Glossary Of Terms
– A –
The grade AG-3. The grade of a coin that falls short of Good. Only the main features of the coin are present in this grade. Peripheral lettering, date, stars, etc. sometimes are partially worn away.
The grades AU50, 53, 55, and 58. A coin that on first glance appears Uncirculated but upon closer inspection has slight friction or rub.
Area(s) of a coin where a foreign object or another coin has displaced metal in an abraded fashion. Similar to a bag mark but usually on the high points or open fields and not as deep or acute as the former.
Accolated, conjoined, jugate
Design with two heads facing the same direction and overlapping.
A miscellaneous grouping of coins, often as a monetary hoard. Opposite of a coin collection. A second use is as a grouping of a particular date, type, or series. (Example: an accumulation–of Bust Halves.)
In the early days of the US Mint, planchets were often made overweight, by design. These planchets would then be adjusted with a file, by hand, to bring them down to the proper weight specifications for the coin. The resulting marks are known as adjustment marks. Because of the relatively low striking pressure used on coins under the open collar striking process, these adjustment marks were not always removed by the striking process, and are often very visible on a coin’s surface, resembling a series of parallel scratches. Adjustment marks do not affect a coin’s grade, since they are a part of the minting process. Of course, they may very well affect the coin’s eye appeal.
Cast bronze issue of the Roman republic; literally “heavy bronze.”
Large cast rectangular bronze coin, one of the earliest Roman coins.
Acronym for About Good. (the grade) and “3” (the corresponding numerical designation). Most of the lettering on the coin is readable, but there is moderately heavy wear into the rims. This grade is frequently found on Barber coins where the obverse is fully Good (or better) but the reverse is heavily worn
AGW (Actual Gold Weight)
This refers to the amount of pure gold in a coin, medal or bar. Any alloys are part of the gross weight of a gold coin, but not part of the AGW.
A book-like holder with slots for storing coins
A less severe instance of album slide marks. Album friction shows as slight rubbing on the high points.
Album slide marks
Lines (often parallel) imparted to the surface of a coin by the plastic “slide” of an album, mostly found on proof coins.
A combination of two or more metals.
A concept, represented in the form of a person. These representations have been appearing on coins since antiquity; in fact, Roman coinage would often feature the Emperor on one side and one such representation on the other. The familiar British penny relied for many years on an allegorical representation of Britannia. On US coins, Liberty is by far the most common such personification, but she is not the only one. Victory appears on the Texas Half Dollar; Justice on the Columbia, SC Half Dollar, and Freedom on the Library of Congress Half Dollar and Dollar. The 1896 Educational Silver Certificates were loaded with such representations.
Alternate of About Uncirculated. The grades AU50, 53, 55, and 58. These coins often look Uncirculated at first glance, but closer inspection will reveal slight friction or rub.
A coin that has a date, mintmark, or other feature that has been altered, added, or removed, usually to simulate a rarer issue.
Intentionally modified after the minting process, such as by changing the date or by adding or removing a mintmark, usually in an attempt to deceive collectors (example: 1944-D Lincoln cent altered to appear to be a much more valuable 1914-D)
Cleaning or other impairment that renders a coin less desirable to collectors.
American Arts Gold Medallions
A series of 1ounce and half-ounce gold bullion medals issued by the U.S. Mint from 1980-84. Medals depict great American artists, writers and actors. See also medallion.
Bullion coins released by the U.S. Mint beginning in October 1986. Five coins are available: a 1-ounce, .999 fine silver coin with $1 face value; a 1-ounce, .9167 fine gold coin with $50 face value; a half-ounce, .9167 fine gold coin with $25 face value; a quarter-ounce, .9167 fine gold coin with $10 face value; and a tenth-ounce, .9167 fine gold coin with $5 face value. Coins are sold at prices based on current metal prices plus a markup. See also eagle.
ANA – American Numismatic Association
Short for “American Numismatic Association.” A non-profit numismatic organization founded in 1888 for the advancement of numismatics. The American Numismatic Association is the world’s largest organization of coin collectors and dealers. Chartered by an Act of Congress in 1912. 818 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80901.
ANACS – (American Numismatic Association Certification Service)
Originally, only authentication was offered, grading was added later. The grading service and acronym were sold by the ANA and now operate under this name as a third party grading service.
A uniquely numbered opinion of authenticity and/or grade from the ANA Certification Service. The ANA now only authenticates, having sold the name and grading service.
General term for coins of the world struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 500 A.D.
Ring-shaped. Many world coins, notably in low denominations, and even some US coin patterns are annular.
The heating (and cooling) of a die or planchet to soften the metal before preparation of the die or striking of the coin.
Short for “American Numismatic Society.”
Primitive copper money of China ca.600 B.C.
The lower, stationary die – usually the reverse. The reverse is usually the anvil die, 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. – Also see: Hammer die
Design element usually found in the left (viewer’s right) claw of the eagle seen on many US coins. After 1807, there usually were three arrows while prior to that time the bundle consisted of numerous ones.
Arrows and Rays
Term referring to 1853 quarters and half dollars. The rays were removed in 1854 because of striking difficulties created by the busy design.
Arrows at date
Term referring to the arrows to the left and right of the date. These were added to the dies to indicate a weight increase or decrease.
Color added to the surface of a coin by heat and/or chemicals. or other “doctoring” Many different methods have been employed over the years.
(Plural: asses) Bronze or orichalcum coins
of the Roman republic.
The lowest current asking price of a particular coin issue and grade offered for sale on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium.
Analytic test or trial to ascertain the fineness, weight and consistency of precious or other metal in coin or bullion. An assay piece is one that has been assayed.
n. A characteristic of a coin; v. To identify a coin by determining the country of origin, denomination, series, date, mintmark and (if applicable) variety
The elements that make up a coin’s grade. The main ones are marks (hairlines for Proofs), luster, strike, and eye appeal.
The identification of a numismatic item by characteristics such as issuing authority, date or period, Mint, denomination, metal in which struck, and by a standard reference.
Acronym for About (Almost) Uncirculated.
“About Uncirculated” (the grade) and “50” (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called “Almost Uncirculated-50.” This is the lowest of the four AU grades, with the others being AU53, AU55, and AU58. Between 50% and 100% of the surfaces will exhibit luster disturbances, and perhaps the only luster still in evidence will be in the protected areas. The high points of the coin will have wear that is easily visible to the naked eye.
“About Uncirculated” (the grade) and “53” (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called “Almost Uncirculated-53.” There is obvious wear on the high points with light friction covering 50-75% of the fields. There are noticeable luster breaks, with most of the luster still intact in the protected areas.
“About Uncirculated” (the grade) and “55” (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called “Almost Uncirculated-55.” There is slight wear on the high points with minor friction in the fields. Luster can range from almost nonexistent to virtually full, but it will be missing from the high points. The grade of “Choice AU” equates to AU55.
“About Uncirculated” (the grade) and “58” (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called “Almost Uncirculated-58.” There is the slightest wear on the high points, even though it may be necessary to tilt the coin towards the light source to see the friction. In many cases the reverse of an AU58 coin will be fully Mint State. Less than 10% of the surface area will show luster breaks. The grade of “Borderline Unc” equates to AU58.
An offering of coins or other items for sale where the buyer must bid against other potential buyers . Price is determined by the highest bidder, sometimes with a reserve (minimum) . This is in contrast with ordering from a catalog, price list, or advertisement at an advertised price.
The process of determining the genuineness of a coin or other numismatic item.
A generic term for the cloth sacks used to transport and store coins. These came into use in the mid-nineteenth century and replaced wooden kegs. Also refers to the quantity of coins of a particular denomination found in a bag (such as 5000 cents or 1000 silver dollars).
Abrasions which occur on coins that were shipped in mint bags. Most often this term applies to silver dollars, although virtually any coin can have bag marks. Bag marks in no way mean that a coin is not mint state. In fact, even a coin graded Mint State-67 or higher could have some bag marks.
Coloring acquired from the bag while a coin was stored. Cloth coin bags contained sulfur and other metal-reactive chemicals. When stored in bags for extended periods, coins in close proximity to the cloth often acquire beautiful red, yellow, blue and other vibrant colors. Sometimes the weave of the cloth is visible in the toning. Some coins have crescent-shaped toning because another coin was covering part of the surface, thus preventing toning. Bag toning is seen most often on Morgan silver dollars.
Common name for the Charles Barber designed Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and half dollars struck during the 1890s and early 1900s.
The condition of a coin that is identifiable only as to date, mintmark (if present), and type; one-year-type coins may not have a date visible.
The value base on which Dr. William H. Sheldon’s 70-point grade/price system started. The lowest-grade price was one dollar ($1) for the 1794 large cent – upon which he based his system.
The process of polishing a die to create a mirrored surface or to remove clash marks or other damage from a die.
Small round devices around the edge of a coin, often seen on early U.S. coins.
Term sometimes applied to California fractional gold coins as documented in the Breen-Gillio reference work California Pioneer Fraction Gold.
