The University of Georgia is the nation’s oldest land grant university. The Georgia legislature approved the land grant measure in 1784 and the college was chartered in 1785. The first Board of Trustees meeting was held in 1786 and elected Abraham Baldwin as the college’s first president. Baldwin, originally from Connecticut, was a Yale graduate who moved to Georgia in 1784 and was asked to help draft the school’s original charter.

When the Board of Trustees decided to open the university in 1801, they selected a site. John Milledge purchased 633 acres of land in northeast Georgia and donated it to the Board of Trustees. Part of the land was developed into the town of Athens, the rest is still owned by the University.

Josiah Meigs was named president in 1801 and the Board of Trustees named the first college Franklin College in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Although the charter named the school the University of Georgia, it was known as Franklin College until 1859 when the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences was founded. Meigs held the first classes under a tree on what is now called North Campus. While classes were held, log buildings were hastily built as temporary structures until permanent buildings would be built.

The first permanent building was modeled after Connecticut Hall at Yale University. When it was completed in 1805, it housed classrooms, administrative offices, and dormitories. Today, that building is called Old College. Since the 1950s, it has been used as the administrative offices for the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

One evening, I was searching a popular online auction site looking for something to add to my American Revolution Bicentennial collection. While searching, I found this medal for the bicentennial of my undergraduate Alma Mater (see image on right). As an alumnus of the University of Georgia, I had to buy this medal.

Other than the subject, the medal had an interesting because of an error: the lettering on the reverse is doubled (click image to enlarge). It looks as if the dies were punched then repunched with new spacing in the lettering. While it was described in the auction listing, I had to see the medal in hand to try to understand how this error occurred. Even in-hand, it is difficult to tell. It looks as if the dies were re-punched after the letters were reset—as if someone did not like the layout and tried to change it after the dies were created.

What was not described in the auction listing was the doubling I found on the obverse. The error was very subtle and would not have been noticed by someone who was not familiar with the University of Georgia. While examining the medal, I noted that the school’s motto is on the tree’s trunk: Et docere et rerum exquirere causas (To teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things).

Looking just above the motto, I saw that the “200” was doubled and above that, “To Inquire,” was also doubled. Curiosity brought out my loupe and examined the branches for the other two parts of the motto and found “To Teach” above the lower-left branch of the tree and “To Serve” above the lower-right branch. All are doubled! These are clearly re-punched into the dies.

Aside from the subject, the “errors” are fascinating. It is like getting two collectibles in one medal.


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