Author Topic: Is it a coin, a token, or a medal?  (Read 3185 times)

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Offline lisabella

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Is it a coin, a token, or a medal?
« on: October 24, 2007, 06:45:54 PM »

Ever wonder what the difference is between a coin, a token, and a medal?

 http://www.numismaster.com/ta/numis/Article.jsp?ad=article&ArticleId=3123

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Is it a coin, a token, or a medal?
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2007, 08:06:44 PM »
Thanks Lisa. Interesting link.

The problem is that Alan Herbert's definition is just that: his definition. My definition of circulation coins certainly wouldn't include any silver for Tunisia struck by the Franklin Mint.

I am reminded of a debate in the British parliament, where one politician had challenged another to define "sovereign" (the coin, not the guv with the crown). The elegantly insulting answer he got was something to the effect of "define a sovereign, I cannot, sir, but every gentleman knows what it is". So it is with coins. Every collector knows how coins differ from tokens and how the two differ from medals. There's just no consensus on a definition.

That's probably a good thing too. For one, we don't need no steenking definition. If your parents and your children know what a coin is, there's no problem, so why fix it? For another, the boundaries between coins, tokens and medals are unsharp. For an excellent example, look at this thread. For another, think of novodels, coins struck by the mint at the request of collectors so they could "complete their date series". And how about the tokens issued by Canadian banks that were approved as coin by the local government? Were Wood's coins really coins or tokens? How about the brass sixpences, shilling and halfcrowns issued by a Stuart pretender in Ireland? Numismatics abounds in pieces that cross the line. Any definition is oversimplification.

Peter
« Last Edit: December 09, 2008, 01:22:49 AM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline UK Decimal +

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Re: Is it a coin, a token, or a medal?
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2009, 02:28:34 AM »
With so many mentions of such things as 'pseudo-coins' and 'NCLT', I've re-opened this old one.

I am referring mainly to my experiences of current UK coins and particularly to the ones being produced by the Royal Mint to special standards, although I consider that the same comments apply worldwide.

To me, anything is not a coin if it is not produced in the normal metal for that denomination of coin.   By my reasoning, any 'coin' struck in base metal and having a face value is a real coin if issued legally and in this I include all base metal commemorative issues.   Likewise, Maundy money (where silver is the normal base metal) is coins.

This brings us to Proofs and BU issues.   To me they are 'perfect' examples of coins in circulation (although they may differ slightly) and can therefore be classed as coins although they are only available at a premium.

Anything that is struck in rare metals (except Maundy, where silver is the usual metal) I do not class as being a coin although it might have a face value (which I think is a joke) because it would not enter circulation.   They are obviously issued for their metal value and I class them as 'bullion'.

So, what is a coin?

Bill.
Ilford, Essex, near London, England.

People look for problems and complain.   Engineers find solutions but people still complain.

Offline Prosit

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Re: Is it a coin, a token, or a medal?
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2009, 02:58:24 AM »
I have started to answer the question here a couple times today but deleted them before I got started well.  I can't answer to my own satisifaction without writting a book or at least a lengthy article.  Not worth the effort to me.

I collect what I chose and don't bother myself for long about defining what I collect  ;D

Coins, tokens and medals and some coin-like objects are in my collection and some items that don't fit in any of the previous catagories.  Example, I have 3 dies used to strike, tokens, medals or whatever you want to call what they struck......Big chunks of steel with reversed incuse images in them anyway.  Even have a couple badges.

Each pretty neat in their own way.

Dale

translateltd

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Re: Is it a coin, a token, or a medal?
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2009, 04:03:54 AM »
This little table posted by Figleaf (posted here: http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php/topic,391 ) might be useful in this discussion:

Quote from: Figleaf on June 23, 2007, 03:14:40 PM
Here's how I see the distinction:

characteristics   |   money   |   not money
official               |   Coin      |   Pseudo-coin
not official         |   Token    |   Medal


It's a good rule-of-thumb, though of course there will be exceptions and quibbles here and there.


Offline Prosit

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Re: Is it a coin, a token, or a medal?
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2009, 02:07:39 PM »
I think it is ueful but as figleaf himself will say ( i bet) it is an over simplification.

What about the WWII Belgium 2-franc coins minted in the US on the lincoln cent steel blanks...was that official?
Not minted by the Belgium gov. or in Belgium
Not used until after the then current government was removed and the "official" government reinstated.

