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Medal, from the French word medaille, which takes its derivation from the Latin, metallum. The appelation of medal is given to every piece of gold, of silver, or of brass, which bears an impression desinged to preserve the remembrance of a great man, of a sovereign, or of a remarkable event. Medals or coins in the monetary sense of the term may also be defined as pieces of metal on which public authority has stamped different signs to indicate their weight and their value, in order that they might serve for the acquisition of things necessary to human existence, and that they might facilitate commerce, which, without that means of exchange, would be difficult.
The Greeks called money or coins NOMISMA, the Latins nummus or numus. The science of medals has been called by modern French archeologists Numismatique.
Additional and updated information:
Medal: The above definition would have any coin used in commerce and marked with value called a medal or coin interchangably. Ordinary coinage meant for circulation is not considered a medal today. Rather, coins minted for collectors and for special occasions (commemoratives) are called medals. These coins are not intended for circulation, although they sometimes have done so. See medallion.
Medal Orientation: A modern coin minted for circulation will have the obverse and reverse 180 degrees different to each other. In other words, when looking at one side of the coin, the other side will be upside-down to the side you are looking at. A medal's orientation will be 0 degrees, meaning both sides of the coin are orientated in the same direction. Ancient coins have orientation at random no matter the purpose of the coin. This is because the dies that make the image were aligned by hand, and the strike was made by hammer rather than machine, and the ancient coin minters did not have any requirement to align the two sides in a prescribed way.