to Japan probably got the 20 silver medals. The bronze medals (63 or 104) probably went to lower ranking officers and other key personnel and a small remainder sold to the public in 1861. The Expedition to Japan had over 190 Officers and Chief Petty officers. It is clear that not all officers of Petty Officers received medals but I suspect that many did. This was the system used regarding a similar type U.S. mint Congressional commemorative medal presented in 1818 to Commodore M. C. Perry's brother, Commodore O. H. Perry. William Elliot Griffis, however, seems to cast doubt on the distribution pattern for this medal. In his book,.Matthew Calbraith Perry (more information here), he states "Copies of the medal in silver and bronze were received by subscribers to the gold original." This implies that the distribution pattern for the medal was different, or at the least modified to some extent, to include providing silver and gold copies to the subscribers, the Merchants of Boston (See Griffis at page 446).
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