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Background Cutaway

Background Cutaway.  Removing a quantity of material from a steel die when hand engraving in the positive (as a cameo die). The device and lettering are in raised relief while the background or field recedes, thus the cutting away of dead metal, that part of the steel down to the level of the field. Also called cutaway engraving, particularly when applied to a struck piece with a special raised panel to engrave raised lettering.

The two kinds of background devices are illustrated here with multiple devices and a single device design.

Background Device.  Design covering the entire field behind the primary device. Similar to a subsidiary device but repeated to cover the entire field of a medallic design. Or it can be a number of repeated design elements which in themselves are similar usually of the same size and nature. It appears as if the primary device is placed superimposed on top of the field of the background device or devices, Illustrated examples show both kinds. The American Numismatic Society 125th Anniversary Medal’s background design of different coins are of similar nature while the Wang Medal is a unified design of a magnetic core memory grid.

CLASS 04.1

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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