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1877 Seated Liberty 50 cent piece -- Red Cross Pin

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    Posted 9 years ago

    (33 items)

    I volunteer at a Hospice Thrift Shoppe - I am trying to find out a little about this unusual offering.

    Thanks to all of you who helped me with the research - as a result I am expanding this and have increased the clarity of the pictures. If you save them to your computer and then zoom in on them - you will have an excellent assessment of the quality of this pin.

    It is ostensibly a Red Cross pin - the foundation is identical to the 1877 Seated Liberty 50 cent piece. However the reverse side is completely different from the coin - starting with the rim -it flows into a fancy interior border and is highlighted by a carefully inserted glass (?) red cross- with more engraved art work just adjacent to each of the middle sections of the red cross. You can now easily compare the two in the pictures above.

    One theory is that the original coin was used and the surface of the reverse side completely sanded. It would appear however that the coin has lost none of its original thickness and the new ridge is completely different. . I will verify this with a coin dealer later this week - if there is a difference - then I believe we have the answer to how it was created

    The interesting point is that the design surrounding the RED CROSS is in my opinion very feminine -as if created for a female - which would make perfect sense given Clara Barton's immense impact on the creation of the American Red Cross.

    It seems very obvious this is one molded piece - and not two pieces glued or soldered together. I will, however, have a jeweler verify this - but I have looked at it under very intense magnification.

    In short, this is a first class artisan product - make for a specific purpose with care and apparently with some purpose and meaning to the year 1877.

    Here are some dates and events that are significant to both the INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS and the AMERICAN RED CROSS.

    Two of them occurred in 1877 - one involves Clara Barton. Certainly, 1877 was an important date for Clara Barton as she was actively involved in the promotion of the RED CROSS movement.

    The International Red Cross was founded in Switzerland as a result of the Geneva Convention of 1864, to care for the sick and wounded in war, and to secure the neutrality of nurse's hospitals, etc. It was and is active also in relieving suffering occasioned by pestilence, floods, fire and other calamities.

    August 8, 1864 First Geneva Convention issued protecting the war wounded and identifying the red cross on a white field as a neutral protective emblem.

    1877 - Clara Barton was so inspired by the efforts and triumphs of the volunteers of the International Red Cross that she took this movement all the way to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877 where it was unfortunately rejected

    1877 -Turkish - Russian War

    The Ottoman Empire balked at the RED CROSS symbol as being too much like the cross of the Crusades. They petitioned that the RED CRESCENT be used to identify their medical personnel, and facilities.

    The International Red Cross Committee asked the Russian Red Cross to obtain the Russian government's consent to the Turkish proposal for the duration of the war. On 24 May 1877 the Tsar declared that he was ready to recognize the inviolability of Turkish field hospitals; the Ottoman Empire agreed to reciprocate in June 1877, after difficult negotiations.

    The Committee's main aim in adopting this stance was to defend the wounded in the conflict between Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

    Between 1877 - 1881

    Clara Barton concentrated on educating the public and garnering support for an American society of the Red Cross. In 1878 -She wrote and distributed the pamphlet, "The Red Cross of the Geneva Convention. What It Is". She met with President Rutherford B. Hayes to inform him about the Red Cross and enlisted the aid of friends to help publicize the organization.

    On March 1,, 1881, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Treaty of Geneva. Following unanimous ratification by the Senate, America joined the International Red Cross.

    May 21, 1881
    The American Association of the Red Cross was formed. Miss Barton was elected president at a meeting held June 9 in Washington, DC.

    March 16, 1882
    The American Red Cross, established March 16, 1882
    By Clara Barton, as a branch of the International Red Cross

    If you have ever seen one of these pins or have any insights - guesses or whatever that might shed light on the origin and purpose of this most interesting piece - it would be greatly appreciated.


