Pop-out or repoussé, high relief from a different angle

Artistic alteration: Encasements and trench art are other instances of coins put to artistic use
By , Coin World
Published : 01/26/17
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The following is the fourth of four parts from the cover feature of the Feb. 6, 2017, monthly issue of  Coin World:

An unusual altered coin collecting specialty focuses on pieces referred to as pop-out, pushed-out or repoussé coins.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica.com, repoussé is “a method of decorating metals in which parts of the design are raised in relief from the back or the inside of the article by means of hammers and punches; definition and detail can then be added from the front by chasing or engraving.

“The name repoussé is derived from the French pousser, ‘to push forward.’ This ancient technique, which has been used extensively throughout the history of metalworking, achieved widespread popularity in Europe during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.”

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Collectors may encounter the 3-D artistry rendered on most U.S. coin denominations.

The design given 3-D proportions may not necessarily be the design originally struck into the coin, but there are exceptions.

For example, one may encounter a pushed-out rendition of John F. Kennedy forced from the reverse of a Kennedy half dollar.

Collector Oded Paz provided images that appear nearby illustrating a pair of repoussé dies used for executing a pushed-out coin.

One of the repoussé dies bears the raised design while the other bears a recessed area into which the raised die is forced under pressure, with a coin between serving as the host planchet.

The amount of pressure exerted determines how far the repoussé die pushes its design out from the surface of the struck coin.

Many examples are available for a few dollars each to a few hundred dollars each, depending on the coin used as the host planchet.

A repoussé 1898-S Coronet gold $20 double eagle realized $3,220 in a January 2014 public sale by Heritage Auctions.

Encased coins

Encased coins are extensions of ringed-bimetallism — pieces that are composed of an outer ring with a hole in the center and an inner core, each piece of the coin made of a different composition. 

Collecting encased coins is a relatively inexpensive hobby, with plenty of opportunities to add to one’s collection. However, while many encased coins, even some of the earliest issues, can be obtained for a few dollars each, acquiring the rarest pieces may cost in the low four figures. 

Part of the allure of collecting encased coins is the history behind the issuance of various specific pieces.

Ringed-bimetallic coins have been issued for centuries. On special occasions, the Roman Empire issued large medallions with a center of bronze or copper and an outer ring of orichalcum — a golden-colored bronze alloy — starting with the reign of Hadrian (117 to 138 A.D.). Other pieces include examples known dating from the 17th century England. 

The primary purpose of a modern day encased coin is as an advertising or promotional piece, so they are often made to be carried in one’s pocket or the encasement is holed for suspension on a key chain or fob. The pieces can be used to advertise or serve as a souvenir of an event; to promote a coin or other business; or to advertise a coin show. 

Most encased coins — usually small cents, for United States encasements — consist of the coin as one element, inserted into a central opening of the other element, an outer encasement. 

For some pieces, only the obverse or the reverse of the coin is left visible, as the opposite side is completely covered by the encasement. 

The earliest encased U.S. coins usually are Indian Head cents. Later issues featured different designs as coin series changed. Collectors should have no problem finding examples of encasements containing Indian Head cents, Lincoln cents, Indian Head and Jefferson 5-cent coins, Winged Liberty Head and Roosevelt dimes, and even Morgan silver dollars. 

World coins are also popular inserts and can be found in encasements issued in the United States as well as those from the coins’ country of production. 

Manufacturers and issuers of encased coins often select coins dated corresponding to the date of an event the encased souvenir is promoting or commemorating. 

As well, many advertising pieces are known that were issued using coins dated earlier than the date of the encasement’s release, suggesting likely no effort was made to select coins of any particular date. 

While an actual encasement is most often circular in shape, other shapes are known, such as a chamber pot, a bean pot, a teddy bear, a horseshoe, a bell and other noncircular designs. 

Encased coins can also be found embedded in other types of encasements, such as on a pocketknife, in an advertising mirror, in a ring or even the handle of an eating utensil, among other placements. 

Lincoln cents from the 1930s can be found, usually with the obverse exposed, secured in soft-drink bottle caps whose crenulated edges are crimped or tamped down to keep the coin in place. 

Pieces are seen offered on eBay and elsewhere, many squeezed into bottle caps that advertise Dad’s Root Beer.

Encased coins became particularly popular with the increased use of aluminum, an inexpensive, easily formed metal, noted Bryan G. Ryker in Frederick Earl Fankhauser: “The Penny Man,” His Life and Work With Encased Coins. Fankhauser sold encased coins for 18 years, beginning in 1948.

The Fort Wayne, Ind., numismatist/dealer took encasing coins to the extreme. So enamored was Fankhauser with encasing coins that he is credited with issuing nearly 700 different encasements for customers during the 1950s and 1960s, including pieces promoting his own business. 

Encased coins were seen as an inexpensive form of advertising, even in the early years of the 20th century. Sales were interrupted by conservation efforts during World War II, but resumed soon after. 

Trench art

To pass the time in trenches and foxholes while awaiting confrontation with the enemy or already ensconced in a prisoner of war camp, soldiers resorted to a number of diversions.

Soldiers would repurpose copper munitions, bits of brass, bronze, cap badges, badge parts and the like.

Among such World War I relics are miniature military caps incorporating the use of 1907 British pennies.

Collectors pursuing these extended areas of exonumia will quickly find that coins serve multiple purposes beyond their use as money.

Keep reading this series on collectible coin art:

Engraved love tokenAltering coins into love tokens, hobo nickels and rings creates collectible art: Federal statutes make it a crime to purposely deface United States coins to intentionally pass them off as something they are not. But art is another matter.

Hobo nickelHobo nickels enjoying numismatic resurgence, as new artists start carving: The Indian Head 5-cent coin, often called a Buffalo nickel, has often been the coin of choice for carving a hobo nickel.

Elongated coinThe art of elongating a coin more than a century-old practice: The field of elongated coin collecting is in a state of perpetual expansion as many new designs are issued annually.

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