Libertas Americana Medal
Our 1783 Libertas Americana medal, one of the most celebrated medals of all!
Commissioned by Benjamin Franklin to commemorate the end of the Revolutionary War, only some 100 are known in bronze.
The medal’s entire concept and execution were by Ben’s own hand. In a letter dated March of 1782, Franklin (who was then a U.S. Minister to France and residing there) laid out his idea for a medal celebrating France’s aid to the struggling United States during the revolutionary war:
“This puts me in mind of a medal I have had a mind to strike … representing the United States by the figure of an infant Hercules in his cradle, strangling the two serpents; and France by that of Minerva, sitting by as his nurse, with her spear and helmet, and her robe specked by a few ‘fleurs-de-lis.”
The two serpents being strangled by the infant Hercules were to memorialize two of the biggest battles of the war, the defeat of the British armies at Saratoga (1777) and Yorktown (1781). Minor adjustments were made to the final design (the robe of Minerva is plain), but she wields a shield covered in fleur-de-lis to protect the infant Hercules, keeping the Lion of England at bay.
The medals were struck in France, in gold, silver, and bronze. Only two were struck in gold, and these were given to French King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette (the whereabouts of these two gold medals remain unknown to this day, one of the great numismatic mysteries); a small number were struck in silver and given to various ministers of the French court (there is not an exact mintage figure known for those struck in silver, but some 20 are known); and then a slightly larger number were struck in bronze and given to U.S. dignitaries, with some 100-125 known today.
This beautiful medal is in high relief, and sought after by many collectors not only for its beauty and rarity, but because of the pedigree that each and every one of these medals has. Previously owned by royalty, Presidents, and the movers and shakers of history, one never knows in whose hands that medal began its journey to the present day. I just love the history behind numismatics!
This particular medal is valued around $16,500.