Medal marks 'Speech from the Throne' by Kaiser Wilhelm II to the German Reichstag

The Research Desk column from the Feb. 9, 2015, issue of Coin World
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 01/27/15
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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 imperial eagle.

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.

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