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Prize Medal

Prize Medal.  Any form of medallic item used as an award in a contest, race or game where there is competitive action and more than one contestant. (A medal awarded without competitive action to one recipient only is called a recognition.) Bestowing a medal as a prize is as old as the Roman games, and has continued throughout the civilized world for thousands of years taking on other, often more gaudy forms, such as trophies, cups, bowls, sashes, belts and such.

Prize medals have earned a number of names, including: victory medal (first or most victorious), grand prix (chief prize), premium (an 18th century prize name), and others such as the Grand Prix de Paris (a horse race since 1863), and Grand Prix de Rome (a French government art prize to study in Rome). Money, certificates and privileges often accompany medals as prizes. Occasionally a number of prize medals are awarded at one time (as in a race, for first, second, third, etc. place). Various systems of medal rank have evolved; the most obvious are gold, silver and bronze, in that order. (Although historically gold has not always been more valuable than silver.) Others are:

1)  platinum

2)  gold

3)  vermeil

4)  silver

5)  bronze gilt

6)  silverplate

7)  bronze

8)  white metal.

With two sizes of dies in three compositions:

1)  large gold

2)  small gold

3)  any vermeil

4)  large silver

5)  small silver

6)  any bronze.

In satire tin and lead are included in metal rank as the last place (lead) and next to last (tin).

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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