Zodiac Medals & Medallions
How to Organize a Coin Collection > or maybe how not to...
A flat piece of metal, often a disk but sometimes a cross, star, or another form, usually
bearing an inscription or design, issued to commemorate a person, action, or event, or given as a reward for bravery, artist expression, merit, or the like...
So what's the difference between a medal or a medallion?
It’s as simple as size, really. Medallions are large medals, and numismatists, particularly in Europe say that medallions have a diameter of at least 80 mm or about 3.25 inches. Although it is true that both words are used interchangeably, the issue of size is what separates one from the other. (That's what she said!) Medallions may also be called "table medals" because they are too large to be worn and can only be displayed on a wall, tabletop, desk, or cabinet. Medallion is sometimes improperly used to refer to a medal used as the pendant of a necklace or other types of metals.
For practical purposes, however, it is interesting to note that both medallions and medals can be used in the same fashion, for the same purpose. The larger size of a medallion allows for detailed landscapes and etchings with fine sculpting to be used in the design, but this in no way limits what can be done with a medal either. Both can be used as pendants and offer a grand versatility and beauty that can be enjoyed for generations.
Rather than spend a bunch of time on this particular segment of the collection, I plan to just show you. This is one of my favorite branches of Zodiac "Coin" collecting. While is really impossible to have a comprehensive page on this (it could fill several books), I will give you background on each medal showcased here and what it represents to the collection of such items.
Also, there are many high-resolution images that can be magnified on this page, so be patient as it loads. I wanted you to be able to look at them in detail.
Designer: Marcel Jovine
Artist Bio: Though he never formally studied art, Mr. Jovine had been drawing, whittling, and modeling since he was a boy in Naples, Italy. As a cadet at Italy's military academy in Turin, he delighted in mechanical drawing and architectural drafting. And after he was captured by Allied forces in Africa in World War II, he whiled away his time as a prisoner of war in Pennsylvania by sketching and making sculptures. He made the Olympic medals used at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. Two years later, the American Numismatic Society chose his design for its 125th-anniversary medal. And in 1987, the United States Treasury selected his work for a $5 gold piece marking the bicentennial of the Constitution.
Company/Mint: Medallic Art Company, Bronze, No. 963
Year Made: 1978 CE
Stats: 75mm width | Antiqued Bronze | 750 struck
Purpose: Calendar Medal, Commemorative (Made Especially for the Madison Hotel)
My Thoughts: One of the most beautiful zodiac calendar medals ever made. In 1984 MACO created a series of 12 zodiac pendants from the designs on this medal. I have never seen one for sale, but here are examples.
Designer: Ernest Lauser
Artist Bio: A sign painter in his youth, he went on to a career as a commercial artist, becoming one of the leading sculptors of commemorative medals and coins at the former Franklin Mint. He was a life-long artist and sculptor, applying his talents, imagination, and occasional humor to various materials. He passed away December 12, 2011.
Company/Mint: The Franklin Mint
Year Made: 1974 CE
Stats: 76mm width | Antiqued Bronze or Silver | 750 struck
Purpose: Calendar Medal, Commemorative
My Thoughts: The Franklin mint produced Calendar medals every year through the 1970s. Mr. Lauser was a premier artist for them and did fantastic work. The bronze medals are easily found, and the silver ones are highly prized.
Designer: Rene Paul Chambellan
Artist Bio: Rene Paul Chambellan was born in West Hoboken, New Jersey, and spent the first part of his life in and around New York City. He studied fine arts and architecture at New York University but joined the Army to fight in World War I. After the armistice, he was given the opportunity to study at the Art Academy which had been opened by the US Army in conjunction with the Ecole des Beaux-Arts to give artistically inclined but idle American soldiers something to do. Chambellan's talent gained him a formal seat at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts after just three months at the Art Academy. At the Ecole, he forged connections to Solon Borglum, Raymond Hood and others that would prove invaluable upon his return to America. He died in 1955 from a major stroke and suffered many years form lung injuries inflicted during WWI.
