For the Swiss, the Schützenfest (Shooting Festival) is the highlighting event of the year, drawing canton leaders and citizens from all corners to come together in joyous celebration of friendly competition and comradeship.
Shooting medals are awarded to winners during Schützenfest and are struck in a gold, silver, bronze, and white metal alloys. Silver medals are most generally available, with bronze medals twice as rare as the corresponding pieces in silver. Medals in gold-gilt and white metal are extremely rare. And the very few gold medals struck are ultra rare. These winner’s medals are typically seen as precious family ancestory heirlooms passed down the family tree, from father to son.
The Swiss were remarkable for their willingness to devote exceptional artistic effort to the production of such very short issues. These shooting medals have uniquely high reliefs giving them almost surreal three-dimensional look and feel. Intricate depictions of Old Suisse historical events, landmarks and people are engraved onto the medals, giving them important significance and meaning.
The scarcity of these medals is noteworthy. Mintages of these medals are typically residing in to just few hundreds pieces to tens or even low single pieces left in circulation today. There are also instances in the early 1800’s, where some of the shooting medals were intentionally made with similar dimensions (with reeded edges, size & weight) to the coins in general circulation then. While these medals do not bear specific denominational inscriptions, there exists indisputable evidence showing that they did in fact were circulated as coins, especially if they were made of silver and gold.
Besides these Schützen medals, a series of Schützentalers were also minted. These were minted by the sovereign cantons where the festivals were being held and accepted as legal tender. They were for general use during, and after the Schützenfest throughout the Suisse Confederacy.
However, collecting these fine rarities of art is definitely not easy over time. With sadness the scarcity of both of these remarkable numismatic materials has increased tremendously due to many of such awards being melted for bullion, lost, or through general attrition. The remaining pieces that survived today, in the hands of collectors, numbers an estimate 10-15% of the originally cantonal recorded mintages.
Finally, from the numismatic perspective, these Schützen medals and talers stand out for their exceptional & captivating design beauty. Especially due to their special unique place in Old Suisse history and tradition, these rarities are much loved and sought after by true numismatist collectors all around the world today.