60 Years Serving The Tampa Bay Area Numismatic Community!

Florida history Medal program

The program, launched in 2013, is an initiative of our club to commemorate significant events or sites and to honor those whose actions and achievements have embellished Florida's rich heritage and diverse cultural history. 

Each medal in the series features a common reverse (tails side) with the familiar image of the Club official logo (with the purpose to promote TBCC) based in original sketch by Al Musgrove, it was re-designed to bring out subtle details. The banner with legend "Fellowship of Numismatists" was added in 1964.

The task to strike our beautiful medals, was entrusted to a private Mint. Each available per $15 donation, just CONTACT US and ask how to reserve yours today!

De Soto expedition in Florida

Δ A map showing the proposed route for the first leg of De Soto expedition through
Florida, based on the Charles M. Hudson map of 1997.

The King of Spain gave "Governor" Hernando DeSoto four years to colonize America from the Port of Havana. His long journey through America, searching for riches in order to entice more settlers to his new colony, was well documented in candid, personal diaries by members of his all volunteer "army."

Soto's expedition landed somewhere in Tampa Bay in May of 1539.
Previous expeditions to La Florida had ended poorly for their leaders, whom died without finding riches or establishing colonies. In peninsular Florida, Soto found little evidence of the types of riches he sought. Soto was lured to the Apalachee territory following reports by their neighbors that the Apalachee were rich and powerful. After crossing the Aucilla River, Soto and his force pushed inland. Having had experience with conquistadors in the past, including Narvaéz's expedition 21 years earlier, the Apalachee abandoned their towns in anticipation of the Spaniards' arrival.

Δ A marker (F-395) with interpretive panel erected in 1988 tell the story of the site, nearby Governor John W. Martin House. The De Soto site was found in the yards of the one-time home of Florida Governor John Martin. The site is now a small, largely undeveloped, state park, but there are no other facilities. 

Historians and archaeologists had long puzzled over Soto's expedition route. Through reconstructing distances and landmarks noted in accounts of the expedition, researchers suspected that the 1539-1540 winter encampment would be located in Tallahassee. Material evidence for Soto's expedition remained elusive until 1987, when Division of Historical Resources archaeologist, B. Calvin Jones (now deceased), decided to "poke around" a construction site on Lafayette street in Tallahassee.

Calvin discovered a fragment of an early variety of Spanish Olive Jar, a type that could only date to the early 16th century. Further excavations uncovered large amounts of artifacts that all date to the early to mid-1500s, and would not be expected in the later Mission-era Spanish settlements in the area. Mad Dog Construction generously allowed archaeologists with the State of Florida to excavate the site ahead of construction. Findings confirmed the presence of an early 16th century Apalachee settlement along with Soto-related artifacts. The presence of fired clay with palm frond impressions from an Apalachee structure may confirm the burning of Anhaica by the Apalachee during Soto's occupation.

Additional excavations at the sire revealed such unique items as 3 copper coins. Two bear the likeness of Ferdinand and Isabella, struck between 1497 and 1504. Those were ¼ of maravedi, a small denomination that could be used to buy two eggs or a loaf of bread. Along with corroboration from historical records, these artifacts support the presence of Soto’s expedition at the Governor Martin House property.

Δ The 1918 Federal Reserve $500 note reverse, with a vignette of 1853 William H. Powell's painting, showing De Soto, riding a white horse and dressed in Renaissance finery, arriving at the Mississippi River at a point below Natchez on May 8, 1541. De Soto was the first European documented to have seen the river.

The First Christmas Celebration

Based on the timing of their occupation of Anhaica, members of Soto's expedition celebrated the first Christmas mass in what would become the continental United States. The Spanish were devout Catholics, and clergy in the party would probably have held a Christmas mass.

At the time, Christmas was a more solemn affair, and it lacked many of the celebrations associated with present-day festivities. The holiday was one of several feast days held by Catholics. However, because the expedition was under frequent attack by the Apalachee, Soto and his men were likely too busy to participate in many holiday celebrations. During Christmas, he sent some of his men out on auxiliary expeditions to establish new supply lines for an eventual push inland. The holiday was noted in a map associated with the expedition.

At the time, this expedition was seen as a great failure. It failed to establish any permanent colonies, found no gold, and did not find the passage between the two great oceans. Furthermore, his expedition left death and disease wherever it traveled that resulted in the destruction of countless native villages. De Soto’s expedition, however, did provide the first documented descriptions of the native people in the southeastern United States and caused the Spanish to concentrate their colonies in Florida and along the Pacific coast.

In order to celebrate this event officially, the Florida House of Representatives with the Leadership of, Rep. Vasilinda, Rep. Beshears and others adopted House Resolution 9129 commemorating Americas First Christmas 1539 in Tallahassee, Florida, signed on April 17, 2013. 

Δ This depiction of America’s first Christmas was painted in 1975 by artist Claribel Jett. Based on what was known at that time, she envisioned the event occurring near Lake Jackson.

Commemorative First Token

The 1979 commemorative medal issued by Hernado De Soto Historical Society depicts the celebration of the first Christmas service in North America in 1539. Lois E. Robbins of Bradenton, designed all this tokens in the five-years series (1977-1981) highlighting De Soto' expedition through Florida and the southeast part of North America. Seven thousand of the tokens were struck in light weight aluminum, and they were thrown by the Conquistadores from the De Soto Celebration's float as they ride in various parades.

Δ The reverse of the token, depicts Spanish Conquistadores and Unaha Indians celebrating Christmas service. Unlike the common aluminum token, silver and bronze pieces were produced in limited quantities, all have become very scarce in the numismatic market.

The TBCC Medal

TBCC presents, the third in a series of our successful, Florida History Medal Program, honoring the First Christmas celebration in North America. The medal, has been commissioned by the club through a private Mint. Since the 1979 token, this event has not been honored with any other piece.

Metal: Antique Silver
Diameter: 44.45 mm
Rim: 3.50 mm
39 g
Mintage: 100 pcs.

Medal Program Archive