Glossary

Customer Resources

A

  • Abrasions

    Scuffs, slide marks, or other marks on a coin made by moving contact between the coin and another coin or the coin and a hard surface or object.

  • Acetone

    A highly volatile solvent is used to remove grease, dirt, and foreign material from the surface of a coin without chemically altering the metallic structure of a coin.

  • Adjustment

    The filing down of a blank to reduce it to the correct weight before striking, revealed by file marks on the surface.

  • Alliance Coinage

    Coins struck by two or more states in conjunction.

  • Alloy

    A combination of two or more metals.

  • Altered Coin

    A coin that has a date, mintmark, or other feature that has been changed, added or removed, to give the appearance of a more rare or valuable issue.

  • Ancient

    Coins of the world struck around 600 BC to 450 AD

  • Anepigraphic Coin

    Coin with no inscription.

  • Annealing

    The heating of a die or planchet to soften the metal before preparation of the die or striking of the coin.

  • Annulet

    Small circle used as an ornament or spacing device in inscriptions.

  • Anvil Die

    The lower die, usually the reverse – although, on some issues with striking problems, the obverse was employed as the lower die. Because of the physics of minting, the fixed lower-die impression is slightly better struck than the upper-die impression.

  • Arrows

    Design element usually found in the left (viewer's right) claw of the eagle seen on many United States coins. After 1807, there usually were three arrows, while before that time, the bundle consisted of numerous ones.

  • Arrows and Rays

    Term referring to the quarters and a half dollars of 1853. The rays were removed in 1854 because of striking difficulties presented by the busy design.

  • Arrows at Date

    Term referring to the arrows to the left and right of the date, added to the dies to indicate a weight increase or decrease.

  • Artificial Toning

    Coloring added to the surface of a coin by chemicals and/or heat. Many different methods have been employed over the years.

  • Aesthetic Appeal

    The artistic appeal which a coin has for the viewer. The desirability of a coin as evidenced by a combination of toning or luster, pleasing surface coloration, attractive planchet, and other artistic considerations. The aesthetic appeal of a coin will vary from viewer to viewer.

  • Assay

    Test to determine the fineness of precious metals.

  • Attributes

    The elements of a coin that help determine a grade (such as strike, marks, luster, and appeal)

B

  • Bag Mark

    A small surface mark or nick on a coin that occurs from contact with other coins while in holders or bags

  • Base Metal

    A non-precious metal. For example, copper or bronze. All the current coins circulating in most countries (Including Great Britain) are made by alloying two or more base metals.

  • Beading

    A form of design around the edge of a coin, once served a functional purpose to deter clipping or shaving of the metal

  • Billion

    A low-grade alloy of silver (usually less than 50%) mixed with another alloy such as copper.

  • Blank

    Flat piece of metal on which a coin’s image is struck (see planchet)

  • Bourse

    Area in a coin exhibition where dealers sell their wares.

  • Bracteate

    Coin struck on such a thin planchet that the image impressed on one side shows through on the other.

  • Brilliant Uncirculated

    Coin grade with no signs of wear, it must also have never been circulated (also considered "mint state" or "uncirculated")

  • Bullion

    Gold or silver coins, bars or ingots

  • Burnishing

    A process by which a planchet or coin are made to shine through rubbing or polishing

  • Business Strike

    A coin produced for general use and circulation (not proof).

C

  • CAM

    Short for "Cameo," proof coins that have frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the shinier fields

  • Carbon Spot

    A brown or black spot on a coin, caused by impurities or oxidation

  • Cartwheel

    A visual effect where the coin’s luster appears to spin in a radiating fashion. Considered desirable.

  • Cast Coins

    Coins that are made by pouring molten metal into a mold.

  • Cherry Picker

    A collector who finds scarce and unusual coins by searching dealers old stock of coins

  • Chop Mark

    A mark stamped into coins by Oriental merchants as a means of verifying the silver content

  • Circulated

    Coins with wear that have been handled, in any condition

  • Clad Coin

    Coins are made by compositing layers of metal together.

  • Cleaned

    Coins cleaned to enhance their appearance through chemical dipping, light brushing, polishing, or any combination of the three methods. Cleaning is considered to be undesirable by most collectors since the coin has been altered and not in its original state.

