The Rotterdam company of architects ABBT (NEPK2554-55)


Dick Apon / Eric van den Boom, 1977, bronze, cast, 73 mm, NEPK2554

The medal’s obverse shows a plan view of the Adriaanstichting – Mytylschool for handicapped children located in Rotterdam-Schiebroek. The text on the reverse states the 20 years process of preparation, design and realisation of the building complex. Along the edge the name of the architects company is given: APON – VAN DEN BERG – TER BRAAK – TROMP – ARCHITEKTEN.

The four above named architects founded the company, later simply renamed ABBT, in 1955. Dirk Cornelis (Dick) Apon studied architecture at the HTS (polytechnic) in Rotterdam and completed the Academies of Architecture in Amsterdam en Rotterdam. Apon was a leading advocate of the so-called ‘structuralism’, a view on architecture that stresses the architects’ role in society, the creation of space in a metaphorical way: freedom for and participation by the user. This is expressed by the geometrical arrangement of the key elements to create one coherent form without a clear hierarchy (structures). This is visible not only in the design of the Mytylschool, but equally in ABBT designs such as the church in Kinderdijk (1962), the Dutch embassy building in New Delhi (1962-1972) and the crematorium in Rotterdam-Zuid (1968-1969). A striking feature of the plan forms of these buildings is the orientation at a 45 degrees angle relative to the main axis of the building site and the road.

The most well-known ABBT design with this feature is the complex Bezuidenhoutseweg 67 in The Hague, realised in 1985 to house the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since 2021 it is used as the temporary home of the Tweede Kamer (Second Chamber of Parliament), until the renovation of the Binnenhof complex has been completed.

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Medal of the Rotterdam city district Noord (NEPK2534)

Tom Waakop Reijers, 1994, bronze, cast, 87,5 mm, NEPK2534)

The topic this time is a medal of the Rotterdam city district Noord.

Between 1981 and 2014 a city council could decide to create city districts (deelgemeenten), each with its own people’s representation, called district council (deelraad), similar to city council (gemeenteraad). They also had a district executive council (compare with council of mayor and aldermen). Rotterdam was divided in 14 city districts, e.g. Centre, Delfshaven, Feijenoord, Hook of Holland and Noord. This democracy close to the people was short lived, however. At the city council elections of 2014, the city districts were replaced by city areas (gebieden), with area committees (gebiedscommissies). Most likely these did not function satisfactorily either, since after only eight years, in March 2022, the area committees were replaced by area advisory committees, with even fewer powers and authority.

A few Rotterdam city districts had their own Medal of Merit. City district Noord had its “Bokel medal”, named after the medieval Rotterdam family Bokel. The medal could be awarded to “persons who have contributed to innovative and permanent improvements for the whole city district”. The obverse shows a reconstruction of Rotterdam around the year 1300, plus a north indicating compass. The obverse shows the Bokel family seal between the legs of a large medieval compass of the type that in those times was used to measure land. The medal was designed by the Rotterdam sculptor and medallist Tom Waakop Reijers. Just ten copies of the medal were cast, with the first being awarded on March 23, 1994.

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NEPK medal nr. 2539. J.H. Gruyters 25 years with Gebr. Stork & Co.

(unknown artist, possibly Hildo Krop, realisation before 1921, silver, struck, 25,5 mm, NEPK2539)

In this news flash we discuss a small Medal of Merit, which was awarded exactly one hundred years ago to an employee of engineering works Gebr. Stork & Co in Hengelo. The obverse shows a row of five powerful workers who simultaneously swing their sledge hammers to mould the metal in the desired shape. The reverse legend shows the name of the factory. The medal is intended for one particular person, see the engraving on its reverse: “1896 – 1921 J.H. GRUYTERS 21 DECEMBER”. The image and texts are worn; probably the medal was polished often. It could have been carried along in the receiver’s pocket or purse for years. Wear and traces of polishing are often seen on these small diameter medals commemorating 25 or 40 years of service to a company or organisation. The NEPK collection, being a collection of medals with an economic relation, features over 150 of medals of merit. They were typically intended for common employees, who were proud to have received it. Besides this medal with a specific design for a particular factory, company or organisation, generic medals for 25 or 40 years of service exist, provided by industry-wide umbrella organisations. An example is the commemoration medal that the Nederlandse Maatschappij van Nijverheid en Handel NMNH (Netherlands Association for Industry and Trade) made available to its members. Besides name and dates of the employee, member organisations almost always had their own name engraved. (For examples on, use the key word “NMNH” in the pull-down menu “Group”).

Two questions remain for the medal shown: why was the recipient’s name erased? And is Hildo Krop indeed the medallist? If not, who could it be?

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NEPK medal nr. 2502. Erasmus in New York?


(anonymus, realisation  ~1896 – ~1928, silver, struck, 32 mm, NEPK2502)

This summer an unusual medal was donated to the NEPK collection: an American high school prize medal with the portrait of Erasmus. The name of the school: “Erasmus Hall – High School”, located in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York.

