Rarest of the Rare

If you are interested in rare finds and a puzzling story, read on below...


Also here is a newspaper article on the story as well:

  • Serrator PRO 8y

    A coworker of mine allowed me to shoot this medallion the other day using my new macro lens and this is the story behind it...

    Back in 1968 when Jim was a young boy, his father and him were in their rural home's backyard just outside Dexter Missouri. Jim's father was constructing a sandbox for them to play in. Well this required some digging in order to build it. As Jim's father dug down into the soil he struck something, Jim being the inquisitive young lad helped excavate the new found treasure. Jim pulling the somewhat large and heavy object from the soil excitedly ran into the house to clean it off and see what they had discovered.

    Once Jim had begun rinsing off the dirt he could start to make out some writing and an image similar to coins he had but this was much larger than any he had ever seen. The writing too was strange and he was not able to read it. Well like most young boys his interest wained and he stashed it in his secret collection box that most of us have at some point in our younger days...and there it lay hidden away for another 32 years...

    Now fast forward to 2000.
    Jim a married man now with two children of his own never even gave the discovery another thought all these years... until his son who happened to be about the exact same age as Jim when the bronze object had been discovered found it in Jim's secret collection box. Jim's son brought it to him and asked his father what is it? Jim told his son the story of how he found it with his dad many years ago when he was his age. Jim though still could not translate the writing nor really knew what he had.

    But this is the year 2000 and the internet was now a household term and could possibly help Jim answer the intriguing questions as to what this thing is? How old? Where did it come from and perhaps learn of it's value??

    Jim brought the medal into work one afternoon to show some of us and get our thoughts on who he could contact to try and help identify his discovery. He finally was directed to a university contact that had some experience with artifacts and contacted them via email. This university contact then responded and requested a digital picture be sent to them. Jim forwarded a digital picture using our company's high tech 1.3 megapixel camera....remember this is the year 2000!

    Well things started getting more interesting for Jim once they seen his picture he had sent. The contact now knowing they were dealing with a medallion forwarded it on to another colleague who might have more expertise in this area. The long and short of it, the image eventually ended up at the Smithsonian's experts. They were excited at what they saw...a Pisano medallion from the 15th century. Not only that but if it turned out to be authentic it was now one of only two others known exist, making this the third piece. The other two specimens are located in major museums and now Jim possibly had the third one, not only did he have the third one but it was the most unique one. Notice the small hole located near the top, this was bored through to allow it to be worn around the neck. The other two specimens do not have this feature.

    Now with the buzz of the Smithsonian folks and the subsequent email correspondences soon became phone calls to Jim. The Smithsonian expert recommended that Jim should contact one of the country's leading authorities on medallions, Dr. Scher, in order to validate it's authenticity. Jim contacted Dr. Stephen Scher who told Jim based on the image that Jim had sent him, that he has an original and not a reproduction but he could not be absolutely sure without measuring it. Believe it or not, Jim Fedx's this medallion to Dr. Scher in New Jersey. Well it took several months but Dr. Scher concluded based on all the measurements and other criteria that this was indeed an original, meaning that this was made by the very hand of Pisano in and around 1450! Not only that but it is entirely possible that Pisano himself had worn this medallion (for those of you like me who know little or nothing about medallions, Pisano is considered the father of them).

    The local paper by now had gotten wind of this story and had Jim on the front page and soon after people from all over the country sent word that they had seen this story in their paper, even one in Canada. It also just happened that the daytime TV show at this time, the Montel Williams Show, contacted Jim and wanted him to appear on his show in New York. Jim really did not want to go on TV so Montel agreed to let a local company video his story and they would feature it on their show which they did, I believe the title of Montel's show that day was "Pennies from Heaven", which dealt with folks that found themselves with sudden treasures. (As a side note I had made Jim a special wooden case to carry and display his treasure in when I thought he might be going on the show, but since Jim did not appear on the was shown in the closing scene for Jim's video story shown on the Montel show! :) )

    Now back to the Dr. Scher info that he provided Jim. Jim now knew that his medallion was made by Pisano around 1450 or 550 years ago at that time. It was one of six known to have been made and of which now only three are known to exist. Jim's medallion was unique with the bore hole and the puzzling story of how it ended up in the middle of a Missouri farmhouses backyard?? Jim was told that his piece could fetch upwards of a million dollars...WOW.

    Now to the present.
    Jim has since stored his treasure and has worked with an art expert to provide him an appraisal so at some time he might want to sell it off.

