Calendar medals have their origins in the 17th century, when numismatic technology reached a level that could reproduce this level of detail. In 1933 Austria began to release an annual kalender medaille, which continues. Most of them are silver, but some years were released in bronze.
Calendar medals provided people with a quick pocket reference to any date in the year. The earliest of these incorporate two tables, a Sunday table that shows the dates of each Sunday for all twelve months, and a Moon table that shows the dates of full and sometimes new moons. The Moon table was said to be of particular use for planning journeys on nights with the potential for better lighting. The last full Moon table was included in 1938.
The coins are grouped into the seven traditional, visible planets of the ancients, which include the Sun and Moon. They cycle through these in a curious order, the reason for the particular order is unclear: Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. Nearly all of them feature related images of Roman deities and the Zodiac, which reflects the country’s history. Essentially the German lands that fell under the Holy Roman Empire’s rule, the place is traditionally Catholic, while typical of royal lineages who consider themselves part of ancient, unbroken blood rights to rulership, references to the preceding empire served to establish their antiquity. At the same time, most of them feature the dates of the four Moveable Feasts.
In some cases Janus takes the place of Jupiter; the Four Seasons or the Solar Chariot take the place of the Sun. The Nazi Anschluss annexed the country in 1938, and did not end until 1945, with a return to autonomy for the country in 1955. Notably, one divergence from Roman symbolism was 1947, when the year ruled by the Sun depicts a bearded figure and the phrase, “Es Werde Licht” (Let There be Light) a unique reference to the Christian creator, and in this initial period of Allied administration, “Cum Deo” (With God) was added beside the year. Other exceptions include Athena in place of Saturn in the year 1965, and the next time around, a Sphinx aboard a sailing ship in place of Saturn as well. In 1975 a rooster and an owl are featured for the Sun. Throughout the calendar coins have exhibited modernity through austere Art Deco type, with the exception of the first three years of Anschluss where the Germans saw fit to impose a gothic font. Increasingly the influence of modern art in overall design appeared through the seventies, but in 1980 and onward, we see the return of traditional mythological gods in an emphatic, neo-classical style, with several grouped years designed by single artists.
I share these as an interesting way to quickly scroll through the years. They provide a way to absorb the passage of time, and the proximity of the past. And through their design elements, they give us a kind of control against which to experiment with assumptions about culture and the graphics that they maintain as part of their myths.