The highest price offered to buy a particular coin issue and grade either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium.
A dealer issuing a quotation on an electronic trading system.
A flat disk of unstruck metal destined to be made into a coin.
Short for Brown; refers to copper coins.
Slang term for a coin returned from a grading service in a plastic sleeve within a flip. The coin referred to is deemed a “no-grade” and is not graded or encapsulated. Coins are no-grades for a number of reasons, including questionable authenticity, polishing, cleaning, and/or repair.
The Paris stock exchange. This term has come to be synonymous with coin show.
The physical area where a coin show takes place.
Style of hair on half cents and large cents from 1840 on. The hair is pulled back into a tight bun drawn with a braided hair cord.
One of the various subsidiary government facilities that struck, or still strikes, coins.
The central feathers of eagle designs, particularly Morgan dollars. Fully struck coins typically command a premium and the breast feathers are usually the highest point of the reverse.
The late Walter Breen.
Slang for Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. It was published in 1988.
A written or typed document by Walter Breen rendering his opinion on a particular numismatic item. Prior to 3rd party certification, this was a common method collectors and dealers used to authenticate a unique item.
Numbering system base on the book California Pioneer Fraction Gold by Walter Breen and Ron Gillio.
Untoned. With no tarnish or oxidation, and with original cartwheel (frosty) or prooflike lustre. Copper coins are considered brilliant if they have full original red.
A particular type of proof coin that has a full mirror surface in the fields.
A generic term for any coin that has not been in circulation.
An alloy of copper and tin; special types also contain other elements.
The term applied to a copper coin that no longer has the red color of copper. It is abbreviated as BN when used as part of a grade or description.
Acronym for Brilliant Uncirculated.
Wrapped coins (usually in paper) in specific quantities for each denomination. Cents are quantity 50, nickels quantity 40, dimes quantity 50, quarters quantity 40, half-dollars and dollars 20, etc.
A warped or distorted die. Can be caused by excess clashing. Often produces coins which are slightly bent.
Slang for the Indian Head nickel, struck from 1913 to 1938. The animal depicted is an American Bison.
A die with a small indentation, formed from clashing. Results in “bulged” coins.
See target toning.
Ingots, coins, or other issues that trade for their intrinsic metal value. Only precious metals (silver, gold, platinum, and palladium) are included as bullion. Copper could also technically be considered as bullion.
A legal tender coin that trades at a slight premium to its value as plain metal.
See counting machine mark.
A process in which the surfaces of a coin or a planchet are shined through rubbing or polishing. This term has both a positive and a negative context: In a positive sense, Proof planchets are burnished before they are struck. The procedure was done originally by rubbing wet sand across the surfaces to impart a mirror-like finish. In a negative sense, the surfaces on repaired or altered coins may be burnished by mechanical or chemical methods. For example, a high-speed drill with a wire brush attachment is used to achieve this effect.
Lines resulting from burnishing. Typically seen on open-collar Proofs and almost never observed on close-collar Proofs.
A coin which was struck for use in general circulation, as opposed to a proof coin produced strictly for collector purposes.
The head and shoulders of the emblematic Liberty seen on many US issues.
Slang term for silver dollars struck from 1795 through 1803.
A “Buyer’s Premium” is charged in addition to the successful bid according to the rate defined in our terms and conditions.
– C –
Mintmark indicating coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch Mint.
Term applied to the gold coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch Mint. This Mint only struck gold coins from its opening in late 1837 until it was seized by the Confederacy. (Coins struck in late 1837 were actually dated 1838.)
Slight friction seen on coins (usually the obverse) that were stored in wooden cabinets used by early collectors. To compound the problem, a soft cloth was often used to wipe dust away, causing light hairlines.
Abbreviation for Cameo.
A proof, or prooflike coin with exceptional contrast between the fields and the devices. On a cameo coin, the fields are mirrorlike, while the devices give a frosty appearance.
Term for coins and other numismatic items of Canada. (as in, “Got any Canadian?”)
Slang term for the silver coins of Canada.
Alternate term for Capped Bust
A term describing any of the various representations of the head of Miss Liberty depicted on certain early 1807-1839 U.S. coins by a bust with a floppy cap. The design is attributed to John Reich.
An error in which a coin gets jammed in the coining press and remains for successive strikes. Eventually a “cap” is formed on either the upper or lower die. These are sometimes spectacular, with the cap often many times taller than a normal coin.
A dark discoloration on the surface of a coin. It is possible that this discoloration is caused by a planchet imperfection prior to striking, or it may be caused by improper storage of the coin. Regardless of the cause, carbon spots are often difficult, if not impossible, to remove without leaving pits in the coin’s surface. If they are large enough, they may significantly lower the grade and value of a coin.
The United States branch Mint located in Carson City, Nevada that struck coins from 1870 through 1885 and later from 1889 through 1893.
An effect caused by the natural lustre on most mint state, and on some proof coins. When the coin is tilted back and forth, beams of light seem to circle the central devices of the coin. Also a slang term for Silver Dollar.
Planchets that are molded, rather than cut from strips of metal.
A replica of a genuine coin created by making molds of the obverse and reverse, then casting base metal in the molds. A seam is usually visible on the edge unless it has been ground down.
A machine invented by French engineer Jean Castaing that added the edge lettering and devices to early U.S. coins before they were struck. Castaing machines were used until the introduction of close collar dies, which applied the edge device during the striking process.
Mintmark used to indicate coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada branch Mint.
Certified Coin Exchange, the bid/ask real-time coin trading and quotation system owned by the American Teleprocessing Company.
A compilation of the known specimens of a particular numismatic item.
A denomination valued at one-hundredth of a dollar, struck by the U.S. Mint.
The popular name for the Flowing Hair Chain cent of 1793, the first coins struck in the newly occupied Mint building.
1921 Morgan dollar Proofs supposedly struck for coin dealer Henry Chapman, having cameo devices and deeply mirrored surfaces like most Morgan dollar Proofs.
The United States branch Mint located in Charlotte, North Carolina that only struck gold coins from 1838 until its seizure by the Confederacy in 1861. It never reopened as a mint after the Civil War, although it did serve as an official assay office from 1867 until 1913.
A method used by forgers to create a mintmark on a coin. Chasing involves heating the surfaces and moving the metal to form a mintmark.
An adjective which the A.N.A. applies to coins of MS-65 or Proof-65 grade. Many dealers apply the term to the MS/Proof-63 coins, and call MS/Proof-65 coins “Gem”.
Abbreviation for Choice Uncirculated.
An Uncirculated coin in grade MS-63 or MS-64.
A term applied to a coin that has wear, ranging from slight rubbing to heavy wear.
A term applied to coins that have been spent in commerce.
A coin meant for commerce. An alternate term for Business Strike or Regular Strike.
A term used to describe any of the modern “sandwich” coins that have layers of both copper and nickel.
Usually applied to a $1,000 bag of 40% silver half-dollars although it also could apply to any bag of “sandwich” coins.
The images of the dies seen on coins struck from clashed dies.
Extraneous design detail often appears on a die as a result of two dies coming together without a planchet between them during the minting process. Coins struck from such dies are said to be struck from clashed dies, or to have die clashes or clash marks.
Term for the period from 1792 through 1964 when silver and gold coins of the United States were issued for circulation. (Gold coins were only minted until 1933.)
An image of Miss Liberty that depicts the style of a Roman or Greek athlete wearing a ribbon around the hair.
When a coin has been cleaned with baking soda or other mild abrasives, it may have a slightly washed out appearance. If the lustre or color of a coin appears even the slightest bit unnatural as a result of past cleaning, the coin is usually described as “cleaned” when catalogued for sale.
Slang term for a coin struck from a clipped planchet.
Term for an irregularly cut planchet. A clip can be straight or curved, depending upon where it was cut.
A die that has a contaminant lodged in the recessed areas. Coins struck from a clogged die will have diminished or even missing detail.
An edge device sometimes called a collar die that surrounds the lower die. The close collar imparts reeding (see Reeded edge) or a smooth, plain edge.
Alternate term for close collar
A die variety for half cents, denoted as C-1, C-2a, etc. Also see: Die Variety
Metal formed into a disk of standardized weight and stamped with a standard design to enable it to circulate as money authorized by a government body.
A grouping of coins assembled for fun or profit.
An individual who accumulates coins in a methodical manner.
Term applied to the area resulting when coins rub together in rolls or bags and small amounts of metal are displaced.
An exchange composed of coin dealers displaying their items for sale and trade.
The issuance of metallic money of a particular country.
Synonym for “commemorative.”
Coins issued to honor some person (D. Boone), place (Mount Rushmore), or event (Special Olympics) and, in many instances, to raise funds for activities related to the theme. Sometimes called NCLT (non-circulating legal tender) commemoratives.
A synonym for Market Grade.
A synonym for regular strike or business strike.
A numismatic issue that is readily available. Since this is a relative term, no firm number can be used as an exact cut-off point between common and scarce.
