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Betts 533 Tristram Coffin medal electrotype

jonathanbjonathanb Posts: 3,308 ✭✭✭✭✭
This was something of an impulse purchase, because I like historical medals, annd I like bronze medals, and I was curious about the legend that Tristram Coffin was "the first of the race that settled in America". (Surely not the first white man. Maybe the first Coffin?). Besides, it's listed in Betts, so it's a recognized type, and maybe I could research it further eventually.

Once I received it and unwrapped it, my first thought was

<< <i>Oh, wow, that's a lot heaver than I expected. >>

My second thought, unfortunately, was

<< <i>Oh, crap, that's a lot heaver than I expected. >>

Like a lot of early medals, this specimen appears to be an electrotype of some sort. I've posted a couple of other electrotypes, one of a Libertas Americana medal, and one of a George Washington calendar medal. This on appears to be yet a third type of electrotype. Unlike the others, this one has exposed lead all the way around the edge. On the other hand, the copper layers on the obverse and reverse are much thicker on this Coffin medal than on the other two pieces -- this medal has significant wear and even some dings to the faces without breaking through the copper. I have a feeling that there might be a special name for the different electrotype processes, but I don't know what it is.

As a point of similarity, the Coffin piece does show the same sort of bulging that is present on the Washington piece. If you ever come across an old medal with a significant bulge in the obverse or reverse, that should probably be a red flag, whether or not the lead is exposed on the edge.

I'm posting this because the medal is still sort of interesting even if this isn't an original. If anyone has comments about this electrotype or different types of electrotypes, I'd love to hear those as well.




  • PistareenPistareen Posts: 1,505 ✭✭✭
    OK. You win. Hands down. Best post since my time here AND the last thing I'd ever expected to see on this board!

    You have posted my favorite medal, and given me a chance to share something that's never been published.

    As it happens, I'm descended from the Coffin family. It's not quite being B. Max Mehl's grand nephew but I'll take it image My aunt's middle name is Coffin and I'm proud of the association.

    What you have could be an electrotype -- I'd have to see it in person to be sure, but I think there is a good chance it is a 19th century a cast copy of the original struck Tristram Coffin medal. As it turns out, after the original struck medals were produced in 1826, the medal was cast and recast for family reunions on Nantucket, perhaps even as late as the first few decades of the 20th century. I have four of these things -- one original struck piece (a great rarity and one of my prizes) and three casts, each a different stage like so many successive, blurrier xeroxes.

    One of mine is cast in lead, then copper-plated. That would produce the same net effect as an electrotype -- copper over white metal with a seam -- but with different technology. I also have one that is cast in white metal, but unplated. The copper-plated one weighs 946.0 grains. Yours may be a production of the same generation, thus weigh something similar. Or it might not.

    The original pieces were struck by Sir Isaac Coffin, a Boston-born British Navy captain who founded a sailing school on Nantucket in 1826, long after he followed his Loyalist leanings to England. The medals were struck to mark the school's founding and were distributed on Nantucket. One is known brightly gilt in its original presentation case -- it was in Lucien LaRiviere's collection and is now at Colonial Williamsburg. The one I have is plain old bronze and has rather boogered-up rims, but I like it all the same.

    Some of this info was published in a book called THE ADMIRAL'S ACADEMY: NANTUCKET ISLAND'S HISTORIC COFFIN SCHOOL by Margaret Moore Booker.

    If indeed this is not one of the "family reunion" casts -- which are themselves quite scarce now -- and is an electrotype, it's still old, still cool, and was apparently made for a pioneer American medal collector who couldn't locate a struck specimen for his cabinet. I've never seen an electro of this before.

    My specimen was once in the George Parsons sale of 1914, so for at least that long, medal collectors have cared enough to own one of these!

    Thanks for making my night!
  • DUIGUYDUIGUY Posts: 7,252 ✭✭✭
    Great post !! Congrats to you pistareen on your family heritage ! I like the design, good find. image
    “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly."

    - Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 BC
  • JonathanB, thank you for the great post and reminding me why I really enjoy this forum.

