German medalists were among the most prolific creators of patriotic
medals at the beginning of World War I. In all warring countries in
that late summer of 1914, popular jubilation inspired popular medals
that swiftly sold out, followed by additional issues radiating
confidence in swift, certain and glorious victory.
Germany possessed unmatched resources for high-quality medals,
including official mints and private medal firms. Many early issues
were called gedenkthaler, coin-like pieces initially struck in .990
silver that resembled the empire’s commemorative 3-mark coins in
diameter and relief.
Some were struck before the bullets began to fly, including several
hailing the Aug. 4, 1914, “Speech from the Throne” delivered by Kaiser
Wilhelm II before the imperial parliament or Reichstag. Numismatist
Georg Zetzmann cataloged these medals in his Deutsche
Silbermedaillen des I. Weltkriegs (H. Gietl Verlag, 2002).
Zetzmann #2004 is a .990 silver, 34.5-millimeter, 15.8-gram medal by
Austrian-born medalist Arthur Galambos, pupil of Vienna medalists
Tautenhayn and Marschall, published by the Berlin coin firm Robert
Ball Nachfolger, directed by Hugo Grünthal.
Depicted in uniform
The obverse is a character vignette of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who once
called uniform “the work clothes of the imperial family.”
He wears the glittering uniform of the Garde du Corps with steel
breastplate and lobster-tail helmet crowned with the single-headed
The legend offers needed wartime conciliation, ICH KENNE KEINE
PARTEIEN MEHR, I KENNE NUR DEUTSCHEN, translating to “I know no more
parties, I know only Germans.”
The reverse has a naked sword with point up, and a quotation, IN
AUFGEDRUNGENER NOTWEHR MIT REINEM GEWISSEN UND REINER HAND ERGREIFEN
WIR DAS SCHWERT, which translates to “Let us grip the sword in the
self-defense forced upon us, with clear minds and pure hands.”
The edge is inscribed SILBER .990.
Static trench warfare in the west succeeded the early months of
swift advance. New medals appeared less frequently and .990 silver
gave way to .835 and lesser finenesses, then yielded to plated alloys
first called IMIT. BRONZE and other less costly Kriegsmetall, war
alloys such as zinc and iron.
One hundred years after issue, however, this prooflike Speech from
the Throne medal still carries the fragrance of that optimistic
autumn, soon replaced with the grimmer endurance of the following years.