  • Cob

    Irregular shaped silver piece sliced from a bar of silver and crudely stamped for use in Spanish America during the 16th to 18th centuries.

  • Collar

    The outer ring or die chamber that holds a blank in place in the coinage press during coin striking.

  • Commemorative

    A coin or medal minted to honor an outstanding person, place, or event.

  • Condition

    State or quality of a coin

  • Conjoined Portrait

    Obverse portrait with two heads or busts in profile facing the same direction and overlapping. Also known as accolated or jugate.

  • Corrosion

    Some metals corrode due to oxidation, handling, or exposure to chemicals or moisture.

  • Counterfeit

    Fake coins or currency that appear legitimate

  • Crack-Out

    A coin removed from a third-party grading holder

  • Crown Size Coin

    Any world coin is ranging in size from 36 mm to 42mm. The term "Crown" is in reference to the large coins issued by Great Britain that carried the denomination of One Crown. Popular collecting methods of World Coin Collectors and, in particular, coins made of silver are the most sought after.

  • Cupellation

    Refining process used to separate gold and silver from lead and other impurities in a bone ash pot called a cupel, used in assaying to determine fineness.

  • Cupro-Nickel

    Term used to describe the alloy of copper and nickel.

  • Currency

    Any money that is legal tender

D

  • Date Set

    A coin set for a specific coin series where a representative of each year is acquired without regard to specific mint marks or varieties

  • Debasement

    Reduction of a coin's precious metal content.

  • Demonetization

    Withdrawal of coins from circulation, declaring them to be worthless.

  • Denomination

    The monetary value assigned by the issuing government to a coin.

  • Dentils

    The tooth-like devices around the rim of many coins

  • Device

    A design element on a coin such as an eagle or building or star, for example.

  • Die

    An engraved hardened steel stamp used for minting a design on a blank piece of metal (planchet) to make a coin

  • Die Axis

    The angle at which the top and bottom coin die to oppose each other when the coin is struck. In other words, you can hold a coin by the top and bottom, turn it around, and the other side is up or down, thus giving you two standard die axis combinations; ^^ and ^v. Axis errors are now measured by the angle of degrees when a die is not correctly aligned to one of the two standards. During ancient times coins often had random die rotation depending on how the dies were placed before striking. - Die break - die defect, usually a crack or break, usually visible on the resulting coin as a raised line. (also referred to as a die crack

  • Die Chip

    Small chip of metal that breaks away from the surface of a die, creating a void that coinage metal flows into during striking. Usually seen as a small raised lump on a coin.

  • Die Polishing

    Overzealous polishing of a coin die to remove a small blemish, and deep grooves are accidentally made into the surface of the die. These grooves translate to raised metal or lines on a coin.

  • Die Variety

    Minor alteration to coin design.

  • Dipped

    Coins that are cleaned in a mild acid (or cleansing) solution to remove tarnish and unwanted toning. Cleaning coins is not recommended except by professional conservationists.

  • Doubled Die

    A coin that has been struck two times by a die can result in doubled coin design elements. Usually, there is an offset or slight misalignment that makes the doubling visible.

  • Dump

    Coin struck on a very thick planchet.

E

  • Edge

    The edge of a coin may be plain, imprinted with text, reeded, or even ornamented.

  • Effigy

    Portrait or bust design.

  • Engraver

    The artist who sculpts the coin design prior to making dies. The master dies are made from the large-sized sculpted artwork.

  • Error Coin

    A coin that was minted incorrectly and was missed in the mint’s quality control. Few make it into circulation, but when they do, they can be valuable.

  • Evasion

    A counterfeit coin, deliberately designed to be close enough to a genuine coin to pass a casual inspection (or to fool somebody illiterate) but with distinctly different legends and inscriptions, such that if a manufacturer of evasions were arrested for counterfeiting, he could plead not guilty, on the grounds that his "souvenir medals" were sufficiently different in design from coinage.

  • Exergue

    Portion of a coin beneath the main design typically bearing a date or denomination.

  • Exonumia

    The study of coin-like objects or items related to numismatics such as tokens, medals, elongated coins, or wooden nickels. May also be associated with items of notaphily or scripophily such as checks or credit cards.

F

  • Fantasy Coin

    A coin privately minted with no official denomination & currency status but intended to convey the idea of a new design, concept, or political statement.