I consider them coins and official coins at that but they were not issued by the government in power at the time of first minting.
One poor example among thousands.

Dale


translateltd

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Re: Is it a coin, a token, or a medal?
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2009, 08:42:06 PM »
It was minted by a government (even if not the Belgian one) and used as money all the same.  But as I said,

>It's a good rule-of-thumb, though of course there will be exceptions and quibbles here and there.


I think it is ueful but as figleaf himself will say ( i bet) it is an over simplification.

What about the WWII Belgium 2-franc coins minted in the US on the lincoln cent steel blanks...was that official?
Not minted by the Belgium gov. or in Belgium
Not used until after the then current government was removed and the "official" government reinstated.

I consider them coins and official coins at that but they were not issued by the government in power at the time of first minting.
One poor example among thousands.

Dale



Offline asm

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Re: Is it a coin, a token, or a medal?
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2009, 01:57:52 PM »
It was minted by a government (even if not the Belgian one) and used as money all the same.  But as I said,
>It's a good rule-of-thumb, though of course there will be exceptions and quibbles here and there.
As they say, it is the exception that proves the rule.
Amit
"It Is Better To Light A Candle Than To Curse The Darkness"

Offline AMB

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Re: Is it a coin, a token, or a medal?
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2012, 10:07:04 PM »
Hi, I hope this can help anyone looking for a definition of a medal.  We know that medals are numismatic pieces too, so I have also put some criteria that can help everyone distinguish medals from other similar objects that are non-numismatic too. 

So what is a medal?

Defining a medal and distinguishing a medal from another similar item has been discussed by many at a great length throughout time.  Hence, there is no universal definition of a medal because many experts and novices alike have different answers.  However, I will introduce my definition of a medal and how I distinguish medals from similar items; and state why I define and distinguish a medal as such.

Most people can distinguish a medal from something else that is obviously different.  They can distinguish a medal from a coin or a token, in the sense that medals do not circulate in any form or fashion as money whether universally or within certain businesses, unlike the latter two.  They can also know that a medallion and a medalet are only simply a very large and very small medal respectively.  However, many may have trouble differentiating medals from similar non-numismatic items, such as tags, pendants, plaquettes, military orders and decorations, etc.  So, we will have to look to the origin of medals to see where we can find out just what is a medal and how can we tell a medal from a similar item that is non-numismatic.

To start, medals are one of the main branches of numismatics, which is a broad category that also contains these other branches: coins, tokens, paper money, bankchecks, stock and bond certificates, credit/debit/gift cards, precoins (the ancestors of money and the first representatives of money) and quasicoins (media of exchange that had the same denominational values as coins, and circulated alongside coins, but were not coins themselves).  Though all these other numismatic branches either are money or act as money in one form or another, the numismatic branch of medals is the only one that is not money in any form.  Yet, medals are grouped with them as numismatic pieces.  Why is that?

Medals first appeared in ancient times, when people who made coins to be spent as money, also made coins that were not to be spent as money.  Instead, these particular “coins” were made to be worn or be displayed for any reason; to be cherished in other words.  These coin minters in the ancient period were also asked to use their skills to meet the demand for the first medals.  Furthermore, in the medieval period, many high-denomination coins were also medallic in appearance, in the sense that they were made to celebrate an event of a nation, besides their use as spending money.  Thus, medals are a direct derivation of coins, but not in terms of usage like paper money, etc.  Medals are instead a direct derivation of coins in terms of appearance and mode of manufacture.  This is why medals are numismatic items as well.  So then, what is a medal?

A medal is an item that always manifests the appearance and mode of manufacture of a coin, attributing its origin to the coin, but does not carry a monetary value.

We know that the medal’s origin is the coin; and that a medal is overall “flat” in which its measured thickness is considerably less than its measured main-surface area (or even its diameter), as in a coin.  However, there are more specific distinguishing characteristics that make up a medal.  Thus, here are the criteria for what designates a medal, and they pertain to ensuring that the medal carries the appearance and mode of manufacture of a coin and nothing else.

1. The medal must have an engraved device.

The medal must have a device, whether a pictorial design, or a legend (a worded statement, message, identifier, etc.) that signifies an engraving in its manufacture, regardless of whether the engraved device is raised in relief from the medal’s flat surfaces, or if the engraved device is sunk in recess.  The norm is that the device is struck or cast.  There are few exceptions in which the device can be stamped; but we will discuss this following the other criteria.

