DATING FRENCH MEDALS BY EDGE-MARKINGS
The following is a guide produced by the late David Block to assist in the dating of French medals. The many restrikes of early medals, in particular the Napoleonic period, make it vital to understand the background and methods of dating the production of French medals.
The Paris Mint was restructured in 1832 and a new policy was instituted; the application of edge-marks on medals struck in precious metals from dies that were owned by the Mint. This practice was perhaps adopted to insure buyers of medals that they were actually made of a precious metal. The edge of the medal was also imprinted with an image of an ancient lamp. The image called a poincon was used from the 30th of March 1832 to early 1841.
In 1841 it was further decided that the edge poincon would be chamged to the personal emblem of the Mint Director, and that all medals will be stamped to denote the metal content, including base metal items. From the 21st of October 1841 to 1842 the punch used was an anchor interlaced with a letter C.
From the 25th of September 1842 to 1845, the prow of a ship was used.
From the 12th of June 1845 to 1860, a pointing hand was used.
From the 1st of October 1860 to 1880, a bee was used.
In 1879, a further decision was made to stop the practice of changing the poincon with each change of Director. From the 1st of January 1880, a cornucopia has been used. At some time later, after 1950, it was decided to further add the year in which the medal was struck.
The punches were made in several sizes, some as small as 0.75 millimetres. In some cases the edge markings were poorly struck, but an outline is normally all that is required to identify the poincon. These edge markings do not always indicate that the medals were restruck from copied or earlier dies, simply the year in which the medal was struck. It should be noted that the Paris Mint only marked medals struck from dies owned by the Paris Mint as they did store dies owned by individuals and did produce strikings from these dies. These latter medals were not edge marked. Whether a plain edged Napoleonic medal was struck during the Napoleonic period must be judged by its patina, the quality of the strike and the details of the medal. In the case of base metal medals, consideration must be given to the fact that medals produced between 1832 and 1841 were not edge marked.
Information Courtesy of David Block