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Talisman.  A medallic object of superstitious design intended to be carried to ward off evil. All good luck pieces are talismans (yes, the plural of talisman is talismans). They are the strongest of the superstitious powers in comparison with amulets and charms. As such they are often more grotesque, more symbolic and more widely used. They appeal to superstitious people and have for centuries. Their history extends from earliest man, who tied a tiger claw around his neck for good luck, to present-day advocates.

Talismans were purposely designed to be superstitious, often with overtones of magic, myth, folklore or witchcraft. The more powerful its design, the more power it was supposed to have to ward off evil or have other extraordinary effects for the owner. A talisman was intended to be worn around the neck, or in smaller size elsewhere on the body. For those that were not worn they would be placed above the entranceway to a house or building.

Talismanic medals were often of unusual shape, as the shape is a part of its symbolism. Usually engraved by hand, they were made one at a time and never in quantity (until, perhaps, in modern time, when small round good luck medals were made in quantity as pocket pieces).

Talismanic symbols.  It seems in each culture a symbol derives for good luck. The Chinese dragon, the Roman cornucopia, the Assyrian scarab, the Hebrew chai, the Greek fish, the Irish four-leaf clover, the Persian simurgh, the American horseshoe. These have appeared on good luck medals and talismans. In 1976 the Franklin Mint issued twelve of these in a medallic set of bronze and silver good luck medals.

The five-pointed star (pentacle) and six-pointed star (hexagram) are also popular on talismanic pieces, as are a host of arcane symbols.

Wearing or carrying talismans, like consulting a horoscope, obviously, has no way of influencing reality. It is a superstitious act for diversion purposes only; as such talismans are accepted as being anti-scientific although somewhat entertaining.

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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