Glossary Of Coin Collecting Terms - U.S. Coins and Jewelry
U.S. Coins

Glossary of Coin Collecting Terms

– A –

about good:  (See AG3.)

abrasion: Marks or small scratches on the surface of a coin where another coin or object has slid across or bumped the coin. Sometimes the terms “scuffing,” "light rubbing,” or “hairlines” are also used to indicate light abrasive wear.

accumulation: A miscellaneous coin grouping that typically represents hoarding rather than serious collecting.

actual gold weight: The amount of pure gold content contained in a given coin.

AD: Abbreviation of acid date.

adjustment marks: Marks caused by filing a planchet before striking to reduce its weight to the standard. This was an occasional practice in minting early U.S. coinage.

AG: ANA grading standard meaning Almost Good.

AG3 AG: ANA grading standard meaning Almost Good level 3 to Almost Good.

AGW: (See actual gold weight.)

airtite holder: A popular brand of plastic round-shaped holders for coins. They snap together and are often used to display, protect and store individual coins.

album: A book-like holder with slots for storing coins.

album friction: (See slider.)

album slide marks: (See slider.)

alloy: A mixture of two or more metals.

altered: Deliberately changing a coin or note, usually with the intent of increasing its face value or numismatic value.

American eagle: Silver, gold and platinum gold coins released by the U.S. government starting in October 1986. The front depicts Liberty walking and the reverse side bears an American eagle and nest design.

ANA: An acronym for the American Numismatic Association.

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.

ANACS Certificate: A uniquely numbered opinion of authenticity and/or grade from the ANA Certification Service.

ancients: General term for coins of the world struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 450 A.D.

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

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.

arrows and rays: Term referring to the quarters and half dollars of 1853. The rays were later removed because the complicated design made striking the coins difficult.

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: Coloration added to a coin by treatment with chemicals or other “doctoring.”

ask: The selling quotation of a coin either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium.

assay: The process of determining a coin’s alloy purity.

attributes: The elements that make up a coin’s grade. The main ones are marks (hairlines for proofs), luster, strike, and eye appeal.

au: Shorthand for almost uncirculated.

auction: An offering of coins for sale where the buyer must bid against other potential buyers, as opposed to ordering from a catalog, price list, or advertisement at a set price.

authentic (coin): An original, non-counterfeit coin.

authentication:  The process of determining the genuineness of a coin or other numismatic item.

– B –

bag mark: A surface mark, usually in the form of a nick, acquired by a coin when it came into contact with others in a mint bag. Bag marks are most common on large and heavy silver and gold coins (also known as contact marks or keg marks).

bag toning: Coloring that a coin acquires from the chemicals of the bag in which it has been stored. Depending upon the chemical exposure and proximity to the material, coloring may be blue, red, yellow or other colors.

bank note: Paper money issued by a bank.

bank-wrapped rolls: Rolls of coins that are enclosed in the original wrapping performed by a Federal Reserve Bank. Being intact and untouched makes such rolls more collectible.

bar: A non-numismatic form of precious metal bullion.

barber: Nickname for U.S. dimes, quarters, and half dollars designed by Charles E. Barber. They depict a “liberty head” on the front and an eagle with a shield on the reverse.

barber coinage: (See barber.)

bas relief: Design elements are raised within depressions in the field.

basal state: Refers to coins that can be identified only by type and minting date.

basining: Refers to polishing a die to either give it a mirrored surface or to merely remove clash marks.

beads or beading: Round bead-like decorations on the surface of a coin.

BG gold: Certain type of fractional value gold coins referenced in a work published by Breen-Gillio.

bid: The price a dealer is offering to pay for a coin. Sometimes used to indicate a standing offer at that price from a coin dealer or on a trading network.

billon: An alloy of silver and another metal, usually copper, which is less than 50% silver.

bit: Pieces of eight were physically cut into eighths; each piece is one bit.

black and white cameo: (See deep cameo.)

blank: A blank piece of metal on which a coin design can be stamped. It is usually already cut into the shape of a coin, round, flat and plain, without any design.

blemishes: Minor nicks, marks, flaws, or spots of discoloration that mar the surface of a coin.

blended: When one coin feature, due to wear, runs, or fades into another, such as a date that wears down until it is even with the coin’s background.

blue book: Refers to a collector’s annual price guide called the Handbook of United States Coins (which has a blue cover).

blue sheet: Nickname for the Certified Coin Dealer newsletter, which is printed on bluish paper. The blue sheet lists various U.S. coins and bid/ask dealer prices for certified coins.

BM: Short for Branch Mint, referring to U.S. Mint (except Philadelphia).

BN: Short for brown.

body bag: Identifies a coin that was returned by a coin grading/certification in a poly bag because of some problem with the coin.

borderline: A coin that falls on the edge between two grades.

bourse: A location where dealers buy and sell coins with each other and the public, such as at a coin show.

braided hair: Coins with figureheads sporting pulled-back and braided hair.

breast feathers: Central feathers found on various eagle coin designs.

