The medals offered by the US mint do not often get that much fanfare or attention. I feel that’s quite a shame because not only do they offer a wide array of historical and cultural subjects, there’s something for everyone. Military history, Presidential Inaugural medals, athletes, scientists and more. They’re quite well made, high relief, and they’re an enormous value, particularly the 3 inch bronze medals.
Now that PCGS encapsulates large medals, I feel it’s time that we recognize some of these works of art and give them their due. While my interests are not particularly drawn to something like the First Spouse bronze medals, there are three important medals in particular that grab my attention.
The first is under the Mint’s "Military" medal section, and that’s the Tuskeegee Airmen bronze medal. The medal commemorates the Second World War group of of African-Americans pilots who, as the 2006 Act of Congress authorizing the medal states, were known for their "Outstanding combat record that inspired revolutionary reform in the Armed Services."
The obverse designed by Phebe Hemphill is skillfully rendered, with beautiful details and a natural organic appearance; That is to say the men (an officer, a mechanic, and a pilot) do not feel like stiff renderings, but exude dignity and bravery. It does justice to the "Redtails". The smaller 1.5 inch version of this medal might be a nice way to introduce a youngster to some World War II history.
The reverse by Don Everhart displays a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the legendary North American P-51 Mustang, and a North American B-25 Mitchell bomber. Learning about these aircraft and their uses in the squadrons adds to how exciting and how under-appreciated I feel this medal is.
In March of 2014 lawmakers unveiled a statue of Dr Norman Borlaug (1914-2009) in Statuary Hall in the Capitol. At the unveiling of the Borlaug statue, Speaker Boehner remarked, "Every once in a while, someone comes along who truly changes everything. Who fashions the ordinary into the exceptional. Who fills a hole we didn’t even know could be filled. Who makes us raise our eyes from the problems of the moment to look around the world. In Iowa, there was such a man."
While Borlaug isn’t exactly a household name, he is credited with revolutionizing food production, and creating a type of wheat which was disease resistant and high-yielding. He won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, and has won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Public Service Medal, the National Academy of Science’ highest honor, and the Rotary International Award for World Understanding and Peace. He has been credited with saving one billion people from starvation, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that he is one of the greatest heroes in American and world history. In 2007 Borlaug was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, and you can own the 3" bronze version of that medal, available now from the US Mint. Wow!
In July of this year we will recognize the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. Still an unparalleled technological achievement, still an endless source of awe and inspiration. On November 16th 2011 astronauts John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and the late Neil Armstrong were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden remarked "The inspiration these four have provided to generations isn’t something we can measure, but we can feel it in our hearts. As a nation, we would not be the same without them and their bravery, their sense of duty and dedication to public service and their great skill at thinking on their feet."
The obverse depicts the Apollo 11 astronauts facing left, and Friendship 7’s John Glenn facing right. The obverse also includes a partial view of Earth, as well as a view of lunar surface with an astronaut standing next to the flag. Joel Iskowitz designed the medal, and there is a lot going on to say the least. But because of the size of the medal, the design works really well.
The reverse is a sort of split view of the two missions with one half featuring the Apollo 11 mission with the Lunar Excursion Module orbiting the moon, and the other half depicting Friendship 7’s orbit around the earth. The inscription reads WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND. Again, there’s a lot going on, but it works wonderfully.
Although I was born many years after man had left the moon, I certainly share Bolden’s sentiment above, and look to these heroes as a testament to what one can achieve. That’s why I have the 3" Bronze New Frontier medal on my desk at work. It has attracted a lot of attention from those that come through my office, and I have it as a reminder to work hard, and think on my feet.
Since these medals aren’t flagship products from the mint you have to purchase the velvet box packaging separately, otherwise you receive a cardboard box with the medal in a soft pastic bag and a plastic easel to stand the medal up. I also had to return the first New Frontier medal I received because there was some mint damage on Buzz Aldrin’s face making him look like he had a bad case of acne. But these are minor quibbles. The large 3" medals cost only $39.95, and even with the additional $8 for the presentation case I feel that these medals are still an enormous and very satisfying bargain for the money.
So head on over to the US Mint website and take a look at the hidden gems that they have to offer you.