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Hollowback.  Medals, checks, badges and pins made by the processes and equipment of the stencil industry rather than typical medal making. Such items are also called stamp and stencil and are identified by the following characteristics:  (1) thinstruck on sheet brass; (2) uniface – only one die with a design is used; (3) low relief – little depth to the design; (4) usually blanked or trimmed unusual shape (since it is just as easy to blank in unusual shape as a round piece); (5) coin finish – no finish other than that of the struck brass; (6) possible flat back – (the back is the incuse of the obverse, after all it is a SHELL} very infrequently a separate BACKPLATE is applied to close off the back side. They are made at far lower cost than typical medals.

Because of the thin material such items can be struck on a drop hammer press

rather than the heavier coin or medal presses. The blank reverse die – a jack die – often bore the maker's imprint or logo, incuse in the die this would be raised in the struck piece. The jack die could be used over and over again, it was not required to fit any size or shape. In those instances where relief of design was desired on the reverse sometimes a dummy force or scrap force was employed (or, of course, a typical reverse die).

Finally, the lightness of the finished product made them ideal for any type of

medallic item to be worn – as a badge or pin – and were often fabricated in several parts and assembled. The pin as fastener on the reverse of such an item was often a safety pin soldered in place (but this was susceptible to breaking, or snapping off completely).

There was a widespread number of local manufacturers in the stamp and stencil

industry in America. They also made rubber stamps, nameplates and similar related products, their equipment limited, obviously, the products they could make themselves. Local businessmen would come to these firms for a variety of products, including those of numismatic interest. They could manufacture low quality tokens and medals but would act, perhaps as an agent for better items, having them struck by firms with more specialized talent and equipment. A leading manufacturer of this class of medals in the United States was the Schwaab Stamp & Seal Company of Milwaukee.

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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