Breen Book: Nickname for the definitive coin referenceComplete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins.

brilliant: Any coin containing a high, lustrous finish.

brilliant uncirculated: A high-quality, mint-condition coin that has never been distributed for public use.

broadstrike/broadstruck: A coin struck without a firmly seated collar, resulting in “spreading” outwards, but still showing all design details.

brockage: A mirror image of the design from one side of a coin impressed on the opposite side—occasionally, a newly struck coin “sticks” to a die, causing the next coin struck to have a First Strike Mirror Brockage of the coin stuck to the die; by the second strike the mirror is distorted, and later strikes are termed Struck Through A Capped Die.

bronze: An alloy of copper, zinc and tin.

brown spotting: Brown or rust-colored spots appearing on the surface of a coin.

BU: (See brilliant uncirculated.)

buckled die: A coin die that, due to long use, has warped.

buffalo nickel: Nickname for the Indian Head nickel that featured a bison.

bulged die: A coin die that, due to long use, has developed an indentation.

bullion: Uncoined precious metal in the form of bars, plates, ingots, etc.; also a reference used to designate the precious metal content of a coin.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing: An agency of the U.S. Treasury Department responsible for production of currency.

burnished blank: Treatment of a coin blank or die to give it a slightly sandy or polished look. Sometimes burnishing is done with chemicals or by special polishing.

burnishing: Polishing or rubbing the surface of a coin or coin blank to make it shiny. Burnishing of a minted coin is often considered detrimental and should be mentioned in any coin description.

burnt: Any coin with features diminished by too much dipping (in cleaning/polish solutions).

business strike: A coin struck for circulation.

bust: The head, including at least a portion of the collar bone.

bust dollars: Nickname for silver dollars minted from 1795 through 1803.

– C –

cam: (See cameo.)

cameo: A coin, usually struck as a proof, with a frosted or satiny central device surrounded by a mirrorlike field.

Canadian: Post-confederation Canadian numismatics.

capped die: A coin with a very deep cap caused by its being stuck in a printing press and struck several times.

carbon spot: Brown or black spots usually found on copper and gold coins. The spotting is caused by oxidation and, if severe, prevents a coin from being graded.

Carson City Mint: This Nevada mint operated only from 1870-1893 (but was suspended from 1885-89). The mint was closed permanently because of employee thefts.

cartwheel: The pattern of light reflected by flow lines of mint state coins, resembling spokes of a wheel; name given to the British pennies and two pieces of 1797 due to their unusually broad rims.

cast blanks: Coin blanks created using molds rather than punching out of metal strips.

cast counterfeit: Duplicating a coin using molds of both sides of a genuine coin and then making a cast using a base metal.

CC mintmark: Appears on gold and silver coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada, Mint.

CCD: Certified Coin Dealer.

CCDN: Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter.

cent: One-hundredth of a dollar in standard currency. This is commonly called a penny except by the U.S. Mint.

certified coin: A coin authenticated and graded by a professional service.

ch: Shorthand for choice.

chasing: A metal heating method used by forgers to add a mint mark to a coin.

cherrypick: To find and purchase a coin worth a premium over the seller’s asking price (generally a rare die variety priced appropriately for a more common variety).

choice: An adjective used to describe an especially select specimen of a given grade. For example, Choice AU-55 represents an especially select About Uncirculated coin (typical About Uncirculated being AU-50).

chop mark: A symbol added to money by someone other than the government that issued it to indicate authenticity.

circ: Shorthand for circulated.

circulated: Denotes money that is no longer in mint state, generally as a result of normal handling and exchange.

circulation strike: (See business strike.)

Civil War tokens: Private issue pieces usually made to the approximate size of the U.S. cent. These were circulated during the Civil War and were made because of a scarcity of small change.

clad: (See sandwich coin.)

clash mark(s): Outlines and/or traces of designs from the opposite side of a coin resulting from die clash.

classic era: Refers to silver and gold U.S. coins minted between 1792 and 1933 (gold) or 1964 (silver).

classic head: Coins with a Miss Liberty design featuring the look of a Greek or Roman athlete (including hair held by a ribbon).

cleaned coin: While any coin subjected to a cleaning process could technically be considered cleaned, this term most commonly refers to those that have been abrasively cleaned. This type of coin generally has a lower numismatic value than an otherwise comparable uncleaned specimen.

cleaning: Any process that removes foreign substances, corrosion, or toning, e.g., application of solvents, dipping, and rubbing with abrasive materials or substances.

clip: A coin, planchet or blank missing a portion of metal from its periphery, caused by an error during blank production; types of clips include curved (most common), ragged, straight, elliptical, bowtie, disk, and assay.

clipping: Deliberate smearing or shaving from the edge of gold and silver coins; patterns and mottoes are included on edges to discourage the practice.

clnd: Shorthand for cleaned.

clogged die: A die that contains a contaminant (commonly grease) in its recessed areas. Coins struck by clogged dies either have diminished or missing features.

coin: A piece of metal with a distinctive stamp and of a fixed value and weight issued by a government and used as money (source: Webster’s New World Dictionary).

coin friction: An abraded area of a coin caused by storage in a bag or coin sleeve.

coin set: A grouping of coins that share a common, dominating trait such as year of issue, place of issue, denomination, etc.

coin show: An event where numismatic items are bought, sold, traded, and often exhibited.