A particular issue within a series that is readily available. No exact number can be used to determine which coins are common dates as this is relative to the mintage of the series.
A term for all possible coins within a series, all types (see Type), or all coins from a particular branch Mint. For example, a complete gold type set would include examples of all types from 1795 until 1933.
The state of preservation of a particular numismatic item.
A listing of the finest known examples of a particular issue. There is no fixed number of coins in a Condition Census.
A term to indicate a common coin that is rare when found in high grades.
The process of evaluating the condition of a coin by using multiple graders.
Numismatic conservation involves examination, scientific analysis, and a reliance upon an extensive base of numismatic knowledge to determine the nature of a coin’s state of preservation and the extent of any damage. Conservation also encompasses appropriate procedures to protect the coin’s original appearance and to guard against future deterioration to whatever extent possible. Professional conservation should not be confused with “Coin Doctoring”, in which an attempt is made to improve the appearance and grade of a coin through deceptive means such as artificial toning and where unaccepted or unorthodox methods are employed. Also not qualifying as conservation is restoration where mechanical repairs are made such as filling holes, smoothing out scratches, and re-engraving of detail.
Marks on a coin that are caused by contact with another coin or a foreign object. These are generally small, compared to other types of marks such as gouges.
A coin, usually base metal, struck from crude dies and made to pass for legal tender at the time of creation. Sometimes such counterfeits are collected along with the genuine coins, particularly in the case of American Colonial issues.
“Dollars” struck in pewter (scarce), brass (rare), copper (extremely rare) and silver (extremely rare) that are dated 1776, but likely struck sometime later. Certain Benjamin Franklin sketches inspired the design.
A spot or stain seen on gold coinage, indicating an area of copper concentration that has oxidized. Copper spots or stains can range from tiny dots to large blotches.
The alloy (copper 88%, nickel 12%) used for small cents from 1856 through mid-1864.
Cents issued from 1856 through 1864 in the copper-nickel alloy. These were called white cents during the period because of their pale color compared to the earlier red cents.
Slang for pre-Federal copper, half cents, and large cents, minted through 1857.
Any reproduction, fraudulent or otherwise, of a coin.
Dies made at a later date, usually showing slight differences from the originals. Also used to denote counterfeit dies copied directly from a genuine coin.
Alternate name for Braided Hair design by Christian Gobrecht. This is sometimes also called the Liberty Head design.
Damage which occurs on the surface of some coins, generally due to improper storage. Corrosion is caused when a chemical reaction, such as rust, actually eats into the metal.
The price paid for a numismatic item.
Literally, a coin that is not genuine. The term is applied to cast and struck counterfeits as well as issues with altered dates or added mintmarks.
Counting machine mark
A dense patch of lines caused by the rubber wheel of a counting machine. Caused when the wheel spacing was insufficient for the selected coin.
An area of a coin struck by a die that has a complete break across part of its surface. A cud may be either retained, where the faulty piece of the die is still in place, or full, where the piece of the die has fallen away.
Any alloy of copper and nickel.
– D –
Mintmark used to identify coins struck at the Dahlonega, Georgia branch Mint from 1838 through 1861 or the Denver, Colorado Mint from 1906 forward.
The branch Mint located in Dahlonega, Georgia that struck gold coins from 1838 until 1861 when it was seized by the Confederacy.
The numerals on a coin representing the year in which it was struck. Restrikes (see Restrike) are made in years subsequent to the one that appears on them.
Abbreviation for Deep Cameo.
Someone who’s occupation is buying, selling, and trading numismatic material.
Term applied to coins, usually Proofs and prooflike coins that have deeply frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the mirror fields.
Deep mirror prooflike
Any coin that has deeply reflective mirror-like fields. While a general term, it is especially applicable for Morgan dollars.
The value assigned by a government to a specific coin.
The tooth-like projections which make up the inner rim on some coins. They were discontinued on most U.S. coins in the early twentieth century.
Alternative term for denticles.
The motif of a coin or other numismatic item. Barber coins and Washington quarters are examples of designs.
A specific motif placed upon coinage, which may be used for several denominations and subtypes.
The individual responsible for creating a particular motif used on a numismatic series.
Any specific design element. Often refers to the principal design element.
A steel rod with a raised device on the end used to punch the element into a working die. This technique was used before hubbed dies were used as a standard.
A steel rod that is engraved, punched, or hubbed with the date, lettering, devices, and other emblems used to strike a coin.
Term to indicate the relative position of the obverse and reverse dies.
An area of a coin that is the result of a broken die.
Raised lines, which appear on a coin as a result of that coin having been struck by a cracked die.
Raised lines, which appear on a coin as a result of polish lines on the die.
Pitting or roughness appearing on a coin as a result of that coin having been struck by a rusted die.
A readily identified point in the life of a coinage die. Dies go through a lifecycle – clashing, being polished, cracking, breaking, etc. These are called die states. Some die varieties have gone through barely distinguishable die states, while others display multiple distinctive ones.
Raised lines on coins that were struck with polished dies.
The test striking of a particular die in a different metal.
A coin which has already been attributed by date, denomination, mintmark, and major variety (such as Morgan Dollar, 1879-S, Reverse of ’78) can often still be identified by die variety. Research has been done in many series assigning numbers to the various combinations of dies known to have struck coins of each of the various years and mintmarks.
The loss of detail on a coin due to wear on the die used to strike it (rather than wear on the coin itself).
The denomination, one tenth of a dollar, issued since 1796 by the United States.
Slang for a small- to medium-sized mark on a coin.
A coin which has been cleaned in a soap solution, the most popular of which is called Jewel Luster, is said to have been dipped. The term “dipped” is not necessary in, say, a catalog description of a coin, unless the dipping has caused noticeable dulling of lustre, or an otherwise unnatural appearance (typically on copper coins). The practice of dipping coins is not advisable, except by bonafide experts, and then only on rare occasions.
Any of the commercial cleaners or “dips”on the market, usually acid-based.
The original spelling of dime. It is thought to have been have been pronounced to rhyme with ream (the s being silent). This spelling was used in Mint documents until the 1830s and was officially changed by the Coinage Act of 1837.
Abbreviation for Deep Mirror Prooflike. An exceptionally deep mirror-like prooflike coin with little, if any, cartwheel lustre. Also see: DPL
Typically considered a derogatory term. A doctored coin has been enhanced by chemical or other means.
A denomination consisting of one hundred cents authorized by the Mint Act of 1792. This is the anglicized spelling of the European Thaler and was used because of the worldwide acceptance of the Thaler and the Spanish Milled dollar (or piece-of-eight).
Literally two eagles, or twenty dollars. A twenty-dollar U.S. gold coin issued from 1850 through 1932.
A die that has been struck more than one time by a hub in misaligned positions, resulting in doubling of design elements. If shifting occurs in the alignment between a hub and a die, the die will have some of its features doubled. This doubling is then imparted to every coin it strikes. The coins struck from such dies are called doubled-die errors. The 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln cent is one such error.
A condition that results when a coin is not ejected from a die and is struck a second time (hence double-struck). Triple-struck coins and other multiple strikings also are known. Proofs are usually intentionally double-struck in order to sharpen their details; this is sometimes visible under magnification.
The design of Miss Liberty with a drape across her bust. This is attributed to Mint engraver Robert Scot, who presumably copied the design after a portrait by Gilbert Stuart.
An area on a coin, often rather long, that appears streaky or discolored. This is the result of impurities or foreign matter in the dies.
Term for a numismatic item that lacks luster. Dulling may be the result of natural or artificial conditions.
– E –
Abbreviation for Early American Coppers
A gold coin with a face value of ten dollars. Along with the dollar, the eagle was the basis of the U.S. currency system from 1792 through 1971.
Early American Coppers (Club)
A club dedicated to advancing the study of pre-1857 United States copper coinage including Colonials.
Acronym for environmental damage.
The third side of a coin. It may be reeded, ornamented, or plain.
Letters or emblems on the edge of a coin. Examples would be the stars and lettering on the edge of Saint-Gaudens double eagles.
Acronym for Extremely Fine
A duplicate coin created by the electrolytic method, where metal is deposited into a mold made from the original. The obverse and reverse metal shells are then filled with metal and fused together. The edges are then sometimes filed smooth to obscure the seam.
The various devices and emblems seen on coins.
Short for Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., who was the only collector ever to assemble a complete collection of United States coins.
The order in which die states are struck. Also, the die use sequence for a particular issue.
The person responsible for the design and/or punches used to craft a coin.
Coloration that results from storage in small manila “coin envelopes”. Most paper envelopes contain reactive chemicals.
Corrosion-effect seen on a coin that has been exposed to the elements. The damage may range from minor dulling to severe pitting.
Synonym for a worn die.
A numismatic item that unintentionally varies from the norm. Overdates and overmintmarks are not considered errors since they were done intentionally. Other die-cutting “mistakes” are considered errors. Double dies, planchet clips, and off-metal strikings are also considered errors.
Term for trial or pattern strikings. The anglicized version is essay and literally means a test or trial.
