Mail Bag – Why Do We Use The Terms Obverse and Reverse

Today’s Mail Bag question asks what on the surface is a simple question with a complex answer. It comes from Will and it concerns the terms Obverse and Reverse and why we use them.


I’m curious to get your take on why we use the terms obverse and reverse when we can just as easily say heads and tails. To me, it is a pointless term as it is easer to say heads or tails when talking about coins.



Will, the best way to look at the terms Obverse and Reverse is in the vein of them being technical terms. Heads and Tails works perfectly fine and there is certainly nothing wrong with using those terms. I personally use the more technical terms as I’m often describing a technical aspect of a coin or medal. I would suggest using the term that works best for you because either way, you are correct.

The trick, of course, is that some long time collectors (I’ve been collecting for 40 years so I fall into the “long time collector” bracket) will get a bit judgy when it comes to using the non-technical terms over the technical ones. Push through it. It doesn’t really matter so long as you are being clear on which side of the coin you are referring to in the conversation. In some cases, it may actually be better to clarify Obverse versus heads.

If you want to do a bit more research on these terms, this Wikipedia article covers the topic well.

Thanks for taking the time to write in Will!

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