Coin Universe Daily Price Guide: A guide that provides selling pricing information on most U.S. coins for multiple coin grade levels.

collar: A device present in a coining press to restrict the outward flow of metal during striking and to put the design, if any, on the edge of the coin.

collection: The numismatic holdings of an individual in total or of a particular type.

colonial: A coin issued by any colony; frequently refers to those produced by European colonies in the Americas in the 17th and 18th centuries.

commemorative: A coin with a design commemorating a person, place, or event.

common: Subjective term referring to any coin that is readily available.

condition census: A list of the finest specimens of a particular value of coin.

conjoined: (See jugate.)

consensus grading: A coin grading determined by review by several graders.

contact marks: Small surface scratches resulting from movement of coins in the same bag or bin.

contemporary counterfeit: An imitation coin created from base metals, made at the same time the genuine coins were made. Due to age, they are often collectible too.

copper coin: A coin containing over 95% pure copper. Lower grade alloys are usually termed bronze or brass.

copper nickel cents: Cent coins struck from 1859 through 1864, made of a copper/nickel alloy which appeared significantly paler than regular copper coins.

copper spot: A stain (varies in size) on gold coins caused by oxidation of a concentration of copper.

corr: Shorthand for corroded.

corrosion: (See environmental damage.)

counterfeit: An imitation coin or note made to circulate as if it actually were money.

counterstamp: A design, group of letters or other mark stamped on a coin for special identification or advertising purposes. Counterstamped coins are graded the way regular (uncounterstamped) coins are, but the nature and condition of the counterstamp must also be described.

crackout: Coin that is cracked out of its plastic holder. Usually refers to a coin removed from a grading service holder.

crown: A general term embracing most silver coins from about 20 to 30 grams in weight and from about 33 to 50 millimeters in size. The term now applies to nickel alloy coins of similar weight and size.

cud: A raised lump of metal on a coin caused by a piece of a die having broken off.

cull: A coin that is less desirable compared to other coins in a roll, tube, or group. The term is sometimes used to mean a very slick, worn, or defective coin.

cupro-nickel (or copper-nickel): Composed of an alloy of copper and nickel, as, for example, U.S. 5-cent coins (other than half dimes) and Canadian 5-cent coins produced since 1982.

currency: Paper money.

current: Coins and paper money still in circulation.

– D –

D: Mintmark indicating coin was struck in Dahlonega, Georgia (1838-1861), or from Denver, Colorado (1906 to present).

damage: Physical change to a numismatic item, such as a scratch, nick, ding, cleaning, hole or pitting.

date: The year(s) shown on a coin, usually the same as the year it was minted.

dcam: Shorthand for deep cameo.

DDO or D.D.O: Doubled Die Obverse, an obverse die that exhibits doubled images in one or more places.

DDR or D.D.R.: Doubled Die Reverse, a reverse die that exhibits doubled images in one or more places.

dealer: A person or company that regularly buys and sells numismatic collectibles.

deep cameo: Coins with deeply frosted devices/lettering that creates a high level of contrast with other coin features.

deep mirror prooflike: Having highly reflective fields, similar to a coin struck as a proof.

delamination: Metal missing or retained but peeling from the surface due to incomplete bonding or impurities in the planchet.

denarius: An ancient Roman silver coin weighing about 3 grams, roughly the same diameter as a U.S. dime but thicker.

denomination: The face value of a coin.

denticles: Tooth-like raised features just inside the rim of some coins (also known as dentils).

design: The devices, lettering, etc., appearing on a coin and their arrangement in relation to one another.

designer: The creator of a coin design.

device: The principal element, such as a portrait, shield or heraldic emblem, of the design on the obverse or reverse of a coin, token or medal.

die: A usually cylindrical piece of steel bearing at one end the incuse design of one side of a coin (except for coins with incuse detail, where the die designs are in relief).

die chip: A small fragment broken off from a die; metal flowing into the resulting hole during striking results in a small raised lump on the surface of the coin.

die clash: Upper and lower dies coming together in a coin press without a planchet between them; design details may be partially impressed in the opposite dies and subsequently as mirror images on coins struck from the clashed dies.

die crack: A narrow fissure in the surface of a die; coins struck with such a die have a narrow raised line corresponding to the crack.

die erosion: Wear on a die from use in the minting process.

die flow lines: (See flow lines.)

die polish: Small raised lines in the field of a coin resulting from polishing of a die to remove chips, clash marks, etc.

die state: The condition of a die at a particular point in its life.

die striations: Lines on coins created by being struck by a recently polished die.

dipping: Cleaning by immersion in a liquid capable of removing molecules from the surface, such as a solution containing thiourea.

disme: The early spelling of the word “dime,” one tenth of a dollar.

dmg: Shorthand for damaged.

DMPL: (See deep mirror prooflike.)

doctored: Usually a pejorative reference for a numismatic item that has been artificially (fraudulently) enhanced.

double denomination: A very rare error in which a normally struck coin is restruck by another denomination die pair.

double die: A dubious term sometimes intended to mean a doubled die coin and sometimes indicating machine doubling. (Because there is often a substantial difference in value between the two, a savvy buyer will be sure to determine which case is true for any coin described as such.).

doubled die: A die with doubled device details, letters, and/or numerals resulting from any of several possible differences between the multiple hub impressions during its manufacture; a coin struck from such a die.

double eagle: A U.S. gold coin with a face value of $20, first minted in 1849 and last officially minted in 1932.

