This silver Zeppelin medal celebrates the first circumnavigation of the globe by airship. In 1929, the Graf Zeppelin flew all the way around the globe carrying passengers at a time when airplanes could only make short hops and were barely able to carry their pilots. It was a momentous event that excited the public imagination much like the Moon Landing did in 1969.
The obverse of this medal shows 3 faces 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’.
The rim has incused text: “Preuss. Staatsmünze. Silver 900 Fein”
Identification notes: Kaiser-511
Country of origin: Germany
Composition: 90% silver
Weight: approximately 30 grams (~0.8 oz of ASW)
Size: 38mm in diameter
Other details: This medal was produced in Germany to celebrate the first around-the-world flight (completed by the Graf Zeppelin on August 29, 1929). Four noteworthy landfalls are marked on the reverse of the medal: Los Angelos, Friedrichshafen, Tokio (Tokyo), and Lakehurst.
The “Around the World” flight was a publicity stunt sponsored by William Randolf Hearst, who insisted that the flight begin and end in the United States. So, the Graf Zeppelin flew from Germany to the US before “starting” the flight, which means the total voyage was more like 1.5 times around-the-world.
The official trip began in Lakehurst, New Jersey and ended 12 days and 11 minutes later. The entire voyage took 21 days, 5 hours and 31 minutes. The airship travelled 49,618 km (30,831 miles) in total, which was even more impressive than the “Round the World” flight of 31,400 km (19,500 miles).
I looked through microfiche files for records of this medal and may have found an announcement/advertisement for its sale. A medal was listed for sale in the New York Times on March 3, 1929. The ad lists a medal with a size “similar to a 5-mark silver piece” that sold for $2. If the engraver is the same, then this medal was designed by Joseph Bernhart and minted by the Prussian State Mint.
Estimated value: $100-150. There has been one example in comparable condition listed on eBay for the last 6 months at $200 with no bidders. I also found one in a MS-64 NGC slab that sold for $56.88 plus $2.95 shipping on Dec 12, 2010 (and you bet I wish I’d found it before the close of the auction…). Here is another page listing one of these medals for sale with no indication of the price, and an example held in a private collection.
I also have this medal in gold