Mintage of only 20 pieces in silver. Obv: bust of Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry facing left, legend around: COMMODORE M.C. PERRY, engraver's signature below truncation of bust: F.N. MITCHELL. F. Rev: 14-line inscription within wreath bound with crown made of ships masts bearing MISSISSIPPI, inscription reads PRESENTED TO COM. M.C. PERRY, SPECIAL MINISTER FROM THE U.S.A., BY MERCHANTS OF BOSTON, IN TOKEN OF THEIR APPRECIATION OF HIS SERVICES IN NEGOTIATING THE TREATY WITH JAPAN SIGNED AT YAU-HAMA, MARCH 31, AND WITH LEW CHEW AT NAPA, JULY 11, 1854.
Of this medal only one example was struck in gold, which was awarded to Commodore Perry himself. The gold medal was thought to have been lost and possibly melted until it appeared at auction in 2007. Accompanied with its original box the gold medal sold for $165,000 at auction in Rockland Maine. Another 20 examples were struck in silver, several of which were awarded to Perry's higher ranking officers, and 107 examples were struck in bronze for award to lower ranking officers and sale to the public. The dies for this rare and spectacular medal were engraved by Francis N. Mitchell and were struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1856.
Through "battleship diplomacy" Commodore Perry was able to negotiate the opening of the then closed Japan to foreign trade. By anchoring a group of warships in Japanese waters Perry was able to force negotiations with Japan, demanding permission to deliver a letter from President Millard Fillmore. The boats were referred to by the Japanese as "Black Ships," a term that later became synonymous with threatening foreign powers. The final recorded military mission in Japan that involved ninja activity was during this event. The Japanese sent ninja Sawamura Yasusuke to board Perry's ship with instructions to gather information that would reveal the commodore's intentions. While the ninja was successful in boarding the commodore's ship, the success of the mission is questionable. Sawamura Yasusuke was able to gather some paper documents as well as make detailed descriptions of the ships. However the linguistics barrier hindered him from gathering documents that were of any strategic value. When translated, the documents showed to be letters describing, "extolling the delights of French women in bed," and "British women in kitchens." Essentially letters from sailors describing exploits with women and cooking recipes.
Recent auction appearances include Heritage May 2011, lot 38271, where an example graded XF with some surface problems sold for $26,290 and Sotheby's New York sale of January 2011, lot 146, where an example with several large edge bumps sold for $28,125 Of the 20 examples struck, some are impounded in institutional and museum collections, and several others are impaired. The example offered here is a nice Mint State piece with attractive lightly toned surfaces. It is problem free in that it is free off the normal edge problems that are often associated with these large medals. Very rare, especially in this state of preservation.