DPG: Shorthand term for the Coin Universe Daily Price Guide.

drachma: An ancient Greek silver coin weighing about 3 grams, roughly the diameter as a U.S. dime, but thicker.

drift mark: An elongated streak of discoloration on a coin that is caused by impurities in the die used in its striking.

dull: Any coin lacking luster (shininess).

– E –

eagle: A U.S. gold coin with a face value of $10, first minted in 1795 and last minted in 1933; also, the current $50 face value gold bullion coin.

ED: (See environmental damage.)

edge: The area that borders a coin’s surface. Also referred to as a coin’s “third side.” Edges of U.S. coins may be reeded, lettered, or plain.

edge lettering: Lettering or symbols used on a coin’s edges. When used, it is typically for a special, commemorative issue.

EF: (See extremely fine.)

e-gold: An electronic way of purchasing, owning, and storing gold.

Eisenhower dollar: Clad nickel-copper dollars with bust of President Eisenhower made from 1971 through 1978.

electrotype: A counterfeit coin made by the electroplating process.

encapsulated: Describes a coin that an independent grading service has sealed with a plastic envelope.

engraver: A person who cuts a design into a coinage die.

environmental damage: Corrosion, such as a pitted surface or toning that is caused by a coin’s being exposed to the elements.

E PluribusUnum: “Out of many, one”; the motto on many U.S. coins.

error, error coin: A coin, token, medal, or paper money item evidencing a mistake made in its manufacture.

exergue: The lower part of a coin or medal, usually divided from the field by a line and often containing the date, mintmark, or engraver’s initial(s).

exonumia: Tokens, medals, and other non-monetary coin-like objects.

exonumist: Collector whose interests encompass numismatic items outside those issued for official government monetary purposes.

extremely fine: An ANA grading standard for coins that are well above standard condition.

eyeappeal: Subjective term referring to a coin’s overall attractiveness or appearance.

– F –

F: (See fine.)

facevalue: The ordinary monetary worth of a coin or note at the time of issue.

fake: (See counterfeit.)

fantasy piece: Refers to coins that are whimsically struck by the officials of a Mint.

fasces: Refers to the design element of an ax surrounded by a bundle of rods which was a symbol of Roman authority.

fiatmoney: Money that is not backed by inherent metal value and is legal tender by government decree.

field: The flat background on a coin, medal or token.

filler: A coin a collector uses to “fill” a part of a set until a higher grade/quality coin can be acquired.

fine: ANA grading standard.

fine gold: Refers to a gold coin with a purity level of 99.9%.

fine silver: Refers to a silver coin with a purity level of 99.9%.

finest known: A coin in the best condition that is known to exist for that given coin.

first spouses: Gold coins issued by the United States Government Mint beginning in 2007. Four gold coins are produced each year depicting the First Ladies of the presidents of the United States.

fishscale: Canadian 5-cent silver; U.S. 3-cent silver coin.

flan: British term for a planchet.

flip: A soft plastic holder normally used for a single coin.

floral edge: A coin edge design consisting of flowers (typically tulips).

flowlines: Microscopic lines in the surface of a coin resulting from the outward flow of metal during striking.

foreign: Any numismatic piece originating outside of the United States.

FR: ANA grading standard meaning Fair.

FR1PR: ANA grading standard meaning Fair level 1 to poor condition.

FR2FR: ANA grading standard meaning Fair level 2 to fair condition.

fractional coin: A coin, the face value of which is a fractional unit of the denominated currency, generally minted of silver.

fractional currency: Paper money with a face value of less than one dollar.

Franklin half dollars: Popular 50-cent coins that feature Benjamin Franklin on one side and the Liberty Bell on the reverse side. These coins were minted between 1948-1963.

friction: (See coin friction.)

frost: Sandblasting or acid-treating a die so that, when coins are struck, their raised areas will have a crystallized “frosty” appearance.

fugiocent: The first coin issued by authority of the United States, produced by contractors in 1787.

– G –

G: ANA grading standard meaning Good.

G04G: ANA grading standard meaning Good Level 4 to Good.

G06G+: ANA grading standard meaning Good Level 6 to Good Plus.

galvano: An epoxy-coated plaster relief model of a coin, token or medal created by electrodeposition (much larger than the dies later created from it).

gem: Refers to mint, near mint and other coins in superb condition.

gem bu: Refers to mint, near mint and other uncirculated coins in superb condition.

genuine: Valid coin minted by the proper minting authority, not counterfeit.

godzilla: An outstanding coin. This term is often used to describe a coin of exceptional quality and appearance.

goloid: An alloy of copper, gold and silver. This combination failed to be accepted because its use would create a large incentive for counterfeiting.

grade/grading: One of several terms summarizing the overall condition of a coin or other numismatic item; the process of evaluation leading to assignment of a grade.

grading standards, ANA: A set of abbreviations indicating the coin condition standards devised by the American Numismatic Association.

granular: Any coin surface that is visibly (or under slight magnification) porous. Caused by a variety of factors, such as exposure to moisture, oxidation of the metal, or chemical reactions.

Greysheet: The Coin Dealer Newsletter, a price guide for U.S. coins intended for dealer-to-dealer sight seen transactions.

