Skip to content


Head.  The portrait of a person, featuring the face with a portion of the neck. If any part of the shoulder is present it is not a head, but a bust. Designing a head limits the artist who has only hair and headgear, perhaps, to supplement the facial features to identify the person and indicate status and individuality. Thus heads are shown as bare (without headgear), diademed (with crown), radiate (with rays) or with hat or headgear (which are always identified in cataloging). A male head with facial hair is called bearded. The treatment of hair on top of the head is important, the coiffeur is often described in cataloging. Like busts, heads can end at the truncation (where the artist sometimes signs the work). The only other attribute found on a head are eye glasses, goggles or such.

            Heads of sovereigns on coins are called a coinage head – even if the same head appears on a medal -- and when issued over a period of time, or replaced by a later version is called a classic head. The term severed head is used for describing a lone head (without any neck showing).

            Two heads facing the same direction is called accolated, conjoined, or jugate; when facing each other, this is termed vis-a-vis or tete-a-tete. Heads on both sides of a numismatic item is called bijugate. More than two heads is obviously multiple heads which are sometimes crowded into a poorly planned or executed design.  See also human figure, portraits and portraiture.


R5 {1963} Brophy.

N8 {1969} Laing, p 153-155 (Severed Heads, Multiple Heads).

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

NNP is 100% non-profit and independent // Your feedback is essential and welcome. // Your feedback is essential and welcome.