This gold medal celebrates the first circumnavigation of the globe by airship. In 1929, the Graf Zeppelin airship flew all the way around the world carrying passengers at a time when airplanes were still only flown by daredevils and could only make short hops. It was a momentous event that made front page news around the world.
Identification Notes: Kaiser-511.3
Country of origin: Germany
Composition: 90% gold
Weight: 6.58 grams (0.20889 oz of AGW)
Size: 22mm in diameter
Description: The obverse of this medal shows 3 busts in profile; Count von Zeppelin (the namesake of the airship), Dr. Hugo Eckener (the pilot and driving force behind building the airship), and Ludwig Dürr (chief engineer). A legend runs around the border, identifying each man and his role: “Zeppelin – Der Schopfer * Eckener – Der Fuhrer * Durr Der Erbauer“. That loosely translates as ‘Zeppelin: the visionary / Eckener: the leader / Durr: the builder’.
The reverse shows a map of the world with the flightplan and dates marked. The legend reads “* 1929 * I. Weltfahrt Des Luftschiffs >> Graf Zeppelin <<” which translates as ‘1929, First Round the World Flight by Airship, Graf Zeppelin’.
Other details: This medal was produced in Germany to celebrate the first around-the-world flight by airship (completed by the Graf Zeppelin on August 29, 1929). Notable stops are marked on the reverse, including Newhurst, Friedrichshofen, Tokyo, and Los Angelos.
The circumnavigation of the globe was a publicity stunt sponsored by William Randolf Hearst. Hearst insisted that the flight begin and end in the United States even though the Graf Zeppelin’s homebase was in Germany. So, the Graf Zeppelin flew from Germany to the US before ‘starting’ the voyage. This added quite a bit of distance to the “around-the-world” flight.
The official voyage from Lakehurst, New Jersey and back to Lakehurst took 12 days and 11 minutes. The entire voyage took 21 days, 5 hours and 31 minutes. The airship travelled 49,618 km (30,831 miles) in total, but the eyes of the world were on the ‘mere’ 31,400 km flight (19,500 miles).
I tried to research this medal, but information is scarce. While looking for articles about the flight, I found similar medals listed for sale in the New York Times edition of March 3, 1929. The ad lists a “Gold 900 fein” coin that sold for $25. Based on the date, that medal may be the similar Kaiser 510.2. Even so, if the engraver is the same, then this medal was designed by Joseph Bernhart.
Estimated Value: $500-650. This is a rare medal and it is hard to find comparison sales. This is one of the most recent sales (possibly in a higher grade), and this listing seems to include catalog errors. Before gold began it’s stratospheric rise in price, one sold for $257 in Europe. I believe this is the auction where I made my purchase.
I also have this medal in silver.