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Trial Piece

Trial Piece.  A die trial, often made in a softer metal than that of the intended composition. It is also called a trial strike because it is stuck when the dies are first placed in a press and such an early impression is made. These first impression strikes are more likely to have imperfect die alignment, pressure and rotation. It lacks depth of relief as the pressman purposely starts with a light impression (not to break the dies). He increases the pressure with subsequent strikes until he is satisfied the correct pressure will form a completely struck up piece filling every die cavity. He will also rotate the obverse and reverse dies until the alignment is correct.  See die alignment.

If the trial piece is not the same composition of the intended piece, it is termed an off metal strike. Pieces intended to be struck in bronze would have tin, lead, white metal or aluminum trial strikes; silver or other precious metal pieces would have bronze, brass or other trial strikes. Should the piece be struck in the intended composition, obviously, it is not a trial strike but an early production piece.

            The testing of dies before they go on a press is more correctly termed proving. The die can be examined at any stage of creation, as incomplete designs at an early stage of engraving the die, or of some element that will be sunk into the completed die. If the engraver makes this test piece at his workbench, he would press the die into clay or wax for a fast inspection, or make a hot tin impression or splasher, by pressing the die into a small mound of tin or lead poured on paper for this purpose.

            In Europe the term is more apt to be called ESSAY.

Trial pieces of one or both completed dies are often made in lead, called lead

proofs.  See proving.

History of trial pieces. The first use of the term occurred when Thomas Simon prepared his Petition Crown in 1663 with a revolutionary edge device (an edge die on spring steel that sprung out after the piece was struck). The edge lettering read: Thomas Simon most humbly prays your Majesty to compare this his tryall piece with the Dutch and if more truly drawn & emboss'd more gracefully order'd and more accurately engraven to relieve him."

See die trial, proving, ESSAY.


NE42 {1982} Doty, p 333-334.

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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