Daniel S. writes: I have a 4 oz. sterling silver commemorative medallion that reads “Industrial and Crafts Exhibition Rhineland-Westphalia combined with a German National Art Exhibition Dusseldorf 1902”. On the face is a standing male figure holding a laurel wreath, with a seated angel beside him. It appears to have been created by a person named Heinz Mueller, minted by Oertel, Berlin. The coin is in absolutely mint condition. Any more information on its history or value? (It was retrieved from a German safe in WWII–why hadn’t it been melted down by then?)
Works of art are not usually destroyed for their metal content. The artistic value most often exceeds the intrinsic value of the material that it is made from. It was common for major expositions to issue medals either as a commemorative of the event or as awards for entries in a display competition. Usually, the designer’s name is not prominent on the medal and is placed in an obscure area in the design.
I’m not familiar with Heinz Mueller but if his name is prominently displayed then he might have been the person awarded the medal. You mention that the medal was sterling. Sterling refers to the silver content which would be 92.5% silver. This information usually appears on the plain edge and is expressed as “.925”.
Medals, by the way, are not “coins” – they do not have a denomination or official monetary value. Medals from this exposition can be quite valuable. Typical values that such a piece might bring at auction: $400 – $600+. That’s pretty good for less than $80 worth of silver.