Display of Genocide Commemorative Medals Wins Top Award

By Charles A. Hajinian

MILWAUKEE, Wisc.—A spectacular display of commemorative medals memorializing the Armenian Genocide received “Best-in-Show” honors at the annual October 2014 convention of the Milwaukee Numismatic Society.

Dr. Levon A. Saryan with his winning display
Dr. Levon A. Saryan with his winning display

The exhibit was prepared by Dr. Levon A. Saryan, a recognized numismatic expert. Saryan is a member of the Armenian Numismatic Society, the Society for Armenian Studies, and is an overseas member of the Republic of Armenia National Academy of Sciences.

The exhibit, entitled “Armenia’s Agony: Commemorative Medals of the 1915 Armenian Genocide,” was recognized for exceptional creativity as well as artistic layout and historic content. This display presents the history of the Armenian Genocide through the medium of vermeil, silver, bronze, and pewter medals issued in the United States and around the world. The prize award, a rare gold coin, was presented at the Milwaukee Numismatic Society meeting on Nov. 20.

“The Armenian Genocide was a turning point in Armenian history, and it deserves to be widely recognized in monumental art,” said Saryan. “Armenian communities around the world have, at considerable expense, erected monuments to this unspeakable tragedy. Commemorative medals, which although smaller in size convey the same impression of permanence, can be designed, manufactured, and distributed for a fraction of the cost of an outdoor monument. These medals tell the Armenian story to those unfamiliar with this history.

“Especially on the threshold of the 100th anniversary, I would like to appeal to Armenians around the world to explore the theme of the genocide in metallic art,” Saryan said. “Medals are miniature monuments that can be held in the hand, displayed in the home, and carried with the owner from place to place. As far as I am aware, this is only numismatic display that focuses on the 1915 genocide.”

The earliest medals dedicated to the genocide were struck in Russia in 1915, as the massacres and deportations of Armenians were underway. These solidarity medals, issued in silver and gilt bronze, depict an Armenian cross and an eagle, and carry a dedication to the Armenian people during their time of trial. Today, these privately struck medals are extremely rare. The design was recently reissued in a very limited edition by the Armenian Genocide Museum and Institute in Yerevan.

Saryan has created several numismatic displays on Armenian subjects, each with a unifying theme. Evaluations by three or four judges are tallied to determine the winner. The same display has also been recognized at regional and national numismatic shows. Judging criteria include technical accuracy, background information, concept originality, attractiveness, effective use of color, completeness, and condition and rarity of the material. Numismatic exhibiting combines scholarship and concise factual presentation with a sense of aesthetics and design.

“Coins, medals, tokens, and paper currency are an integral part of the Armenian heritage. Preparing an attractive, educational numismatic exhibit is a great way to promote Armenia’s culture and history to others,” Saryan said.

Dr. Levon Saryan has a wonderful history of presenting and winning awards for his Armenian coin and medal displays at many national, highly competitive numismatic shows and conventions. We encourage all Armenians to begin to explore their Armenian history and legacy through the 2,400 years of Armenian coin history.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.


  1. Is this a recent news? The dates mentioned inside the story is October and November 2014. But the news is published on January 31, 2015. I am confused. Thanks.

  2. The competition was in October but the prize was not presented until late November. There was delay in getting the article into press.

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