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So-called Hustaler , medal around 1717 to commemorate the death of the Bohemian reformer Jan Hus
Medal by Jean Dassier undated (1731), signed I. DASSIR F (ecit). Oliver Cromwell, Lordprotector 1653–1658 (see also Cromwelltaler )
Napoleonic Medal of Valor from 1812 ( Battle of the Beresina )
Commemorative Medal of the Munich Fire Brigade (1912)
One-sided cast plate (plaque, medal) 430 × 600 mm by Hermann Theodor Simon . Work of Max Lange from his time in Göttingen (1919), cast company Hermann Gladbeck

A medal (ital. Medaglia, Latin. Metallum = metal, French. Médaille) is a coin-like memento mostly made of metal with pictorial representations and occasional inscriptions. Medals also serve as awards of honor and merit. They convey a wealth of information and clearly demonstrate the change in styles in art since the Renaissance .

Definition of terms: medal - coin - plaque

The word coin comes from the French and goes medieval Latin Medallia "small coin" back to Latin metallum "metal". Medals were first used as art objects in the Renaissance , using the Roman heavy money as a model. Originally, medals were cast from metal . With a few exceptions, medals have also been minted since the establishment of coinage methods. Medals can be produced in positive or negative embossing . With greater depth of the motifs, they can take on the character of a small sculpture .

Medals should not be confused with coins . Coins are minted as an official means of payment and given a face value from around the 18th century (sometimes much earlier). They can only be produced and issued by the state or official side. In contrast, medals (subject to a few restrictions) can e.g. B. can also be produced by companies , associations or private individuals.

Sometimes it can also happen that coins are mistaken for medals. First of all, the particularly extensive embossings, such as B. the Weidenbaumtaler of 1627 initially considered medals, but they are Reichstaler.

In the case of hermaphroditic coinage , it can happen that two different coin dies are put together so that the resulting coinage is used for a medal (hybrid medal).

The medal is similar to the plaque and is sometimes confused with it. Badges usually show a raised representation on one side, whereas medals have images or text on both sides. The fact that the front and back ( obverse and lapel ) of the medal are usually designed differently explains the phrase “the other side of the coin”. This expresses the fact that the matter mentioned can have not only advantages, but also disadvantages. (The term reverse side is a German version of reverse that emerged in the second half of the 18th century and prevailed despite opposition from the lexicographer Adelung .)

A medallion is a particularly large portrait medal, as it is, for. B. can be found on monuments, or a round or oval ornament or a round or oval pendant.

Areas of application

Medals are especially common

  • as awards for outstanding sporting, scientific, professional or cultural achievements
  • as commemorative coins with no face value , e.g. B. on the occasion of an event or anniversary or in honor of a personality
  • as a religious medal, usually with a handle or eyelet, e.g. B. as a pilgrimage, pilgrimage or grace medal

In sport in particular, honoring the three best athletes or teams with a gold , a silver and a bronze medal is known as an alternative or in addition to the presentation of a trophy . According to the above definition, however, these are often badges . The numismatically precise naming is therefore not reflected in common usage.

Occasionally, medals are minted from melted metal parts of a special origin, e.g. B. Pieces from a crashed airship or a locomotive, copper sheet from the roof of a town hall or a church.

Well-known medals

Sports medals

Gold medal for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow
Gold medal for the ski world champions of the FIS

Medals are awarded at many important sporting events. Well-known examples are the gold, silver and bronze medals for first, second and third place at

In cases where several athletes achieve the same result, the corresponding medal can also be awarded multiple times. The multiple places awarded will be left out in the further placement, that is, there will be no second or third place and therefore no silver or bronze medal winners. In some sports a bronze medal is guaranteed by reaching a semi-final. There the small final between the losers of the semi-finals will not be played and both will receive the bronze medal. This is the case , for example, in the Olympic boxing competitions .

