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date: 14 August 2020


  • Stephen K. Scher,
  • Christopher Eimer
  •  and Philip Attwood


Piece of metal (or sometimes other material) that is usually coin-like, with an image and/or inscription, usually on both sides. It is generally a commemorative object. Large ancient Roman presentation pieces of bronze, silver and gold, produced between the 2nd and the 5th century ad, are generally called medallions; the term is also somewhat loosely applied to particularly large Renaissance and later medals (see Medallion).

Medals are usually discs of gold, silver, copper alloy (bronze or brass), or lead, bearing images. In the 20th century artists greatly expanded this range of materials and the shapes and forms of medals. Traditionally, the images included on the obverse a portrait with identifying inscription, and on the reverse a text or some sort of figure or scene associated with the subject of the portrait. The production of medals is not subject to the same official controls that govern Coins: they are not used as currency and can be made at the request of private individuals. ...

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