    Of course to me the biggest question is how in the world this medallion ended up here in Missouri and by pure LUCK was dug up and rediscovered?? Did some of the early pioneers bring it on over only to lose it or trade it to the Indians?? Was somebody buried with it on their neck only for Jim to find it in 1968?

    I have taken this pic and uploaded it using the maximum size that my camera can do for those interested in looking up close at it. It is approximately 3 inches or 75mm in diameter. I am sure somebody here on Flickr can translate the writing and or I hope to get a copy of the original story to post here as well once Jim gets back from his vacation this next week.

    Chayelle from the Nikon forum has posted this and has allowed me to repost it here...thanks Cheryle!

    I will try to help with some translation of this medallion:

    On the first coin:

    Don Indigo De Davalos
    Don: Lord or sir
    Indigo: blue, could indicate a wealthy family
    de: of
    Da: son of or from
    Valos: father's name possibly meaning valley, or strength

    The back side:

    Opus Pisani Pictoris:
    Opus: work
    Pisani: Pisano
    Pictoris: pictoral, picture

    above this writing:
    Oper V Vi Se Fa
    oper: work
    V: where, there or you
    Vi: to you, yourself
    there, in that place
    Se: him
    Fa: he makes

    Possible translation:
    Lord or Sir Indigo son of DaValos
    on back: Pictoral work of Pisano
    above: Work He Himself made for you

    This medallion was probably crafted for someone Pisano knew.
    Pisano himself made this medallion possibly honoring his friend,
    or honoring an important personage.

    This is what I read out of the story you gave and the wording on this medallion.
    I am in no way an Italian or Spanish scholar!
  • dela7 PRO 8y

    WOW!!! What a find and what a story. Can't read it but is sure is interesting/
  • bacimaging 8y

    What a cool story --- to say the least. 500 years old! Man, you think that'd be found buried under a bridge in Boston --- not a backyard!

    Good for Jim! Thanks for sharing this Serrator.
  • Tim PRO 8y

    Great story, thanks for typing it out. I'd like to see the wooden box you made also - you're so handy with physical and electronic tools!

    Funnily enough there were some "Opvs Pisani Pictoris" medallions being sold at Sotherby's in London today, but they were "contemporary casts". I hope Jim has taken out some insurance.

    To me the pierced hole looks to have been made at a later date than manufacture, as it's not precisely aligned.

    Good photographs you've taken. Which macro lens did you buy (Canon 100mm?). Can we exepct some macro OOBs now? ;-)
  • Serrator PRO 8y

    Thanks guys for checking it out!

    -dela7 I could not read it either but Chayelle has come through and given us some insight. I know Jim has the translation but he is away now on vacation and I knew someone out here would know.

    -bacimaging...yes, you would think it would have been found anywhere but out in the middle of Missouri on a farm, what are the odds of even just finding it again??

    -Thanks Blue for the additional info, very interesting.

    When Jim first was discussing the medallion with Dr. Scher, one of the things he told Jim was that there are 17th century reproductions of this exact medallion. That is why Dr. Scher could not be absolutely sure until he measured it to confirm that it was an original.

    The bored hole was most definately done later, the other two specimens do not have this so it wasn't part of the cast and as you have suggested it is rather roughly done.

    The lens I used was a Tokina 2.8/100mm macro, after searching and reviewing all the data I could it was between the Canon and Tokina. In the review that I found it showed just a slighty sharper image with regards to the Tokina when using a fully open aperture. I did not have my lightbox for this shoot so I had to improvise, I would have rathered to have a black background but I did not have my stuff where we shot this.

    Macro OOBs....maybe. :)
  • Serrator PRO 8y

    Here is another shot for scale purposes:
    -- from Serrator - (?)
  • koala sorridente PRO 8y

    See at this interesting selling on Ebay.....

    Obverse : Bust & legend "DON INIGO DE DAVALOS"

    Don Iñigo d'Avalos, d. 1484, Grand Chamberlain of Naples

    Reverse : uniface

    Diameter : 72 to 74 mm. Weight : 87 g. Bronze. 19th century restrike.

    Pisanello (or Antonio di Puccio Pisano or Antonio di Puccio da Cereto), or erroneously called Vittore Pisano by Giorgio Vasari, (c. 1395- probably 1455) was one of the most distinguished painters of the early Italian Renaissance and Quattrocento. He was acclaimed by poets such as Guarino da Verona and praised by humanists of his time who compared him to such illustrious names as Cimabue, Phidias and Praxiteles.


    In 1438 the Council of Basel negotiated with the Byzantine Emperor John VIII Palaiologos. On this occasion Pisanello struck a commemorative medal of the emperor. He also made some drawings with portraits of the emperor and his retinue (on display at the Louvre, Paris), suggesting he had a commission for a painting or fresco for the Este residence.

