– In 1839, the Philadelphia Mint created a single gold medal in tribute to the courage displayed by Revolutionary War General Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens in 1781. The medal was minted to replace the original given to Morgan, after it was stolen in an 1818 robbery from a Pittsburgh bank, where it had been kept in a safe. The newly minted medal, based on the original design by French engraver Augustin Dupré, remained in Morgan’s family until 1885, but then disappeared, and many speculated that it had been lost or melted down. That is, until a South Carolina coin and medal collector was recently asked to authenticate a gold medal brought to him by an auction house. When he opened the medal box, he was amazed. “My reaction was somewhere along the lines of ‘holy [expletive]” Kraljevich said, according to a CBS News/AP report. “As soon as I laid eyes on it, I knew what it was.”
Replicas and copies of the medal were made in the years after the 1839 version disappeared, resulting in what Kraljevich calls “red herring” finds of the Morgan Medal. But the medal that showed up in his shop was different, fitting snugly in its original red leather case with a “crushed purple velvet interior”, according to Stack’s Bowers Galleries, which now auctions the medal. The golden front of the medal shows Morgan leading his troops on horseback against the British, while the reverse depicts a Native American woman bestowing a laurel wreath on Morgan. Kraljevich said the medal – which was awarded to Morgan for his victory in battle on January 17, 1781, a significant factor in “the eventual defeat of the British at the siege of Yorktown,” according to CBS – has been authenticated by a third party and is in “immaculate” condition.
He notes that the medal – one of 133 medals in the Comitia Americana series created between 1776 and the early 19th century to highlight turning points in the War of Independence – emerged after being anonymously given to the auction house. Stack’s lists the current bid for the ‘very unique’ medal at $150,000 as of early afternoon, although auction organizers predict it could end up between $250,000 and $500,000 . “Offered, here, at auction for the very first time, a majestic golden testament to the debt to this nation’s earliest military heroes and the efforts to honor their legacy,” notes the site. (Read more stories about the Revolutionary War.)