NEW BOOK: MONOGRAMS OF AMERICAN COIN AND MEDAL ARTISTS
The E-Sylum (8/8/2010)
Taking the theme from his firm's name, Signature Art Medals, co-founder Dick Johnson has published his working notebook in which he has been gathering the monograms and initials that have appeared on American coins and medals. It is useful for identifying the original artist when only these brief letters are shown on an unknown or obscure piece.
The 148-page book is illustrated with 545 drawings of signatures of nearly 300 artists. The compiler has been recording these medallic monograms for over four decades, beginning in 1970 when he was Research Director for the Medallic Art Company. This firm recently named him Corporate Historian, May 1, for knowledge of the firms early history and the medals the firm has produced for over a hundred years.
The author writes in his preface "When I had a spare moment [at Medallic Art] I began the chore of compiling the monograms and initials I found on medals made by the firm. I never finished going through the entire archive cabinets. I progressed chronologically up to 1964."
For the next three decades, however, he has added to this notebook while he was a medal dealer -- as Johnson & Jensen -- and as a medal researcher and historian. In addition to searching the files of Medallic Art Company, he has also researched in the archives of Tiffany & Co, and the archives of Gorham Company, now at Brown University. (These have both been reported in previous E-Sylum issues.)
For three decades he has supplied information on American medals and their artists to collectors, authors, dealers and the general public. Often these inquiries come by phone. "I would ask the person to tell me the little letters near the bottom of the piece -- the artist signature. If I didn't know it off the top of my head I referred to this monogram notebook and this could often reveal the correct artist."
He notes this work is not a final publication, there are, undoubtedly, many more of these monograms and signatures not recorded. He will continue to offer the service to collectors and the public to identify, as best he can, the identity of initials or a monogram on any American numismatic item.
Artists of coins struck by the U.S. Mint were limited to placing only their initials on a coin design. Few artists were permitted to employ a monogram. Augustus St-Gaudens was one of the few who achieved this.
In contrast, medallic artists have frequently used monograms, often intertwining their initials. Medallic Art Company had the policy of encouraging all artists to sign their work, placing their monogram on their model, if not their name in full.
The book is being offered first at the Boston ANA convention, where it will sell for $40 at bourse table 1230. By mail it is $45 postpaid from the publisher, Signature Art Medals, P.O. Box 920, Groton, MA 01450.
E-Sylum readers who would like an autographed copy for their library may order from the author at Dick Johnson, 139 Thompson Drive, Torrington, CT 06790 at the same price $45.