American Numismatic Society
American Numismatic Society

Drachmas Doubloons and Dollars: The History of Money

The Art of the Medal

Medals in the 20th Century

World War I and its bloody battles in the trenches of northern France dramatically altered the perception of war. The enormous number of casualties and the war machinery provided artists with a repertoire of new images. German expressionist artists created a different style of medals in open rejection of the elegant style common in the early 20th century.

This medal by S. Kinsburger illustrates a traditional view of the Battle of the Marne in 1914. Soldiers, armed with rifles and swords, are led into battle by a personification of Victory. The decorative scene is far removed from the horrors of war and focuses on the end result: success.


The German Ludwig Gries gives a complex and ultimately biased interpretation if the United States' involvement in World War I. The image on this medal of 1917 shows the skyline of Manhattan behind a large swimming monster carrying ammunition and eating coins. The United States, neutral until 1917, is symbolically accused of taking sides by financing the war effort of the allies.