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Is the obverse and reverse of a coin subjective? Two main websites differ among this aspect.

Is the obverse and reverse of a coin subjective? Two main websites differ among this aspect.

So far, I have found three coins where the obverse and reverse is ambiguous, at least when it comes to Numista and NGC. One website says that the obverse is what the other site says is the reverse. I am quite OCD about the obverse of the coin being at the front of my 2x2, so this disagreement is an issue for me. Why the difference, and does this difference mean that there is no objective obverse and reverse of a coin?

Comments

  • ZoidMeisterZoidMeister Posts: 425 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The Obverse is USUALLY the side that bears the date or primary image. The Reverse is USUALLY the side that bears the denomination or value, but it's whatever the coin's designer says it is . . . . . .

    Z

    Busy chasing Carr's . . . . . woof!

    Sucessful BST transactions with: Bullsitter, Downtown1974, P0CKETCHANGE, Twobitcollector, AKbeez, DCW, Illini420, ProofCollection, DCarr, Cazkaboom, RichieURich, who'd I forget?

  • coinkatcoinkat Posts: 20,176 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I usually treat the Portrait side of the coin as the obverse. The answer likely depends and I generally agree with Zoidmeister

    Experience the World through Numismatics...it's more than you can imagine.

  • ZoidMeisterZoidMeister Posts: 425 ✭✭✭✭✭

    .

    Here is an example where and how it can get "iffy."

    While this is not a coin, there has been much debate as to which side is regarded as the Obverse.

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    Those who commissioned this medal to be struck have indicated that THIS side is the OBVERSE . . . . . . .

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    . . . . . and that THIS side should be called the REVERSE . . . . .

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    Both sides bear dates, but the image of General William J. Palmer is the primary image, hence it is the obverse.

    Unfortunately, ANACS didn't see it the same way and put the image of the coin in the front of the slab and the General in the back.

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    It really can get confusing . . . . . .

    Z

    Busy chasing Carr's . . . . . woof!

    Sucessful BST transactions with: Bullsitter, Downtown1974, P0CKETCHANGE, Twobitcollector, AKbeez, DCW, Illini420, ProofCollection, DCarr, Cazkaboom, RichieURich, who'd I forget?

  • YQQYQQ Posts: 2,789 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 8, 2021 7:32AM

    please read the OP's original post.
    His post is about a coin obv-rev, not a medal.
    Unless it has changed recently, there is a huge difference between a coin and a medal.
    I do not believe that there is any contradictory issue with coins. Is there?
    the item pictured is, as far as I know, NOT a coin.

    Today is the first day of the rest of my life
  • ZoidMeisterZoidMeister Posts: 425 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @YQQ said:
    please read the OP's original post.
    His post is about a coin obv-rev, not a medal.
    Unless it has changed recently, there is a huge difference between a coin and a medal.
    I do not believe that there is any contradictory issue with coins. Is there?
    the item pictured is, as far as I know, NOT a coin.

    I stated that and yes, the same holds true for a coin. The object posted best illustrates my point. Please read MY post.

    I will find you a coin where the same level of ambiguity exists. I just didn't have images handy.

    Busy chasing Carr's . . . . . woof!

    Sucessful BST transactions with: Bullsitter, Downtown1974, P0CKETCHANGE, Twobitcollector, AKbeez, DCW, Illini420, ProofCollection, DCarr, Cazkaboom, RichieURich, who'd I forget?

  • ZoidMeisterZoidMeister Posts: 425 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @YQQ said:
    please read the OP's original post.
    His post is about a coin obv-rev, not a medal.
    Unless it has changed recently, there is a huge difference between a coin and a medal.
    I do not believe that there is any contradictory issue with coins. Is there?
    the item pictured is, as far as I know, NOT a coin.

    I went and got you some pictures, just to help you out.

    .

    Okay, which is the obverse, which is the reverse?

    Date is usually on the Obverse, right? No date on either side of this coin.

    Denomination is usually on the Reverse, right? Are you sure . . . . . . ?

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    Which is which?

    .

    Here is your "COIN"

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    Busy chasing Carr's . . . . . woof!

