Sabrina writes: My grandmother found a coin that appears to be gold plated with silver or nickel underneath. The size and weight of a silver dollar. On the “head” side it has an imprint of President Tyler with the words “John Tyler, President of the United States” and 1841. On the “tail” side it has an imprint of crisscrossed axe and another tool with two hands shaking underneath it and it reads “peace and friendship”. There is no monetary value written anywhere on the coin. The edge of the coin is plain. What type of coin would this be. It is worth anything? Please answer. Thank you for your help.
The use of Peace Medals to befriend Indians goes back to the late 17th century and lasted until about 1890. When Lewis and Clark went on their famous adventure they surely took Peace Medals along with them as gifts for the Indians. The Europeans, especially the French, English and later the Americans, realized that these medals were a potent way of swaying Indian loyalty to the “white man’s” causes. The Washington Peace medals of the late 18th century, oval shaped and designed to be worn as a breast plate, were highly revered by the Eastern American tribes. Recipients worn them to the grave.
The medal you describe was made in 1841 under John Tyler’s Presidency. By this time the medals were available for sale to the public.
All the medals from 1809-1849 have a similar reverse of a crossed tomahawk and Peace Pipe, clasped hands and the legend PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP. This design was created by John Reich, the Mint Engraver in 1809. The obverse shows a portrait of a fur-draped bust facing left with the legend JOHN TYLER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES 1841. The medal’s obverse was designed by Ferdinand Pettrich.
Almost every U.S. President in the 19th century had a peace medal made for him. The Thomas Jefferson medal shows his bust facing left with the legend TH. JEFFERSON PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. A.D. 1801. There is four buttons on his coat. Note that the later 19th century restrike issues have 3 or 2 buttons on his coat. The reverse legends are PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP. There are clasped hands and a crossed pipe and tomahawk. The Indian arm on the right has a bracelet with an eagle.
The Jefferson medal was struck in silver, bronze and white metal and in sizes between 100 and 105 mm. All the die work was done by Robert Scott, Chief Engraver of the Mint. Several hundred medals were struck and given out. They continued to be minted as they were needed until about 1811.
The United States mint continued to strike these medals well into the 20th Century. At least one four inch silver example was known to be struck between 1857 and 1892. The dies still exist and are in the Mint’s collection.
Note that the bronze medals have a mahogany or chocolate color not the bright gold color of the reproductions made after 1900 (The reproductions are still available from the Philadelphia Mint). The originals are can be expensive (condition is important), the restrikes fairly inexpensive and the modern goldine reproductions, almost worthless.