UNDERSTANDING COIN TERMINOLOGY
At U.S. Coins and Jewelry, we have compiled some information to help you gain a greater understanding of the terminology used in the coin market.
Denomination: Common-Date gold coins are available in the four main denominations: $20, $10, $5, $2.5 with gold content from about an ounce to an eighth of an ounce.
Design Type: 1907 is the key year separating the two major design types in U.S. Coinage. Prior to 1907, the Liberty head design was employed on all four denominations. In 1907, the switch was made to the $20 St. Gaudens, featuring the famous Walking Lady Liberty, and the $10, $5, and $2.5 Indians with Native American motifs.
Independent Grading Services: PCGS and NGC set the standard for the authentication and grading of Pre-1933 U.S. coins. These third-party firms assign a “grade” to each coin designating its state of preservation, with a 70 being a perfect coin. For this report, it’s important to know that any coin grading Mint State (MS)-60 and higher is in uncirculated condition. Furthermore, we only recommend common-date gold coins in the investment-grade range from MS-62 to MS-66 for the best value and upside potential.
Packaging: All PCGS and NGC graded coins are sonically sealed in plastic “slabs”. The slabs are tamper-proof. The only way to remove one is by cracking it open. (See Anatomy of a Certified Coin, above).
Certificate of Grading and Authenticity: The “cert” is sealed in the slab above the coin and displays all of its biographical information – what year and at which mint it was made, denomination, type, grade, plus a bar code that registers it with the grading service.
The grading services, grading scale, slab, and certificates are all critical components of the system developed nearly 30 years ago that helped standardize the Pre-1933 U.S. gold coin market.
With a universal process and standards in place, these coins are extremely liquid and heavily traded each day across the industry. This system has created a healthy exchange market that is liquid, transparent, and reliable. We’re constantly evaluating the common-date gold market and our top recommendations are based on the most attractive values and long-term potential.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see all terminology:
To summarize, here are the main reasons you should consider common-date gold as an investment:
Diversification: A critical strategy for most investors, it makes good sense to spread your exposure across market segments to reduce risks and increase the strength of your portfolio as well as the potential for profits.
Fixed and Limited Supply: Because no more will be produced, common-date gold can rise in value quickly when demand overwhelms supply.
Twice the Demand: Pre-1933 U.S. gold coins are in demand by both collectors and investors with new buyers from both categories consistently entering the market.
A Younger Bull Market: As in the past, the modern bullion market is leading all metals segments in this long-term bull trend with many successful years ahead. Common-date gold is riding the same bull wave, but we’re convinced it’s at a younger stage in the cycle behind bullion, thus our conviction that our top recommendations are excellent opportunities for diversification and profit. The way we see it, this segment offers a way to “buy gold at yesterday’s prices” and profit as the gap closes in the future.
Solid Value at Current Levels: No one is certain what the future holds, but, as with stocks, a critical strategy in acquiring common-date gold is value. We only recommend coins that we’re convinced offer not only excellent long-term upside potential to their previous all-time highs, but also look undervalued in today’s changing marketplace.
Safety from Confiscation: It’s impossible to say how likely such action is or exactly how it would be executed. However, we believe that Pre-1933 U.S. gold coins have the best chance of being exempt from confiscation due to their track record of such status and the fact that they’re valued above their gold content. Therefore, Pre-1933 U.S. gold adds a greater insurance policy to your bullion as well as better upside potential.
Raw (Uncertified) Pre-1933 U.S. Gold
We also recommend considering “Raw” Pre-1933 U.S. Gold Coins. These are an exception to the rule of grading and certification. Raw gold coins still display attractive eye-appeal but are typically lower quality than their investment-grade, certified counterparts. They are not certified and graded by a third-party, and often trade closer to their gold content.
This interesting mix of attributes makes raw gold an ideal sub-segment for further diversification within the Pre-1933 U.S. gold market.
- The larger coins ($20 and $10) offer similar gold content and exposure to rising gold prices as modern Gold Eagles.
- Their price-point falls between that of modern bullion and their investment-grade, certified Pre-1933 counterparts.
- Their fixed and limited supply still means better prospective profits than modern gold bullion alone.
- As Pre-1933 coins, they offer far greater safety from potential government confiscation. It’s important to take advantage of the excellent values in common-date gold before a sudden surge in demand pushes prices higher.
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About Good: The grade AG-3. The grade for a coin that is just below good. On an About Good coin, only the main features of it are present. Date, mintmark, peripheral lettering, or other features sometimes are partially worn away.
About Uncirculated: Alternate term for Almost Uncirculated.
Abrasions: Areas of a coin where another coin or a foreign object has displaced metal in an abraded fashion.
- A grouping of a particular date, type, or series. Example: an accumulationof Morgan Dollars.
- A random grouping of coins, often as a monetary hoard. Opposite of a coin collection.
Adjustment marks: Scratches which appear mostly on pre-1807 silver and gold coinage. These scratches are actually file marks, made at the mint in order to reduce the weight of a coin so that its metal value wouldn't exceed its face value. As a rule, adjustment marks do not reduce the value of a coin nearly as much as a series of equally visible scratches, which were not "mint-applied".
AG: Acronym for About Good.
Album friction: 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.
Alloy: A combination of two or more metals.
Almost 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.
Altered surfaces: Cleaning or other impairment that renders a coin less desirable to collectors.
Alteration: A coin that has a date, mintmark, or other feature that has been altered, added, or removed, usually to simulate a rarer issue.
American Numismatic Association: The world's largest organization of coin collectors and dealers. It is a non-profit organization, chartered by an Act of Congress in 1912. Membership is highly recommended. If you are not a member, you should be! Write to them at: 818 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80901.
ANA: Acronym for the "American Numismatic Association."