    Pistareen, that is an incredible story.image
  • jonathanbjonathanb Posts: 3,308 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Neat! Thanks, Pistareen!

    Mine weighs 114 grams = 1,759 grains -- almost twice as much as the one you mention (unless you lost an entire digit)

    I don't suppose it much matters in this case, but I'd like to have my terminology right. How does one tell a cast apart from an electrotype?


  • lordmarcovanlordmarcovan Posts: 43,075 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Very interesting, and very outside my realm of knowledge and experience.

    To have received such praise from Pistareen is high praise indeed.

    Coffin is a big name in these parts, because of one man, Howard Coffin, the Hudson automobile magnate who was a friend of President Calvin Coolidge. Coffin (Howard Coffin, that is) was one of my local areas' biggest philantropists and is revered even today, seventy years after his death. He founded the Cloister resort where I work and where the G-8 summit was held in 2004, and he developed Sea Island, GA, which I heard some magazine (Forbes?) listed as the third richest ZIP code in the nation.

    I took my daughter to Howard Coffin Park the day before yesterday, to play on the swings.

    Explore collections of lordmarcovan on CollecOnline, management, safe-keeping, sharing and valuation solution for art piece and collectibles.
  • PistareenPistareen Posts: 1,505 ✭✭✭
    Hi LM --

    I didn't know about Howard Coffin -- thanks for that! Since we've been breeding like mad since 1642, there are literally thousands of Coffins around the country. Looking through the Boston society pages from the late 19th century -- or even the ANS and AJN publications -- there seem to be more than a fair share of people with that name. And there have been several prominent coin-collecting Coffins too.

    Of course, I'm still wondering where my share of the Nantucket profits got to.

    By the way, here's a link to the Ford collection struck specimen. If I had catalogued it, the description would have taken pages!

    Ford's Tristram Coffin medal.
  • LongacreLongacre Posts: 16,717 ✭✭✭
    Great information in this thread.

    Pistareen-- just curious when you write your replies to threads like this, how much of your response is written from memory, and how much of it do you have to fact-check or refresh your recollection in a book or treatise? If all of your responses and details are from memory, that is pretty impressive!
    Always took candy from strangers
    Didn't wanna get me no trade
    Never want to be like papa
    Working for the boss every night and day
    --"Happy", by the Rolling Stones (1972)
  • lordmarcovanlordmarcovan Posts: 43,075 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Howard Coffin, if you're interested.

    Of course, he's many generations more modern than Tristram Coffin, if there is even a relation between the two.

    Explore collections of lordmarcovan on CollecOnline, management, safe-keeping, sharing and valuation solution for art piece and collectibles.
  • PistareenPistareen Posts: 1,505 ✭✭✭
    You really think I remember the weight in grains of pieces in my collection? Way too many brain cells bit the dust in college for me to remember stuff like that. image

    On this one I had to refresh myself on the weight and the title of the book that I cited, but everything else was tip-o-tongue. Come on, can't you effuse endlessly about the favorite piece in your personal collection too?

    Of course, the fact that all 4 of my Coffin medals were laying on my desk last night when I wrote the wordy reply didn't hurt. My desk is always scattered with some neat (and usually low value) oddment or other.
  • mgoodm3mgoodm3 Posts: 17,497 ✭✭✭
    My wife's family connects into the Coffins way back.
    coinimaging.com/my photography articles Check out the new macro lens testing section
  • lathmachlathmach Posts: 4,720

    A lot of my family member are in coffins too.
    The dead ones anyway.

  • MidLifeCrisisMidLifeCrisis Posts: 10,503 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Cool medal and interesting thread. Thanks for sharing. image
  • DorkGirlDorkGirl Posts: 9,994 ✭✭✭
    Great thread!! Really enjoyed the read, thanks.
  • savoyspecialsavoyspecial Posts: 7,247 ✭✭✭✭

    felt the need to refresh a great old thread


  • savoyspecialsavoyspecial Posts: 7,247 ✭✭✭✭
    i miss Kraljevich's contributions here.....


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