Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waterman 1893 Columbian Exposition medal

Pen makers proudly advertised the medals they had won at industrial fairs and international expositions. Waterman was awarded numerous medals of this sort -- so many, that they had replicas made so that a full panoply of awards could be exhibited in multiple locations.

This recently-acquired example is a an electrotype copy of the large bronze medal received by the Waterman company at Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Electrotypes were extremely precise copies made by plating a thick layer of copper into a mold of the original object. "Thick" is relative, however, as the copper shell was still thin enough to require backing, typically being filled with lead alloy to give support and weight.
That is the case with this medal; the construction method is easily visible in the seam running around the rim. There are some very deep dents to the rim as well, due to the softness of the lead core.
Although by definition not as rare as original award medals (each of which is, normally, unique), original electrotype copies are nonetheless extremely rare. It is likely that only a handful of copies were made of each medal, and in over 20 years of collecting, the number of surviving examples I have run across is few indeed.

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