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Relief on coins

Started by <k>, June 30, 2021, 07:09:15 PM

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<k>

Coin designs usually start as a sketch or painting, then they are modelled or sculpted. Depending on how high the design is raised above the coin's surface, we talk about low relief or high relief.
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<k>

#1


Gibraltar, 50 pence, 2014.


In recent years designs have often been produced in low relief.

This can be disappointing for collectors.

A design in low relief does not suggest high quality.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

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<k>



Another example of low relief from Gibraltar.
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<k>

Over the decades, the relief on coins seems to have become lower. Perhaps one reason for this is that coins in general are becoming smaller. If so, maybe it would make sense to produce simple or even simplistic designs on coins.
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<k>

#4
Oman, Spink, commemorating the opening of Al-Bustan Palace, 1985.jpg

Oman, Spink, commemorating the opening of Al-Bustan Palace, 1985.

Very high relief is more often seen on medals than coins. Here is an example on a 1985 medal, courtesy of Heritage Auctions.


French Guiana~.jpg

Also a gorgeous 1935 medal from French Guiana.
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africancoins

From archived files from the British Royal Mint, it can be seen that in order to have some control on the overall level of relief for a particular coins, they would state their requirements to the modeller ahead of the modeller sculpting the plaster model. One example I saw was for a crown-size coin in the 1970s, for this the model was requested to be of 7 inch diameter and having...

Maximum relief of effigy 50 thousandths of an inch.

Minimum relief of effigy 14 thousandths of an inch.

Lettering to be 35 thousandths of an inch.

Just how the modeller keeps to requirements such of these I don't know – but that is all a part of the required skills of the modeller.

Thanks Mr Paul Baker

<k>

Thank you for that. It's obviously highly skilled and talented work.
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brandm24

The 1907 High and Ultra High Relief St Gaudens Double Eagles are perhaps the most recognizable of all US coins. Both are very rare, especially the Ultra High Relief examples.

The High Relief measures 34 mm and is 33.4 grams in weight. It's struck in 90% Gold / 10% Copper. Though 11,250 were struck probably less than 2,000 still survive. Because of the slow rate of striking  the high relief  feature was soon abandoned in favor of a standard relief business strike.

The Ultra High Relief examples went through a painstakingly slow process of manufacture. Each coin was struck as many as nine times. After each strike the coin was annealed and cleaned with nitric acid. The process left the finished coin with a bright gold color and distinguished it from the orangy gold color seen on other standard gold coins. The difference is obvious in the posted images.

Bruce
Always Faithful

<k>

So proof coins are sometimes given a higher relief than normal.

As for low relief coins, I found the UK Olympics 50 pence coins of 2011-2 to be in disappointingly low relief when I found them in my change. Even judging by the images I had seen of them, I was not expecting that.
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Figleaf

#9
Proofs always have a higher relief, because they are struck multiple times and with a higher weight.

This is exactly the issue with relief on circulation coins. The lower the relief, the less pressure you need the faster you can strike them. Also, the higher the pressure, the faster the dies wear and the larger and thicker the coin, the more pressure you need. Therefore, the heavier the coin, the lower the viable relief on circulation issues. An additional problem with high relief coins is that you need a higher and possibly a broader raised edge, or the coins can't be piled. (BTW, combining this thought with the Ellingham discussion gives me inspiration. I will contribute it there.)

It's different for proofs and the like, patterns, trials, medals and other stuff where detail and eye appeal is more important than production speed and cost.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.