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Orientation.  Adjusting or rotating a numismatic or medallic design so the horizontal and vertical planes are appropriate to the viewer. This is required at several times; when the artist designs the piece, of course, when the pressman prepares his setup for strikingDIE ALIGNMENT – and when an illustration is prepared for publication. This is mostly a problem for illustrations of round coins and medals so they won’t look tilted.

How to orientate round coin and medal illustrations. When coins or medals are designed, artists use obvious and subtle hints to give the viewer a perception to which way is up ... or down ... on a round design. Obvious hints are horizon lines, water lines, bases and sides of buildings and such. In numismatics we have a very often used element – the base line – which separates the design from the exergue. If a base line is present it is easy to orientate a numismatic illustration.

Most important hint of all: inscription lettering is always on a horizontal base line. Other subtle hints include: the legend – the lettering around the circular edge – usually starts and stops at the same level.

For items designed with linear perspective there are numerous clues for orientating a coin or medal: two eyes of a portrait are usually on the same level plane. The shoulder line is usually level. A profile is usually vertical.

Also look for vertical lines: sides of buildings, coats of arms, logos, trees, columns, candlesticks. Everything that should look vertical in nature – should look vertical on a coin or medal design.

In the days when all illustrations were mounted on wooden printing blocks this chore was done by the photo engraver (who mounted the zinc cut). Today it is done by the makeup artist or the layout artist. There is no excuse today to have tilted illustrations because of the ease in which they can be aligned.




Orienting Coin & Medal Photos The author uses a clear plastic ruler with quadrant lines inscribed in the plastic. This gives both vertical and horizontal lines; a 12-inch ruler is best so the horizontal lines extend over a wide area. I like to line up two photo prints together – obverse and reverse – and attach one to the other.

I order separate obverse and reverse ;prints and trim one of these close to the image. I line up the obverse photo first (on the left), holding the overlaid ruler down on that photo; orientate the reverse photo under the ruler to the right. Then I slip the ruler down to line up the bottom of both photos. I then recheck both orientations to see that

all lettering is level and both designs are in “sync.” Then I attach the two prints together (by rubber cement). I check the level again to see I haven’t moved either print while cementing the two together. Then for permanent mounting I tape the seam on the back.

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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