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Embossed Tags Vs. Debossed Tags

This is a classic example of a "Debossed" dog tag.

This is an example of a "Embossed" dog tag.

At DogTagsRus we get questioned all the time about the imprinting on the physical dog tags.  Some of the questions we normally hear are:

  • Why are some dog tags embossed (imprinted with raised letters) and why are some dog tags debossed (imprinted with stamped in letters)?

Dog Tag machines imprint dog tags with the style of type that is loaded into the machine when it is purchased from the manufacturer.  The major cost of a dog tag machine is the type die set.  Type sets consist of individual character stamps manufactured to be a die and made of hardened tool steel.  Some machines are intended to deboss text while others are intended to emboss text. 

There is no right or wrong when it comes to imprinting text onto individual dog tag blanks.  There is no industry standard, rules or regulations as to the requirement of either embossed text or debossed text.  The only requirement is that the text be permanently marked into the dog tag blank so that it cannot be altered and it is legible in use and over time.

  • What does the military issue currently - embossed tags or debossed tags?

The United States Military currently issues dog tags with both types of imprinting. 

Generally speaking - the majority of newer computerized dog tag machines emboss text; while the bulk of older machines such as Addressographs deboss text. 

Note: either machine whether computerized (CIM) or mechanical (Addressograph) can be set up either way, to emboss or deboss, depending upon the die set installed in the machine. 

For some reason the military issued 95% of their identification tags up until recently (within the past 10 years) with debossed text.

By-in-large since machine produced dog tags became standard issue most dog tags were debossed.  In WWII, Korea and Vietnam there was a 95% chance that the dog tags would have been issued with the text debossed. 

Due to manufacturing changes and newer machine designs, embossing has become available as the older Addressographs are replaced with newer computerized and automated machines.

The United States Military currently accepts either style of text imprinting.  Since the style of imprinting is dictated by the imprinting machinery on hand at a given facility that is equipped and charged with the task of imprinting dog tags. 

We know currently at Ft. Hood, located in Killeen, TX, that both styles of machines are still in current use.  So dependant upon who uses what equipment at Fort Hood, you could either be given a debossed set of dog tags or an embossed set of dog tags. 

A company in Houston, TX which has the service contract to maintain and repair the dog tag machines at Fort Hood and this company has indicated that both styles of machines are currently in use at Ft. Hood.  The Addressograph machines, which deboss the text, are still in use today but as they are replaced, the military is buying the newer computerized machines which emboss the dog tags.

So in conclusion - the military will accept either embossed or debossed dog tag.

  • What is the definition of embossing?

Embossing - Embossed - Emboss

1. Embossing is to press an image into paper, metal or plastic so it lies above the surface. Also called cameo and tool.
2. The creation of a raised (embossed) image by pressing a shape into a sheet of paper with a metal or plastic die.
3. Embossed is an engraved or raised image in metal, plastic or paper.
4. Emboss is to press an image into metal, paper or plastic from the reverse side so it rises above the surface.
5. Emboss is to stamp in such a way that a raised image is left on the finished piece, usually with a die and a counter. See deboss.
6. Embossing produces raised letters and numbers on metal, paper or a PVC card, e.g., the account number and name on a credit card, by mechanical pressure from the back side with dies.
7. Embossed - a machine presses a die into the surface of the material, resulting in a depressed area around the imprint desired. Imprint appears to be raised.
8. Embossing technique uses top and bottom dies to create a raised dimensional effect to the graphics.
9. Emboss - to mold or carve in relief: emboss a design or a coin.
Repoussť (French for "pushed up") is a metalwork technique in which a malleable metal is ornamented or shaped by hammering from the reverse side.

  • What is the definition of debossing?

Debossing - Debossed - Deboss

1. Deboss - to press an image into material so it lies below the surface.  Also called "tool".
2. Debossing - to produce a sunken image in the surface of a material.
3. Deboss - a machine presses a die into the surface of the material, resulting in a depressed imprint.
4. Deboss - depressing (in a blanking die) a portion or portions of the cap below the ordinary surface level, usually to form lettering or decoration. Sometimes the background, rather than the lettering itself, is debossed, leaving the letters at the original level of the cap, thus giving the appearance of embossing; otherwise the lettering itself is pressed down, giving the appearance of engraving.
"Chasing" is another word for debossed or debossing.

Embossing/Debossing is a metal forming process for producing raised or sunken designs or relief in sheet material by means of matched male and female dies, theoretically with no change in metal thickness, or by passing sheet or strip of metal between the dies or desired pattern. 

Metal sheet is them stamped between the male and female die set producing a pattern or design on the metal sheet.  Depending on the die sets used different patterns can be produced on the metal sheet.

Embossing:  Embossing round face characters or designs produced on sheet metal having a thickness equal to 1/8 of the character or less.

The example shown below shows the final embossed mark, a raised three on the left hand side.

The right hand side shows the two dies required to make the mark: a female die for the top of the part, and a male die under the part.

When embossing must have sharp corners (example shown below left), height of emboss cannot exceed half of the stock thickness.

More gradual contours (example shown below right), permit embossing height to exceed full material thickness without shearing the sheet metal.

This illustration is prepared by Columbia Marking Tools, Inc.
For all your industrial embossing or metal marking needs please call Columbia Marking Tools, Inc. 586-949-8400



  • Does it matter which way my personal dog tags are imprinted?

The only thing that matters when it comes to text imprint style is your personal preference.  DogTagsRus does not have embossing equipment so we can not provide you with embossed dog tags.  We have found though that at events such as gun shows and festivals or flea markets most customers want the "original" debossing just like they had in the military or were used so seeing while they were growing up. 

New computerized machines are very expensive and we at DogTagsRus have not had enough calls for embossed tags to make the capital investment in equipment dedicated to embossing dog tags.

So people have said that the embossed tags are easier to read while some have said that the debossed tags are easier to read.  We feel this also is personal preference.

  • I am in the military which set is going to meet regulations?

As addressed above, either embossing or debossing is acceptable and will meet all regulations and requirements for all branches of the military. 

It has been argued that some military units at the unit level of command have verbal regulations as to which style of dog tag is acceptable but DogTagsRus has been unable to verify any such regulations and we cannot locate any supporting documentation. 

DogTagsRus has confirmed that there are NO rules or regulations governing debossing or embossing the text into the tags themselves.

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