Skip to content


Contemporary.  Occurring during the same period; said of a medallic or numismatic item made during the lifetime of its artist, or within a brief period of time after its original issue. The use of the term implies some form of copy or replica; thus it is in contrast to original and often employed with after-cast. It is important to know if a copy was made close to the time of its original issue – contemporary – or at a later time.

A contemporary copy of a renaissance medal is quite desirable. Any after-cast made at a later time with less sharpness of detail and smaller diameter (shrinkage) is, of course, less desirable. Thus a piece made by the artist, or during his lifetime may have been under his control with all the detail and finish the artist intended.

A contemporary copy of a current medal is a gray area. Should the original medal be protected in some way – as copyright, bearing a trademark, or perhaps, licensed – it may prove illegal to reproduce and sell for profit. The status of any other copies are determined by the intent of the person reproducing it.

A contemporary copy of a coin is a forgery – illegal at the time of its creation

and will always remain so. Should such a forgery survive to the present and the issuing country is no longer in existence or the piece has been demonitized, it is a numismatic artifact worthy of study. Forgeries of the current coin of any existing country are,

of course, illegal to own; but the forgery of say an ancient coin – made in ancient time, that is, contemporary, is legal to own and interesting for the numismatist to study.

Thus the concept of contemporary – made near the time the object purports to be

made – is very important in numismatics. A large terminology has been created to describe all copies and replicas. But before a numismatist can ascribe any given specimen as "contemporary" he is required to posses such experience with specimens of the period, adept knowledge and access to a comprehensive reference collection.  See also dates and dating of medals.

A piece that is not contemporary and not made at the time it purports to be made

is called anachronistic. A piece that is made later with the original dies is called a restrike. Other noncontemporary coins and medals are usually copies.  See copies and replicas.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

NNP is 100% non-profit and independent // Your feedback is essential and welcome. // Your feedback is essential and welcome.