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Unsigned.  A numismatic or medallic item which bears no signature, monogram, initials or name of the artist. By extension, unsigned also means the identity of the maker (mint or medallic firm) is also not revealed on the piece. An unsigned piece precludes the immediate identification of its maker. Sometimes, however, unsigned items can be identified by documentary research, or, infrequently by stylistic comparison with known items by the same artist (where the artist used the same mannerisms in several of his works). Often published or unpublished lists of an artist's work are the most productive sources for identifying unsigned works.  See art history, also signature.

Unsigned numismatic items are legion throughout history; many factors preclude an artist from signing his work, an embarrassment, by order of the issuer, or publisher, or government, or employer; or the fact the piece just does not justify a signature in the mind of the artist. When an unsigned piece cannot be identified, despite all efforts to do so, it is called anonymous.

It is estimated by the author that of all the world's coins and medals probably only twenty to forty percent are signed. Thus more than half the coins and medals ever created are unsigned. Fortunately, the more famous works are signed, but numismatists would like to know the identity of artists of far more coins and medals than we currently know.

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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