Dick Johnson forwarded these thoughts on the need for a medallic visual dictionary. Thanks. What do readers think? -Editor
Cataloging coins is fairly easy. Cataloging medals is somewhat difficult. What's the difference? It is in the description of the devices.
Usually, but not always, coin devices are rather obvious. Coin designers purposely choose images that are well known. When the coin circulates it
is beneficial that the public instantly recognize the coin from its image. They can easily recognize the coin from its size, color, but its image is
Not so with medals. Since they are not intended to circulate, medal designers are not bound by these restrictions. Their imagination can run wild
to incorporate devices that often are not well known, if not outright obscure. Not only is that part of their charm, it is opportunity for topic
collectors to obtain a medal that pictures an object of a particular topic.
You won't find, say, a pickup truck or a widget on a coin but you could on a medal. It could be the product the issuer wants to honor. They
manufacture pickup trucks or widgets so it must appear on a medal.
That brings us to the problem of medal catalogers to be able recognize all the possible devices which appear on medals. Also a seasoned cataloger
is required not only to mention it is a pickup truck or a widget, but to be able to record what kind, perhaps the period it was made and related
I have said before, you must bring a wide experience in life to be a good cataloger.
Now what kind of specialized knowledge should a medal cataloger have at his command? - knowledge of symbols, heraldic images and their meaning,
knowledge of costumes, what a person portrayed is wearing, types of headgear, types of male facial hair, ability to recognize any possible device,
even the ability to identify animals and to determine if they are generic, or of a specific breed, as for dogs.
It is not satisfactory to say a medal shows a dog, but it is a Yorkshire terrier or a golden retriever. Likewise for horses: is it an Arabian or a
mustang, or a whatever?
That brings me to mention the need for a handbook for catalogers. A book which would identify the most common images on medals revealing the
specific kind. Such a book is called a Visual Dictionary.
I have had the Macmillan Visual Dictionary in my library virtually since it was first published in 1992. I see now Webster has brought its Visual
Dictionary to the internet. Still, both of these do not fill the bill for the medal cataloger.
I searched Abebooks for Visual Dictionary and got 9,400 hits. These were mostly for foreign language learning. Also unsatisfactory.
So it must be left to us. If we want such a book we must compile it within the numismatic field. What about it, E-Sylum readers? Anyone up
to the task?
Wayne Homren, Editor
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