  • Field

    Area on a coin with no design or inscription or device (basically the background)

  • Filler

    A coin in a heavily worn condition that may be used temporarily in a collection until a better specimen is located.

  • Fillet

    A term sometimes used to describe a headband on a coin portrait design.

  • Filled Die Error

    Foreign grease and/or dirt that becomes trapped within a die during the coining process. Filled-die errors cause elements of a coin’s design to disappear. Some are severe enough to obstruct almost the entire die, while some are localized and obstruct only a small portion of the design.

  • Flan

    Flat piece of metal on which a coin’s image is struck (see planchet)

  • Flip

    Clear plastic coin holder, be sure to only buy archival quality flips

  • Frosted Devices

    Raised designs on a coin which are struck with treated dies that have frost in recessed areas

G

  • Gem

    A generic term used for an excellent coin

  • Ghosting

    The reason a coin will sometimes show a faint sign of one side's design on the other. Ghosting is due to the dies hitting each other without a blank in place.

  • Globular

    Descriptive of a coin struck on a very thick planchet with convex sides.

  • Grade

    Coins are graded on a scale to represent the quality and preservation of a coin.

  • Gresham's Law

    16th-century English financier - when two coins with the same face value but different intrinsic values are in circulation at the same time, the one with lesser intrinsic value will remain in circulation while the other is hoarded

H

  • Hairline

    A thin scratch on a coin typically from improper cleaning, polishing, or damage

  • Hammered

    Descriptive of coins struck by hand, using a hammer to impress the dies.

  • Haze

    A hazy film on the surface of a coin, typically occurs over time due to chemical reactions or exposure

  • Hub

    A piece of die steel showing the coinage devices in relief, the hub is used to produce a die which in turn has incuse devices

I

  • Incuse

    Design element on a coin that has been stamped below the surface of the coin. Opposite of raised design elements

  • Inscription

    Words or legends on a coin

  • Intrinsic Value

    Value of a coin based on its metal content an not its face value or collector value.

J

  • Junk Silver

    Common date silver coins removed from circulation for their melt value

K

  • Key Date

    Coins that are considered scarce due to low mintage or low surviving specimens for that date (and possibly mint mark).

L

  • Laureate

    Head crowned with a wreath or laurel

  • Legal Tender

    Money or currency that is backed by a government – used for the exchange

  • Loupe

    A magnifying glass – helps for grading coins

  • Luster

    The amount and strength of light reflected from the surface of a coin

M

  • Matte Proof

    Experimental proof coin that has sandblasted or acid-treated surfaces

  • Mercury Dime

    Nickname was given to the winged Liberty dime series from 1916 to 1945 due to the similarity of the design to the Greek God Mercury

  • Mint

    Coins are struck in facilities called "mints." There are private and governmental mints. Only mints run by governments produce legal tender coins.

  • Mint Mark

    A small letter or mark on a coin that identifies the mint at which the coin was made

  • Mint Set

    Set of uncirculated coins packaged and distributed by a mint

  • Mint State

    "MS" coins that do not circulate and therefore have no signs of wear are considered "Mint State"

  • Mintage

    The number of a specific type of coin produced at a mint in a specific year.

  • Moneyer

    A skilled worker who coins or stamps money

  • Motto

    Many coins contain phrases or words that are an important principle of the country that mints them. "In God We Trust" is an example of a U.S. motto.

  • Mule

    A coin struck from two dies not originally intended to be used together

N

  • Nordic Gold

    Contains no gold while giving a gold-like appearance, being composed of copper, aluminum, zinc, and tin. Its composition is 89% copper, 5% aluminum, 5% zinc, and 1% tin.

  • Numismatics

    The study or collection of coins

O

  • Obverse

    The front or face side of a coin.

  • Off-Center

    Coins that are struck "off-center" by the press. These coins can be slightly off-center, in which case you will see one side of the coin has a larger border than the other. Coins that are struck off-center significantly will be missing part of the design since the planchet will have been missed by the die

  • One Year Type

    A major coin type that was only issued for circulation for just one year.

  • Overstrike

    A coin that has been struck again over the previous strike.

P

  • Patina

    Green or brown surface film found on copper or bronze coins due to oxidation.

  • Pattern

    An experimental coin from a mint, typically minted to test a new design or concept, or potentially to test new manufacturing processes.