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    1. stefdesign stefdesign, 9 years ago
      I would love to see a clear photo of your pin- it sounds fascinating!
    2. stefdesign stefdesign, 9 years ago
      Thanks for the message, I'm so glad you posted new photos! This is a really fascinating piece! I really don't have any particular expertise on this type of item, nor do I know much about the Red Cross, but it does look like someone with a lot of talent took a 1877 coin, carefully flattened & decorated the edges of one side, and inlayed a perfect red cross. I know the decorative design was 'stamped' into the silver, and did you notice the little etched lines coming out of each corner of the cross? Is the little pattern on the cross from the interior of the silver, under the glass, or is it on the glass itself?
      I wonder if this pin is a one-of-a-kind item, or perhaps made for a whole group of volunteers or leaders? I hope someone stops by to give you more information.
      I love it!
    3. Rain_bow_rider, 9 years ago
      I tried to enter a comment earlier - but not sure it went through - briefly - it does appear that the back side of the coin was sanded down and the various designs and cross added - apparently this was a fashionable thing to back in 1877 - jewelers performed this service for those wishing a special gift - often inscribing the initials of two lovers - or as with the red cross - commerating or celebrating a special event. Thus it would seem to most definitely be for a woman. This was donated to the Hospice - but I have no idea when or by whom.

      I am checking with a coin person and a jeweler to see if they agree and if they can offer any additional information.

      I will update as I find out more
    4. Rain_bow_rider, 9 years ago
      I meet with a coin dealer who has well over 50 years of experience in dealing with coins and stamps. He was very impressed with the pin and offered his professional opinion free of charge.

      This is indeed an 1877 half dollar with a silver content. The reverse side of the coin has been shaved as it is now about 1/2 to 2/3 its original depth or thickness.

      According to the dealer – in 1877 and the Victorian era, it was not that uncommon for a man to have a jeweler inscribe a coin as a gift to his wife or girl friend. The jeweler used the reverse side since the original image on the reverse side was normally less pronounced than that on the front of US coins.

      Once under the jeweler’s loupe, he exclaimed his love and appreciation for the intricate filigree and other hand etchings that appear at the rim of the pin.

      He did point out the obvious – since the coin was worn and the pin clasp would have protected it from extensive wear – the pin was probably made at a later date. However, he added that the date of the coin was usually important to the owner or to the recipient of the pin. So we may have a pin with 1877 significance actually made later than that date.

      He was then kind enough to provide me an introduction to a very experienced local jeweler to whom he referred antique jewelry.

      So another trip and another visit. I met two delightful women – one of whom was a jeweler with extensive experience.

      They both marveled at the piece and conjectured about what significance it might have had to its owner or recipient.

      Following an extensive and through examination under two different jeweler’s loupes – they were amazed at the intricacy of the filigree – which they confirmed was done totally by hand by an individual extremely talented in the art of hand-etching.

      They confirmed that the cross was set into the piece – not painted or otherwise attached to the coin. If you will look closely at the pictures – you will note a cross with some degree of depth has been cut into the coin. The indentation of the cross was then filled with red enamel.

      Enamel basically is a finely grounded glass. When these tiny colored glass particles were placed in the cross and heated in a furnace at about in 800 degrees Celsius, the result is a beautiful cross of red glass set-into the indentation. There are three types of enamel used in jewelry: opaque, transparent and translucent. I believe this is transparent red enamel because there is a pattern visible under the enamel.

      Try as they may with their jeweler’s loupe, they were unable to identify the source of the weaved pattern visible through the red cross. The current assumption is some kind of cloth – which may also have had some significance to the piece. This is of course strictly conjectured. It may actually be small etching in the metal put there by the jeweler for visual effect.

      Both of my experts suggest that I not attempt to polish the coin – as the patina makes it even more interesting to collectors. And all three of these wonderful resources have asked that I keep them apprised of the future of the little red cross.

      In summary, thanks to all of you and to the wonderful experts who so generously offered their time to a total stranger, much of my mission is now complete. But the journey of the little red cross will continue with a new owner.

      However, if any one knows of another engraved coin with a more detailed history – I would love to learn more about this art form. And of course, if you come across another coin with a red enamel cross embedded artfully and surrounded by beautifully etched markings – please share it.

      Again thank you and thanks to Collector's Weekly for this wonderful resource.

    5. Rain_bow_rider, 9 years ago
      To: stefdesign
      To: ROBinHawaii
      To: miKKoChristmas11
      To: mustangtony

      Just a quick note to say thanks to everyone who loved it and to those who offered temendously helpful information about the 1877 coin and the enamel process.

      You all were great - and it was much appreciated.

      I also enjoyed taking a peek at all of the fantastic items that each of you collects. While I do not personally collect - I love old things and enjoy selling them on E-bay or recycling them on - to save them from the landfill.

      I will post a few other interesting items in a collection on this section - as the hospice thrift shoppe is always getting items that challenge me to find them a home.
      So it is important that I learn what it is and as much as possible about it.


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