– H –

hairlines: Light scratches in the surface of a coin.

halfcent: A U.S. coin with a face value of 1/200th of a dollar, first minted in 1793 and last minted in 1857.

halfdime: A U.S. coin with a face value of 5 cents issued with dates between 1794 and 1873; originally called a half disme.

halfeagle: A U.S. gold coin with a face value of $5, first minted in 1795 and last minted in 1929.

hamburger coin: Slang term for any clad coin.

hammer die: The hammer die is the top die that is placed on top of the coin blank and struck. This was done with a hammer years ago.

hammered coins: Coins minted by hammering the dies together. A coin blank was inserted between two coin dies and struck with a hammer-like tool. This minting method (hammering coins) was in use for centuries until the coin press was invented in the 1700s.

hardtimes token: An unofficial large cent-size copper struck in a wide variety of types during 1833-1844, serving as de facto currency and bearing a politically inspired legend, or with advertising, as a store card.

head: (See obverse.)

hobo nickel: A coin (usually a U.S. Buffalo nickel) physically altered to produce a substantially different image or to which another image has been added.

holder: Any device designed for storage and sometimes display of numismatic items.

holed: Having a hole drilled through it, usually as a result of being used for jewelry.

hub or hob: A metal object with the intended coin design in relief on one end as it would appear on the finished coin. It is used to produce dies.

– I –

Ikes: (See Eisenhower dollar.)

impaired proof: A proof coin with wear or damage resulting from circulation or other handling.

incuse: The opposite of relief—design elements are impressed into the surface.

ingot: (See bar.)

intrinsic: As applied to value, the net metallic value as distinguished from face value.

inverted date: A coin error where the date is punched into a coin die backwards or upside down.

investor: A person who buys numismatic items strictly for profit rather than for aesthetic reasons.

iridescence: Refers to a coin that has a pastel-colored glow.

iron dollar: Old, regional slang term for U.S. silver dollars which referred to their weight compared to paper currency.

– J –

Jefferson nickel: Nickel still in use today. Designed by Felix Schlag and has been in continuous use since 1938.

jugate: Overlapping portraits on a coin which face the same direction.

junk silver: Silver coins of circulated quality. This term is often used to describe bags of common U.S. silver coins that were pulled out of circulation when silver coinage was disappearing. It does not mean the coins are damaged.

– K –

keelboat: U.S. five-cent nickel issued in 2004 featuring a picture of the keelboat that Lewis and Clark used on their expedition. Lewis and Clark can be seen in full uniform in the bow of the keelboat.

Kennedy half: 50-cent coins originally minted in 1964 that feature President John. F. Kennedy.

key coin: The most important coin in a particular series, it is also usually the most expensive as well as the lowest denomination in a set.

keydate: The rarest (or one of the most rare) and therefore most expensive members of a coin series, e.g., the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent or 1916-D Mercury dime.

knife edge: (See wire edge.)

Krause: A numismatic publishing company (Krause Publications); this company’s Standard Catalog of World Coins is a collector’s standard reference.

– L –

lamination flaw: (See delamination.)

largecent: A U.S. coin with a value of 1 cent, minted from 1793 to 1857, composed primarily of copper and larger in diameter than the current U.S. quarter.

laureate: Refers to any figure on a coin that bears a crown of laurel leaves.

legal tender: Money that may be legally offered in payment of an obligation and that a creditor must accept (source: Webster’s New World Dictionary).

legend: Lettering on a coin other than the denomination or nation that issued it.

letterededge: A patriotic legend or a denomination statement that appears on the edge of a coin. This design feature appears on only a few U.S. coins.

lib: Short for liberty head.

liberty bell halves: (See Franklin half dollars.)

liberty head silver dollar: U.S. silver dollars minted between 1878 through 1921. Designed with a liberty bust by engraver George Morgan.

lint mark: A repeated, threadlike depression that appears on a coin’s surface.

logo punch: Metal coin punch that is usually a number. It was used by mint employees to punch numbers (the year of issue) into coin dies.

loonie: Popular name for the Canadian dollar coin.

lot: A unique number an auction house assigns to item(s) to be sold in a particular sale.

loupe: A type of magnifying glass used by numismatists and jewelers.

lt: Shorthand for light.

luster: The brilliance of a coin, resulting from reflection of light off die flow lines.

– M –

machine doubling: Doubling of details resulting from loose dies during striking (generally considered to have no numismatic value).

mail bid: An auction format in which bids are submitted by mail; the highest offer for each lot received by the closing date wins the lot (several other rules usually apply).

matte proof: A proof coin with a granular (rather than mirrorlike) surface produced by dies treated to obtain a minutely etched surface.

medal: A coin-like object struck to honor one or more persons or events depicted or mentioned in its design; an object awarded to persons in recognition of service or other accomplishments.

medieval coin: A coin struck from about 500 to 1500 A.D.

melt/melt value: The worth of precious metal in a coin, determined by multiplying the amount of the metal it contains by the spot price of the metal.

mercury dime: Ten-cent coins minted between 1916 and 1945 with a design feature thought to resemble the Roman god, Mercury.

metal stress lines: (See flow lines.)

milky: Describes the whitish area that is sometimes found on silver coins. The appearance is that of a milk color stain.

