Dick Johnson submitted this question about numismatic legend translations. -Editor Fellow medal enthusiast Joe Levine dropped a question on me this week - a client had a medal by Medallic Art Company I had never seen before. It was cast. I knew of only one cast medal by Medallic Art Company, the 1966 Lutheran Church of America Service Medal made by Ralph Menconi. I suspect only one or two were required and instead of making a die, which would have been costly, it could be easily cast, but had to be the same size as the artist's models. I also suspect the same was true for the medal of questioned interest.
The medal owned by Joe's client was distinctively marked Medallic Art Co. Its only inscription was: OPUS AG II. I inquired of any other markings, perhaps an artist's signature, monogram or initials. None.
Translating and interpretation lettering on coins and medals is one of the most difficult chores in numismatics. We are hampered by languages foreign to us, and -- because of the limitation of space -- excessive abbreviation and shortening of words.
Translating can now be done on the internet. But don't expect to find coin and medal inscriptions. Darn. I have often used Google's translation service -- http://translate.google.com/?sssdmh=dm13.196359 -- but this never seems to work. It wants a specific language into another specific language. Often a C & M inscription is in Latin or an unknown language.
I tried the free Latin translation at http://www.translation-guide.com/free_online_translators.php?from=Latin&to=English. My OPUS AG II translated as DEEDS AG THESE.
I interpretation this could be HE DID THESE DEEDS. Or OPUS could also mean WORK. Taking it one step further I estimate (read: guess) this could have been a medal honoring the completion of some task, or a retirement medal after having worked for some unstated organization.
I also tried Yahoo's free translation, Babel Fish, at http://babelfish.yahoo.com/?sssdmh=dm13.196359 but this again wanted specific language to specific language.
A quick trip to my library (in the next room) I took down from the shelf a copy of James Mackay's Coin Facts & Feats. Its chapter "Inscriptions and Legends" is the best I have found on the subject. The author relates some coins from German States which had abbreviations as legends some 50 and 60 letters in length!
Does anyone reading this, perhaps with a 3,000 IQ who knows many languages, would like to start a web site that would record coin and medal inscriptions and who can provide their meaning in plain text English? You would earn the everlasting approbation of those of us who toil in the numismatic field and feel stumped by the mystical lettering. We could feed you a lot of these for your translation, interpretation and estimation.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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