Obverse Design

Curving along the top is the legend "PERCEMENT DE L'ISTHME DE PANAMA" which means "PIERCING OF THE ISTHMUS OF PANAMA". A woman representing the Panama Canal brings together two Poseidon figures (the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean), in the background are two lighthouses representing the two coasts. There is a circle of very small beads next to the rim.

Reverse Design

In the center of the medal are eight lines of text and some solid divider lines as follows. The top two lines say "CANAL" and "DE PANAMA" which means "CANAL OF PANAMA". There is a short solid divider line and then the next two lines of text say "COMPAGNIE UNIVERSELLE" and "DU CANAL INTEROCÉANIQUE" which means something like "UNIVERSAL COMPANY OF THE INTEROCEANIC CANAL". After another divider line is the legend "7 8 ET 9 DECÉMBRE 1880" which means "December 7,8 and 9, 1880". Again there is a short divider line and then the last three lines which say "A SES SOUSCRIPTEURS", "LA BANQUE" and "PARISIENNE" which means "THE BANK OF PARIS TO ITS SUBSCRIBERS". There is a circle of very small beads next to the rim.

Edge Design

The edge has a cornucopia horn (Paris mintmark) and the word "ARGENT" which means "SILVER".

Metal Silver (965/1000 purity). Weight 20 grams. Size and Shape Round, 34.75 mm in diameter. Width 2.25 mm.
Dates Issued December 7, 8 and 9, 1880.
Issuer Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique.
Mintage Unknown.
Rarity Scarce. Manufacturer Paris Mint. Other Catalog Numbers None known.
Varieties Issued in bronze and silver. The most common design, which appears in both bronze and silver, has all the reverse legends going across the middle and specifically mentions the dates December 7, 8 and 9, 1880. There is a second more rare design I have only seen in bronze, which has the "COMPAGNIE UNIVERSELLE DU CANAL INTEROCEANIQUE" reverse legend curving along the edge, and mentions only the year 1880 without any days or month.
Function Issued to subscribers who purchased a certain amount of stock in the French Canal Company in 1880.
Historical Notes

The medal was engraved by Louis-Oscar Roty (1846-1911), one of the greatist medalists of the nineteenth century. By far his most famous work is that of ‘La Semeuse’, the woman sowing seeds who still appears on most official French coins. He was a leading creative visionary during his era and has influenced many engravers and artists ever since. These medals are sought after not only by Panama Canal collectors but also by Roty collectors, with a significant impact on the price of these scarce medals.

Population Count Recent sales include:
  1. Auction sale on ebay on February 1, 2007 for $394.00 plus $9.00 shipping.
  2. Auction sale on ebay on January 23, 2007 for $286.00 plus $9.00 shipping.
  3. Auction sale on ebay on September 25, 2006 for $493.84 plus $10.00 shipping.
  4. Auction sale on ebay on April 15, 2006 for $851.00.
  5. Auction sale on ebay on October 27, 2005 for $597.00 plus $8.00 shipping.