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Base Metal

Base Metal.  An alloy or metal usually of low value to which plating is applied; or the chief constituent of an alloy, not a precious or noble metal.  Base metals include copper, iron, lead, tin, zinc, and other, or their alloys: bronze, brass and white metals. For plated objects these compositions are used because of their lower cost, yet the outer coating can be a desired metal (gold, silver, copper, nickel or such) and exhibit all the qualities of color, sheen and surface appearance. For plated items the base metal is also called the under composition and in metalworking it is called substrate. Some trial pieces are struck in base metals; medals intended to be struck in precious metals are sometimes proved in base metals. (All the metals mentioned above have entries in this encyclopedia, also see chart, bronze.) 

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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