Lot #1. (1782) Libertas Americana Medal. Betts-615. Bronze. MS-63 BN (NGC). CAC.
The 2009 Los Angeles ANA Auction - 8/5/2009
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47.6 millimeters. A symbolic design, the Libertas Americana is widely regarded as the most beautiful medal produced in connection with the birth of the United States. The obverse depicts a left-facing bust of Liberty, a Phrygian cap atop the liberty pole that passes behind her portrait. The inscription LIBERTAS. AMERICANA. is above, while the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence 4 JUIL. 1776. is in exergue below. Variations of this Liberty portrait were later used on some of the earliest U.S. Mint issues, most notably the Liberty Cap Half Cents of 1793-1797 and the Liberty Cap Cents of 1793-1796.
The reverse displays the infant Hercules (symbol of the United States) crouching atop a shield-shaped cradle and strangling two snakes in reference to the victories at Saratoga and Yorktown. Despite these military setbacks, the British lion is still trying to pounce on the infant, but he is held in check by the goddess Minerva who, with fleur-de-lis on her shield, represents France. The Latin inscription NON SINE DIIS ANIMOSUS INFANS along the upper-right border translates as, "The infant is not bold without divine aid." In exergue below are the dates 17 OCT. 1777 and 19 OCT. 1781. The dies for this beautiful design were engraved in 1782 by Augustin Dupre, whose inscription DUPRE. F (the F is for the Latin word Fecit, or "made it") is present on the reverse below the lion's hind legs.
The rarity of the Libertas Americana Medal has been debated by numismatists, and we are aware of few serious census studies undertaken by reputable scholars. One of the most significant to date is that published in the 2007 book Comitia Americana and Related Medals: Underappreciated Monuments to our Heritage by John W. Adams & Anne E. Bentley. The authors state having been able locate only 22 examples in silver, 37 in bronze and one in white metal. The two gold strikings prepared for King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette of France are untraced. If the census conducted by Adams and Bentley is accurate, then the bronze variant of the Libertas Americana Medal is much scarcer than previously thought. Such a limited total of only 37 or so survivors is even more significant when we consider an original mintage of perhaps as many as 200 bronze strikings. The survival rate is close to just 25%--a much lower percentage than for the silver pieces, of which at least 22 are known from an estimated mintage of 60 pieces.
A beautiful bronze striking, both sides exhibit rich, even, reddish-copper patina to surfaces that are free of all but a few wispy blemishes. Full impressed from the dies, even the most intricate elements of the design are readily evident to the unaided eye. For the advanced numismatist or specialized Americana collector, our offering of this premium Choice Libertas Americana Medal represents a buying opportunity that should not be overlooked.