Company/Mint: The Medallic Art Company (MACO)
Year Made: 1967 CE
Stats: 60mm width | Antiqued Bronze, Bronze Plated with Silver or Sterling Silver (Hallmarked) | 750 struck
Purpose: Collector's Medals - I have also seen belt buckles and Necklace Pendants made in these designs, plated in 24k gold, given to MACO employees.
My Thoughts: This set is high relief and blank on the back, but a truly beautiful rendering of the zodiac signs. As one-sided medals they seem to be for collection purposes only and I am unsure of how MACO came across the designs, as Rene had already passed away. They were done in two sizes, 60mm large medals and 23mm rounds in sterling silver created as pendants for necklaces. One could spend several lifetimes trying to complete a whole set of the large medals, they are very rare but usually sell for around $35 for the bronze and $300 for the silver ones.
Designer: Paul Vincze
Artist Bio: Paul Vincze was a Hungarian designer of coins and medals and a gifted sculptor. He was a prolific artist and an internationally acclaimed medallist. He excelled at portraiture and his work reflects his sensitive approach to the subject, his mature work achieving an almost Renaissance quality. Vincze was born at Galgagyork, in Hungary, and studied at the State School of Arts and Crafts at Budapest and later under Ede Telcs, an extremely talented portraitist. From 1935 to 1937 Vincze studied in Rome and then returned to his native country. Nazi persecution forced him to flee and in 1938 he came to England, setting up his studio in London. He lived there for the rest of his life except for annual visits to his house in the South of France. He was the recipient of several awards including a Premio Especial at the International Exhibition, Madrid, in 1951, a silver medal at the Paris Salon of 1964 and the first gold medal of the American Numismatic Association in 1966. We lost Paul in 1994.
Company/Mint: Vincze's Foundry in London
Year Made: 1975 - not date stamped
Stats: 57mm width in Antiqued Bronze and Silver Plated | 32mm in Antiqued Sterling Silver | 200mm Medallions in Antiqued Bronze. I suspect there are solid silver 57mm medals but these may have only been given to friends & family.
Purpose: Collector's Medals
My Thoughts: There has been a re-issue of the original designs from Furr & Co. Jewelers. The dies were sold to them by Vincze's daughter as she is now in charge of the estate. These new issues are easily discerned from the originals because they are done in gold (Paul Vincze did not cast them in gold) and as silver pendants with the necklace ring built in. Paul's design work on these is stunning and is my favorite set of all the zodiac medals. These are also quite hard to find, but with patience and diligence, you can collect a set of the 55mm bronze medals over the course of a lifetime.
I do see original 32mm .925 silver sets come up from time to time on eBay and they sell from 2x to 4x spot silver.
Designer: Michael Meszaros
Artist Bio: Son of the sculptor and medalist Andor Mészáros, Michael grew up in a small flat where the living room was also his father's studio. During the 1960s, Michael studied to become an architect, but in 1969 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study medal-making in Italy at La Scuola Dell 'Art Della Medaglia, attached to Rome's main mint. His graduation piece for the course was the beginning of his zodiac series, of which Museum Victoria holds a complete set. On his return to Australia Michael became a full-time sculptor and medalist. He worked with his father in the studio that Andor built in Kew, and in 2013 was still in the same location. Michael Meszaros medals are held by the British Museum, the Royal Dutch Coin Collection, and many private collections in Europe, America, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
Company/Mint: Designed at La Scuola Dell 'Art Della Medaglia, Cast in Melborn Australia
Year Made: 1970 - not date stamped
Stats: 100mm Medallions in Antiqued Bronze
Purpose: Collector's Art Medals
My Thoughts: This is an amazing design of the zodiac signs. Michael is a bold and different artist with his own sense of style and aesthetic. It is unlikely that you could ever own one of these, I have never seen one in person, and I doubt that there are any sets floating around that museums do not have already. I have no idea on the number of sets that were made. I have requested this from the artist.
Designer: E. Vas
Artist Bio: E. Vas is one of the official designers for the Portuguese Mint Gravarte. I find little to no information on him personally.
