What is the difference between medals and coins?

Difference between coins and medals

Especially for newcomers to coin collecting, there are many questions and misconceptions. One of them is the difference between coins and medals. Since some of them look incredibly similar and are usually made of precious metals like gold and silver, it is not always easy to recognize / know what you have in your possession.

Coin dealers nevertheless explain that there are a few simple ways to tell the two apart with relative ease. Below you will find information about the differences between coins and medals, so you can better understand your collection and enjoy more pleasure with the coins or medals.


For something to be considered a coin, it must meet certain crucial criteria.

First, it must have been minted by a state mint.

It must also have been assigned a specific monetary value and be intended for circulation as money.

Very important to know here is that although coins have a certain value stamped on the coin, many exceed this original value, especially if they are rare or made of precious metals.

Some smaller governments may issue a coin minted by another country’s mint.

So, since coins are legal tender, they have a face value, also called nominal. This is the defined value that must be accepted when paying. The face value of a coin is usually represented by the imprinted number. Nevertheless, there are exceptions, such as the Krugerrand coins, which have not minted their own denomination, but are still considered a means of payment in South Africa and are accepted as a coin worldwide.

The most famous types of coins:

Circulation coins: our everyday companions

Gold bullion coins: Maple Leaf, Krugerrand, American Eagle, Vienna Philharmonic

Collector coins: Krugerrand gold special issues (e.g. in proof or as a set), special issues in gold from Russia (e.g. the “Save Our World” series, consisting of a 50 ruble, 100 ruble and 200 ruble gold coin), various vintages of the China Panda, special issues of the Perth Mint from Australia

Often collectible coins are also available as sets, in which a particular theme is treated in a set.


Medals, on the other hand, are usually used to commemorate a specific person or event and are not intended as legal tender. These medals are usually traded among coin collectors or sold for the value of the materials from which they were made. However, some medals are still very valuable because of their rarity, regardless of whether they were minted as money or not. If you’re unsure, you’re better off contacting a coin dealer to find out what your medal may really be worth.

Types medals

Medals are often minted for special occasions. Most often they serve to honor.

Known are:

  • Sports medals: Olympic Games (since 1904), World Championships, European Championships and other continental championships, national championships.
  • Scientific medals: Nobel Prize, Physics: Max Planck Medal, awarded by the German Physical Society, Psychology: Wilhelm Wundt Medal for outstanding scientific work, etc.
  • Medals in the school education system: Lessing Medal in gold and silver
  • Commemorative medals commemorating important historical events
  • Commemorative medals for anniversaries
  • Military medals or award for military achievements, bravery

Let’s summarize once again.

A coin:

  • has a monetary value
  • is considered legal tender
  • has a date
  • Is issued by a government
  • can be made of precious or non-precious metal
  • if it is minted from precious metal, such as gold, platinum, palladium, silver, can be worth much more than its monetary value
  • if it is made of non-precious metals, it can be worth much less than its monetary value


  • usually has no monetary value
  • Is not intended as legal tender
  • May be issued by a government or non-governmental entity
  • usually consists of precious metal
  • has no monetary value, even if it is made of a precious metal such as silver or gold
  • coined to commemorate an event, person, group or activity

We also buy your coins. Contact us as soon as possible and we will get in touch with you. Interested? To do this, click on the following link: Purchase of coins.

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