The study and collecting of objects that are related to coins, but not coins. This includes items such as tokens and medals, as well as wooden money, elongated and encased coinage, checks, credit cards, and similar items. It is not at all uncommon for numismatists to be interested in exonumia as well as numismatics
A specialist in a particular numismatic area. (i.e. A gold expert, a Morgan Dollar expert, a CC-Mint expert, etc.)
Alternate term for Extremely Fine.
Term for the grades EF40 and EF45.
Extremely High Relief
The 1907 double eagle issue designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The coin had so much depth that multiple punches from a powerful press were required to fully bring up the detail. Because of this difficulty, the design was lowered, resulting in the High Relief. This too was lowered to create the Standing Liberty double eagle, or Saint.
The aesthetic effect a coin has on its viewer. Although quite subjective, like any form of art, that which constitutes eye appeal is generally agreed upon by most experienced numismatists.
– F –
Abbreviation for Fine
The grade FR-2.
A counterfeit or altered coin.
A term applied to coins struck at the whim of Mint officials. Examples include the various 1865 Motto and 1866 No Motto coins.
Term referring to the motif on the reverse of Mercury dimes. The design consists of a bundle of rods banded (wrapped) around an ax with a protruding blade. The designation “full bands” refers to fasces on which there is complete separation in the central bands across the rods.
Term for the Small Size Capped Bust quarters and half eagles.
Acronym for Full Bands.
Acronym for Full Bell Lines.
Acronym for Full Head.
Coins or paper money that do not have metal value or are not backed by metal value.
The flat (or slightly curved) portion of a coin where there is no design.
Term for the grades F-12 and F-15.
The best-known condition example of a particular numismatic item.
Term for the opportunity to buy a numismatic item before it is offered to others.
A coin struck early in the life of a die. First strikes can be characterized by striated or mirror-like fields if the die was polished. First strikes are almost always fully or well struck, with crisp detail.
Term for the Indian Head half eagles struck from 1908 to 1929.
Term for the Liberty Head half eagles struck from 1839 until 1908.
Term referring to the particular specimens of High Reliefs that do not have a wire edge.
A subdued type of gray or dull luster often seen on coins struck from worn dies.
A clear, flexible plastic holder used to display and store coins. Also see: PVC.
Discoloration, often only slight, on the highest points of a coin caused by contact with a flip.
Lines, sometimes visible, resulting from the metal flowing outward from the center of a planchet as it is struck. Cartwheel lustre is the result of light reflecting from flow lines.
The design of Miss Liberty with long, flowing hair that is attributed to Mint engraver Robert Scot.
Term for Flying Eagle Cent.
Flying Eagle Cent
The small cent, struck in 88% copper and 12% nickel, that replaced the large cent.
The area of a coin to which a viewer’s eye is drawn. Liberty’s cheek is the focal point of the Morgan Dollar.
A numismatic item not from the United States.
Four-dollar gold piece
An experimental issue, also known as a stella, struck in 1879-1880 as a pattern coin.
Acronym for Fair.
The half-dollar struck from 1948 until 1963 designed by John Sinnock. The coin featured Ben Franklin on the obverse and the Liberty Bell on the reverse.
A disturbance which appears either on the high-points of a coin or in the fields, as a result of that coin rubbing against other objects. A coin is said to have friction when only the lustre is disturbed, and no actual wear of the metal is visible to the naked eye.
An effect seen on the raised parts of a coin whereby the metal appears crystallized.
Raised elements on coins struck with treated dies to impart a crystallized appearance.
Acronym for Full Steps.
1787 one-cent coins that are considered by some to be the first regular issue U. S. coin. Since they were authorized by the Continental Congress, this would seem to be a logical assumption. However, Congress did not pass the Mint Act until 1792, so an argument for the half dismes (half-dimes) of 1792 as the first regular issue is also valid.
Abbreviated as FB, this term is applied to Mercury (Winged Liberty Head) dimes when the central band is fully separated.
Full Bell Lines
Abbreviated as FBL, this term is applied to Franklin half-dollars when the lower sets of bell lines are complete.
Abbreviated as FH, this term is applied to Standing Liberty quarters when the helmet of the head has full detail.
Term applied to a Jefferson five-cent piece when 5½ or 6 steps of Monticello are present.
A numismatic item that has full detail. The metal flows into all areas of the die.
The annual convention sponsored by the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) held in early January. Considered by most dealers to be the best coin show of the year!
– G –
The large metal relief turned in a portrait lathe to become a steel hub.
Term relating to the Garrett family. There were two main collectors, Thomas H. Garrett and John W. Garrett, who formed this extensive collection from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. It was later given to Johns Hopkins University and sold in five auction sales.
An adjective that the A.N.A. applies to coins which grade Mint State or Proof-67. Most dealers, however, apply the adjective to any coin which they grade MS/Proof-65.
Synonym for Gem Brilliant Uncirculated.
Silver dollars dated 1836, 1838, and 1839 struck in those years and later restruck. Named for their designer, Christian Gobrecht, Chief Engraver from 1840-44.
Any of the eleven gold coins struck from 1903 until 1926 to honor a person, place, or event. Also, any of the modern United States commemorative gold issues sometimes referred to as modern gold commems.
Small coins of one-dollar denomination struck from 1849 until 1889.
The grades G-4 and G-6.
The numerical or adjectival condition of a coin.
A person who evaluates the condition of coins.
The process of numerically quantifying the condition of a coin.
– H –
The area of a coin that represents hair and may be an important aspect of the grade.
Thin, shallow scratches on the surface of a coin, usually caused by improper cleaning, or mishandling. Hairlines are found on virtually all proof coins, and are considered the most important single factor in grading high quality proof coins. They sometimes appear on business strikes as well. Hairlines tend to show up more often on proof-like business strikes.
Synonym for half-dollar.
The lowest-value coin denomination ever issued by the U. S., representing 1/200th of a dollar. Half cents were struck from 1793 until 1857.
The original spelling of half dime. The first United States regular issue was the 1792 half disme supposedly struck in John Harper’s basement using the newly acquired Mint presses.
The denomination first struck in 1794 that is still issued today.
Literally, half the value of an Eagle. The Eagle was defined by the Mint Act of 1792 as equal to ten silver dollars.
The upper die that is non-stationary. While usually the obverse, on some issues with striking problems, the reverse was employed as the hammer die.
The amount an item sells for at auction, before any buyer’s premium is added.
A cloudy film seen on business-strike coins and Proofs. It may occur naturally or be added.
An imitation banknote, used in funeral ceremonies in far eastern countries with the idea that the deceased will have money to spend in the afterlife. Hell refers merely to the place where the dead go, and does not carry a negative connotation
Also called the large eagle, this emblem of Liberty got its name because of its resemblance to the eagles of heraldry.
A term applied to any coin at the upper end of a particular grade.
A coin with deep concave fields, due to its design. High relief coins required extra pressure to be fully struck, and were difficult to stack. Therefore, the few coins struck in high relief by the U.S. Mint (such as the 1921 Peace dollar and the 1907 Roman Numerals double eagle) were each made for only one year.
A group of coins held for either numismatic or monetary reasons.
A coin that exists, or existed, in a quantity held by an individual, organization, etc. Examples include Stone Mountain half dollars still held by the Daughters of the Confederacy.
An individual who amasses a great quantity of a numismatic item.
An Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel which has been engraved with the portrait of a hobo or other character, often by a hobo. These are popular with some collectors and some are so distinctive that they have been attributed to particular “hoboes.”
Any toning acquired by a coin as a result of storage in a holder.
Minting term for the steel device that is used to produce a die.
– I –
Independent Coin Grading Company is a grading service located in Englewood, CO.
A Proof coin that grades lower than PR-60.
A coin that is missing design detail because of a problem during the striking process. An incomplete strike may be due to insufficient striking pressure or improperly spaced dies.
The intaglio design used on Indian Head quarter eagles and half eagles. The devices on these coins were recessed to try and deter counterfeiting and improve durability.
Synonym for an Indian Head cent.
Indian Head cent
Cents struck from 1859 until 1909 designed by James Longacre.
Indian Head eagle
The Saint-Gaudens designed ten-dollar gold coin struck from 1907 until 1933.
Synonym for Indian Head cent.
Refers to the grade of a coin that is targeted to investors. These coins tend to be relatively common, in relatively but not extremely high grade, dated prior to 1934, certified by a major grading service, and have enough numismatic value to be desirable to collectors in some way and not be overly affected by ordinary changes in bullion value. Common Morgan Dollars or Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles in MS65 or MS66 are good examples of investor grade coins.
The value of the metal(s) contained in a numismatic item. The United States issues contained their intrinsic value in metal until 1933 for gold coins and 1964 for silver coins. Modern U.S. coins are termed fiat currency (see Fiat currency).
Probably the most desirable form of toning on a silver or nickel coin. Iridescent toning covers virtually all of the coin’s surface, while still permitting all of the coin’s natural lustre to shine through with its full intensity.
