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Obliterate.  To remove existing lettering or design from the surface of a coin or medal. Grinding off lettering, as a name, is called obliterated name; this is infrequently done

by a recipient of a medal, as if he were embarrassed that prosperity should know of his receiving such an award. The area where the lettering was removed usually exhibits an uneven depression in the surface and/or tool marks. A medal or decoration that has had a name obliterated, and a new name added in its place is called renamed. This custom occurred early in the 20th century on British decorations.

Examples.  A variety of the Rhode Island Ship Token is listed by Walter Breen in his Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. Variety 1139 has the word “vlugtende” removed, obliterated, below the ship. (A subsequent edition had the word replaced by an ornament.) A Saint Louis hard times token of 1836 issued by Huckel, Burrows & Jennings exists with the first name obliterated after Huckel either died or left the firm.

In the 20th century the Medallic Art Company had issued an anniversary medal in 1928 with their telephone number lettered on the edge; after moving to a new location a year later, they obliterated the number on the edge of existing medals and stamped in the new telephone number.

Infrequently in his Encyclopedia, Breen used the term “effaced” for lettering that was removed. On a coin or medal the term obliterate is preferred in numismatics. When this is done in a die it is retooled or retooling.


NC12 {1988} Breen, p 125.

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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