Skip to content


Hammered.  An early form of making coins; produced by a blow from a hammer to dies secured on an anvil. This was done manually and production was necessarily slow. Blanks would be cast, or more often, cut with shears from beaten sheets of metal. This crudely formed blank would be placed between dies and with a heavy blow to the upper die would impart a low relief design to both sides of the thin metal blank. While simplistic, satisfactory coins were manufactured this way for over 2300 years (660 bc until mid 16th century, in England until 1662, and for some provisional coinages even into the 19th century). Hammered coins were made in small workrooms by a few men under the control of a moneyer, who would receive a fee, as one shilling for every twelve shillings produced. This type coinage was replaced by coins made in a screw press.

Hammered dies and blanks.  Preparation of the obverse die was different from the reverse. The trussel or upper die usually contained the obverse design; it would be engraved on the tapered end of a bar of iron four to six inches long a man could grasp. The end opposite the design would be the peen head, take the brunt of the blows, and with repeated hammering, it would inevitably fracture and splay over the edge. This die would wear out from three to five times faster than the pile or die in the lower position.

The pile die would be engraved with the reverse design. On the end opposite the design it would taper like a spike to be driven into the anvil. Half way up would be a flange to hold it in place. Thus the pile would remain fixed while the coiner would have to place a blank on this fixed die, place the trussel on top of this and the blow applied.

Blanks would be made either from cast molds (cast blanks), or from metal beaten flat, then cut out with shears. The round shape would be obtained by clipping the edges until roughly round, then by hammering and filing. A small stack would be secured and hammered or filed smooth all at once.

Hammer coinage verses struck coins.  With the invention of the screw press (in 1505) hammered coinage should have been replaced. But moneyers were strongly entrenched. The screw press was invented in Italy, but improved upon by Max Schwab in Augsburg, Germany in 1550. Schwab also build blanking presses, rolling mills and draw plates to be used with the rolling mills.

France was one of the first nations to acquire this equipment. Auban Olivier attempted to introduce this new technology at the Paris Mint in 1551. But it was in use only until 1560. Rebuffed by the entrenched moneyers there it was not until 1641 did rolled blanks and striking with a screw press completely replace hammered coinage in France. Likewise in England the first screw press arrived by Eloye Mastrell from Paris in 1561 who used it until 1573, but, like France, the moneyers forced it out and continued striking by hammer. It was not until 1662 that the screw press was used again for striking coins at the Tower Mint.

Hammered coinage replaced.  Coins made by blows from a sledge were called simply "hammered." The total production was hammered coinage. The technology that replaced these coins were called mill and screw, or simply, milled or mill coinage.  The

"mill" was from the rolling mill which gave the blanks a uniform thickness and a smooth surface. The "screw" was from the screw press.  See striking, screw press.


C24 {1948) Mason. NC6 {1960} Peck, p 141, note 1.

         American George Washington Hammered Piece       


         Tinsmiths in Philadelphia wanted to celebrate a 

    parade honoring the centennial of George Washington's

    birth in 1832. Instead of engraving dies and perhaps 

    striking a medal in tin, instead they engraved the   

    face of a hammer with Washington's portrait and the   

    Feb 22 1832 date. With a single blow of this hammer  

    on sheet tin they created a hammered shell medal     

    image. These pieces were distributed during the civil

    procession honoring our first president and created  

    a numismatic specimen collectors term Baker 161. 

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

NNP is 100% non-profit and independent // Your feedback is essential and welcome. // Your feedback is essential and welcome.