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Rim.  The outermost raised element of a border extending to the edge of a coin or medal. Rims are usually flat, plain and very narrow; however, instead of a flat rim they can be sloped, called oblique; instead of plain they can have raised lines, called reeded rims; and instead of narrow, a rim can have varying width – a simple rim is called a LIP, a wider rim is called a band, the widest rim is called a cartwheel rim (so wide in fact the lettering of the legend is placed incuse on the rim). Some medallic items have no rim at all, often with no other border elements; such items are termed without border.

The purpose of the rim, like that of the border, is manyfold:  (1) for a coin the rim is raised to help reduce wear during circulation; (2) the rim and border act as a frame directing the gaze of the viewer inward toward the design; (3) the rim helps form a circular piece and is an extension of upsetting – the preforming of a circular disk into a circular struck piece, and (4) for those high relief pieces that must be trimmed with a trimming tool a rim is required on at least one side (so the piece rests on the rim and not mash any relief).

The rim is often an element of the border, forming the outermost design segment nearest the edge. A rim and a line are the simplest form of border. For more elaborate borders, like molded borders, the rim is the highest plane and other border elements are often formed in steps downward from the rim.  See border.

Rims are formed by the outermost surface of a die, and are nearest the restraining collar that forms the edge of the struck piece. In production run coinage, with the use of an upset or preformed blank with a somewhat rounded edge, the metal may not flow into the point where the rim meets the edge. This will cause a tiny bevel at this rim/edge juncture. In more controlled coinage, as proof coinage, with more precisely formed blanks and more exact weight blanks (with exact mass of metal), the precise amount of metal may flow into the point at the rim/edge juncture. This will form an edge with a perfect 90° angle and no bevel whatsoever.

Anomalies of coining at the rim/edge juncture are:  (1) too little metal, causing imperfectly formed rims and, more likely, imperfectly formed knurls in the reeding; or (2) too much metal, forming FLASH, where the only place for this metal to go is outward at the juncture of the die and the collar, forming a wire edge or knife edge; and (3) a broken die near its edge, called a rim break, or what a collector would call a cud.

Because of its unique position, rims are most vulnerable to damage. A dropped coin or medal will first damage the rim or edge, thus rim nicks or dents are common. Along with high points, the rims are the first to be closely examined when determining condition. This is true more so for large medals, than with smaller medals or coins, the weight of a heavy medal will acutely damage a rim when dropped. An item without rim nicks is said to have sharp edges.


The rim on a cross of a decoration is called a margin. In Spanish a rim on a coin is called a listel.

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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