You might think that after 100 years, the medal collecting community would have noted and recorded the various World War I service medals issued by various towns.  However, there are always a few that get overlooked and this is one of those issues.

Penfield, New York, a suburb of Rochester, only had a population of 2,087 people in 1920, so its veterans wouldn’t even constitute an infantry company. The town still wished to recognize the service of its veterans, but probably did not wish to appropriate the money necessary to have a set of dies cut for a service medal. Bastian Brothers, a Rochester company known for its jewelry and medallic products, sold a generic medal for patriotic service. The town administrator’s bought this design and had Bastian Brothers impress the reverse with “Penfield, NY/August 23, 1919” (the date probably representing the date the medal was awarded to local veterans). The recipient’s name was also hand-engraved on the reverse of the top bar. In this case, the veteran is James H. Schlesig, who served with the 502nd Engineer Regiment in France.

So, even after a century, there are still discoveries to be made.

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  1. The reverse of the Penfield, NY, WWI Service Medal

  2. I just found this exact medal in a box of awards that I inherited from my grandmother years ago,I think it was her fathers. It is engraved G L McGowan. Is this a rare or valuable find?

  3. It’s likely that fewer than 100 medals were struck for Penfield’s veterans, so relatively rare in the collector market. The only one I know of in the market sold earlier this year for $65.

    Glenn L. McGowan enlisted 1 May 1917 and served with the 2nd Cavalry, one of the few American units to serve in France as horse cavalry. He was overseas from 10 May 1918 through 29 June 1919.

  4. I found one too! This particular one coming from HORNELL DISTRICT but with no dates or name inscribed. Any more info??

  5. Bastian Brothers had a fairly aggressive sales force selling the company’s products. A town could purchase a unique medal (paying for having a piece designed, dies cut, etc), which could get expensive. A cheaper alternative was to purchase a stock medal and have the town seal added to the obverse. The least expensive alternative is to purchase a stock medal and have the town name impressed, such as on the Hornell District medal, which has been reported in the collecting community.

    Sometimes city records will shed light on the number of medals procured and the costs, but often that information is lost, so it’s difficult to establish rarity. The market will determine interest and value and medals such as these can usually be obtained for $35-55.

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