The portrait is based on the well-known Erasmus painting by Hans Holbein de Younger of 1523, now in the Louvre, Paris, but with Erasmus facing right.

The person who donated the medal recalled his pleasant years at this school, in the early fifties. It appeared that the high school had ties with the city of Rotterdam already a century ago. In those years, one of the former school board members commissioned the Rotterdam sculptor Simon Miedema (1860 – 1934) to have a copy cast of the iconic Erasmus statue of 1622 by Hendrik de Keyser, presently standing in front of the Laurens church in Rotterdam. On April 25, 1931 the copy was unveiled in the school’s inner courtyard in New York where it stands till the present day. (As a side note: since 2008 another copy of the Erasmus statue stands in the grounds of Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam. It is a favourite spot of students to have a family picture taken after graduation.)

Erasmus Hall – High School in New York has an even earlier link with the Netherlands. It was in 1787 that members of the Dutch Reformed Church in Flatbush started the school as a small boarding school, giving it the name “Erasmus Hall Academy”, which must have been rather pompous at the time. In 1896 the school was incorporated in the New York educational system, to continue as a public high school, which allowed it to grow. At the time of unveiling the Erasmus statue in 1931 the number of students had reached 5000, with a staff of 250.

The NEPK collection presently comprises some 30 different medals with Erasmus’ portrait, the medal with inventory number NEPK1850 dated 1531 being by far the oldest. Erasmus himself commissioned this 1531 silver medal, for the purpose of giving it as a very personal gift to friends or persons in high places who had helped him with food and lodging during his many and long journeys across Europe.

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NEPK-medal nr. 2500. The medallist Jac. J. van Goor

(Marinus Fleur, 1939, Jac. J. van Goor, bronze, cast, 90 mm, NEPK2500)

This medal marks the 2500th object in the NEPK medal collection. While over 95% of the objects can clearly be labelled as medals, the collection also features plaquettes and presses papier, often with a round medal type central part. Equally, several dozens of other medal related objects such as lapel badges or small insignia on a ribbon can be found. If you select the search term “Insignia” in the pull down menu “Type”, the search results immediately show their relation with medals.

Inventory number NEPK2500 is a cast portrait medal. It shows the sculptor and medallist Jacob(us) Jan van Goor (1874-1956). Little or nothing is known of Jacobs early years, apart from the fact that a physical defect made his movements difficult. At the age of 15 he started an apprenticeship at the silver and medal workshops of Begeer in Utrecht. His main activities concerned modelling, embossing and engraving, which he could largely execute in a sitting position. Its director Anthonie Begeer realised the young apprentice’s giftedness and allowed him further study at the company’s expense. Van Goor could thus stay several years at the Royal Art Academy in Hanau am Main, Germany, to further improve his modelling and silver work.

After completion of his studies Van Goor returned to Begeer, where for many decades he would continue to design and model several hundreds of medals. At the time this meant mostly medals that were struck using dies, sometimes in very large numbers. Only four of the 144 of the medals designed by Van Goor in the NEPK collection have been realised by the casting technique.

Van Goor was certainly all-round in all techniques graphic and he clearly was a gifted portraitist, as his many portrait medals in the collection show. His Abraham Kuyper medal is well known and so are his Dr. Karl Landsteiner medals and -plaquettes for the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, which have been awarded thousands of times. Van Goor’s portrait on the medal designed by his colleague Marinus Fleur is one of the very few portraits of this medal artist that we know of. After the period 1889-1939 that the medal commemorates Van Goor would work another ten years at Begeer, before retiring in 1949, aged 75.

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Montijn Insurers (Maatschappij Montijn) 75 years 1850-1925


(Unknown maker, 1925, enamelled bronze, 22 mm, NEPK2347)

This NEPK medal is no showcase of artistic beauty. It is of historical relevance, though, as it links to the history of the presently 170 years old Klaverblad Verzekeringen (Klaverblad Insurers), well known from its creative and confidence inspiring commercials on Dutch TV.

The details of the historic development from Maatschappij Montijn, a small, local and highly specialised insurer of cattle and harvests to the modern general insurer Klaverblad Verzekeringen are most likely of interest to only a small group of English language visitors of our website.

For those interested readers we refer directly to the source of our information, the commemorative publication that appeared in the year 2000:

Gedenkboek 150 jaar Klaverblad Verzekeringen 1850-2000. Auteurs: Eduard van Holst Pellekaan, Tijn Sadée. Drukkerij Anraad, Nieuwegein, december 2000.

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Doctorate of Gerrit van der Wal

(Unknown maker, 1940, cast, pewter, 53 mm, NEPK2402)

About a year ago NEPK acquired as a gift a somewhat worn looking, one-sided pewter medal. It obviously was not produced by one of the well-known medal producing firms. On the other hand, the powerful head with winged helmet (Mercury; symbol of trade and economics) could hardly have been modelled by a unschooled beginner. But what is the meaning of the cow’s head, the three portraits (coins?, medals?) and the letter “V.”, most likely the mark of the maker?