Company/Mint: Gravate in Portugal
Year Made: 2008 - not date stamped
Stats: Done in 40mm & 70mm Antiqued bronze | 1000 for the large size and 2500 for the 40mm size
Purpose: Commemorative Medals
My Thoughts: I think this mint in Portugal often creates zodiac sets. They have been fond of the Artist Berardo, and he has done several years of designs for them. I don't care for most of the designs, but sometimes I like one of the series. The mint has done several zodiac medals with unique shapes. I have seen rounds, like this example, rectangular designs, and belt buckle shapes as well. The alloy of bronze they use has a distinctive antique gold color and is not as warm/coppery as the bronzes from other foundries. It makes medals from them easy to spot.
Designer: Harold Solomon
Artist Bio: He is known as an international artist and sculptor and is also famous for building his own castle in Florida from recycled materials at the age of 81.
Company/Mint: Anders Cyborg A/S - Copenhagen, Denmark
Year Made: 1978
Stats: 50mm diameter at around 80 grams | 3500 in Antiqued Bronze w/gemstones | 1500 in toned Sterling Silver w/gemstones. The dies were destroyed.
Purpose: Commemorative Art Medals
My Thoughts: While the style of the design on the fronts of these is impressionistic and a bit rough to my eye, the obverse to this set is really what is great about them. The obverse designs contain the zodiac sign, gemstone, and plant associated with the front birth sign. The designs are crisp and the gemstones that are inset in these are unmatched in any other set I have seen to date. Large circular cabochons that are of very good to fine quality are inlaid into the design and are high relief. The gemstones are: Amber, Amethyst, Blood Stone, Jasper, Carnelian, Chrysoprase, Coral, Garnet, Jade, Lapis Lazuli, Opal, Pearl, and Quartz. The stones used are untraditional in some cases, but they are also an excellent cross over for collectors of gemstones. Another plus to this set is the presentation plaque it comes with. It's a wooden platter with a metal inlaid center with all the information on each of the zodiac signs that holds all the medals. (Example below)
Designer: Salvador Dali
Artist Bio: Spanish artist and Surrealist icon Salvador Dalí is perhaps best known for his painting of melting clocks - The Persistence of Memory. Salvador Dalí was born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, Spain. From an early age, Dalí was encouraged to practice his art and would eventually go on to study at an academy in Madrid. In the 1920s, he went to Paris and began interacting with artists such as Picasso, Magritte & Miró, which led to Dalí's first Surrealist phase. He is considered the greatest Surrealist painter to have ever lived.
Company/Mint: Made by Belgian Company
Year Made: Unknown
Stats: 49mm diameter | .999 Silver at 55 grams | 500 sets made, but this is in dispute as I have seen No. 608
Purpose: Commemorative Art Medals
My Thoughts: You are either a Dali fan or your not. I am uncertain as to why or how these were created, but I don't believe that he sculpted this set personally, instead, I believe it was done under the direction of his estate. They were created from drawings he did to design a zodiac set in his particular style. These seem to come up every year on eBay or another auction site, but they fetch quite a premium as there are many people who collect Salvador Dali artwork and its in the cross-hairs for them, modern medal collectors, art silver collectors, and Numismatists.
Artist: The twelve signs of the zodiac seen on the mosaic of a 6th-century synagogue floor discovered in beth alpha.
Company/Mint: Isreal National Mint
Year Made: 1973
Stats: 1oz. .999 Platinum Proof | 45mm .935 Toned Silver |
60mm Bronze | Silver numbered to 500.
Purpose: 25th Anniversary as a State
My Thoughts: I am a sucker for old mosaic designs, and the historical aspects of the coin are intriguing. It is very easy to come by and quite affordable (except the platinum version).
Designer: Margaret C. Ellison
Medal Bio: Margaret Ellison created a medal that celebrated creation, much like Fiat Vita by de Francisci did almost 50 years earlier. Where de Francisci went from the theological to the scientific on his medal, Ellison went from the scientific to the mystical. As she wrote in the brochure that accompanied the medal: "However disparate, all things of earth—bird, beast and fish—animal, vegetable and mineral—the living and the non-living—are bound together by nature's laws, known or unknown."
