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The E-Sylum:  Volume 3, Number 31, July 30 , 2000, Article 6

NUMISMATIC TERMS: MEDAL, TOKEN, JETON 

   Our topic of numismatic terms has generated quite a bit 
   of interest. 

   Serge Pelletier writes: "Doug forwarded your e-mail because he 
   knows I am working on a "Canadian Dictionary of Numismatics" 
   and that the question from Bob Knepper would definitely interest 
   me.  Here is the light I can shed on the subject: 

      MEDAL:  CoinNews (UK) define the term in their 2000 
      Yearbook as "A piece of metal bearing devices or given as 
      an award. Military medals date generally from the 16th and 
      17th centuries, but were not generally awarded to all ranks 
      until the 19th century.  Commemorative medals can trace their 
      origin back to Roman times, but in their present form they date 
      from the Italian Renaissance when there was a fashion for 
      large-diameter cast portrait medals."   They further state that a 
      "medalet" is a small medal of 25mm or less and a "medallion" 
      is a large medal of 50mm or more.  I must add some caveats 
      in that "Military medals" are commonly referred to in North 
      America as "decorations" to avoid confusion.  Furthermore, 
      even though "medal" is the more generic term, the tendancy in 
      North America is to use "medallion" as the generic with "medal" 
      being the larger size one. 

      JETON:  CoinNews "Alternative term for "counter", and used 
      originally on the chequerboard employed by medieval 
      accountants.  Nuremberg was the most important centre for 
      the production of medieval jetons, often issued in lengthy 
      portrait series.  Carlton in his "International Encyclopaedic 
      Dictionary of Numismatics" simply states that it is the French 
      translation of "token".  Carlton is quite right to say so, 
      particularly in North America.  However, Gallléazzi in his 
      "Lexique numismatique" clarifies that for the French there are 
      three types of jetons: jetons de compte (usually refered to as 
      jetons or counters in English), jetons de circonstance ou à 
      thème (would more appropriately be translated as a medal) 
      and jetons-valeurs (appropriately translated tokens). 

      TOKEN:  CoinNews "Any piece of money whose nominal 
      value is greater than its intrinsic value is, strictly speaking, a 

      token or promise.  Thus most of the coins issued since 1964 
      can be regarded in this light, but numismatist reserve the term 
      for a piece of limited validity and circulation, produced by 
      tradesmen, chambers of commerce and other organisations 
      during times of a shortage of government coinage. (...) Tokens 
      with a nominal value may be produced for security reasons to 
      lessen the possibility of theft from milk bottles, vending 
      machines, telephones, parking meters... 

   My simplified and simplistic approach to it is as follows: I only 
   use "jeton" in English to describe medieval counters; any piece 
   with a denomination or a "good for" value on it is a "token", and 
   everything else that is not a coin is a "medal"! 

   So, I hope this will help Mr. Knepper.  I don't know what he 
   collects but he should definitely consider Municipal Trade Tokens 
   for his thematic collection." 

   Bill Malkmus writes: "In the microtrivia category: You may have 
   gotten other responses, but will comment since I just happened 
   to be reading a Spanish paper about a countermark on a jeton. 
   The (Spanish) author distinguishes between the two terms as in 
   your comment, and uses "contramarca" for countermark as you 
   defined, but uses "resello" for your definition of "counterstamp." 
   The paper I'm referring to was published by Juan Jose Moreno y 
   Casanova, "Contramarca privada sobre un jeton frances," 
   Gaceta numismatica 126, 49-56 (1997).   (I'm not touching the 
   "jeton" part of the definitions!}" 

   Robert A. Levinson writes:  "I will take a stab at the differences 
   between medals, tokens and jetons.  Medals are items which 
   commemorate things, events and people. Tokens are items 
   used for exchange or goods. Jetons are counting tokens used 
   originally to calculate mathematics and later, with the advent of 
   modern math spreading throughout Europe by the early 1600s, 
   found other purposes as presentation pieces, propaganda 
   devices and small medals." 

   Jørgen Sømod writes:  "A jeton is a little medal.  A token can be 
   used for some kind of payment.  An advertising piece is a jeton 
   and a communion token is still a token, even the admission is free." 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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