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    Description

    Historic Libertas Americana Copper Medal
    Betts-615, MS63 Brown

    1781 Libertas Americana Medal in Bronzed Copper, Betts-615, MS63 Brown NGC. 47.7 mm, 42.4 gm. The Libertas Americana ("American Liberty") medal is one of those icons of American numismatics that is intimately entangled with early American (and French) history and the politics of the era. Without delving too deeply into the iconography, simply put, part of its broad appeal is its theme of American Liberty and its design, featuring a splendid portrait of Liberty facing left with the Liberty cap, and date 4 JUIL 1776 in exergue. On the reverse the goddess Minerva, the embodiment of wisdom but with fleurs de lis on her shield representing France, protects the infant Hercules (America), which has killed two serpents (alluding to the Revolutionary War victories at Yorktown and Saratoga), from attack by the cowardly lion symbolizing Great Britain.
    What is less obvious to modern eyes is the depth of gratitude that Franklin clearly thought the young nation owed to France, an indebtedness that was the inspiration for the design shepherded by Franklin and executed by Augustin Dupré, the leading French medallist of his time who honed his own considerable artistic skills in the French Revolution.
    In Comitia Americana and Related Medals: Underappreciated Monuments to Our Heritage by John W. Adams and Anne Bentley (2007), the authors write:

    "Directed by Congress to procure all of the medals voted by that body during the war, Franklin began with Lt. Col. Fleury's, the only medal awarded to a French officer. Our ambassador to France and a Francophile, Benjamin Franklin was struck by the apparent lack of appreciation for the pivotal role played by France. Our country sheltered under her protective umbrella (and was attempting to borrow money from her), yet all the medals remaining to be procured were to be awarded to Americans. Franklin could not force Congress to redress the balance, but he would do so himself."

    Besides its obvious significance as an important symbol of political history, the Libertas Americana is equally important for its major thematic contribution to American numismatics. The stylized flowing-hair portrait of Liberty with the Liberty Cap design has informed many later artistic renderings in American coinage design.
    This piece has glossy chocolate-brown surfaces overall, with a bit of light haze in the left obverse field. The always-present die break on the rim at 7 o'clock appears, but there is as yet no break on the reverse shield, pinpointing an early state. An appealing and immensely historic early Franco-American issue; the Adams-Bentley reference accounts for 37 bronze medals in its census, which we have not attempted to verify.


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Jul-Aug, 2009
    31st-2nd Friday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 19
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