Company/Mint: Medallic Art Company (MACO)
Year Made: 1984 (110th release)
Stats: 73mm Golden Bronze with Patina | 750 made
Purpose: Commemorative Art Medals
My Thoughts: this medal is entitled "The World of Nature" with bands of animals on the front and the zodiac signs on the obverse. It is a medium relief and I have found that the majority of the ones in circulation have darkened, and Verde swatches on them, some quite significantly. If you can find the cleaner and brighter bronze medals they will be worth a bit more. I am left to consider the planet alignment at the center of the obverse. Does this particular configuration mean something to the artist?
Designer: Franz F. Eue - His last name is pronounced AY-veh in German, Yoo-ee in America, where his nicknames were Fritz or Hans.
Artist Bio: Born in Rathenow, Germany, 1888. He became a medalist early in life and created many gedenkthalers (medals in 3 and 5-mark size) for four major medal manufacturers in Germany. He came to America and New York City in 1926 where he worked freelance for both Medallic Art and
Whitehead & Hoag (perhaps others). His most noted medallic work in America was the Sun Yat Sen Medal (1929), the Chicago World’s Fair Medal (1933-34) and the Kaufman Medal for the National Alliance of Art and Industry (1935). He was also known as gifted sculpture and die maker. He passed in New York City, June 1st, 1937.
Company/Mint: Designed by E.K. Lincoln; hand-cut dies by Franz Eue; struck on ten-sided blanks (MACO). Distributed by Innovative Products Co.
Year Made: 1934 (39th release)
Stats: 34mm Golden Bronze with Patina | unknown number made, also done in 32mm one-sided guilded pendants
Purpose: Art Medals
My Thoughts: One of the most unique complete zodiac sets and very difficult to find. I only became aware that this set existed a few years ago after many years of collecting. I doubt that there are over a dozen full sets in collectors hands today. The symbolism and design aspects make them talisman-like, and the ten sided shape is completely unique. Each sign is married to its obverse planetary ruler.
A Fun Find: Research has found that these coins were released by the Temple Star Trading company back in the 1930s. This is from a newspaper clipping that advertised the purchase of the "Lucky Wishing Charms" under the name of AZARA.
According to Google Maps, Azara is a town on the Eastern edge of India, further east than Bangladesh. It is also a town in Argentina and a variant of the Portuguese word for "you".
Designers: Unknown to me
Medal Bios: Calendar medals issued by the Vienna, Austria Mint have had a zodiac/astrology theme since their inception in 1933. I don't know why they began in that year unless it was to help get some revenue for the Mint during the hard years of the Great Depression. I believe the medals have been issued annually since then. Many of the medals show either the 12 signs of the zodiac or an astrological timekeeping design, and each medal shows a specific planetary ruler. Although they started in 1933 with the sun, the Viennese medals follow the ancient sequence of planets: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, sun, Venus, Mercury, and moon. So the 1934 medal declared Venus as ruler, 1935 Mercury, and so on up to 2010 which also is ruled by the sun. World War II did not stop production of Austrian medals, although now they were part of greater Germany and the medals were made of zinc. These seem to be sponsored by different companies: the First Savings Fund and Degussa, silver and gold refinery. After the war, designs tended to show only the planet regent and one or two related zodiac signs.
Company/Mint: The Austrian Mint in Vienna
Years Made: 1933 to present day
Stats: 40mm diameter of all sorts of complex designs and designations | done in zinc, bronze, brass, silver alloy, silver plated and gold plated finishes.
Purpose: Collector Commemorative Calendar Medals
My Thoughts: The use of complex designs and writing in multiple directions is often used in Austrian medals. I am unsure if the designs always come from an employee of the mint, a noted Austrian artist or if they are copies of someone else designs. It would be a feat to get one from each year they are produced and several sets, one for each type of alloy they were stamped could be created. These are quite a popular medal to collect in Europe and many US numismatist collect them as well. The condition is everything with these and the alloy also plays a heavy role in their worth.
Designer: Kósa István (1953 - ?)
