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George Washington funeral coins also known as George Washington funeral medals are commemorative coins or medals produced for the funeral of Founding Father of the United States and the first American President George Washington.
Background and Description
George Washington died in December 1799. Two weeks later, his funeral was held. A commemorative coin was produced to mark the occasion and celebrate Washington, given out or sold to people as important keepsakes, as was customary at the time. Since his death, Washington’s face has been used to mark currency, and as a national symbol of the United States.
There are at least two types of George Washington funeral coins. There were in fact two funeral processions, the first sponsored by the Masonic Lodge on February 11th 1800, and the second a general procession on February 22nd 1800. Coins were produced for both by Newburyport diemaker Jacob Perkins.
On both these examples, one side features Washington’s profile wreathed, and the words ‘He is in Glory, the World in Tears’.
On one type, the reverse depicts an urn, therefore this is known as the urn type medal. The other type depicts a skull and crossbones instead of an urn on the reverse. This type is known as the skull and crossbones type. It is thought that this latter coin was the one produced for the first Masonic Lodge funeral procession.
The coins almost always include a hole stamped in the top, for wearing on a chain around the neck or similar.
Collecting George Washington funeral coins
George Washington funeral coins are extremely collectible. They were worn by people attending the funeral processions, perhaps people who touched his coffin. Such a significant figure in the history of the United States inspires a great amount of patriotism and pride, and items connected with his life, his impact, and his death, will always be eminently sought-after.
Another type of George Washington coin is common on auction websites such as eBay, described as a George Washington funeral coin. On these, both sides feature Washington’s profile and the words 1789 1st president U.S.A. 1797 George Washington. These coins are nowhere near as valuable as the Perkins coins featuring either the urn or skull and crossbones image on the reverse. They are likely to be coins minted in 1797 and stamped with a hole after his death, rather than medals created expressly for commemorative purposes.
They were minted in various different metals, including 200-300 in pewter or white metal, 150-250 in silver, 18-22 in gold, and only two or three known examples in copper. Copper as a material was very rare, and the mint had only just begun to use it in coin production. Therefore the best known examples were cast in white metal or silver. The gold examples are extremely rare, and the copper examples even more so, and much more valuable.
The gold examples are thinner and larger, delicate, and do not feature a reverse image, just embossed on one side.
Value of George Washington funeral coins depends heavily on whether they are made of white metal, silver, the extremely sought-after gold, or the even rarer copper, as these dictate the scarcity and desirability of the medals.
White metal examples have sold for up to $11,500 at auction.
The three known extant copper coins are said to be worth anything from $20,000-$200,000.
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