legendary Coins and Currency
Exhibition Collection Search Timeline Game Visit
Legendary FirstsLegendary BeautiesUnexpected LegendsGolden LegendsLegends of the Human Spirit
Enter the Online Exhibition (Flash Required)
Image of Portrait Medal of James Smithson, 1817
Coin View
Zoom using Flash

Purchase this image


Portrait Medal of James Smithson, 1817


This portrait of Smithsonian founder James Smithson has been the basis for the Institution’s award medals as well as a 1996 $5 commemorative gold coin.


Before the invention of photography, bronze and brass medals were commonly used for portraiture. People seeking to preserve their image for future memory could enlist the service of a sculptor or engraver to create portrait medals.


Legendary Firsts The following objects are in this section.
Massachusetts Pine Tree Shilling, "1652" (struck 1667-1674)First United States Silver Dollar, 1794Great Britain, Sovereign, 1838
Massachusetts, "twenty shillings," 1690Brasher Doubloon, 1787United States, 5 Dollars, 1838
Pewter Continental Dollar, 1776United States, 20 Dollars, 1854United States, 10 Dollars, 1838
Copper Pattern Dollar, 1794Portrait Medal of James Smithson, 1817 
Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center Learning Resources Flash Exhibition
Copyright© Privacy Policy Press Credits