For many, the word medal conjures up images of objects awarded to military personnel for service and acts of bravery but it is a medium that extends far beyond these boundaries. For centuries, engravers and designers have been producing medals that showcase their skill and ability, as much an art form as any of the finest paintings or sculptures. Freed from the normal constraints presented by the demands of coinage design, medallic art is often highly expressive, innovative and individualistic. Using various techniques and designs medallic art has breathed life into an array of subjects from the Spanish Armada, to wildlife conservation and through to the death of John Lennon.
The brief for the Royal Mint Museum’s new medal competition to mark 50 years since decimalisation is for a struck, round, bronze medal but we actively encourage students to think about the subject in an imaginative way. In order to inspire those taking part, some of the examples shown here help to illustrate the creative freedom and the sheer variety of medals.
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The pre-decimal currency system consisted of a pound of 20 shillings or 240 pence.
On 1 March 1966 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, James Callaghan, announced that the centuries-old £sd system would be replaced by a decimal currency.