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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 46, November 12, 2006, Article 16

THE DEAD MAN'S PENNY

The Hamilton Spectator of Hamilton, Ontario published a very
interesting piece on November 6th about a British World War I
medallion nicknamed "the Dead Man's Penny".

"The plaque, known as a dead man's penny, is propped up among
military medals and black and white photos. But unlike the other
mementoes, which represent bravery and honour, the heavy plaque
-- made from gun metal -- represents loss.

It was even seen by some as an insult.

Evans' grandmother got the coaster-sized medal from the British
government when her husband was killed during the First World War.
Evans' grandfather was coming home to visit his family in December
1916 when the ship he was on was torpedoed by the Germans, killing
200 on board.

The plaque was meant as a token of gratitude for the sacrifice made
by Evans' grandmother."

"But the plaques weren't appreciated by everyone because they
resembled a British penny.

"It made it seem as though the British government saw a soldier's
life as only worth a penny," Evans said.

Some families even returned the plaques to the king."

Evans only learned about the plaque's history recently when another
one was found stuck to the face of a tombstone at the Hamilton
Cemetery. It was found by the cemetery's tour guide, Robin McKee,
who was thrilled because he knew how rare they were."

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

Dick Johnson writes: "This is not a rare item. It is common in the
British Empire as one was made for every military person who died
in World War I. It is properly called a medallion even though it
is uniface. It was made in 1919 and I cataloged it as "War Dead
Memorial Medallion" in my auction sales but it may be called by
other names in England.

I handled more than a dozen of them when I was an active medal
dealer. They are 4 3/4-inch (12cm) and cast bronze. Interesting,
they used an "insert die" to add the name in raised lettering of
the military person who died in service.

The insert die technology has been a subject among token and
medal collectors here in the colonies recently. David Bowers had
an article on the front page of Sept 28, 2006 Coin World and
called this technology a "modular die." Token dealer Dick Grinolds
replied October 2 that they were called "compound dies" or "slip
dies" among token collectors. I wrote an editorial in the October
23, 2006 Coin World stating these terms were incorrect. Medal
manufacturers call this technology "insert dies" as an individual
die (that fits in a cavity in the base die) has to be made for
every piece made to effect the raised lettering of the names.
(This is the same technology used for the Carnegie Hero Medals,
subject of an article in the October 2006 Numismatist, p 50-53.)
[Here again, the British may have yet another name for this
technology; perhaps our English readers can enlighten us.]

The medallions display Britannia with trident offering a wreath
with the British lion at her feet. The piece was designed by
British sculptor E. Carter Preston. There are different numbers
appearing on the pieces - I assumed this identified the mold
number or the foundry which cast the piece.

They were indeed distributed to the families of the war dead
(908,371 died in WWI) who undoubtedly kept these in their family
until perhaps the third or later generation when they came on
the market in increasing numbers. It was a $20-25 item two
decades ago."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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