– J –
The five-cent coin struck beginning in 1938 through to this day. Felix Schlag was the designer.
– K –
A coin that is among the toughest and most expensive to obtain within a series. In the Lincoln Cent series, for example, the 1909-S VDB would be considered the key, as would the 1914-D and often the 1922-Plain. A coin somewhat lesser in stature but still among the tougher in a series to collect is called a semi-key; the 1909-S and 1931-S fulfill this role within the Lincoln Cent series for many collectors. Whether a coin is a key may be subject to the context in which a set is compiled; for instance, if a collector is simply trying to piece together a set of Walking Liberty Half Dollars regardless of condition, the keys are the 1921, 1921-D, and 1916-S, but if another collector is putting together the same set in Gem condition, the 1919-D and 1921-S would be considered keys and the 1916-S likely would not. Also Key Date.
Synonym for wire edge.
– L –
A form of planchet flaw caused by imperfections in the metal, whereby a thin strip of the metal separates itself from the coin.
A large copper U.S. coin – issued from 1793 until 1857 – valued at one-hundredth of a dollar. It was later replaced by a much smaller cent made from a copper-nickel alloy.
Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. The use of this term implies that a medium or small date exists for the coin or series.
Synonym for Heraldic Eagle.
Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. The use of this term implies that medium or small letters exist for the coin or series.
Synonym for the 1864 two-cent coin with large lettering for the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”. Congress mandated this inscription for all coinage and it has been used on nearly every coin since that time.
A term referring to the particular diameter of a coin in a series. The use of this term implies that there is a small size with the same motif.
Acronym for large date.
Any phrase that appears on a coin. For example “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.
A coin edge that displays an inscription or other design elements, rather than being plain or reeded (see Reeded Edge).
The alphabet characters used in creating legends, mottos, and other inscriptions on a coin.
An old French copper coin equal in value to three Deniers or 1/4 of a Sol.
Term for Liberty Head. (i.e. a $10 Lib, a $20 Lib).
A symbolic figure used in many U.S. coin designs.
The head of Miss Liberty, with a cap on a pole by her head. This design was used on certain U.S. half cents and large cents.
The design used on most U.S. gold coins from 1838 until 1908. Morgan dollars and Barber coinage are also sometimes referred to as Liberty Head coins.
The motif featuring Miss Liberty seated on a rock first used on the Gobrecht dollars of 1836-1839. This design was used on nearly all regular issue silver coinage from 1837 through 1891.
Synonym for a Lincoln Head cent.
Cent designed by Victor D. Brenner that was first issued in 1909 and continues through today, although the reverse design was changed to the Memorial Reverse in 1959.
Synonym for Lincoln Head cent.
A characteristic that occurs mostly on proof coins as a result of a piece of lint on the die or planchet during the striking process. This lint creates an incused scratch-like mark on the coin. Lint marks are distinguishable from hairlines by their evenness of depth and lack of raised ridges on their borders. They are also identifiable by their interesting thread-like shapes. Since a lint mark is mint-caused, it has a much smaller effect on the grade and value of a coin than a hairline of equal size and prominence.
Acronym for large letters.
Synonym for the Long Beach Coin and Stamp Exhibition held in Long Beach, California, America’s largest commercial coin show. This show is held three times a year, usually in February, June, and October.
A unique number assigned by an auction house to an item or items sold in a particular sale.
A magnifying glass used to examine coins.
Synonym for lustre.
The brightness of a coin that results from the way in which it reflects light. Many different types of lustre exist, and one of the trickiest parts of the grading process is determining whether the lustre of a coin is artificial (see whizzed), natural as made, or diminished through wear, friction, cleaning, or other factors.
A term used to describe a coin that still has its original mint bloom.
– M –
A coin that is widely recognized as having a major difference from other coins of the same date, design, type, and mint.
The grade at which most reputable dealers and auction houses would offer an uncertified coin.
Imperfections acquired after a coin is struck.
The main die produced from the master hub. Also see: Master die, Working hub, and Working die
The original hub created by the portrait lathe. Master dies are created from this hub.
A certain type of proof minted in the U.S. mostly from 1908 to 1916. Gold and silver matte proofs have a dull, granular (i.e. sandblasted) finish without any mirror-like qualities. Copper and nickel matte proofs are really more like Roman finish proofs. Also see: Roman Finish
Acronym for medium date.
A high-pressure coining press acquired by the U.S. Mint, in the 1850s. It was used to strike medals, and other issues.
Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. The use of this term implies that a large or small date exists for the coin or series.
Term referring to the size of the lettering on a coin. The use of this term implies that large or small letters exist for that coin or series.
Term for the intrinsic metal value of a coin.
Common name for the Winged Liberty Head dime issued from 1916 through 1945. (Also “Merc”).
Metal stress lines
Radial lines, sometimes visible, caused by metal flowing outward from the center of the planchet during the minting process.
A series of two or more small nicks on a coin which result from contact with the reeded edge of another coin, usually in a mint bag. Milling marks are generally more detrimental to the grade than normal bagmarks, because of their severity of depth and greater visual impact. Also see: Reeding Mark.
A coin that has a minor difference from other coins of the same design, type, date, and mint.
A facility where coins are crafted.
Original lustre that is still visible on a coin.
Also see: Error
A group of Uncirculated coins from a particular year, usually comprising coins from each Mint.
Mint set toning
Term referring to toning acquired by coins after years of storage in their original cardboard holders.
Describes a coin that has never been in circulation. Thus, the coin has no wear. A mint state coin may still be weakly struck, and therefore lack the detail of even a lower grade coin. All mint state coins have some imperfections if you study them hard enough. The term “Mint State” may also correctly be applied to coins that were struck as proofs.
The number of coins of a particular date struck at a given mint during a specific year.
Letter(s) stamped into a coin to denote the mint at which it was struck.
Term applied to “error coins” with striking irregularities.
A proof coin that somehow escaped into circulation or was otherwise significantly abused.
Acronym for medium letters.
Synonym for Morgan dollar.
Term for the Liberty Head silver dollar struck from 1878 through 1904 and once again in 1921. George Morgan was only an assistant engraver, but his design for the dollar was selected over William Barber’s.
Splotchy, uneven toning.
An inscription on a coin. The most popular being IN GOD WE TRUST, which first appeared on the 1864 two-cent piece and is now is required on all U.S. coinage.
Acronym for Mint State.
Also see: Double-struck
A coin that has been damaged to the point where it no longer can be graded.
– N –
Short for Non-Circulating Legal Tender. Refers to a legal tender coin that has a face value but does not circulate. Two examples in US coinage are commemoratives, particularly those issued 1982 and later, and bullion coins.
Term for a coin that never has been in circulation.
The branch Mint established in 1838 in New Orleans, Louisiana. It struck coins for the United States until its seizure in 1861 by the Confederacy. (Some 1861-O half-dollars were struck after the seizure.) It reopened in 1879 and struck coins until 1909 (actually closed in 1910). Now this facility is a museum.
Acronym for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, located in Sarasota Florida. Currently one of leading coin grading services.
NGC Census Report
Quarterly publication issued by NGC listing the number of coins graded and their grade.
Popular term for a five-cent piece.
No “CENTS” nickel
Liberty Head nickels struck in 1883 without a denomination. The lack of a denomination was very confusing to the public and led to the “racketeer” nickel scandal.
Term applied to coins without arrows by their dates during years when other coins had arrows by the date. (i.e. 1853 Arrows and No Arrows half dimes.)
Coins struck without the motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST”.
Term referring to the Gobrecht-designed Liberty Seated coins without stars.
Term applied to a coin returned from a third-party grading service that was not encapsulated. This can be due to questionable authenticity, cleaning, damage, or other reasons.
The Sheldon 1-70 scale employed by NGC, PCGS, and other third-party grading services.
The science of money. Coins, currency, tokens, inscribed bars, and all related items are numismatic.
One who studies or collects money.
– O –
Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the New Orleans, Louisiana branch Mint.
Term used for the coinage of the branch Mint in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The front (heads side) of a coin.
Synonym for octagonal – the Pan-Pac octagonal commemorative fifty-dollar coin.
A coin struck on a blank that was not properly centered over the anvil, or lower, die.
A device used to position a planchet over the lower die. It was employed specifically for striking early U.S. coins whose edges had already been stamped with reeding or lettering.
Dimpled fields seen on many Proof gold coins, and some Mint State gold dollars and $3 gold coins.
Referring to any aspect of a coin that retains its original state. Original toning means natural, not retoned or cleaned. Original lustre means undisturbed lustre that hasn’t been enhanced through artificial methods.
A roll of coins, all the same date, denomination, and mintmark, and usually of the same die variety, which seem to have been acquired by the same original owner, probably from the same original mint bag. Generally, all the coins in an original roll will have similar toning and lustre.
Referring to a coin that has never been cleaned or dipped. Original toning ranges from a very mild yellow to extremely dark blues, grays, browns, and finally black.
