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Front Page
Seal FAQs

Design Process
 1st Committee
 2nd Committee
 3rd Committee
 Final Design

Latin Mottoes
 E Pluribus Unum
 Annuit Coeptis
 Novus Ordo Seclorum

Symbols (front)
 Bald Eagle
 Olive Branch
 Rays of Light

Symbols (back)

Great Seals
 Official Dies
 Pendant Seals
 First Engravings
 First Painting
 1792 Medal
 Indian Medals
 1882 Medal
 One-Dollar Bill
 United Seal
 Eagle Rising

 Eagle Side
 Pyramid Side


 Wild Turkey
 President's Seal
 U.S. Constitution

Dies and Realizations
of the Great Seal of the United States

The original form of the Great Seal is a written description that uses heraldic language to precisely describe the appearance of the imagery. Called a "blazon," it is the starting point for creating an accurate die or illustration of the Great Seal.

An illustration based on the blazon is called a "realization." An artist's realization of the Great Seal therefore begins in the mind's eye where this image described by America's founders is envisioned, then drawn.

Think of a die or realization as somewhat like a singer's version of a song based on the songwriter's original sheet music. Interpretations naturally will vary. (Did somebody say the Star-Spangled Banner?)

Since its inception in 1782, seven Great Seal dies have been created and used to seal official documents.


In addition, other notable realizations of the Great Seal have been created – by the U.S. government and by individual artists.


The Great Seal has a reverse side because in the 18th century when it was designed, pendant seals were used. These were in the form of a two-sided disk of wax attached to the document by ribbons or cords.


The problem is, many illustrations and dies are not based on the original Great Seal blazon. Instead, they are derived from other realizations or dies that may be inaccurate.

For example, most Great Seal dies copied an error in the first die which did not show the rays of light breaking through a cloud as specified in the blazon.

Historical content is based on the official history of the Great Seal.
Author and webwright: John D. MacArthur