Swiss shooting thalers and medals

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by Ursula Kampmann
translated by Almuth Klingner

May 24, 2018 – Switzerland and its shooting clubs have a special relationship – that can already be seen on the first page of the second edition of Jürg Richter’s successful title. For the first of a total of five prefaces was written by Guy Parmelin, Swiss Federal Councilor responsible for the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport. In this country, where people are proud of their militia system in which the recruits regularly take part in obligatory shootings, the shooting sport is an important part of the national identity. Thus, Jürg Richter’s catalog of “Swiss shooting thalers and shooting medals” is more than “just” a simple coin catalog. It is an excursion into the Swiss identity, a numismatic comment on “armed neutrality” à la Suisse.

Jürg Richter, Die Schützentaler und Schützenmedaillen der Schweiz / Swiss shooting thalers and shooting medals / Monnaies et médailles de tir Suisses / Monete e medaglie di tiro de la Svizzera. Battenberg Gietl Verlag, Regenstauf 2018. 2nd edition. 559 p., continually colored images. 24,8 x 28,5 cm. Hardcover. ISBN: 978-3-86646-162-8. 85 euros.

Many readers will be familiar with the book’s first edition. It is a catalog of all medals that were minted in the context of shooting matches as awards or souvenirs. N. b.: It is not about medals with the image of a shooter. School prizes, medals for festivals of the Grütli Union and of military veteran associations, NCO medals and the like were deliberately excluded.

For every single shooting medal, there is an image, the year of minting, the place of the shooting and the exact occasion. The pieces are sorted by canton, and within the cantons chronologically. A continuous numbering is given from the first to the last specimen. There are also sub-numbers (a, b, c) for different metals or diameters. For each sub-number, two prices are listed, for “very fine to extremely fine” and “FDC” respectively.

So far, so good. The principle has remained the same for the 2nd edition, but several hundreds of new medals as A numbers have been added. What’s more, for the first time, the most important and most common wreath badges are included. For all non-Swiss readers: Wreath badges are given to all participants of a shooting with a certain score. Only after this qualifying round, the actual competition between the best takes place.
Besides, Jürg Richter, who took all the photos for his book himself, has improved the pictures wherever he could find a better preserved piece.

New are also the notes regarding market availability, which often considerably differs from the numbers of minting. Namely the silver items were often smelted for their material value, which is why the mintage by itself is no indicator for a coin’s rarity. Jürg Richter therefore adds his estimated number of pieces available on the free market.

And he has taken into account the fact that shooting medals are very popular collectibles in the English-speaking world, especially in the US. Thus, the entire introduction has been translated into English. The catalog, too, contains English translations for the more complicated contents, e. g. the comments.

Two book presentations in one evening: From left to right: Ruedi Kunzmann, Karl Weisenstein and Jürg Richter. Photo: UK.

An index of 47 (!) pages rounds off the heavyweight book. The print there is so small that you need really good eyes (or a magnifying glass) for looking things up in the index. Fortunately, a magnifying glass is part of every numismatist’s basic tools.

Let’s hope that this catalog gets the attention it deserves, also in the United States. For the knowledge on the background of Swiss shooting medals leaves something to be desired. Thus, the author does not refrain from voicing a personal wish, or rather from expressing his anger towards an absurd practice in the grading of shooting medals: “In recent times, the two American grading companies PCGS and NGC have also graded Swiss shooting medals. Since these firms, as a rule, do not grade coins and medals with mount marks, it must be clearly said that mount marks on Swiss shooting medals are absolutely normal and should be graded by PCGS and NGC as an exception from their rule. This should also apply for the few medals with original punching (Type D). This catalogue is the valid reference as to which medals were originally produced with a hole. Correspondingly these originally punched medals should also be graded by PCGS and NGC.”

This seems reasonable and useful. The new catalog by Jürg Richter is fundamental proof that the author is currently the best-informed authority on the topic of Swiss shooting medals. And one should listen to true authorities, especially if one claims to be an authority oneself.

You can buy the book here.

In 2016, Jürg Richter received the Otto Paul Wenger Prize. CoinsWeekly reported on it.

Jürg Richter is head of the Zurich auction house Sincona. At the May auctions, the new edition of “Swiss shooting thalers and shooting medals” was presented.