A coin struck with a die on which one mintmark is engraved over a different mintmark. In rare instances, branch mints returned dies that already had mintmarks punched into them; on occasion, these were later sent to different branch mints and the new mint altered the die to add its mintmark over the old one. Examples include the 1944 D/S Lincoln Cent, and the 1949 D/S Jefferson Nickel.
A coin whose lustre has been dulled from too many baths in a dipping solution.
A coin struck from a die with a date that has one year punched over a different year.
– P –
Synonym for the U.S. Mint located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Synonym for Panama-Pacific Exhibition.
Synonym for the round or octagonal 1915-dated Panama-Pacific fifty-dollar commemorative coins.
A 1915 exhibition held in San Francisco, California to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal.
Synonym for currency.
Synonym for toning. Refers both to a greenish encrustation left by corrosion on bronze and to toning on other types of coinage
A test striking of a coin produced to trial a proposed design, composition, or size. Patterns were often struck in metals other than the one proposed.
Professional Coin Grading Service, a leading third-party coin grading service located in Newport Beach, California.
PCGS Population Report
Monthly publication by PCGS listing the number of coins graded and their grade.
Synonym for the silver dollar struck from 1921 to 1935. The Peace dollar was designed by Anthony Francisci to commemorate the peace following World War I. 1921 featured another coin designated High Relief. In 1922, the relief was lowered resulting in the Regular Relief type that was issued through 1935.
The listing of a coin’s current owner plus all known previous owners.
Synonym for a one-cent U.S. coin.
Coloring – which may be light, medium, or dark – around the edge of a coin.
The primary U.S. Mint located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was first established in 1792.
Privately issued gold coins struck prior to 1861. The term is generally associated with the private issues from California and the other post-1848 ore finds in Nevada, Oregon, and Colorado.
Abbreviation for prooflike.
A smooth, flat edge seen mainly on a small-denomination coinage.
The blank metal disk, which becomes a coin when struck under high pressure between two dies.
Any defect of a coin which was caused by the planchet being imperfect prior to the coin being struck. Also see: Planchet flaw
An irregular hole in a coin blank, sometimes the result of a lamination that has broken away.
Fine, incuse lines found on some Proof coins believed to be caused by polishing of the blanks prior to striking. Also see: Adjustment marks, Burnishing lines, Die striations, Roller marks
A coin with a thin layer of metal applied. For example, gold-plated copper strikings of certain U.S. pattern coins.
A precious metal sometimes used for coinage. The only United States issues struck in platinum are the pattern half dollars of 1814 and modern platinum Eagles.
Term used to describe a coin that has had a hole filled, often so expertly that it can be discerned only under magnification.
Professional Numismatists Guild, an organization of Numismatic dealers founded in 1955.
A document (in duplicate: one for the coin owner and one kept on-file at PNG) completed by a PNG dealer that provided a guarantee of authenticity prior to third-party grading services.
Abbreviation for Poor. (Also P).
A die that has been basined to remove clash marks or other die injury. Dies used to strike Proof coins were polished to impart mirrorlike surfaces.
A somewhat active chemical found in some types of plastic coin flips. Polyvinyl Chloride will cause some coins to tone or turn green over time.
Synonym for the grade PO-1 (or P1).
Synonym for a report issued by NGC or PCGS, which summarizes the coins certified to date.
A series of patterns minted in the 1860s, designed to be redeemable for stamps and fractional notes and to relieve a shortage of small change. (2) The first issue of Fractional Currency from 1862-63, so-called because it bore images of then-circulating stamps.
Acronym for premium quality.
Abbreviation for Proof.
A term which describes the very finest coins that fall into any given grade, or that have some claims to a higher grade.
A coin, often a Proof or an exceptionally sharp business strike, specially struck and given to a dignitary or other person.
Any coining machine.
A periodical listing prices for numismatic items. The guide might differentiate between buy and sell (Bid/Ask), as well as wholesale or retail prices.
Synonym for fixed price list
Term describing coins in original, unimpaired condition. Pristine coins are typically graded MS/PR-67 and higher.
A small symbol appearing on a coin for a specific purpose. Some are essentially mintmarks, such as the cornucopia privy mark used on many products of the Monnaie de Paris. More recently, privy marks have been appearing on coins, usually commemoratives, to signify that they are a part of a specific set or were coined for a specific purpose
The term Proof denotes a method of manufacture, not a grade. Proof coins are made with special care, exclusively for collectors or investors and not struck for general circulation. Generally, proof coins are struck on specially selected and polished planchets. They are struck using polished dies. Usually the coins are made on a slower moving press, and/or are struck more than once. Most proof coins are brilliant, with a mirrorlike surface.
Dies which are prepared and used exclusively to produce proof coins. Often, the fields of proof dies are highly polished to impart a mirrorlike finish, and the recessed areas are left unfinished to create frosted devices.
A coin set containing Proof issues from a particular year. A few sets contain anomalies such as the 1804 dollar and eagle in 1834 presentation Proof sets.
A coin struck only as a Proof, with no business-strike counterpart.
A coin that has mirror-like surfaces. This term is particularly applicable to Morgan dollars.
Synonym for pedigree.
A steel rod with a device, a date, lettering, and other symbols on the end which was hammered into a working die.
An “original roll” that has had the best coins removed and substituted with lesser quality coins. Also see: Original roll
Acronym for polyvinyl chloride.
A film, often green, left on a coin after storage in flips that contain PVC. During the early stage, this film may be clear and sticky.
Synonym for a coin flip that contains PVC.
– Q –
A U.S. coin of the quarter dollar denomination.
Literally, one-fourth of an eagle, equal to a two-and-one-half dollar gold coin. The quarter eagle was first struck in 1796, struck sporadically thereafter, and was discontinued in 1929.
Suspicious color on a coin that may not be natural.
– R –
A gold-plated 1883 No “CENTS” Liberty Head five-cent coin (“V” nickel). Legend has it that a deaf-mute gold-plated these unfamiliar coins and would use them as legal tender. Sometimes, he was given change for a five-dollar gold piece since the V on the reverse could be interpreted as either five cents or five dollars! They have also been gold-plated since that time to sell to collectors.
Toning which is usually seen on silver dollars stored in bags. A full spectrum of colors are represented, beginning with yellow, then green, to red, to blue, and sometimes even black.
A relative term indicating that a coin within a series is very difficult to find.
The total number of extant specimens of a particular numismatic item. Condition rarity describes the number of specimens in a particular grade plus any in higher grades.
A numerical-rating system used to quantify rarity. One example is the Universal Rarity Scale.
Refers to any coin that is not encapsulated by a grading service.
Term for the lines that represent sun rays on a coin’s design.
Abbreviation for red and brown or Red-Brown.
Abbreviation for Red.
A genuine coin.
Describes a copper coin that still retains 95 percent or more of its original color. (Abbreviated as RD)
Describes a copper coin that has from 5 to 95 percent of its original mint color remaining (Abbreviated as RB).
Grooved notches found on the edge of some coins.
A mark or marks caused when the reeded edge of one coin scuffs or scratches the surface of another coin. Also see: Milling mark
A coin struck for commerce. There may be Regular and/or Proof strikes, as well as die trials of regular issues.
Synonym for business strike. A coin struck using conventional coin pressing methods.
The height of the devices of a particular coin design.
A copy, or reproduction.
A coin struck later than indicated by its date, often with different dies.
A coin that has been dipped or cleaned and then has regained color – either naturally or artificially.
The back or “tails” side, of a coin.
The raised area around the edges of the obverse and reverse of a coin.
Synonym for a rim nick.
A mark or indentation on the rim of a coin.
A test that may determine whether a coin was struck or is an electrotype or cast copy. The coin is balanced on a finger and gently tapped with a metal object. Genuine coins have a high-pitched ring or tone, while electrotypes and cast copies have little or none. It should be noted that this test is not always an accurate method for identifying electrotype or cast copy coins.
A slang term for a coin which was purchased below the market wholesale price and is easily resalable for a good profit.
A set number of coins stored in a coin wrapper. Rolls were originally paper wrappers, and today are typically plastic.
Minor displacement of metal, mostly on the high points, seen on coins stored in rolls.
A synonym for rolled rim.
Rolled Edge Ten
Common name for a particular 1907 variety of the Indian Head eagle.
Parallel incuse lines found on a coin after it is struck. It is believed that roller marks are caused when the strips of metal are pulled through draw bars (set at a precise distance apart to ensure the planchet blanks will be at the correct thickness).
A scaly finish, similar to that of Satin Proofs. This was an experimental Proof surface used mostly on U.S. gold coins of 1909 and 1910.
Synonym for a round Pan-Pac commemorative fifty-dollar coin.
The barest trace of wear on the high points of a coin. Just a step more severe than “friction” on the scale of adjectives used to describe degrees of wear. Usually, a coin with rubbing has virtually full mint lustre intact.
– S –
Synonym for the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Head penny.
Term applied to coins struck at the San Francisco, California branch Mint.
Synonym for the Saint-Gaudens inspired double eagle gold coin.