Most of the time, the gold content of supposed "gold medals" is only available in small amounts or as a coating; z. B. an Olympic gold medal consists of 92.5% silver and only has a gold coating of at least 6 g.

An Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games weighs around 500 grams and contains one percent gold. After the gold price in July 2016 and the gold component, the medal is worth around 191 euros.

Medals in the school education system

Science medals

The following are awarded for outstanding scientific achievements (selection):

Fair medals

Gold medal of the Leipziger Messe
  • Medals for outstanding achievements in various fields, such as at the Leipzig Trade Fair will be presented

Medals from the artistic field

The following are awarded for achievements in social areas:

Commemorative medals

Back of the commemorative medal for the adoption of the Weimar Constitution in 1919

Commemorative or commemorative medals are issued to commemorate important historical events such as:

Military medals or awards

Friedrich August Medal, made in silver, minted in the Muldenhütten mint

For military achievements, bravery, but also as a wounded badge , z. B. awarded:

See also:

Medals of Merit and Honor

In addition, other public bodies also award awards for special merits in science, culture and art, business and national defense.

Give overviews:

Other Medals of Merit:

Medals and badges from support groups

Medals and pins for recognition and self-motivation in so-called 12-step self-help groups , such as B. Alcoholics Anonymous , Al-Anon , Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and others. Ä., Are mainly common in the USA and Canada.

Borderline cases

  • In contrast to all other investment coins , the Mexican bullion coinLibertad ” and the South African “ Krugerrand ” have no face value . The investment coins issued in silver (Libertad only) and gold therefore resemble a medal. The value of the coins is determined every trading day based on the precious metal prices and, for Libertad, in the Mexican peso as the reference currency. This means that the Libertad coin can also be used as an officially recognized means of payment. In this respect, Libertad and Krugerrand combine both properties of a medal and those of a coin.
Locumtenenstaler . The “Schautaler” of Frederick the Wise is a medal and the first vicariate memorial in Saxony
  • The historically and artistically significant Locumtenstaler are guldengroschen (thalers) of Frederick the Wise , which were also produced as medals with a higher relief but also in thaler weight and given away to favorites. In catalogs, both types are often referred to as guldengroschen, although only those with lower relief are coins. The same applies to the Luftpumpentaler , which was minted as a medal and Reichstaler with the same design.
  • A coin with a “medal character” is the 1 billion mark piece of the province of Westphalia. The coin of the Landesbank of the Province of Westphalia, minted as emergency money in 1923, was only issued in 1924 after the end of inflation as a memento of the difficult times.
  • The Philippstaler was most likely not minted by Landgrave Philipp von Hessen. It was most likely coined by its followers, who faked Philipp on the mint as the client.
  • The thaler on the award of the Order of the Garter is still often referred to as a medal, although it was minted both as Reichstaler and Kuranttaler. Causes include a. an unusual coin design, as well as an issue according to the Treaty of Zinna, according to which a pronounced thaler does not appear.

Medals made from bisque, Böttger stoneware and ceramics

Porcelain medals and plaques made of brown Böttger stoneware or white bisque porcelain were designed, modeled, designed and manufactured in the most varied of sizes and shapes in the Meissen porcelain factory and in other ceramic factories as early as the 18th century . They can often also be decorated in color. All pieces are considered examples of medal art in professional circles and have at the same time become coveted collectibles in numismatics. In the Meissen Manufactory, such pieces are mainly created for souvenir purposes, for anniversaries of cities, communities and organizations. In addition, these pieces also serve as gifts of honor or awards, as well as commemoration. These products can also be ordered by private customers. The crossed course swords can be found on all delivered products of this type as a sign of origin and trademark. Over the centuries, concessions had to be made from a design point of view in order to do justice to the respective concerns of the client. Paul Scheurich , Emil Paul Börner , Max Esser , Manfred Wünsche and Silvia Klöde are among the best-known medalists at the Meissen Manufactory.