The medal was made to commemorate the doctorate ceremony at the University of Amsterdam of the economist Gerrit van der Wal. The title of his dissertation was “Rekeneenheid en Ruilmiddel” (Unit of counting and Means of exchange”) and the date was July 12, 1940, two months into the German occupation. At that time the universities still functioned normally and restrictions on the use of metals had not yet been imposed. Perhaps the medal was made later, after imposing of such restrictions? Or was its maker an artist-friend, who selected pewter for this very personal present, since pewter can be cast easily at lower temperatures?  Perhaps one day this will be clarified, just as the meaning of the bovine head, the three portraits and the signature “V.”.

Van der Wal worked in top positions at various large Dutch companies and organisations. He retired as president of KLM. For further details on his career, see the description of the medal in the database.

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Economic history in medals (NMNH)


(David van der Kellen, 1861, For 25 years employment, silver, 45 mm, NEPK2437)

NEPK is a thematic medal collection. The Foundation NEPK was created in 1961 as a medal collection of “in particular Dutch medals that have a relation with economic activities and developments”.  Its founder, dr W.L. Groeneveld Meijer, envisioned NEPK as a tangible illustration of the economic and organisational developments in the Netherlands. Clear examples of such medals are those of NMNH, the Netherlands Association for Industry and Trade. Members of NMNH could order commemorative medals engraved with name and dates for celebration of 25 of 40 years of employment. The classic obverse design is by David van der Kellen (1861) or by Johan Philip Menger, who in 1877 cut a new, though very similar, die. The medal shown here commemorates 25 years of employment of A.J. van Meel at Haagsche Courant. A search of the collection database with search term “NMNH” from the pull down menu “Group” results in all 34 medals of NMNH and its predecessors in the NEPK collection. They include medals of businesses (sometimes no longer existing) such as grocery chain P. de Gruyter, Albert Heyn, department store V&D, cleaning company CEMSTO, NKF Kabelfabriek, Werkspoor, N.V. Werf Gusto, and others. And yes, they are tangible illustrations of economic developments.

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Jan Daniel Sickler 50 years lead partner

(Marinus Fleur, 1940, Jan Daniel Sickler, bronze, 60 mm, NEPK2442)

The NEPK collection recently acquired the portrait medal of Jan Daniel Sickler (1865-1949), by Marinus Fleur (1878-1946). Fleur was a medallist at Royal Begeer (Koninklijke Begeer), which in the 20th century was the largest professional medal producer of the Netherlands. In artistic circles the work of Begeer’s medallists goes largely unnoticed, which in my view is often not justified. The medal shows that Fleur certainly was a more than capable portraitist, as were his colleagues Pol Dom and Jacob Jan van Goor.

The medal was commissioned as a tribute to Sickler when he had been the lead partner in the Amsterdam trade company Koopman & Co for 50 years. This trade company had been founded in 1795 by Sickler great-grandfather and had the nature of a typical family business. Sickler considered the close involvement of management with the work floor an important part of the company’s success. Ten years earlier he strengthened the bond with the company personnel further by founding the JD Sickler Pension Fund. The aim of the fund was stated as (citation): ‘to bring the personnel, including their widows and orphans, a cared-for future”.

Imagine this now, in the present times of takeovers, mergers, hedge funds and quick succession of managers with large distance to the work force !

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Covid-19 – Medal of Honour of Erasmus MC (NEPK1800)

(Bruno Ninaber van Eyben, 2008, gilded silver on black felt, 44×48 mm, NEPK1800)

One of the side effects of the present Covid-19 pandemic is that quite a few until now unknown names have recently become very familiar to all of us. The faces and voices of Ernst Kuipers, Diederik Gommers and Marion Koopmans and many other medical specialists fill our television screens almost every evening. All three specialists above mentioned are working at Erasmus MC, the combined hospital and Faculty of Medicine of Erasmus University Rotterdam. This hospital plays a key role in nationwide monitoring and planning of hospital beds and IC capacity during these Covid times. A good reason to draw your attention to Erasmus MC’s Medal of Honour. The design (2008) is by Bruno Ninaber van Eyben. The one-sided medal is fixed on a square block of black woollen felt. It slides into a black anodised aluminium casing, which fits in its own carton box. This attention to detail and presentation characterises all of Ninaber van Eybens designs. Uncommon for most artists, some of his designs have been produced in over 100 millions of copies. (Why? he designed the coins for circulation for Queen Beatrix 1980 – 2013).

Obverse image: Line portrait of Erasmus with cap in open circle on an open grid of 8 by 8 squares; signature and the letters MC

NB: The medal was donated to the NEPK collection by the Executive Board of Erasmus MC.

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