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Alloy.  A mixture of more than one metal, or more precisely, of more than one metallic element. Both pure metal and alloys have been used for coins and medals, coins more so struck in alloys. All such alloys are compatible mixtures; as some metals do not mix in their liquid state to form the alloy; these are called noncompatible and examples are lead and zinc, or silver and nickel. (It is hoped these metals may be compatible if mixed in space without the influence of gravity, and this will undoubtedly create a vast new field of metallurgy. See space metal.)

When metals are combined to form a desired composition, the act is called formulation and when done in a mint takes place in their melt shop. There are also names for alloys depending upon the number of metal elements it contains: two “binary,” three “ternary, “four “quaternary,” five “quintary.” Alloy is sometimes referred to as the nonprecious content of a precious metal composition.  See composition (2).

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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