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102715 | UNITED STATES. Silver Menu in French.

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    102715  |  UNITED STATES. French Menu silver Menu (30mm, 10.78 g, 3h).


    1873 Seated Liberty half dollar, with engraving upon reverse: French menu in 18 lines: "Huitres / Consommé Méricourt / Tortue verte au claire / Timbales des Gourmets / Bass rayee à la Marguery / Pommes de terre fondante / Selle de mouton à l'anglaise / Petits pois parisienne / Asperges sauce hollandaise / Ailes de poulets financière / Tomates à la Trevise / Terrapene à la Newburg / Serbet Tosca / Canvasback duck Pigeonneaux / Petits aspic de foies gras / Salade de laitue / Dessert Glaces / Fruits. Cafe." Edge: Reeded; loop attached at the top.


    Cf. KM 107 (for host coin). Engraving & host coin: Choice Very Fine. Lightly toned, with excellent calligraphy on the engraving. A tremendous piece of culinary exonumia, and one that should appeal to the aficionados of love tokens as well. Compare to a similar (though more circulated) example with the loop removed, which realized a total of $1,968 in Bonhams Skinner 3122T (22 August 2018), lot 1187.


    Ex Steve M. Tompkins Collection.


    The origins of this interestingly engraved half dollar remain somewhat of a mystery, but this cataloger has been able to locate two other examples—each clearly engraved, but very subtle differences to show their handmade nature—which points to a commission of some kind for these elegant menus. The question then becomes, for what reason were these menus created? At first, one may think that it was a brash attempt by a leading restaurant to show elite status, by having such an impressive showing in their menus. However, given their seasonal—and often, monthly or even daily—changing of menus, this practice would prove wildly expensive and impractical. As such, a more likely scenario involves a high-end dinner, possibly a reception for a socialite wedding, as many of the items on the menu sync up with those served at various New York City French restaurants circa 1890-1905. Narrowing it down a bit more, one notes the appearance of "serbet Tosca,"—a type of sorbet with both Andalusian and almond ice cream, as well as champagne and Italian meringue, created by the great chef and restaurateur, Auguste Escoffier. He named the dessert in honor of Sardou's La Tosca, a five-act drama that premiered in Paris in late 1887. Meanwhile, the other two examples utilize Seated Liberty halves (1858 & 1877), rather than Barber halves, which debuted in 1892. Given these aspects, an event quite possibly between 1888/90 and 1892/5, and in the late springtime, would seem very plausible. Indeed, a look of this menu for a special banquet held at Delmonico's in December 1890 reveals many similar items.


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    Upload: 15 February 2024.

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