    Sucessful BST transactions with: Bullsitter, Downtown1974, P0CKETCHANGE, Twobitcollector, AKbeez, DCW, Illini420, ProofCollection, DCarr, Cazkaboom, RichieURich, who'd I forget?

  • YQQYQQ Posts: 2,789 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 8, 2021 6:15PM

    THIS is NOT a coin!!!!!!!!!!!
    it is a token. Never seen it before.
    However, I stand to be corrected.
    what is it? Is it a legitimate US coin?

    Today is the first day of the rest of my life
  • neildrobertsonneildrobertson Posts: 615 ✭✭✭✭
    edited January 8, 2021 10:31PM

    Any rule you make won't apply every time. For the most part it's a convention that's dictated by the majority or some sort of official authority. I think of it the same way as the definition of a word. There's no absolute truth to it. If enough people think a word means something, then that's what it means.

    For many German minor coins, the convention is that there is an eagle on the reverse and a denomination on the obverse. That's a little at odds with the convention on US coins. I would argue that the country issuing the coin and the value of the coin are the two most important pieces of information on it. They are what give it value. Everything else is just art and symbolism. Sometimes the information about the issuer is in the design itself. For larger denominations, there is usually a bust on the obverse.

    In practice, PCGS is not consistent with how they insert the coins into holders that I collect. Whoever does the encapsulation seems to just follow their nose and not follow any clear guidance.

  • ZoidMeisterZoidMeister Posts: 425 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 10, 2021 10:34AM

    @YQQ said:
    THIS is NOT a coin!!!!!!!!!!!
    it is a token. Never seen it before.
    However, I stand to be corrected.
    what is it? Is it a legitimate US coin?

    Oye vey, you have much to learn grasshopper. It IS TOO a coin, direct from the US Mint.

    Z

    .

    https://www.usmint.gov/coins/coin-medal-programs/american-innovation-dollar-coins/massachusetts-telephone

    Busy chasing Carr's . . . . . woof!

    Sucessful BST transactions with: Bullsitter, Downtown1974, P0CKETCHANGE, Twobitcollector, AKbeez, DCW, Illini420, ProofCollection, DCarr, Cazkaboom, RichieURich, who'd I forget?

  • ZoidMeisterZoidMeister Posts: 425 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 10, 2021 10:32AM

    @YQQ said:
    THIS is NOT a coin!!!!!!!!!!!
    it is a token. Never seen it before.
    However, I stand to be corrected.
    what is it? Is it a legitimate US coin?

    I suppose this isn't a coin either?

    Another unclear obverse / reverse. The portrait is supposed to be the obverse, right? Landscape is supposed to be the reverse, right? Which is which?

    Another US coin.

    Z

    Busy chasing Carr's . . . . . woof!

    Sucessful BST transactions with: Bullsitter, Downtown1974, P0CKETCHANGE, Twobitcollector, AKbeez, DCW, Illini420, ProofCollection, DCarr, Cazkaboom, RichieURich, who'd I forget?

  • jgennjgenn Posts: 602 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 10, 2021 12:27PM

    The convention that I follow is the issuing authority is on the obverse, whether that is the portrait of the monarch, the coat of arms or just the name of the nation/state/duchy etc. This is the convention that Krauss typically follows and that would made the side that shows "United States of America" the obverse in your examples. However, collectors often have an issue with this because they want to see the date on the front. TPGs will sometimes put the better looking side to the front.

  • AbueloAbuelo Posts: 1,293 ✭✭✭✭✭

    In Mexico, by law, the obverse is the Eagle's side. That has saved me a lot of headaches over the years.

  • SapyxSapyx Posts: 1,222 ✭✭✭
    edited January 10, 2021 7:47PM

    There is a "technical" definition of obverse: the side which was struck with the "anvil" (not moving) die; the reverse was struck with the hammer die. This convention dates way back to the foundation of coinage, when the only design on the coin was from the obverse die.

    Trouble is, of course, we collectors aren't privy to knowing which side was struck by which die. And in modern automated minting machinery, both dies move.

    As Abuelo posted above, some countries, such as Mexico, define by law which side is to be considered the obverse. For coins from monarchies which depict the monarch's portrait, the portrait is always the obverse. But again, we collectors aren't usually in a position to familiarize ourselves with the coinage laws of every single country we collect.

