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Watch Fob

Watch Fob.  A fob connected by a chain, leather or metal strap to a pocket watch. A popular adornment for men from about 1870 to the rise of the use of the wrist watch –

about 1930 – but still somewhat in use afterwards. Early varieties were attached to watch chains (and these were called a fob seal). Most all watch fobs were diestruck, and, in effect, were large charms (since they were intended to be worn) or could even be considered medals (for the similarity of design, shape and manufacture).

In effect, small medals could be easily converted into watch fobs. The addition of a loop to any medal, say one to one-and-a-half-inch diameter, would create a medallic item that could be attached to a watch chain. If the loop was round the medallic item was called a bob. The item with a wide loop to accommodate a strap was a fob.

Design of watch fobs in contrast to medals was mostly in the sparseness of lettering and frequently a lack of date. In effect, watch fobs were more ornamental than memorial (and the intent of their permanence was not as great).

Some watch fobs were made of typical medal media, including precious metals, but most fobs were made of nickel-silver (because of its hard wearing qualities). Most are silhouetted in unusual shape, some even pierced. A great many were distributed as advertising, political, souvenir or award pieces. A few had a loop set to swivel; and a very few were quite exotic (the Swiss even built a musical mechanism into a few very exclusive fobs). Some fobs were made of several components, one hanging from another, as such were termed two-part or multipart much like other medallic items.

Fobs are collected by topics, but have a strong male orientation, as fraternal, sports, auto, railroad, machinery, construction work, farm implements and such. Too few were signed by their artists, but many were signed by their manufactures. Watch fob collector organizations exist. See fob, bob.

Water Stain.  Spots of discoloration on medallic surfaces formed by moisture under the top layer of finish, lacquer or wax. An anomaly or fault of the finishing department for not thoroughly drying the piece and keeping it dry before the final operation – as spraying on the lacquer coating. Water stains are easily removed by refinishing the piece with careful attention applied to drying. They should not be confused with wipe marks.  See  repairs and restoration.

CLASS 09.9


Wax.  Any substance like beeswax with wide use in modeling, etching and finishing in the field of coin and medal technology. The wax is used both natural and synthetic; the natural beeswax – the construction material of the beehive – is brown in nature. Beeswax is purified first with hot water then further extracted with benzine. Pure yellow beeswax can be used or bleached white beeswax. Synthetic waxes are of mineral origin – like paraffin – and usually consist of higher hydrocarbons.

Wax is one of the oldest modeling media; in fact wax was used by Renaissance

artists for the first medals made by casting. The wax patterns for these early medals were destroyed in the casting so none of these have survived. (We know of this use by the writings of Benvenuto Cellini and others however.)

Wax has a suppleness that gives naturalistic and humanistic character particularly to portraits. It can be modeled with sharp relief and hold fine detail until it is cast. Some objects, like medallic seals, are purposely modeled in wax to retain the surface quality of wax seals.

In modeling, wax is molded with the artist's fingers or with tools. It is essentially hard yet can be easily cut and carved at room temperature, but becomes quite pliable when warmed. It can even be made more pliable and plastic by adding turpentine to it.

Characteristics and uses of waxes.  The unusual characteristics of waxes make them one of the most important substances in the sculptural field. Their low melting point –ranging from 135° to 165° Fahrenheit – is quite important, as is their ductility and plasticity.  They have a wide range of hardness and stickiness for various purposes.

Waxes can be used alone, or mixed with clays to form plasteline. They are a

vital ingredient in lost wax casting (cire-perdue) used since ancient times to injection molding, used this century. They can be used to build up relief on a model of any other material, plaster, clay or whatever; or can be molded, cut or carved alone. Their use in modeling is as widespread now as it was in the past.

Waxes are used for making an intermediate reduction for die-engraving pantographs when the model is too large for the intended die. Waxes are used as a stop-off in electroforming and etching, where it becomes the ground in which the design is etched. Finally waxes are used in some coatings in finish and finishing.

Transfer wax is used in hand die engraving to place a design on the steel to

be engraved (along with gelatin sheets).

Wax can even be colored should this be desired for aesthetic or technical reasons. Some waxes are purposefully colored by suppliers to identify their grade. A popular modeling wax is colored red.

Waxes are completely inert and artists can test them for consistency or plasticity

by actually chewing on a small sample.

Wax medals.  Because they are impermanent, wax models or medals made by early medal makers, Pisanello (in 1539) and others, do not exist. One of the most important wax medals that has survived is the famous 1777 Benjamin Franklin portrait by Nini.

If a medallic object made of wax is not, in effect, the pattern to be cast into a more permanent metal form, but is the final form, it is called a wax medal. These are often colored and preserved under glass.

CLASS 03.4


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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