General Motors - 25th Anniversary1933
by Norman Bel Geddes
GM-1.1
Silver-plated bronze (76mm)
GM-1.2
Silver-plated bronze (76mm)
GM-1.3
Golden Bronze with olive patina (76mm)
GM-1.4
Golden Bronze (76mm)
GM-1.6
Silver-plated bronze (29mm)

The obverse bears a streamlined car with stylized wing extending vertically up. Top right and bottom left, TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF - MOTOR TRANSPORTATION; signed under car, NORMAN BEL GEDDES © 1933. The reverse bears a stylized piston and laurels. Around in four quadrants, COMMEMORATING / THE TWENTYFIFTH - ANNIVERSARY OF / GENERAL MOTORS - 1908 - 1933.

This iconic machine-age medal is a perfect example of the Streamlined style that dominated architecture and design in America from the late 1920s to the end of the 1930s. It was designed by Norman Bel Geddes but sculpted by Rene Paul Chambellan. Its main variant was commissioned by General Motors to be distributed during its 25th Anniversary celebrations and at the 1933 Chicago World Fair of Progress.

The General Motors romance brochure that accompanied some medals included the following words about the design:

"The face of the medal shows a speeding automotive body behind which a wing rises perpendicularly. Since the medal is to be used as an award in future years and the car of the future is merely a guess, this car is an abstract streamline form without doors or windows. The conventionalized wing symbolizes General Motors interest in air transportation. The wing being static; the car, by contrast, seems to move more swiftly ... The reverse of the medal shows a combustion chamber ... since it is the heart of the motor. It too has been conventionalized."

The medal was manufactured in different variants. The relatively common ones measure 76mm in diameter and are struck in bronze or silver-plated bronze. The large silver-plated medal is the most common variant. The bronze and the smaller 38mm and 29mm variants are much less common. The smallest was inscribed across the reverse G.M. - MENS / CLUB and only given to GM executives. In the thirties it was of course a fairly safe bet that executive positions would be limited to men. A mounted plaque version measuring 9 inches in diameter was given to some dealers in the 1950s.

Completely intact silver-plated variants are hard to come by; the silver layer did not stand the test of time on most pieces and it is almost unheard of to see one without at least rubbing on high points.

Just as the design is unmistakably Bel Geddes, the execution is unmistakably Chambellan. Before I knew that it was a Bel Geddes, I would have guessed it to be a Chambellan based on its lettering alone.

The medal was struck by the Medallic Art Company of New York.

All that being said, prices for this medal vary even more widely based on quality and venue. Small antiques boutiques frequently offer the 76mm silver-plated pieces at prices over $2,000. Of course I do not know what prices are actually realized. On eBay, the 76mm medals frequently trade between $800 and $1,500 and I have not yet seen the smaller ones come up there.

GM-1.1
Silver-plated bronze
76mm (3in)
GM-1.2
Silver-plated bronze
76mm (3in)
MEDALLIC ART CO N.Y.
GM-1.3
Bronze
76mm (3in)
Golden bronze with olive patina
GM-1.4
Bronze
76mm (3in)
Golden bronze
© MEDALLIC ART CO N.Y. - BRONZE
GM-1.5
Silver-plated bronze
38mm (1.5in)
unknown
unknown
GM-1.6
Silver-plated bronze
29mm (1.14in)