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Coin Alignment

Coin alignment, also known as die axis or coin rotation, is a specification of coin orientation: whether both sides of a coin are upright if the coin spins on its axis.

The graphic below explains how numismatists and other coin collectors can determine the coin orientation and the degree of axis that a coin has. In some cases, a slight error in the degree of design rotation can make an ordinary bullion coin much more highly sought after!



Reverse Die Axis

Coin alignment commonly refers to reverse die axis. Simply put, this means that the obverse (head) of a coin faces upright or normally, but the reverse/back is upside down when the coin is spun 180 degrees.

Reverse die axis has, traditionally and historically, been the way that coins were produced – hence the term ‘coin alignment’ coming to refer to this style too.

Books and magazines about coin collecting will highlight a reverse die axis coin by using two vertical arrows; one pointing up, one pointing down.

While most modern mints do not use reverse die axis, the United States Mint has stuck with tradition and continues to make its coins this way. The image below demonstrates what you would see if you simply flipped the coin round: the obverse being upright, and the reverse being upside down.



Medal Alignment

All British coins since 1887 - when Queen Victoria’s jubilee portrait was introduced - have been produced using medal alignment or standard die axis. This means that both sides of the coin face the right way up when you spin the coin 180 degrees.

Smaller denomination copper currency had been struck in standard die axis fashion since 1825, but it took over 60 years before the Royal Mint transitioned fully.

Numismatic books and magazines use two vertical arrows pointing up to indicate medal alignment rather than coin alignment, but there’s no explanation – beyond ease of inspection – as to why medal alignment became prevalent in the mid-19th century.