    For me personally, I have my own heirarchy of determining which side is which:

    • If there is a portrait on one side and not the other, then the portrait side is the obverse. (Note: this definition will put me at odds with the official, legal definition of "obverse" in Mexico. I don't care. >:) )
    • If there are portraits on both sides, then the portrait of the person/entity of higher "rank" is the obverse. Eg. a president on one side and a notable scientist on the other; the president is the obverse. Despite potentially incurring divine wrath, deities are "outranked" by humans; for a coin with Christ on one side and the Emperor on the other, the Emperor is the obverse.
    • If there are no portraits, then...
    • If there is a coat of arms (or national symbol) on one side and not the other, then the coat of arms is the obverse.
    • If there are coats of arms on both sides, then the arms of the country or entity issuing the coin is the obverse.
    • If there are no portraits or coats of arms on either side, then the side naming the country or entity of issue is the obverse.

    I should point out that "always putting the obverse to the front of the holder" does make for some rather boring displays when considering coins from monarchies. British Empire/Commonwealth countries, for example, all look much the same on the obverse; it's the reverse where most of the important information about the coin (country, denomination, date) can be found.

    Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.
    Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations"
  • Wow, there is some terrific guidance here. Thank you, everyone. I find myself being drawn to copying Krauss fully, which can be found on NGC and NumisMaster, but it'll be wise to check their work against the rules presented by members here. I already have found an error on NumisMaster where their color photo is not listed as having the same obverse as their BW version of the same coin. I emailed and alerted them to this inconsistency. I also noted that one of my coins, a 2014 Seychelles cent, is not in their system at all. Maybe some newer coins have not been listed yet.

  • ZoidMeisterZoidMeister Posts: 425 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @shaney777 said:
    Wow, there is some terrific guidance here. Thank you, everyone. I find myself being drawn to copying Krauss fully, which can be found on NGC and NumisMaster, but it'll be wise to check their work against the rules presented by members here. I already have found an error on NumisMaster where their color photo is not listed as having the same obverse as their BW version of the same coin. I emailed and alerted them to this inconsistency. I also noted that one of my coins, a 2014 Seychelles cent, is not in their system at all. Maybe some newer coins have not been listed yet.

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    Shaney,

    As stated above, no one rule, guideline, or "technical definition" will fit every design. One really has to rely on the designer of some of these to know for sure.

    ONE FINAL NOTE on the ambiguity of obverse and reverse on certain coins, medals, and / or tokens. While it is clear on the coin below, which side is the obverse and which side is the reverse, I pose the following question:

    Which side is "HEADS" and which side is "TAILS" . . . . . . . . .

    Z

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    Busy chasing Carr's . . . . . woof!

    Sucessful BST transactions with: Bullsitter, Downtown1974, P0CKETCHANGE, Twobitcollector, AKbeez, DCW, Illini420, ProofCollection, DCarr, Cazkaboom, RichieURich, who'd I forget?

  • cladkingcladking Posts: 26,787 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 14, 2021 5:49PM

    @Sapyx said:
    There is a "technical" definition of obverse: the side which was struck with the "anvil" (not moving) die; the reverse was struck with the hammer die. This convention dates way back to the foundation of coinage, when the only design on the coin was from the obverse die.

    Then there are other anomalies as well such as the buffalo nickel which were struck upside down.

    Before the invention of coins children played with numulites which were disc shaped fossilized sea creatures that lent their name to coins. These were easy to distinguish heads from tails (dorsal from ventral).

    There is another consideration at least for most US coins. Most are concave on the "obverse" and convex on the "reverse". They tend to fall heads down with sufficient velocity and they aren't spinning.

    The question is far too complex for a simple answer. Pick an "obverse" that seems right to you and you can always change.

    Tempus fugit.
  • cachemancacheman Posts: 3,736 ✭✭✭

    Sheesh, I leave for a little while and when I return the darkside is spammed with U.S. modern 'coins' and medals. What's happened to this place?

  • neildrobertsonneildrobertson Posts: 615 ✭✭✭✭

    @cacheman said:
    Sheesh, I leave for a little while and when I return the darkside is spammed with U.S. modern 'coins' and medals. What's happened to this place?

    In my collection, US coins are listed under world coins. It's part of the world too.

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