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    Description

    Washington Before Boston Medal, MS60 Prooflike
    Original Strike in Silver, Betts-542, Five in Private Hands
    The Most Revered Washington Medal

    (c. 1790) Washington Before Boston Medal, Original Strike in Silver, Baker-47A, Betts-542, Julian MI-1a, Musante GW-09-P1, Mooney M5, MS60 Prooflike NGC. 69 mm. 149.1 grams. Undoubtedly, the Washington Before Boston medal serves as one of the most iconic medals in American numismatics. As Neil Musante writes in Medallic Washington: "It celebrates the first great victory in our nation's struggle for independence. It honors the first great commander-in-chief, the first president of the United States and the first man in modern history to voluntarily relinquish power." It is also extremely rare as an original strike in silver, identified by the M in MARTI directly above the L below, among numerous other diagnostics. Originals in gold (unique), silver, and bronze were first struck at the Paris Mint in 1789 from dies executed by Benjamin DuVivier. Although Thomas Jefferson left Paris for the United States in September 1789 and delivered Washington's gold medal plus a set of Comitia Americana medals in silver in March 1790, it is possible that additional originals were struck through 1792.

    On March 25, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to have struck a gold medal commemorative of General George Washington's victory at Dorchester Heights, just days earlier. On March 17, British troops were finally compelled to end their occupation of Boston. Responding to the authorization, General Washington wrote to John Hancock, president of the Congress: "Sir: Permit me through you to convey to the honorable Congress the Sentiments of gratitude I feel for the high honor they have done me ... The Medal intended to be presented to me by your honorable Body, I shall carefully preserve as a memorial of their regard."

    The Washington Before Boston medal was the first in what would develop into a series of medals "voted by Congress, [to] commemorate significant victories during the war by honoring the officers who achieved them," as John W. Adams and Anne E. Bentley write in Comitia Americana and Related Medals: Underappreciated Monuments to Our Heritage (2007). The project to have medals struck ebbed and flowed over the course of nearly two decades. At one point, John Jay and Thomas Jefferson agreed that complete sets should be struck in silver and copper for diplomatic and presentation purposes, to be distributed to European heads of state, American colleges, and members of Congress. However, a variety of challenges, not the least of which was financing, made that ambitious idea an impossibility.

    Medals were eventually designed and manufactured to commemorate the victories of George Washington, Horatio Gates, Anthony Wayne, Francois-Louis Teissedre de Fleury, John Stewart, John Paul Jones, Daniel Morgan, William Washington, John Eager Howard, and Nathaniel Green, though in much smaller quantities, apparently, than was originally proposed. The circumstances of their production all vary from one medal to another. They exist mostly in silver and bronze, with some proving extremely rare or unique. Others were struck over a long period of time from various dies. The existence of originals and restrikes in varying die states can make collecting both fascinating and challenging.

    Adams and Bentley cited 10 original Washington Before Boston medals in silver in their 2006 census: six in institutional collections and just four in private hands. An eleventh silver original turned up in May 2019, bringing the total in private hands to five. That example sold for $156,000 and had an engraved owner's name on the edge. The Charles Wharton piece realized $282,000 in March 2014. This particular medal made its first public appearance as part of the John W. Adams Collection in November 2019, where its provenance was described as follows: "According to our consignor [Adams], this medal sold from 'a junk dealer to a bullion dealer, discovered among a small set of other Comitia Americana medals: William Washington, John Eager Howard, John Paul Jones, and the related Benjamin Franklin portrait medal (Betts-620).' "

    The obverse, featuring Jean-Antoine Houdon's iconic portrait of Washington, and the reverse, showing Washington and his officers overlooking the Continental Army's advance on the city of Boston, exhibit exquisite detail with the devices set against noticeably reflective fields. Pale gold and gunmetal-blue patina faintly accents what are otherwise mostly brilliant surfaces. Abrasions occur on the portrait and in the upper reverse field, and both sides are lightly hairlined with a few tiny rim nicks. However, none of these imperfections have any bearing on the appeal or, certainly, the historical and numismatic significance of the present offering.
    Ex: Acquired from Rossa and Tanenbaum (10/1983); John W. Adams; The John W. Adams Collection of Comitia Americana and Related Medals (Stack's Bowers, 11/2019), lot 2001.

    Coin Index Numbers: (PCGS# 661010)


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2021
    18th-22nd Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 26
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