milled coin: By contrast with a hammered coin, a piece produced by pressure indirectly rather than directly applied, and the edge of which has been rolled or upset.

millededge: A raised rim around the outer surface of a coin. Not to be confused with the reeded or serrated narrow edge of the coin.

minorcoin: A silver coin of less than crown weight or any coin struck in base metal.

mint: A facility for manufacturing coins.

mintage: The quantity of a denomination of coins produced at a mint during a period of time (usually one year).

mint bloom: The original surface of a newly minted coin.

mintmark: A small letter or symbol designating the mint that produced the item bearing it.

mindset: A specially packaged group of uncirculated coins from one or more mints of the same nation containing at least one coin for most or all of the denominations issued during a particular year.

mint state: In the same condition as when delivered from the mint (natural toning excepted); uncirculated.

misplaced date: One or more digits of a date punched away from the designated location, such as in the denticles or in the central design.

modern coin: A coin struck after about 1500 A.D.

money: A medium of exchange.

morgan dollar: (See liberty head silver dollar.)

mottled toning: Uneven, drab and splotchy areas appearing on a coin.

motto: A phrase imprinted on a coin; for most U.S. coins “E PLURIBUS UNUM.”

MS: (See mint state.)

mule: A coin struck from obverse and reverse dies not originally intended to be used together.

multiplestrike: A coin struck more than once as a result of not being properly ejected from the coining press.

mylar®: A brand name for a clear trademarked polyester material used to store coins.

– N –

national parks quarters: Quarters featuring a U.S. national park design on the reverse side.

natural toning: Coloration resulting from chemical change on the surface during normal exposure over a prolonged period.

NCLT: An abbreviation designating official government issue; “Non-Circulating, Legal Tender” coins, generally struck of silver or gold in denominations not intended to circulate commercially.

net price: A term signifying that the seller is unwilling to sell for less than the price marked.

new: A mint condition coin that has never been in circulation.

nickel: A U.S. five-cent coin consisting of a 75% copper, 25% nickel alloy.

numismatic news: A popular, weekly U.S. coin publication.

numismatics: The collection and study of coins, tokens, medals, paper money and other objects exchanged for goods and services or manufactured by similar methods.

numismatist: A person who collects and/or studies numismatic items.

– O –

obol: A small silver coin of ancient Greece, originally a day’s wages for a rower on a galley or a citizen on jury duty.

obsolete: A coin design or coin series that is no longer being produced.

obv: Shorthand for obverse.

obverse: The side of a numismatic item that bears the principal device. With a few exceptions, the obverse is the date side of regular-issue U.S. coinage (i.e., the “heads” side).

OBW: Means original bank-wrapped.
(See bank-wrapped rolls.)

oddity: When something unusual happens to a coin it is sometimes called an oddity. This can be an error that was made at the mint or something that happened to a coin after it was minted.

offcenter: Incorrectly centered during striking, resulting in part of the design being missing (off the edge).

original/originaltoning: Natural surfaces resulting from long exposure to ordinary environmental conditions; uncleaned.

original roll: Coins still in the paper wrapping originally used for shipment after being minted.

overdate: A coin struck from a die with at least one digit of the date repunched over a different digit, e.g., 1809/6 or 1942/1.

overdipped: A coin that has been dulled by excessive bathing in a dipping solution.

overgraded: Designated with a higher grade than merited.

overmintmark: One mintmark on top of a different mintmark, such as a “D” over an “S” (denoted D/S).

oxidation: The formulation of oxides or tarnish on the surface of a coin from exposure to air, dampness, industrial fumes, or other elements.

– P –

paper money: Paper notes with standardized characteristics issued as money.

paranumismatica: British term for exonumia.

parks quarters: (See national parks quarters.)

patina: A green or brown surface film found on ancient copper and bronze coins caused by oxidation over a long period of time.

pattern: A coin struck as a test piece for a new design, sometimes without a date.

PCGS: Short for professional coin grading service.

peace dollar: U.S. silver dollars minted from 1921-35 that included “peace” on the coins’ reverse.

penny: Copper coin used by a number of countries and usually equal to one-hundredth of some larger denomination.

pennyweight: A penny weight is a means of weighing precious metals. It comes from the British weight system.

peripheral toning: Any level of even coloration that appears around a coin’s edge.

pf, pr or prf: Shorthand for proof.

pick up point: An area where a feature, such as die doubling, is most evident.

piece of eight: A former Spanish coin with a face value of eight reales; the U.S. dollar was originally valued at and tied to eight reales.

piedfort: Refers to French coins that were twice as thick as normal because their value was double that of their regular counterparts.

pioneer gold: Gold coins struck prior to 1861 by private individuals.

pitted: Having a rough surface due to loss of metal by corrosion.

pl: (See prooflike.)

plainedge: A design characteristic of all U.S. small cents and nickels, half-cents, and large cents minted after 1795, two-cent and three-cent pieces, and the silver 20-cents coin.

planchet: The disc of metal or other material on which the dies of a coin, token or medal are impressed (struck).

plugged: Denotes that a holed coin has been filled.

porous: Having a granular surface as the result of oxidation, most frequently found with older copper coins.

PQ: Premium quality.

