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Mint marks and symbols on Monnaie de Paris medals

I’m sometimes asked: how can you know a medal from the Monnaie de Paris is an original or a restrike? Some of the information below should help – I’ve kept it brief.   There is also the question of patination, which varies over the years going from the rather lovely olive brown of the early 20th century to the lacquered salmon pink (almost!) bronze of late 20th century.  It’s not an exact science to tell when something was made but I hope the following will help.

Copper medal issued by Monnaie de Paris of Germain Pilon, Renaissance sculptor

Copper medal issued by Monnaie de Paris of Germain Pilon, Renaissance sculptor

Mint Marks used at the MONNAIE DE PARIS (PARIS MINT)

Plain Edge All medals in any metal before March 30th 1832 have plain edges.  Furthermore all medals in bronze and copper before 1841
Antique Lamp Lampe antique from March 30th 1832 until October 20th 1841 (on gold & silver only).
Anchor C & ancre enlace from October 21st 1841 until September 24th 1842.
Ship Prow Proue de navire from September 25th 1842 until June 11th 1845.
Pointing Hand  Main indicatrice from June 12th 1845 until 30th September 1860.
Bee  abeille from 1st October 1860 until December 31st 1879.
Cornucopia (Horn of Plenty) from 1880 until now.

Stamping the date on the edge became common in the 1960’s onwards, which is helpful for identifying restrikes.

Example of a 1960's Monnaie de Paris mint mark and characteristic edition numbering

Example of a 1960’s Monnaie de Paris mint mark and characteristic edition numbering

Other marks on the edge refer to the metal used:

BRONZE  mainly copper, with some tin

BRONZE FLORENTIN yellower sort of bronze used for medals: more aptly named brass (laiton)  85% copper 15% zinc

METAL D (or another alphabet letter)  – used mainly during WW2  – inferior bronze mix – no tin but alloyed with other metals so it has a similar appearance.  I’ve found no record of the exact composition.

CUIVRE  Copper, possibly alloyed with a small amount of another metal.

ETAIN  literally Tin, or what we might call pewter or white metal in numismatic terms.

ARGENT:  With silver we have some difficulty in finding out the fineness of silver as there are 3 marks we see on the edges of medals since the 20th century.  The coinage silver is 90% fine up to 1866.  After that date it was 83.5% until France stopped making silver coins in 1920.  They started again in 1929 with the 10 franc and 20 francs made until 1939 but with reduced content. (68% fine silver).  Then in 1965 they made silver crown sized coins for collectors as bullion coins – and these were 90%.  Phew!

On medals, I’m not sure and would appreciate some help on this:

ARGENT  Silver (if as coinage 90% silver, rest copper or another metal alloy)

ARGENT1  Silver 83.5%  ?  Dates?  In my experience we don’t see this on medals until 20th century

ARGENT2  Silver 80%   ?  Dates?   as with ARGENT1, haven’t seen this until 20th century

McHORT (abbreviation for maillechort) – nickel silver

Most of the medals will bear the medallist’s name, either in full or initials.  Using the index volume V of the Catalogue General de la Monnaie de Paris will help track down the author fairly easily.

Reverse of the Germain Pilon copper medal, issued in 1969

Reverse of the Germain Pilon copper medal, issued in 1969

More information see Monnaie de Paris glossary

also page relating to these marks on Rich Hartzog’s site  for exonumia

Really useful page  on poincons i.e. marks .

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