JEWISH-AMERICAN HALL OF FAME • JEWISH MUSEUM IN CYBERSPACE
ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY AS CHRONICLED BY HISTORICAL MEDALS


 


“Some medals were officially sanctioned, others were privately commissioned and still others were commercial undertakings aimed at collectors or designed to appeal to the wider public. Often those that were issued as a commercial enterprise reflected the biases and politics of the medalists. Estimating the numbers struck is very difficult, but it is probably reasonable to assume that mintages were in dozens or hundreds with just a few exceptions being much higher. This is based on the few instances where we know mintages and comparing the relative rarity of others. Generally medals were a fairly expensive luxury, which few could afford and fewer still could appreciate due to low rates of literacy and education. Another limitation was on the technical side, since the striking of medals, especially in high relief, was labor intensive and dies were vulnerable to breaking (as demonstrated by the several die varieties of some common medals of the period).” (Hedley Betts, personal communication).

“Many of the medalists of that period, including Christian Wermuth, worked as entrepreneurs. They sold the medals to private and public clients on their own initiative. There must have been a good market for the medals made by anti-Semitic manufacturers during the 17th and 18th centuries. We know, for example, that Christian Wermuth issued a list called a ‘specification,’ which was a price list of the medals he had for sale.” (Christian Stoess, personal communication).

Even if there were a limited number of such medals distributed, by giving them to individuals of influence -- the merchant class, aristocracy, nobility, clergy -- these medals would nevertheless have had a significant impact. And their intent was clear: medals were issued either to support the denigration of the Jews or to memorialize their vilification. Examples of some of these, shown below, are the subject of this discourse.

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