PR: ANA grading standard meaning Poor.

prestigeset: A set of coins produced by the U.S. Mint, containing one of more proof commemorative coins released in the same year—as well as a proof cent, nickel, dime, quarter, and half dollar.

problem coin: Any coin that has been cleaned or damaged or has other undesirable characteristics.

proof: A coin specially manufactured to have extra sharp detail, mirrorlike fields, and sometimes frosted or “cameo” devices, produced for sale to collectors at a premium or for presentation or exhibition.

proof like: Having mirrorlike fields, similar to a coin struck as a proof.

proof set: A specially packaged group of coins containing at least one of, most or all of the denominations of proof coins struck by a nation in a particular year.

– Q –

quarter: A U.S. gold coin with a face value of 25cents.

quarter eagle: A U.S. gold coin with a face value of $2.50, first minted in 1796 and last minted in 1929.

questionable toning: Refers to a coin with coloring that can’t be determined to be original.

– R –

racketeer nickel: Refers to nickels made in 1883 without lettering that identified their value being 5cents. Crooks plated these nickels and passed them off as $5gold pieces.

radiate: Refers to a figure on a coin that has a pointed or spiked crown that radiates upward or outward.

rarity: An infrequently encountered or available item; the number of surviving specimens of a particular issue, as may be indicated by a rarity scale index.

rarity scale: A convention for designating the rarity of a coin, such as Sheldon’s system (with values such as R1 for common pieces and R6 for extremely rare specimens) and the Universal Rarity Scale invented by Alan Herbert (with designations such as URS3).

raw: Coin collector slang for a numismatic item that a grading service has not graded and that is sealed in an envelope.

real or reale: A former basic monetary unit of Spain and the Spanish colonies in the Americas.

recut date: (See repunched date.)

RedBook: The Handbook of U.S. Coins, a retail price guide for U.S. coins published annually, originally written by R.S. Yeoman.

reeded edge: An edge with raised parallel lines, a.k.a. milled or grained.

relief: Features rising above the field.

repaired: Any coin or currency that has had one or more defects corrected. Information about such work should always be included with such coins or currency because it affects value.

replica: An authorized coin copy or facsimile. Usually, it is different in size or includes wording such as “copy” in order to eliminate its being represented as an original.

repunched date: A date with one or more of the digits punched more than once in different locations and/or orientations.

repunched mintmark(RPM): A mintmark punched more than once in different locations and/or orientations.

restrike: A coin struck with authentic dies later than the date it bears.

rev: Shorthand for reverse.

reverse: The side of a numismatic item opposite to that on which the principal device is impressed.

rim: The outer edge of a coin, often raised to avoid premature wear.

roll: Coins of the same denomination contained in a paper or plastic wrapper.

roller marks: Coins with, usually parallel, incuse lines.

round: A disc shaped piece of precious metal bullion.

rust spot: (See copper spot.)

– S –

Sac: Short for Sacajawea dollar.

sandwich coin: Nickname for clad coins that were first made in the United States in 1965. Because these coins have a center layer that is of a different material than the top and bottom, they resemble a sandwich.

SBA: Shorthand for Susan B. Anthony dollar.

scr: Shorthand for scratch.

scrip: Paper currency, usually of denominations less than one dollar, issued as substitutes for currency by private persons or organizations.

sea salvage coin: A coin retrieved from the ocean, usually from a ship wreck, and which may have pitted surfaces caused by exposure to sand.

series: Coins of the same major design and denomination, including every combination of date and mintmark minted, e.g., Morgan dollars.

SHQ: Statehood Quarters.
(See state quarters.)

Sheldon Scale: A numerical grading system ranging from 1 to 70, created by Dr. William H. Sheldon to denote proportional values of large cents minted from 1793 to 1814 and subsequently adapted as a general grading scale.

shinplaster: Canadian fractional banknotes.

shotgun rolls: Rolls of coins that contain double the normal number of coins in a roll. Their length makes them look like a shotgun barrel.

shroff mark: Indian term for chop mark.

sightseen: Available for examination to a potential buyer before a purchase decision is made.

sight unseen: Not available for examination to a potential buyer before a purchase decision is made, as is usually the case with mail order transactions.

silver certificate: A note (paper money) once redeemable for its face value in silver.

silver clad: A clad coin with one layer containing silver, such as U.S. halves struck from 1965 to 1970.

silver coin: A coin consisting of more than 50% silver content.

silver eagle: A coin produced by the U.S. Mint beginning in 1986 containing one ounce of silver and having a nominal face value of $1 (not released for circulation).

slab: A coin certified by a professional grading service as authentic and encapsulated in a sealed, hard plastic holder also containing a label; the service’s opinion of its grade and other information.

slider: A coin with very slight traces of wear, such that it almost passes for a specimen that has never been circulated.

sp: Shorthand for specimen.

specie: Precious metal used to back money, usually gold or silver.

spl: Shorthand for semi-prooflike.

split grade: Different grades for a coin’s obverse and reverse sides.

spot: Short for spot price; 2. A small area of corrosion or foreign substance.

spot price: The market price for immediate delivery of a commodity, such as a precious metal.

spread: The difference between buy and sell prices on the same item(s) of a dealer, broker, etc. The extent of separation between the impressions on a doubled die.

