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Field.  The background of a numismatic item not occupied by device, symbols or lettering. The field is generally smooth – collectors call this clean field – particularly for coins. All relief design projects from this surface. The term field differs little in meaning from background; background may have additional design in it (called background texture), while the field has no design as such. Thus background differs from field in that it can be smooth or have texture.

Since the field recedes from the viewer, it is the lowest part of the struck surface; thus it is the highest part of the die.  As such, it is the first area susceptible to rust spots and damage from objects dropped on an unprotected die.  The field is the easiest to proof polish to become the proof surface. The field is also known as the ground in repoussé and embossing work; the matrix in sculpture, and the table in diemaking. All these terms mean virtually the same surface, they are used by different professions at different steps in the creation and life of a coin or medal.  See chart.

             Terms of Field             


    Term                       Who Uses Term    


  background        Artists, Designers 

  field                      Numismatists       

  clean field          Collectors         

  ground                 Embossers          

  matrix                  Sculptors          

  table                    Diemakers          

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


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