    He thus became the inventor of the fields of portrait medals and artist's medals. During his lifetime Pisanello was best known for his medals. He has been copied many times in later generations. The medallist art declined when it deviated from the art of Pisanello. Before him, medals were struck like minted coins. Pisanello, on the other hand, melted his medals the same as a bronze low-relief, clearly showing the work of a painter and a modeler. He even signed his medals with Opus Pisani pictoris (made by the painter Pisano). In his view the portraits in his medals equal the portraits in his paintings. He even adds allegories at the reverse of his medals, such as the unicorn in the Cecilia Gonzaga medal, underlying the noble character of the princess.

    In 1438 a war broke out between the ruler of Milan Filippo Maria Visconti and the republic of Venice. Pisanello was in Mantua with Gianfancresco Gonzaga. They decided to play a part in the capture of Verona. Consequently the Venetian government called him a rebel and threatened him with a stiff sentence. Only an intercession by a powerful friend could preserve him.

    After a stay in Milan between 1440 and 1441, he went back to Ferrara in 1441. There he painted his acclaimed portrait of Lionello d'Este, now on display at the Accademia Carrara, Bergamo. His Virgin and the saints Anthony the Abbot and George (National Gallery, London) probably dated from the same period. The impressive fresco cycle Scenes of War and Chivalry in the Palazzo Ducale di Mantova, Mantua probalby dates from 1447.

    From December 1448, to the end of his life he lived in Naples, where he enjoyed great repute at the Aragon court. The poet Porcellio even wrote an ode in honor. He may have lived five or six years longer, but there is no more mention of him in the records.

    Specimens of his work as a painter still exist in Rome, Venice, Verona, Pistoia and two in the National Gallery, London (Vision of Saint Eustace and The Virgin and Child with Saint George and Saint Anthony Abbot). Many of his drawings can now be found at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, Italy and the Louvre, Paris.

    He influenced many of his contemporaries, but did not create his own school. His genius shone briefly and after his death he was quickly forgotten in the rise of the humanistic and classical culture of the Renaissance. He is now considered the last and most magnificent artist of the courtly style of the Gothic art in the 15th century, called the International Gothic style. On the other hand, he may also be considered as one of the first leaders of the Renaissance movement. His style was ahead of his time, his medals are timeless, his landscapes are more realistic than ever, yet his Legend of St. George, one of his best paintings, is also the most archaistic painting in his oeuvre (source : wikipedia)
  • Gr8ful Dad 8y

    great find and information...this is the most intresting feature ive seen on flickr..thanks for sharing.
  • Jörgen Janssens 8y

    Excellent story, thanks for sharing.

    123 history
  • ndbutter 8y

    It's always fun to wonder how things end up where they do. If only that coin could talk...
  • Indalécio Camargo PRO 8y

    Very interesting history!
    Indeed thanks for sharing and let us know if any new information comes to life! :)
  • lear31pilot 8y

    This medallion is for sale, it needs a home where it can be appreciated. If you know of any collector or collectors interested in
    this form of art, please send them my way! Think of owning one of the rarest medallions in the world. It is amazing when I handle it thinking it is almost six hundred years old.
  • Txrelichunter 7y

    Krazy kool, I can't imagin wearing something that big.... Talk about bling bling...
  • Michael LaPalme PRO 7y

    Fascinating account Serrator... I'm off to go dig in my backyard. Looks like I got "Gold Fever" too. :P
  • Jelle 6y

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Archaeological Artefact Photography, and we'd love to have this added to the group!
  • MintDukat 4y

    Great fund, thanks a lot for the story, your medailon is already recorded on medal search engine for ever saved. Beatiful masterpiece. Vojtech Darbujan engraver Czech republic
  • Anna 4y

    Amazing story! I have a reproduction of that same piece. I found it at a thrift shop and could never find out exactly who it was or who had made it because the letters were so faded on it. But this is the same man on mine and, now that I look at the letters more closely, they resemble "Don Inigo de Davalvo". I think I appreciate it more because I finally understand the back story.
  • kaipo2012 1y

    Amazing, the obvious damage heads side up......did your father say it was struck with the spade when they made this discovery, or was it already there?
  • Serrator PRO 1y

    kaipo2012...yes, the damage was caused when the medallion was dug up. We would like to say it was caused during a sword battle earlier in it's life since that makes it a much more interesting story! :) Sadly though just a shovel in the 1960's.
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Taken on June 11, 2007
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