spurious: A false piece made to deceive, often an original creation rather than a copy of a known item.

state quarters: U.S. quarters that feature different U.S. states and minted between 1999 and 2008.

steel cent: Refers to pennies made in 1943 and 1944 that were struck from steel and coated in zinc.

steelie: (See steel cent.)

stella: A U.S. gold coin pattern with a face value of $4, minted in 1879 and 1880.

storecard: A token bearing a business name and/or address, and often intended as a local or ad hoc medium of exchange.

striations: Incuse marks caused by rolling bars while creating planchets.

strike: The process of impressing the design from a die into a planchet to make a coin, token or medal; the completeness of detail (as in a weak strike, full strike, etc.) created during this process.

strike doubling: (See machine doubling.)

sweating: Illegal practice of using an acid solution to remove precious metal content from a coin and then re-circulating the sweated (and lighter, pitted) coin.

– T –

tab toning: Refers to commemorative coins stored in round-tabbed cardboard holders which resulted in toned coins with a round center.

tail: The reverse or backside of a coin.

target toning: Term used for coins with rings of coloring that fade toward the centering, creating the effect of an archery target.

tetradrachma: An ancient Greek silver coin weighing about 13 to 17 grams, roughly the same size as a U.S. quarter but three times thicker.

thaler: German word for dollar, referring to large European silver coins and which is the origin of our word, “dollar.”

third-party grading: Any independent service that provides a coin evaluation, free of bias that could be associated with collectors or dealers.

thumbing: The rubbing of skin oil into a coin in an attempt to hide contact marks.

token: A coin-like object redeemable for a particular product or service, such as transportation on a bus or subway; an unofficial coin issued by a business or town to be used as small change, e.g., in 17th-19th century Britain, and in France in the 20th century.

token coinage: Coinage the intrinsic value of which is less than its face value.

toning: Color acquired from chemical change on the surface.

top die: (See hammer die.)

tradedollar: A U.S. coin with a face value of $1, minted from 1873 through 1885 specifically for commerce in the Orient; a U.S. coin with a face value of $1, minted from 1895 through 1935 specifically for commerce in the Orient.

trime: A U.S. coin with a face value of 3 cents minted in predominantly silver alloys from 1851-1873.

truncation: The sharply cut off bottom edge of a portrait.

tube: A plastic container designed for storing a roll or other quantity of coins of the same sizes.

turkey: Term used for a coin in poor condition that, upon closer examination, is in even a worse state.

typecoin: Any coin of a particular design and denomination, usually one of the more common dates.

typeset: A collection of coins of various designs, but with the same denomination.

– U –

ultra high relief: Alternative of extremely high relief.

ultra rarity: Any coin or related item of which only a few exist.

unc: (See uncirculated.)

uncirculated: Never circulated; without any wear.

undergrading: Unscrupulous practice of assigning a coin a lower grade than merited.

uniface: Showing a design on one side only.

Universal Rarity Scale: A scale that measures degree of rarity. A 10-point, ascending scale (higher number corresponds to increased rarity) that goes from UR1readily available to UR10unique (literally one of a kind).

upsetting mill or upsetting machine: Machine used in coin production to raise the rim on both sides of a blank (planchet).

URS: Short for Universal Rarity Scale.

used: Describes coins of various levels of wear/tear and circulation.

– V –

VAM: Any variety of U.S. silver dollar described in the book Morgan and Peace Dollars by Van Allen and Mallis.

variety: Any coin struck from a die pair that differs from others with the same date and mintmark, such as exhibiting die doubling, different style letters or numerals, or a repunched mintmark.

vectures: Transportation tokens.

vest pocket dealer: Old slang for a person who trades coins but does not have a booth or storefront (typically a part-timer).

VF: Short hand for Very Fine, an ANA grading classification.

VG: ANA grading standard meaning Very Good.

VG08VG: ANA grading standard, very good level 8 to very good.

VG10VG+: ANA grading standard, very good level 10 to very good plus.

vis-à-vis: Coins with heads or busts of two individuals facing each other.

– W –

waffle: Government process used to destroy defective coins. The coins are run through a metal waffling machine that defaces the coin so that it can be used for scrap metal. The term waffle comes from the waffle-like wavy surface left on the metal.

wantlist: A tabulation of collectibles sought by a collector, often including limits on condition and/or price.

war nickel: (See wartime nickel.)

wartime nickel: Five-cent coins minted during World War II with a special metal content so that the metal nickel could be diverted for wartime use.

watermark: A design put into paper at the manufacturing stage by pressing it while wet between rollers bearing the design.

wear: Metal lost during handling and contact with other objects.

wheat back cent:  U.S. cent coins minted from 1909 through 1958 that have a wheatstalk design on the underside of the coins.

white cent: (See copper-nickel cents.)

whizzing: Alteration by mechanical polishing to include a shiny surface.

winged liberty: (See mercury dime.)

wire edge: Any coin with a thin, sharp rim that is created when metal flows between a die and a collar during striking.

worldcoins: Coins issued by various nations, as in a collection comprised of such coins.

– X –

XF:  ANA grading standard meaning extremely fine.

– Y –

year set: A privately (as opposed to government) packaged coin set consisting of a specimen of each coin from each Mint issued for circulation in a particular year.

– Z –