The company Glaser & Sohn , which was founded in Alt- Dresden in 1868 , has been operating as the 1st Dresden Medal Mint Glaser & Sohn GmbH since German reunification . Under the focus Made in Germany , the sports club SuS Phönix Bielefeld 09 e. V. published TuWas-Magazin 2014 under the title Medals from Germany an illustrated article about traditional manufacturers and mints of medals that remained in the Federal Republic of Germany . For example, the company STUCO from Speicher in the Eifel, which is a cooperation with the German Athletics Association, was presented . The companies Intertecnica in Bonn , the company Die Neue Linie (DNL) based in Burgthann and the environmental protection concept of the art embossing institute HENECKA in Pforzheim were also presented, some with examples . Ceramic medals made from bisque and Böttger stoneware have been available from the Meissen porcelain factory since the 18th century.

See also


  • Leonard Forrer : Biographical dictionary of medallists: coin-, gem-, and seal-engravers, mint masters, & c., Ancient and modern; with references to theirs works; BC 500 - AD 1900 . London 1904-1930. (6 volumes).
  • Max Bernhart , Tyll Kroha (arrangement): Medals and plaques. A handbook for collectors and enthusiasts (= library for friends of art and antiques , vol. 1), 3rd edition, completely revised by Tyll Kroha, Klinkhardt and Biermann, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-7814-0242-8
  • Michael Kunzel: History medals and plaques from the collection of the Deutsches Historisches Museum , issue 17, 6th year, Berlin: Deutsches Historisches Museum, spring 1996
  • Axel Hinrich Murken , Bernhard Bösing (Hrsg.): Medicina in nummis = Medicine in the mirror of medals (= studies on the history of medicine, art and literature , vol. 35), at the same time catalog for the exhibition of the same name on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Institute for the History of Medicine and Hospitals of the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen in the Sparkasse Aachen from February 7 to 23, 1996, Herzogenrath: Murken-Altrogge, 1996, ISBN 3-921801-83-4
  • Anneliese Stemper: The medals of the Count Palatine and Electors near the Rhine. Palatine history as reflected in the medal . Volume 1: The Curve Lines ; Volume 2: The secondary lines . Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Worms 1997, ISBN 978-3-88462-133-2
  • Gerd Dethlefs, Wolfgang Steguweit : Money Art - Art Money. German commemorative coins since 1949 - Gestaltung und Gestalter (= Die Kunstmedaille in Deutschland , 22), Ed .: German Numismatic Society and German Society for Medal Art , Osnabrück: Numismatischer Verlag Künker, 2005, ISBN 3-9801644-7-0
  • Kay Ehling and Jörg Ernesti : Brilliant propaganda. Church history on papal medals. Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 2019, ISBN 978-3-451-37698-6

Web links

Commons : Medals  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Medal  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Helmut Kahnt: Das große Münzlexikon von A to Z (2005), p. 279
  2. sweep. In: Digital dictionary of the German language .  (Entry in the Etymology section).
  3. Heinz Fengler, Gerd Gierow, Willy Unger: transpress Lexikon Numismatics. Berlin 1976.
  4. A gold medal that isn't. February 2, 2014 ( , accessed on September 10, 2015).
  5. Gold medal (almost) without gold . Deutsche Welle ( August 17, 2016. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  6. ^ Peter Menzel: German emergency coins and other money substitute stamps 1873-1932 , Berlin 1982, p. 482
  7. Author collective, medals from Meissen porcelain, catalog, transpress-verlag, Berlin 1984
  8. Ralf Exner (responsible): Family tree ( memento of February 23, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) with a chronicle of the temporarily nationalized family business
  9. Benjamin Fritzsch, Lena Bokenhans: Medals from Germany ; in: TuWas-Magazin , ed. from SuS Phönix Bielefeld 09 e. V., June - October 2014 edition, p. 28f.
  10. Author collective, medals from Meissen porcelain, catalog, transpress-verlag, Berlin 1984