The awarding of medals (or medallions) can be traced as far back as Ancient Greece and Alexander the Great.  Roman emperors presented medals as both military awards and political gifts.  Starting from the Middle Ages, it was common practice for European sovereigns, nobles, and intellectuals to commission medals in a variety of metals to be given as gifts to political allies for the purpose of maintaining or gaining support.  As the art form developed over time, medals were also used to document achievements in the arts and sciences and celebrate a success or social distinction.


Art collector and historian, Stephen K. Scher, assembled the finest private collection of portrait medals in the world, and in Heads and Tales: The Odyssey of a Medals Collector, he tells the story behind the building of his collection, including the motivation, temptations, mistakes, and successes. It’s a rare opportunity to learn from a collector’s personal experience.

If you missed the live broadcast, there’s still time to watch a video recording.  Just click/tap the “Watch Again” button on the video player below ↓ 

In 2017, the Frick Collection in New York City celebrated the Scher medal collection with the The Pursuit of Immortality: Masterpieces from the Scher Collection of Portrait Medals exhibit, showcasing more than 120 medals along with sculptures and works on paper from the museum’s holdings.  The exhibition examined the history, range and versatility of this fine art form produced by artists who were also well-known painters, sculptors, and printmakers, from Pisanello in Renaissance Italy to David d’Angers in nineteenth-century France.

Medal, Google Arts & Culture  (Free to view: Digital photo collection of historical and ancient medals)
Wikipedia, Medals


Five generations of a family assembled the most historically significant 19th century American photographic collectionMore about history and collecting –  The Meserve-Kunhardt Collection is an extraordinary compilation of 19th century American photography and the largest collection of unique photographs of Abraham Lincoln passionately collected, preserved and documented by five generations.


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Feature photo of Isabella d’Este medal by Gian Cristoforo Romano (Italian Renaissance sculptor), sourced via WikiMedia, Public Domain

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Posted by Zola Zeester

Zola is a vagabond playmaker, the On2In2™ recreation guru and primary source of inspiration for this article. Currently resides at Zeester Media HQ.

One Comment

  1. After watching Scher’s lecture, have a clearer understanding of ‘multum in parvo’ and his passion for medal collecting. Congratulations Stephen K. Scher and the Frick Collection!

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