Medal Bios: These Hungarian Calendar/Birthday medals were released as a proof of concept for the Hungarian mint and to show its capabilities to perspective medal and currency creators within the old Soviet block countries. I have not found any relevant information on the artist to date other than he seems to have quite a few medals that he designed for Hungary.
Company/Mint: The Hungarian Government Mint
Years Made: 2011
Stats: 43mm at ~30 grams | Done in proof silver, proof brass finishes, and matte bronze finish, all are blank on the back
Purpose: Collector Birthday Calendar Medals
My Thoughts: The designs on these are beautiful and there are a number of finishes that can be collected. These are as much about the medal design as they are about the capabilities of the Hungarian mint. I have no idea how many of these were made, but they did not last long on the auction sites and the silver ones went very quickly. I have not seen one of them is several years since 2012.
Designer: Remir Kharitonov
Artist Bio: Born in 1931, he was a Russian Federation sculptor and medalist. There is little information about him on the western side of the Atlantic, and I find that a biography was written about him in Russian and exists in print. He passed in 2008.
Years Made: mid-1980's - never released to the public
Stats: 70mm diameter | done in Steel with a slight blue-ing agent applied.
Purpose: Experimental Medals
My Thoughts: The Artist seems to have made this zodiac set as a kind of experiment or not as part of an official project that was state-sanctioned. I am uncertain how many of these sets exist and they are extremely hard to find. A full set of them has never come up to auction in Europe or in America that I can find. Being, that they are made of steel, it is uncertain how valuable collectors would find them, but I consider them to be quite valuable.
Designer: Paul Manship (1885 -1966)
Artist Bio: Manship began his formal study of art at the Mechanic Arts High School and the Saint Paul School of Art (later the Saint Paul Institute of Arts and Sciences) in Minnesota. His initial decision to pursue a career as a sculptor was largely motivated by his color blindness; he had started out life as a painter. For a painter, color blindness is obviously a severe handicap, but for a sculptor, it proved an advantage: the eye, not being distracted by color, could concentrate on form. Indeed, a great sensitivity to form, to contour, and to line was to prove one of Manship's major strengths. In 1909, at the age of twenty-three, Manship became the youngest sculptor as yet awarded the American Prix de Rome. Manship produced over 700 works and always employed assistants of the highest quality. At least two of them, Gaston Lachaise and Leo Friedlander, went on to create significant places for themselves in the history of American sculpture.
The value of his work has steadily increased since the 1980s after a distinguished life as a sculpture.
Paul Manship created twelve zodiac medals in 1946, one for each astrological sign. Leo displays the attribute of the lion, depicted pictorially and as a symbol. The medals in the Zodiac series are known as deep dishes or ashtray medals, a rare form highly sought after by collectors.
Years Made: 1946 - unknown number
Stats: 6.1in diameter | done in bronze with bronze patina, thick with high relief designs
Purpose: Art Medals/Ashtrays
My Thoughts: These are heavy and large medals, some people refer to them as ashtrays. They are around 66mm in diameter and have unfinished backs, as in they are just the indentations of the castings and are made to be only viewed from the front. They are rare to find and usually go for around $1000 a piece, depending on the condition.
Designer: Jennifer McKenna
Medal Artists: The obverse displays the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the purity, weight, monetary denomination, and the 2020 year-date. The reverse depicts an exquisitely detailed representation of the signs of the zodiac in color. The original artistry of each star sign created by Perth Mint designer Jennifer McKenna is portrayed within sinuous patterns suggestive of the art nouveau style. Included in the design is the name of each star sign, its pictogram, and a stylized motif representing the Sun, the Moon, and stars.
Company/Mint: Perth Mint
Years Made: 2020 - 388 total minted
Stats: 5 troy ounces of .9999 Silver @ 55.9mm x 7.5mm
Purpose: Collector's Medal and Siver Bullion
My Thoughts: The coin has a wonderful coloration, has an interesting design, an Antique Finish quality, and comes in a display case. The limited mintage to 388 pieces worldwide dictates a higher price than what the medal content is worth. Time will tell if this medal will hold its value.