The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 26, June 27, 2010, Article 11


Dick Johnson submitted this piece on the ins and outs of borders, rims and edges in numismatics. Thanks! -Editor

I cataloged a medal this week that brought to mind the differences between borders, rims and edges, three terms in numismatics that are often confused.

The medal at hand had a medium wide rim on the reverse for a very unusual purpose - it was intended for inscribing the recipient's name. The obverse bore a scene of a female placing a wreath on a male youth's head. The reverse bore the logo of the sponsoring firm, Diamond Match Company.

That wide rim had a cartouche stretching around two-thirds of the top circumference of the medal, with tiny ornate ends of the cartouche. It was almost as if the artist, Frederick Ziegler, had widened the rim and added the cartouche ends as an afterthought. It's the only one like this I have ever seen (of perhaps 50,000 medals I have cataloged).

Rims vary in width. They are usually narrow and flat. A very narrow rim is called a lip, a very wide rim is called a cartwheel rim (named after the British two-pence of 1797). Such a wide rim invites medal designers to add lettering, which often happened. Instead of being flat, rims can also have a bevel, called oblique. Such an oblique rim is a diagnostic of a Canadian medal maker, Lombardo Mint - all their medals have sloping rims.

But the most unusual rims of all were created by a British diesinker in the 1880s, J.A. Restall, who placed rays on top of the rims of the medals he created, an unusual mannerism, and diagnostic of this engraver. Almost like reeding on top of his medium wide rims.

The rim is the outermost element of the border. The border can be made of many elements, and the larger the medal the more opportunity for multi-element borders. They have several functions -- borders act as a frame for the design within -- they draw the viewers' eyes inward to the device and lettering. They also have a utilitarian function, particularly for multi-element borders on large medals: they help human fingers hold on to the medal. The tiny ridges of your fingerprint, the whorls and loops lock into the open areas between the ridges of the border elements. (Laugh if you wish it's true!)

Border elements have many names. A row of dots are called beaded (French, grenetis). A simple line is linear, often among a succession of planes and arcs. A molded border is made from a template when the medallist is beginning the design in clay, before transferring the design to plaster. Repeated spiked or tooth-shaped elements are called dentiles, and the border can be called dentilated. Or a border could be formed of a rope-shaped element called corded. The medal designer has a wide choice of border elements to frame his design.

The border and rim extends to the outer perimeter of the obverse or reverse surface, to the very drop-off point of the edge. I searched for years for a name of that point. I found none, so I came up with one, the rim-edge juncture. You don't need to look that up in a dictionary, you know exactly what it means.

That rim-edge juncture is very important in proof surface coining, as a pressman attempts to control the pressure of the coining press so metal of the blank fills every cavity in both dies, and forms the reeding in the collar if any, plus flowing to form a perfect point at the rim-edge juncture. If the metal goes beyond that point it squeezes out (between die and collar) to form a wire edge (British, knife edge). In metalworking that excess material is called flash.

Edges can be given many surfaces as well. Coins and medals struck inside a collar can be smooth or reeded depending upon how the collar wall was made -- both can be ejected from the collar after striking. The reeding or knurling consist of open areas, flutes, alternating between raised projections, knurls.

Since not all medals are struck inside collars, but struck with open-face dies (British box dies) their edges must be trimmed of that excess material flash, squeezed out from between the dies. Once this is done any number of things can be done to the edge of medals. They can be beveled, rounded, polished (please don't--a super smooth edge hastens dropping the medal), and of course, lettering, hallmarking or such.

Hope that helps eliminate any misuse of these terms.

Thanks, Dick. The medal he was cataloging is illustrated in the Stack's Coin Galleries December 18, 2007 mail bid sale, lot 2038, page 143. There is no image available in the Stack's online archives, but here is the lot description: Diamond Match Company Faithful Service Medal, ca. 1910. Bronze, 76.3mm. By. F. Ziegler. Obv. Industry crowns worker. Rev. Match manufacturer's logo. Style of Gorham Co. About Uncirculated. -Editor

Wayne Homren, Editor

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