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Dentiles.  Small, flat repeated ornamental elements, always with ends pointing inward, forming part of a coin or medal border just inside the rim if present. There are four types of dentiles: (1) rounded or toothed (called denticles), (2) grain-shaped (called graining), (3) pointed or spiked, and (4) bullet-shaped. The use of dentiles was popular as border ornaments for coin designs of the 19th century, but were used on medals for a longer time, previously and even into the 20th century. Their use is intended to be like a frame, directing the viewer's eyes inward toward the central design.  See border.

Generally dentiles are located just inside the lip or molded border; and because of this location often appear as the source of diebreaks,  caused by stress in the die in this area on the struck piece. To further differentiate these ornaments, numismatic writer Walter Breen has called dentiles broad, course and fine for coin and medal description.

Dentiles are semi-classical in art style, emulating a classical style of small repeated half dome elements. A classical border of these do not point the viewer’s eye inward toward the device, but act a s border, often appearing as the only border treatment. See classical style under ART MOVEMENT.

Dentiles on handcut dies.  When dies were handcut, dentiles were formed by punches. One punch was used for all dentiles on a die making them uniform in size and shape. The positioning of the punch, however, was critical to equalize the spacing between dentiles. Should a tiny nick exist on the end of the punch, all dentiles in the die (from that broken punch) would exhibit this nick.

Dentiles on modeled dies.  For oversize models pantographically reduced, dentiles in the model could be individually formed (as in the case of the Catskill Aqueduct Medal of 1916 by Daniel Chester French with a classical style half dome border). Or they could be made from a form mold and positioned by hand, or they could be made by the use of a milgrain tool with several dentiles carved in the milgrain wheel and rolled on soft modeling material.


C60 {1970} Breen.

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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