Military medals are minted in the same manner that coins are and have been around since the late 1700s when Poland created the Virtuti Militari to recognise extraordinary military service and acts of bravery.
Humanity has always decorated its warriors and protectors. It has also decorated those who have performed in an exemplary manner in society, by helping others. History shows that the ancient Egyptians used decorations to recognise both soldiers and civilians. This continued through to Roman times, the Crusades and beyond. The concept was the same, but the decoration was different.
In some cultures, warriors were tattooed in recognition for merit they deserved and this concept was later picked up by pirates on the high seas.
Medals as they are known today began to be issued in the British Empire. It had the world’s most professional army and navy at one point and their status was reflected by the fact that there was always room for advancement if one showed leadership and intellect.
The armed forces of the British Empire reinforced this through the issue of medals for brave acts or long service. While these could be kept, they could also, if the soldier came across hard times, be sold in return for monetary coin.
The military and civilian medals came to prominence in the First World War. This became even more prevalent in the Second World War. The United States, for example, decorates each and every soldier which is wounded while serving with the Armed Forces. Medals have also been awarded to the population of a whole country. In World War Two, the people of Malta were awarded the George Cross, which is the second highest medal in the British honours. Medals are also awarded to members of the disciplined forces. Police, paramedic and fire departments have their own honours system.
Not to mention all those assigned at major sports tournaments and major global events such as the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.