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Background.  The elements of a numismatic or medallic design not in the foreground; the field. Coins and medals customarily have one or more devices which form the foreground design; with the exception of lettering and border, all else is the background. Background may – or may not – comprise additional design, called background texture with an infinite variety of texture, such as florentine, striated, mottled, pebbled surface. Or the background surface may be left completely blank (collectors call this clean field); or the background can be polished in the die to produce proof surface.

Since background recedes from the viewer, thus it is the lowest part of the struck design, it is the highest part of the die. As such, it is the first area for deterioration to occur in the stored die; if objects are dropped on it, or if moisture is present, this is the first area to rust. Thus dents or rust pits are most often found in the background, formed near the devices. Background is the same surface as field, ground, matrix and table, each term used by different professions in the creation and life of a coin or medal.  See field

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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