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Die.  A metal punch containing a design to be impressed into a blank by pressure supplied by a press; a single die. Since two dies are required – even when striking a uniface piece – dies are almost always spoken of as a pair. Dies are made of fine tool steel and are handcut, engraved, machined or hubbed to place the three-dimensional design into their surface. They are placed in presses to impress the design into the struck pieces.  See dies and diemaking for a complete entry on this technology.

The English word die was more often spelled "dye" until the mid 19th century (despite the first English spelling "die" in 1699). Thomas Jefferson, in his writings in 1787, stated: "The workman ...  brought me ...  the medal in gold, twenty-three in copper, and the dye." Interestingly, the spelling was solidified in 1860 with the manufacture of daguerreotype cases in an early form of plastics; both dye – for color – and die – for forming – were used in their manufacture with a need for a difference in meaning.


Die Adjustment.  Positioning dies in a striking press during setup, taking a sample strike (die trial) and increasing the pressure until the resulting pieces are fully struck up. Strike pressure in most toggle presses was adjusted by the position of a wedge located above the die chuck. There were no dials or complicated adjustments. Because the first such impressions are intentionally set at a low pressure, not to break a die, the die trials are customarily weak strikes.  See presses and pressroom practice.

CLASS 06.4

2315-(005)06.4           Illus: Photo

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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