Coins vs. Medals

What is the difference between commemorative coins and medals minted by the United States Mint?

Let’s compare and contrast the Benjamin Franklin Firefighters Silver Medal to the Benjamin Franklin Founding Father Commemorative Silver Dollar.

First, the silver dollar’s obverse:

Benjamin Franklin Founding Father Commemorative Dollar obverse

The coin’s obverse contains “Liberty,” the mintage year “2006” and “IN GOD WE TRUST” in addition to Mr. Franklin’s image, signature and the title of the coin, “Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary.” The mint mark, “P,” shows just below “IN GOD WE TRUST.”

Now, let’s look at the Benjamin Franklin Firefighters medal’s obverse:

Benjamin Franklin Firefighters Proof Silver Medal obverse

The design honors Benjamin Franklin, but the iconic components of our coinage, “Liberty,” “IN GOD WE TRUST” and the mintage date are missing.

The reverse of the commemorative coin shows the Continental Dollar design, but more importantly, it shows “ONE DOLLAR,” “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” around the outer area of the coin.

Benjamin Franklin Founding Father Commemorative Dollar reverse

The Benjamin Franklin Firefighters Medal includes the image of a firefighter rescuing a young child. The medal’s inscriptions include: “TO SERVE AND PROTECT,” “FIRE SERVICE BILL OF RIGHTS, and “BY ACT OF CONGRESS.”  The mint mark, “P,” can be seen just below “CONGRESS.”

Benjamin Franklin Firefighters Proof Silver Medal reverse

The common inscriptions found on all of our coinage are suspiciously absent from the silver medal.

The packaging for the silver medal is reminiscent of the American Silver Eagle packaging in the size of the box and the velvet covered holder containing the medal:

Benjamin Franklin Firefighters Proof Silver Medal packaging

Back to the coin versus the medal, other big differences occur with the size and content.

  Commemorative Silver Dollar Silver Medal
Diameter 1.500 inches
(38.10 mm)
1.598 inches
(40.60 mm)
Weight 26.73 grams 31.134 grams
Content 90% silver, 10% copper 99.99% Silver,
balance copper
Silver 24.057 grams,
0.77345 troy ounce
31.103 grams,
1.000 troy ounce


As for value, the Benjamin Franklin Commemorative Silver Dollar has monetary value in that it is legal tender in addition its metal content (even though it is worth more as a collectible and as silver than the noted “ONE DOLLAR” coinage). On the other hand, the silver medal contains more silver content, therefore it has more silver value.

Numismatists or money collectors favor the commemorative silver dollar and help drive the ongoing value for the coin. Medal collectors and, in this case, firefighters will be drawn to the silver medal. As with all coins and medals, supply and demand play important roles in the market values.

Both the commemorative silver dollar and the silver medal highlight the wisdom and value Benjamin Franklin added to our way of life so many years ago. The artists, designers and engravers of the US Mint provided beautiful examples – whether coins or medals – to honor and to remember Mr. Franklin’s contributions.