Family name of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the preeminent sculptor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. At the request of President Teddy Roosevelt, he began a redesign of the eagle and double eagle coins in 1907 although he died mid-production.
A type of slab issued by a grading company to demonstrate what a coin looks like when encapsulated. Sample slabs almost always contain very common and low value coins and may or may not bear a grade. These are often given out free at large coin shows, and many numismatists consider them collectible.
The United States branch Mint located in San Francisco, California that struck coins from 1854 through 1955, and again from 1965 to today.
Also see: Roman finish
Fine, silky finish seen mostly on copper and nickel business strike coins. Almost no “cartwheel” effect is seen on coins with satin lustre.
A mark on a coin that is more severe than a hairline.
A small but thick silver coin that circulated in southern and eastern England in Anglo-Saxon times. Plural Sceattas. The word sceat is a seventeenth century invention; it is unknown what the contemporary name of these coins was.
The first type of coining press used at the U.S. Mint. The screw press had a fixed lower die, and an upper die attached to a threaded rod. By rotating a series of weighted arms that were attached to the threaded rod, the screw mechanism drove the upper die downward to strike the planchet. The screw press invention is credited to Donato Bramante.
Acronym for small date.
Sea salvage coin
A coin retrieved from the ocean, often recovered from a ship wreck.
Synonym for Liberty Seated silver coins issued from 1837 through 1891.
Synonym for Liberty Seated coinage.
Natural or artificial toning that occurs after a coin is dipped or cleaned.
The difference between the cost to produce money and the money’s face value. This is essentially an immediate profit for the issuing entity. If a dime contains nine cents worth of silver and costs one cent to make, the government receives no seignorage. However, if the same dime contains two cents worth of copper and nickel and costs the same one cent to make, the government makes seven cents every time it issues such a coin.
A coin that is considered neither common, nor scarce.
Refers to a coin that has a significant bullion value and some numismatic value.
A coin that has almost enough mirror-like reflectiveness to be called “prooflike”.
A particular design or motif used over a period of time. This can refer to a single denomination, or in some cases, several denominations.
A collection of coins in a series. This could be a collection of types, or a collection from a particular Mint.
The late Dr. William H. Sheldon who wrote the seminal work on 1793 to 1814 large cents.
The large cent book, first published in 1949 as Early American Cents and reissued in 1958 as Penny Whimsy by W. Sheldon, W. Breen and D. Paschal.
The reference numbers (S-1, S-2, etc.) for 1793 to 1814 large cents as documented in the books, Early American Cents and Penny Whimsy.
A system of grading which was originally introduced by the late Dr. William H. Sheldon, for the purpose of grading large cents. The system was adapted to all coins in the early 1970’s. The Sheldon Scale, as applied today, incorporates numerical grades 1 through 70 to correspond with various descriptive grades as follows:
A design used on certain issues that has horizontal and vertical lines in a shield shape.
Synonym for the Shield five-cent coin struck from 1866 until 1883.
A British or British Empire coin about the size of a quarter and valued at twelve pence or one-twentieth of a pound. Some of the oldest shillings can be determined as such by the XII denomination appearing somewhere on the coin.
Areas on Matte, Roman, and Satin Proof coins where the original dulled surface has been disturbed.
Synonym for a bourse or coin show.
A term meaning that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular grade may view the coin before buying it.
A term meaning that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular grade offers to pay a certain price without examining the item.
1 – A precious metal
Synonym for silver commemorative coins.
Coins struck at various times from 1892 through 1954 and post-1982, to celebrate a person, place, or event.
Silver coin that served as a cornerstone of U.S. currency from 1792 through 1935. Also see: Dollar, Trade dollar
Synonym for Wartime nickel.
A coin whose overall metal makeup is 40% silver and 60% copper. Kennedy half dollars (struck from 1965 until 1970) are silver-clad halves.
Lines representing the folds of Liberty’s flowing gown on Walking Liberty half-dollars.
Acronym for small letters.
The plastic holder in which a grading service will encapsulate a coin which has been graded.
The process of encapsulating a coin in a sonically sealed holder.
A coin which is undervalued or underpriced.
A coin which a less scrupulous individual might sell at a higher grade than it really merits. The term usually refers to a nearly mint-state coin which is, or could be offered as a full mint-state.
Term for the octagonal and round fifty-dollar gold coins struck during the California gold rush. Legend has it that the term came about when criminals used the two-and-one-half ounce coins wrapped in a cloth to bonk their victims on the head. For an unrelated reason, 1915 Pan-Pac fifty-dollar commemorative issues are also referred to as slugs.
Cents of reduced size that replaced the large cent as of 1857.
Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. The use of this term implies that a large or medium date exists for that coin or series.
Referring to the coin design with the plain eagle on a perch, first used on the 1794 half dime and half dollar.
Term referring to the size of the lettering used in the design on a coin. The use of this term implies that large or medium letters exist for the coin or series.
Abbreviation for the variety of two-cent coin of 1864 with small letters in the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”.
A term referring to the diameter of a coin in a series. The use of this term implies that there is a large diameter coin with the same motif.
Acronym for Special Mint Set
Abbreviation for Specimen Strike.
A die made by an electrolytic deposition method. Because the surfaces of the die are very rough (a result of the process), they must be polished to remove surface imperfections.
A coin made from spark-erosion dies, often showing signs of pitting in the relief areas as a result of the die surface.
Special Mint Set
A set of special coins that were first struck in limited quantities in 1965 and officially released in 1966-1967. They were intended to replace Proof sets, which had been discontinued by the U.S. Mint in an effort to stop coin hoarding. In 1968, The Mint resumed the issuing of Proofs.
Referring to a special set of coins struck at the Mint from 1792 to 1816 that display many characteristics of the later Proof coinage.
Also see: Specimen
A coin whose obverse grade is different from its reverse grade. Examples: MS-63/65 or Proof 63/60.
Color that is uneven, in both shade and composition.
A discolored area on a coin. A spot or spots can have a small or large effect on the grade of a coin depending many factors such as size, severity, and placement.
The quoted value of a precious metal, per ounce. This presumably has nothing to do with whether the precious metal in question actually has spots.
Common misspelling of the last name of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Also used as a synonym for the Standing Liberty double eagle (Saint).
The official composition of U.S. silver coinage, determined by the Mint Act of 1792. Initially set at approximately 89 percent silver and 11 percent copper, it was later changed to 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper.
Design motif of Miss Liberty in an upright front-facing position.
Standing Liberty quarter
Synonym for the quarter dollar struck from 1917 until 1930. It was designed by Hermon MacNeil.
A line on a coin resulting from its improper removal from a cardboard stapled holder.
A five-pointed or six-pointed design element used on many U.S. coins.
Synonym for the 1999 and later Washington quarters struck with unique reverse designs for each State. These quarters are to be issued in the order of admittance to the United States. The order for the original 13 colonies was determined by the date which each State ratified the Constitution.
A coining press driven by a steam-powered engine.
1943 cents – and certain 1944 cents struck on leftover steel blanks – struck in steel and plated with zinc.
Synonym for 1943 steel cents.
Abbreviation for the experimental four-dollar gold coins struck by the U.S. Mint in 1879-1880. The term comes from the large star on the coins’ reverse.
A counterfeit edge collar used for creating fake coins.
Synonym for “flow lines.”
Term for the incuse polish lines on a die which result in raised lines on coins. While these are usually fine, parallel lines, they may also manifest themselves as swirling, or even criss-cross lines. Planchet striations are burnishing lines not struck away by the minting process that are incuse on the coins.
The sharpness of detail which the coin had when it was Mint State. A full strike is a coin that exhibits the full detail that would appear on the sharpest known examples of that type.
The flat metal, rolled and drawn to proper thickness, from which planchets are cut.
Term describing a coin produced from dies and a coining press.
A replica of a particular coin made from dies, possibly but not necessarily meant to deceive.
Surface preservation The condition of a coin’s surface.
The entire obverse and reverse faces of a coin.
A type of Civil War Token issued by private military suppliers, or sutlers, to soldiers for use in their stores. Most mention a military regiment along with their denomination, ranging from 3 cents to $1.
A procedure in which coins are placed in a bag and shaken vigorously to knock off small pieces of metal. The bits of metal are gathered and sold as scrap, leaving the original coins to be returned to circulation at face value. A practice mainly employed with gold coins, leaving their surfaces peppered with tiny nicks.
– T –
Term referring to toning often seen on commemorative coins which were sold in cardboard holders with a round tab. Such coins have a circle in the center and are said to have “tab toning”.
Refers to the tail feathers on the Eagle on the reverse of certain U.S. coins. Particularly, the Morgan Silver Dollar.
Toning effect that resembles an archery target – with deeper colors on the periphery often fading to white or cream color at the center.
A system of grading which only takes into account that which has happened to a coin after the minting process (i.e. the state of preservation). Technical graders often ignore factors such as strike and eye-appeal.
Slang for an eagle or ten-dollar gold coin.
Synonym for an Indian Head eagle.
Synonym for a Liberty Head eagle.
