1925 Norse American Silvered Medal NGC MS63 - This eight-sided 1925 Norse American Silvered Medal depicts a Viking ship on both sides. The piece is well struck with full details on the Viking’s knife and face on the obverse. The reverse shows full details on the ship’s sail and shields. The medal is lustrous with lighter devices against a uniformly grey field. No wear is seen, as expected for a mint state piece. For the grade the surfaces are original, clean, and free of individual marks worthy of description.
Authorized by Congress to commemorate the centennial of Norse immigration, the medal, designed by James Earle Fraser, shows a Viking armed for battle with his ship in the background at anchor. On the reverse we see a Viking ship with oars extended at sail. The date A.D. 1000, which is below the ship, is the approximate date when the Vikings discovered America. In 1925 only the old Scandinavian sagas were evidence that the Vikings had visited North America. Since then archaeological evidence has confirmed that they settled on the Atlantic coast of North America for a time. Fraser used his bold, without serif lettering and simply modeled forms to create a modern look for the medal.
The 31 millimeter silver medal was available in both a thick and thin planchet varieties with the thin being scarcer. Congress authorized 40,000 silver and 100 gold medals. There was also a 69 millimeter medal struck in nickel and the present 70x71 millimeter piece in silver-plated bronze.
The Norse-American Centennial celebration was held from June 7th to June 9th in 1925 at the Minnesota State Fair in Saint Paul. The event commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian ship Restauration. This immigrant ship’s arrival was the first organized journey of Norwegian-Americans to the United States. President Calvin Coolidge appeared at the Norse-American Centennial and gave recognition to contributions of Scandinavian-Americans such as Leif Erikson as the discoverer of America. Various Norwegian Lutheran colleges provided music at the pageant. War hero Hans Christian Heg, a Norwegian immigrant who served during the Civil War, was honored. Art works by prominent Norwegian-American artists were exhibited. The United States Post Office issued two commemorative stamps celebrating the Norse-American Centennial.
The Centennial celebration provided the impetus for the building of The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church of Minneapolis, which is also known as Mindekirken. It was dedicated on May 4, 1930. The church still uses Norwegian as a primary liturgical language.
James Earle Fraser was an American sculptor who was born in Minnesota. How fitting it was that he designed the Norse-American medal since he was a Minnesota native son. Fraser was born in Winona, Minnesota. His father was a railroad engineer. He was one of a group sent out to recover the remains of Custer’s 7th Cavalry Regiment following his loss to Indians at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Many of James Fraser’s works show his exposure to frontier life and Indians. He began carving figures from limestone. At age fourteen, he took classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. At the Columbian Exposition, he was involved in the production of architectural sculptures. In 1895, while studying in Paris at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Frasier met Augustus Saint-Gaudens. He won a competition that Saint-Gaudens was judging. Saint-Gaudens hired Fraser to assist him on his General Sherman Monument that was erected at the entrance to Central Park in New York City. In 1902, after working for Saint-Gaudens for four years, Fraser set up his own studio in New York. He taught at the Art Students’ League. Much of Fraser’s early work was from referrals from Saint-Gaudens who was always over-booked. In 1913 his best known work, the Indian Head or Buffalo nickel, was minted. That same year he married a former student, Laura Gardin. She became his partner and was a highly respected sculptor herself. They collaborated on the Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollar commemorative that was first issued in 1926. She designed the obverse and he the reverse. Fraser also designed the Victory Medal in 1919 celebrating the end of World War I as well as the Navy Cross. In 1915 he designed the “End of the Trail,” a piece for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. During the early 20th century, his style changed from impressionistic realism inherited from Saint-Gaudens to a more modern less complicated style. At the end of the World War I his attention turned to larger works, public monuments and architectural sculpture. His last major work was “The Peaceful Arts” for the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C.
Although neither NGC nor PCGS list the Norse-American 70x71 mm silvered medal in their population reports, it is believed that there were 60 to 66 minted. The piece is prohibitively rare in all grades, especially in mint state.
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