What are the names for styles of the digit one?

I collect coins and I see variations in the style of the digit one ("1") on coins and I would like to learn the correct terminology to discuss the variations. Is there a good resource for font questions like this?

One type is Roman, horizontal lines top and bottom. See the denomination in https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces74426.html .

Two other styles I call "old style" and "new style" (based on the years I've seen them used) but there must be standard names used by font historians.

The old has rounded serifs and the bottom isn't flat. The image below comes from https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces18190.html (Bavaria Pfenning 1816).

The new has straighter edges, usually with sharper corners. The image below comes from https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces96271.html (Appenzell Pfennig 1816).

I see these styles (with variations) in both years and denominations of coins. (Note that the example I used for the Roman style uses the "old style" in the date.)

There are variations in other digits (open versus closed 4 for example), and there are significant variations in other number systems (such as Arabic digits), but currently I'm looking at the transition of styles for the digit one.


  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,031
    Basic variations are: Serif, Sans Serif, and Slab Serif but there are many variations within each.
  • Bhikkhu PesalaBhikkhu Pesala Posts: 137
    edited January 2
    Note that the example I used for the Roman style uses the "old style" in the date.
    That is not an Old Style figure 1. In Typography, "OldStyle" refers to figures that align with x-height, like the font used in this forum 0123456789 (Georgia is another font with OldStyle figures). 
  • Excellent examples. Such delicate detailing was actually rather common and widespread in Germany (as a few more samples may illustrate).

  • Wonderful! Thanks for sharing. Here’s an extreme – historicizing? – case of bifurcation, from the Wittelsbacher Cycle (1826–29) in Munich’s Hofgarten Arcades.

  • … love it. 1 on its way to become a cyrillic El (!).

    By the way, that loopy lc a once attracted my attention, on gravestones at the old Leipsic St John cemetery (always worth a visit). Note also the bifurcated top terminal of h.

  • but back to the 1 issue. Here are a few more recent examples

  • Thank you all for an education in the terminology, and for the great examples.
  • I have been collecting this number for quite some time; no matter where I am, I can find some of them. Especially in southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria there are many of these "tailed ones". A few times ago I wanted to publish a small contribution in Stötzner's wonderful booklet "SIGNA", but there was (and still is) a lack of scientific facts. But the thoughts of Florian further above are a very good start...

    A small part of my hunting trophies can be viewed at Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/preusss/
  • That's a nice set of trophies.

    Follow-on question: Any idea what caused the general transition from a bifurcated base to a flat base? Did the bifurcated base just go out of style?

    The transition in coins happened over a long period. I see a large number of examples with a bifurcated base in the early 18th century, fewer in the second half, and many fewer in the early 19th century. The most recent example I've found are in coins from Bavaria. The 1 Heller and 1 Pfenning coins issued until 1835 used a bifurcated base in the year and the denomination, but the Heller and Pfenning coins issued from 1839 on used a flat base.

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