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Oral History of  Medallic Art

 

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Medal Collectors of America (MCA) was founded in August 1998 at the Portland, Oregon, convention of the American Numismatic Association (ANA). Its primary purpose was to serve COLLECTORS of world and U.S. art and historical medals.  MCA would bring together those interested in collecting, research and publication of research concerning art and historical medals.

During his years as a collector and especially during the seven years he served as a full-time writer and editor at Coin World, MCA founder David T. Alexander became aware that in the vast landscape of American Numismatics, COLLECTORS of medals had never had their own organization.

Virtually all other specialties, from World War II Ration Tokens to Pioneer Gold, Colonial Coppers to Bust Half Dollars were served by organizations devoted solely to their interest area. No organization for COLLECTORS of art and historical medals had ever existed for more than a few months. When setting out to create the new group, however, it was emphasized that MCA was not going to compete with any existing organization.

There were three of groups involved tangentially with art and historical medals. The Token and Medal Society (TAMS) began more than 40 years ago as the Token, Medal and Obsolete Paper Society. As most organizations do, it evolved over the years, and Obsolete Paper was quickly abandoned. By 1998 TAMSí primary focus was on U.S. tokens. Medals collecting had not been a primary concern since the early 1970's.

Orders and decorations (often referred to simply as "medals" by the uninitiated) were well served by the Orders and Medals Society of America (OMSA). That prestigious group did not address either art or historical medals and MCA has left Orders and Decorations in OMSA's capable hands.

The American Medallic Sculpture Association (AMSA) was founded in 1982. Alexander was a member of its founding Board of Directors and in 1983 wrote a comprehensive history of the American medals for AMSA's first exhibition catalogue.

Here again, however, evolution was soon at work. AMSA was founded to serve both producers and collectors of medallic art. In its earliest years, however, AMSA turned away from the collector and devoted itself almost exclusively to the interests of sculptors and of those wishing recognition as sculptors. MCA has a profound admiration for medallic sculptors, applauds AMSA's service to that field and leaves it to them.

To reiterate, MCA exists to serve the COLLECTOR of art and historical medals. Its publications, The MCA Advisory and The Medal Cabinet provide a forum for research, news and views in the medal field. It encourages research and publication and recognizes excellence through its annual Carl W.A. Carlson Award. With five years of steady growth under its belt, MCA is here to stay as the spokesman of a significant but long-neglected area of numismatics in this country. (David T. Alexander)


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