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Private Issue

Private Issue.  A numismatic item issued by an individual, firm or organization not of a public or government nature. An item without government or official authority, but often produced with sanction at a national mint. These items are of course, in contrast to the official work – the coins and medals that are the prescribed work of a national mint.

History of private issues.  The practice of doing private minting work at government mints is widespread throughout history. Often a country's national mint is the only source for such items being produced as most national mints have somewhat of a monopoly of engraving talent, diemaking equipment and striking facilities. The rise of the private mint – beginning in Great Britain with Matthew Boulton's Soho Mint in Birmingham in 1782 – provided a source were private organizations could have coins, medals, tokens and other numismatic issues struck. The custom minting of such items is now available in dozens of private plants in many countries.

United State Mint.  Private medals were struck at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia as

early as 1805 (the Sansom Washington and Franklin medals, or early 1790s if the J. Ricketts Circus Medal was indeed struck at the mint). This continued for over 150 years, until as late as 1948. Of all the medals listed in the book by Robert Julian, Medals of the United States Mint: the First Century, 1792-1892; half are of a private issue (283 of the 573 listed).  These include nearly half of the commemorative medals, a few marksmanship medals & life saving medals, and all of the personal medals; school medals; agricultural, mechanical, scientific & professional medals; religious & fraternal medals; and the unclassified medals.

For a long time in the United States, perhaps as late as the 1890s, private industry

just did not have the presses capable of striking large medals and the U.S. Mint was the only such source for national – or private – medals to be produced in the United States. Well into the 20th century the Mint was still striking medals for private organizations, although at the end it was for organizations for whom they had done this in the past and the Mint had existing dies.

Private medal manufacturers, notably Medallic Art Company of New York City and its president, Clyde Curlee Trees, mounted a campaign in the mid-1930s for the U.S. Mint to direct more and more of the work to private industry but the Mint continued to do this until 1948.

Unless it is an outright order for a government – domestic or foreign – all items struck by a private mint or medal manufacturer are of a private issue. Thus the only place where this term comes into play is to distinguish private versus national medals struck by a national mint. See custom minting. national medals, list medals, private mint.


O37 {1977} Julian.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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