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Paperweight.  A medallic item intended for use on desktops to hold down paper. Usually fairly heavy in weight and large size, metal paperweights sometimes have half-ball or square feet (2 to 4) on the reverse. Or, if no feet, paperweights often have a felt backing. Often medallic paperweights are uniface, and if they are unusual shape they do not have sharp corners (and often have rounded edges). A large paperweight – always a medallion – is called a letterweight. Since any large medallic item could be used to hold down papers, a paperweight is usually not designated as such unless intended in some way. Thus the reverse feet or felt backing are often the only characteristic of a purely paperweight item.  See half ball feet.

Some glass paperweights have a medallic connection in that medals were used as their model. Called sulphides, these objects usually contained the portraits or other devices modeled from the bas-relief medal design. Only infrequently did their makers include the lettering. Collectors and museum curators like to match up the medal and the sulphide or paperweight to display together (as an associated item).

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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