  • Pellet

    Raised circular ornament is sometimes used as a spacing device in the inscription.

  • Planchet

    Flat piece of metal on which a coin’s image is struck. The planchets are typically prepared for coin striking in a specific process by the mint.

  • Privy Mark

    Secret mark incorporated in a coin design as a security device or to identify a particular die used.

  • Proof

    Term used to describe a coin minted from highly polished planchets and dies, resulting in a well-struck coin with highly reflective fields.

  • Proof Set

    A set of proof coins of packaged and distributed by a mint

  • Proof-Like

    Term used for uncirculated coins with mirror-like fields.

  • PVC

    "Polyvinyl Chloride" is a softening chemical used in plastic flips and protective sheets.

R

  • Raw Coin

    A coin that has not been graded or "slabbed" by a grading service.

  • Reeded Edge

    Edge of a coin with grooved lines that run around the entire perimeter of the coin

  • Relief

    When a coin's design is raised above the surface (opposite of incuse).

  • Replica

    A reproduction of a coin, typically does not have much numismatic value.

  • Restrike

    Coins that are minted using the original dies from a previous strike, but the minting is done in a different year.

  • Reverse

    Backside of a coin ("tails")

  • Reverse Proof

    Proof coins have shiny fields and frosted devices (designs), whereas reverse proof coins have frosted fields and shiny devices.

  • Rim

    Circular raised area around the edges of the coin.

S

  • Satin Finish

    Uncirculated coins made with specially prepared dies so the coins would have a beautiful satin finish—smooth, but not as shiny as a proof.

  • Series

    A collection of coins containing all mint marks and dates for a specific value and design.

  • Sheldon Scale

    Grading system (from 1 through 70) that was codified by Dr. William Sheldon. This scale is used today for grading the quality of many coins.

  • Sintering

    The welding together of small particles of metal by applying heat below the melting point. Typically occurs during the annealing process of coin planchets when the annealing drum has not properly cleaned, and minute amounts of the previous medal (like copper) are left behind in the drum. Notable examples are the sintering of nickel coins were copper adheres to the nickel finish of a planchet giving it a gold tint or copper-colored finish.

  • Slab

    An archival plastic holder used for encapsulating coins, they are issued by grading services for coins that can be graded and assigned a numeric value. The slab has the date, grade, mintmark, issuing service name and ID, quality, and any special notes such as PL for "ProofLike."

  • Slider

    A coin that is graded AU but looks good enough to be BU. Maybe improperly sold as BU by less than scrupulous dealers.

  • Strike

    The actual minting or stamping a coin planchet with its design; can also refer to the quality of a coin (i.e., This coin has a good, solid strike).

  • Surface

    The reverse and obverse of a coin; can also refer to the fields only.

T

  • Token

    Coin-like piece of metal, plastic, wood, or other material issued by merchants, local authorities, or other organizations, often during periods when government coinage is in short supply.

  • Toning

    Some coins acquire a colored or darker tone over time due to age and the metals oxidizing or otherwise becoming tarnished.

  • Trade Coin

    Coin produced for use outside the country of origin as part of international trade.

  • Truncation

    Stylized cut at the base of the neck of a portrait, sometimes the site of an engraver's initials or mintmark.

  • Type

    A representative coin from a given series. Type coins are collected based on the series they exemplify instead of its date and mintmark

U

  • Uncirculated

    Coin grade with no signs of wear, it must also have never been circulated (also considered "mint state" or "uncirculated")

V

  • Variety

    Coins that are variations of the original coin design are considered varieties. Alteration of the Morgan’s tail feathers is an example of a Morgan variety.

  • Vis-a-vis

    Descriptive of a double portrait in which two heads face one another.

W

  • Weak Strike

    A coin struck with insufficient pressure resulting in the design elements showing less detail than they should. Weak strike coins are commonly under-graded as they are typically mistaken for low-grade coins.

  • Wheaties

    Nickname given to the Lincoln cent series from 1909 to 1959

  • Whizzing

    Creating artificial luster on a coin by brushing a coin with a motorized cleaning device. This lowers the value of the coin since the coin is physically damaged by the process.

Y

  • Year Set

    Set of all coin denominations for a given year, sets may or may not include all mint marks