Coins and bars privately struck during the various gold rushes.
Abbreviation for Tail Feathers.
Synonym for the Indian Head three-dollar gold coin.
Three Cent Nickel
Three-cent coins composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel struck from 1865 -1889. The Liberty Head design by James Longacre was copied from the earlier Liberty Head motif by Christian Gobrecht.
Three Cent Silver
Three-cent coin with a star motif that was struck in silver alloy.
Term for a coin that has been doctored in a specific way to hide marks, hairlines, or other disturbances. The thumb is rubbed lightly over the disturbances, and the oils in the skin help to disguise any problems.
Color, often vibrant, acquired by coins stored in original Mint paper. The toning is caused by sulfur in the paper reacting with the coin.
A substitute for a coin.
An adjective which describes a coin with toning.
The coloring which has formed on the surface of a coin as a result of the metal’s interaction with outside elements. Also see: Patina
A line, usually small and fine, found on both genuine and counterfeit coins. They are caused by touch-ups to dies.
A U.S. silver coin issued from 1873 until 1885 that is slightly heavier than the regular silver dollar. Named because it was intended to facilitate trade in the Far East, the Trade dollar was made with a marginally higher silver content in an attempt to gain acceptance in commerce throughout the world.
A die created by sacrificing a coin for a model.
Synonym for transitional issue.
A coin struck after an “official” series ends, or before an “official” series starts. It can also refer to a coin struck with either the obverse or the reverse of a discontinued or upcoming series.
A coin known to have come from a shipwreck or from a buried or hidden source.
Trial strike or striking
Also see: Die trial
Synonym for a three-cent piece.
The word TRUST, spelled with the Latin V instead of the more common U, and which appears prominently on the obverse of the Peace Dollar. The Latin alphabet did not contain the letter U, and instead used a V both as a vowel and a consonant. It is not uncommon to see inscriptions on buildings and monuments written in this manner, and inscriptions on at least two US coins – the Peace Dollar and the Standing Liberty Quarter – have this feature. One of the most common questions that numismatists get is about the Peace Dollar with a misspelled “TRUST”; if it were spelled with a U instead of a V, it really would be a rarity!
Synonym for Draped Bust.
Synonym for a double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.
Synonym for a Liberty Head double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.
Two and a Half
Synonym for a quarter eagle or two-and-one-half dollar gold coin.
Synonym for the Shield two-cent coin struck from 1864 – 1873.
A date or group of dates encompassing all of a particular standard design. Example: Morgan silver dollars. A type collection is a collection of coins formed by one example (usually one of the most common dates) of each type of coin.
A representative coin, usually a common date, from a particular issue of a specific design, size, or metal.
Term for any coin from the first Type within a Series.
Type One Buffalo
A 1913-dated Indian Head nickel with the reverse bison on a raised mound.
Type One Gold Dollar
The Liberty Head design gold dollar struck from 1849 until mid-1854 in Philadelphia and for the full year in Dahlonega and San Francisco.
Type One Nickel
The Jefferson Head five-cent coin struck from 1938 until mid-1942 and from 1946 until today. Also may refer to the Type One Buffalo nickel.
Type One Quarter
The Standing Liberty quarter struck from 1916 to mid-1917.
Type One Twenty
Liberty Head double eagles struck from 1850 until mid-1866. These coins did not have a motto on the reverse and had “TWENTY D.” as the denomination.
Term for any coin from the third Type within a Series.
Type Three Gold Dollar
The Small Indian Head design struck from 1856 until the series ended in 1889. Since the San Francisco Mint did not receive the Type Three dies in time to strike the new design in 1856, the coins from that Mint are Type Two style.
Type Three Twenty
Liberty Head double eagles struck from 1877 until the series ended in 1907. Type Three coins have the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the reverse and read “TWENTY DOLLARS” for the denomination.
Term for any coin from the second Type within a Series.
Type Two Buffalo
An Indian Head nickel struck from mid-1913 until the series ended in 1938. The reverse bison is shown on level ground.
Type Two Gold Dollar
The Large Indian Head design gold dollar struck from mid-1854 until 1855 in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans. Since San Francisco did not receive new dies before the end of 1856, they struck Type Two coins during that year.
Type Two Nickel
The Jefferson Head five-cent coin struck from mid-1942 until 1945. The Type Two nickel is composed of silver, manganese, and copper, and has a large mintmark above Monticello on the reverse. These are the first U.S. coins to have a “P” mintmark indicating their being struck by the Philadelphia Mint. Also see: War nickel, Wartime nickel
Type Two Quarter
The Standing Liberty quarter struck from mid-1917 until the series ended in 1930. This design features a Miss Liberty with a covered breast, three stars under the reverse eagle, and a more intricate head design.
Type Two Twenty
Liberty Head double eagles struck from mid-1866 – 1876. These coins have the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the reverse and “TWENTY DOL.” as the denomination.
– U –
A term used, most notably by NGC, to denote Proof coins that have deeply frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the mirror fields. Also see: “Deep Cameo.”
Ultra High Relief
Alternate name for the Extremely High Relief.
A coin or other numismatic item that is represented by only a few examples.
A coin or numismatic item that has never been in circulation, a coin without wear. Also see: Brilliant Uncirculated, Mint State, and New
Term used to describe a coin that has light to heavy wear or circulation.
– V –
Synonym for the Liberty Head five-cent coins struck from 1883 – 1912. (The 1913 was struck clandestinely and is not reported in Mint documents.)
Unique number (such as VAM-105) assigned to each set of Morgan and Peace dollar dies documented in The Complete Catalog and Encyclopedia of United States Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars. Abbreviated VAM because of the authors Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis.
Authors of The Complete Catalog and Encyclopedia of United States Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars first published in 1971, and reprinted in 1998.
A coin of the same date and basic design as another but with slight differences such as variations in date, mintmark size and placement.
Synonym for the 1909 VDB Lincoln Head cent. Controversy arose over having a non-Mint engraver’s initials on a coin, so Victor D. Brenner’s initials were removed. In 1918, the VDB was returned to the Lincoln Head cent in a less conspicuous spot on the slanted area at the bottom of Lincoln’s shoulder.
Term for the grades VF-20, 25, 30, and 35.
Term for the grades VG-8 and VG-10.
Vest pocket dealer
A part-time coin merchant.
Acronym for Very Fine.
Acronym for Very Good.
– W –
Synonym for a Walking Liberty half-dollar.
Synonym for a Walking Liberty half-dollar.
Walking Liberty half dollar
U.S. half dollars struck from 1916 – 1947.
Synonym for Wartime nickel.
Five-cent coins struck during World War II with the composition 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese. Historic legend has it that the metallic change was driven by a need for nickel to be used in the war effort. However, recent research indicates that the boost to morale by having an intrinsic-value small denomination coin may have played an important part in the issuance of the Wartime nickel.
Synonym for the Washington quarter dollar.
Washington quarter dollar
Quarter dollar first struck in 1932, as a circulating commemorative coin to celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of George Washington’s birth. It was designed by Laura Gardner Frazier and was a continuing series from 1934 through 1998 (with a special Bicentennial reverse in 1976). For 1999, the obverse was redesigned and the State quarter series begins. Each of the 50 State quarters will have a different reverse design with 5 new issues per year.
Term for the wavy finish seen on the surfaces of most close-collar Proof coins.
Refers to a coin that does not show its intended detail because of low striking pressure or improperly aligned dies.
Visible erosion of metal, usually beginning from the highest points of a coins. Eventually, lettering, details, or entire devices are obliterated. Wear should not be confused with a weak strike. It is possible for a worn coin to have more detail than a weakly struck mint state coin.
Synonym for “counting machine mark.”
An artificial process whereby the surface of a coin is buffed to give it the appearance of having natural cartwheel lustre.
An effect whereby a thin, wire-like section of the rim of a coin is raised above the rest of the rim along the outside. This effect is typically caused by very high striking pressure, and tends to occur mostly on proof and high relief strikings.
Wire Edge eagle
The 1907 Indian Head eagle coin of which only 500 were struck. Technically a pattern, this design featured a fine wire rim and surfaces that were both satiny and striated. An unknowledgeable numismatist will look at one of these specimens and consider it hairlined or harshly cleaned.
Wire Edge Ten
Synonym for the 1907-dated Wire Edge Indian Head eagle.
Synonym for wire edge.
Alternate term for arrows at date.
With arrows and rays
Synonym for arrows and rays.
Alternate term for motto.
Alternate term for rays.
A die created from a working hub that is used to strike coins.
A hub created from a master die that is used to create the working dies.
Coins from countries other than the United States.
A die that has lost detail due to extended use. Dies were often used until they wore out, or were excessively cracked or broken. Coins struck from worn dies often appear to be weaklystruck, however, they are not caused by low striking pressure.
Synonym for the second large cent type of 1793.
– X Y Z –
Abbreviation for Extremely Fine.
Morgan dollars specially struck in 1921 for numismatist Farran Zerbe. Also see: Chapman Proof