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Case.  A special container for medallic or numismatic items, usually customized in some way. Better cases are made of wood and covered on the outside with leather and on the inside with satins and velvets; other cases are covered with cloth, vinyls, cardboard or textured material. Cases are customized by being shaped to fit the one or more items to be contained, and are imprinted, with the name of the maker, recipient, artist, distributor, sponsor, date or such. An original case or PRESENTATION CASE is a desirable part of a total medallic object. Cases should never be discarded, even if they are not exhibited (or housed) with the medallic item; but should be saved and passed on to the next owner, even if the case is in poor condition. Generally items housed in cases indicate they are in better condition for their age than pieces not so housed (the cases may have taken the brunt of wear, not the items inside!). Medals and decorations housed in their own cases are often the best preserved numismatic specimens.

Parts of a case.  These include the well – the opening for the medal or coin; the ribbon lift – to ease the removal of the medal from the well; the satin liner – sometimes imprinted with a maker's name, trademark, location or such; a catch release – to open the case; a hinge or other hardware. Some cases are padded on the outside and some cases even have their own container, as a box, slipcase or sleeve.

There are different kinds of cases:  double door – with a divided front cover;

platform well – with a loose separate piece containing the well; swing well with the platform attached to the case and such.  Several of these types attempt to show both obverse and reverse of the medal while the case is open, or some form of pedestal for display.

Lettering on cases is important. Often these are hot stamped using gold or silver foil, called goldstamped or silverstamped. Where lettering is embossed but is the same color as the case (no foils or ink was used) it is called blind embossing.


Origin of Cases.  Cases can sometimes be dated, or their origin determined, by their style of manufacture. Oriental cases, for example, are made of lacquered wood for more exotic items, or of balsa wood for more common items; or even of silk, covered wood cases for middle range medallic items.

Some research can be done to determine if it is the original case. Cases can (and have) been switched. The presence of any lettering – and the requirement of a precise diameter well – generally prevents this however.

Other containers.  For a large number of medallic items that do not require a case, the item is placed in a box by the manufacturer. All campaign and many service decorations are issued in a box. Printing on the box often indicates the maker's name, particularly if this is not on the item itself. A cardboard box is the choice for even finer medals, and is often furnished with cotton pads to fit the box. Square boxes are made for the widest diameter of a round medal; oblong boxes for medals with a ribbon drape. Some European medal manufacturers have placed round medals in round boxes.

In very modern times expensive cases have been replaced by these cardboard boxes (see skytogen). Other coin and medal containers include albums, hard plastic holders and soft plastic vinyl.

A mailer is a cardboard carton or sleeve in which the case or box containing the

medal can be mailed. These are only made special when a large quantity is to be distributed, like the Abraham Lincoln Essay Medal of 1924. When a large number of medals are to be awarded at a ceremony, it is often found the name of the recipient on a label is printed – or even written by hand – on this outer carton or sleeve.


Some cases are designed to be their own mailer (like the light blue boxes of Medallic Art, 1972-76). Some collectors keep the mailers as part of the total metal, but in reality these are superfluous. They can be discarded.

Appraising and cataloging cases.  In appraising coins and medals astute

appraisers place little or no value on any case or holder – it's the objects inside that has the value. However, some collectors often pay extra for the case or succumb to the enticing description "original case." This should mean the piece is in better condition to elicit a premium price (not necessarily the presence of the case).

The presence of a case should always be noted, however, in any cataloging of the numismatic item. It should be identified and described fully. Often the item itself is not marked with the artist or maker's name, symbol or hallmark. Significantly, this is often printed on the case. In many instances this is the only source of this information, so vital is it to record this data.

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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