2. The medal must have a struck or casted, continuous edge.

The medal must have an edge that is continuous with no warping or interruptions in the edge’s surface.  The edge of the medal must also be either struck or casted in all cases.  The edge can be smooth or rigid, and can either have no rim or have a well-defined rim.

3. The medal must have a simple shape.

Though the vast majority of medals have been round, this is not a requirement.  What the medal must have is an overall shape that is simple, whether round, elliptical, oval, parabolic, polygonal, of any shape that is closely related to either of the aforementioned (such as either being polygonal, having rounded corners, or being slightly scalloped), or of having one round curve and one straight edge.  The medal cannot have a complex shape, then it shows an origin, tracing to something other than the coin.

4. The medal must have a certain level or fullness.

The medal must be either full in material or have a hollowness of which the surface area of the two-dimensional hole (or empty space of any shape) is not greater than 50% of the overall medal’s main-surface area.

The medal must either meet all four criteria or meet the second and third and fourth criteria in order to uphold its distinction as such.  For example in the latter case, a medal that meets the second, third and fourth criteria, but not the first criterion because it has only stamped devices rather than engraved devices, is still a medal.  To iterate another example, some key fobs that meet the first, third and fourth criteria, but not the second, are not medals as well; but other key fobs are because they do meet the aforementioned necessary criteria.  All coins and almost all tokens have been made to these four collective criteria as well for that matter. 

Now, let us see what a medal is not.

Tags Are Not Medals

A tag carries a legend, pertaining to the bearer of the tag, but its mode of manufacture is different from that of a coin.  Tags are manufactured like washers in the sense that their edges are stamped rather than struck or casted.  They also do not have engraved devices; and if tags have devices, their devices are stamped as well.  So, a tag is not a medal.  There are some items that bear the appearance and mode of manufacture of a coin, and yet are labeled “tags” by some.  In this case, these actually incorrectly deemed; and they are actually medals.

Pendants Are Not Medals

A pendant is an ornament that is often worn on a necklace, and medals can also be worn in this way.  However, pendants carry the appearance and mode of manufacture that is different from medals in the sense that they have either warped surfaces or interrupted surfaces, being non-continuous surfaces.  Some also have a hollowness that is greater (or far greater) than their main-surface area, and most pendants often carry a complex shape and no engravings.  Some pendants have gems implanted as well.  Hence, pendants have different modes of manufacture from coins, which would then distinguish them from medals.

Plaquettes Are Not Medals

Plaquettes seem to look like rectangular-shaped medals, and they have engraved devices.  However, their overall appearance shows a different origin from coins.  Plaquettes are miniature plaques; and plaques are engravings that are often the size of small pictures.  Plaques were created entirely as sculpted pictures, intended solely to be displayed artwork, like paintings.  Thus, plaquettes are not medals because their origin is not the coin, but the picture.

Military Orders and Decorations Are Not Medals

Though some military awards may be medals—military medals—military orders and military decorations are not medals because their appearances and/or modes of manufacture resemble those of pendants and/or plaquettes.  To be more specific, military orders are more similar to pendants, and military decorations are more similar to plaquettes, and they are often considered part of militaria, rather than part of numismatics, even though the general public may consider orders and decorations as medals because they are given as awards in general.  For military decorations specifically, one may have his/her own determination of whether the shape is simple or not.  Thus, in this case, one person may consider a military decoration a military medal, whereas another may not.

Manhole Covers Are Not Medals

This may at first seem a bit silly to mention; however, if one looks closely, some manhole covers actually do resemble very large and heavy medals.  For instance, they are cast, like some medals.  Furthermore, though some manhole covers are bland, some are quite artistic and manifest an engraved design.  Yet, despite the mode of manufacture for them and the appearances of some of them, manhole covers are not medals.  Manhole covers first appeared as access panels for tight areas within ships before finding use on city streets to access sewers, water pipes, power lines, etc.  Hence, their origin is not the coin, but the access panel.

Although they were not intended to, medals sometimes circulated like coins or tokens when currencies were bullion-based; however, they were always cherished as a meaningful possession.  Furthermore, the medal’s appearance and mode of manufacture never deviated from that of the coin.  For this reason, they will always constitute a major branch of the numismatic field.  This is what a medal is.