ANACS certificate: A uniquely numbered opinion of authenticity and/or grade from the ANA Certification Service.
ANACS - (American Numismatic Association Certification Service): ANACS originated by offering authentication, and later provided grading services. The grading service and acronym were sold by the ANA and now operate under this name as a third-party grading service.
ANE: Acronym for American Numismatic Information Exchange. NGC and PCGS certified coins trade sight-unseen through this electronic network system.
Ancients: Term for coins of the world struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 450 A.D.
Annealing: The heating (and cooling) of a die or planchet to soften the metal before preparation of the die or striking of the coin.
Anvil die: The lower, stationary die. 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.
Arrows: Design element usually found in the left (viewer's right) claw of the eagle seen on many US coins.
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.
Artificial toning: Color added to the surface of a coin by heat and/or chemicals.
Ask: The lowest current asking price of a particular coin issue and grade offered for sale.
Also see: Bid.
Attributes: The elements that make up a coin's grade. The primary attributes include marks (hairlines for Proofs), luster, strike, and eye appeal.
AU: Acronym for About (Almost) Uncirculated.
Auction: An offering of coins or other items for sale where the buyer must bid against other potential buyers with no set price. This is in contrast with ordering from a catalog, price list, or advertisement at an advertised price.
Authentication: The process of determining genuineness.
Bag: 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).
Bag marks: 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.
Bag toning: 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.
Barber coinage: Common name for the Charles Barber designed Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and half dollars struck during the 1890s and early 1900s.
Basal state: 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.
Basal value: 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.
Baseball cap coin: Slang for a Pan-Pac commemorative gold dollar coin. The figure on this coin wears a cap similar to a baseball cap.
Basining: The process of polishing a die to create a mirrored surface or to remove clash marks or other damage from a die.
Beaded border: Small round devices around the edge of a coin, often seen on early U.S. coins.
BG Gold Term sometimes applied to California fractional gold coins as documented in the Breen-Gillio reference work California Pioneer Fraction Gold.
Bid: The highest price offered to buy a particular coin issue and grade either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium. Also see: Ask.
- A dealer issuing a quotation on an electronic trading system.
- A participant in an auction.
Blank: A flat disk of unstruck metal destined to be made into a coin. Also see: Planchet.
Blended: A term applied to an element of a coin (date, design, lettering, etc.) that is worn into another element or the surrounding field.
Bluebook: A blue-cover, wholesale pricing book for United States coins.
Bluesheet: Synonym for the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter.
BN: Short for Brown; refers to copper coins.
Body bag: 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.
Bourse: The Paris stock exchange. This term has come to be synonymous with coin show.
Bourse floor: The physical area where a coin show takes place.
Braided Hair: 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.
Branch mint: One of the various subsidiary government facilities that struck, or still strikes, coins.
Breast feathers: 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.
Breen: The late Walter Breen.
Breen Book: Slang for Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. It was published in 1988.
Breen letter: 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.
Breen-Gillio: Numbering system base on the book California Pioneer Fraction Gold by Walter Breen and Ron Gillio.
Brilliant: 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.
Brilliant Proof: A particular type of proof coin that has a full mirror surface in the fields.
Brilliant Uncirculated: A generic term for any coin that has not been in circulation.
Bronze: An alloy of copper and tin; special types also contain other elements.
Brown: 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.
BU: Acronym for Brilliant Uncirculated.
BU rolls: 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.
Buckled die: A warped or distorted die. Can be caused by excess clashing. Often produces coins which are slightly bent.
Buffalo nickel: Slang for the Indian Head nickel, struck from 1913 to 1938. The animal depicted is an American Bison.
Bulged die: A die with a small indentation, formed from clashing. Results in "bulged" coins.
Bullet sale: A trademark of Heritage Numismatic Auctions, referring to a public auction model with an exceptionally short lead-time between the consignment deadline and the sale date.
Bullet toning: See Target Toning.
Bullion: 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.
Bullion coin: A legal tender coin that trades at a slight premium to its value as plain metal.
Burn mark: See Counting Machine Mark.
Burnishing: 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.
Burnishing lines: Lines resulting from burnishing. Typically seen on open-collar Proofs and almost never observed on close-collar Proofs.
Burnt: Slang term for a coin that has been over-dipped. On such a coin, the surfaces are dull and lackluster.
Business strike: A coin which was struck for use in general circulation, as opposed to a proof coin produced strictly for collector purposes. Also see: Regular Strike, Commercial Strike.
Bust: The head and shoulders of the emblematic Liberty seen on many US issues. Also see: Capped Bust, Draped Bust.
Bust dollar: Slang term for silver dollars struck from 1795 through 1803.
Buyer's Premium: 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.
C-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.)
Cabinet friction: 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.
CAC: The initials stand for Certified Acceptance Corporation, a company which reviews coins that are already graded and encapsulated by a third-party grading service. If the coin meets CAC's standards as high-end for the assigned grade, it will receive a green CAC sticker.
CAM: Abbreviation for Cameo.
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.
Canadian: Term for coins and other numismatic items of Canada. (as in, "Got any Canadian?")
Canadian silver: Slang term for the silver coins of Canada.
Cap Bust: Alternate term for Capped Bust
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.
Capped die: 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.
Carbon spot: 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. Also see: Copper Spot.
Carson City: The United States branch Mint located in Carson City, Nevada that struck coins from 1870 through 1885 and later from 1889 through 1893.
Cartwheel: 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.
Cast blanks: Planchets that are molded, rather than cut from strips of metal.
Cast counterfeit: 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.
Castaing machine: 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.
CC: Mintmark used to indicate coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada branch Mint. More information on mintmarks.
CCDN: Acronym for Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter. Address: PO Box 11099, Torrance, CA
CCE: Acronym for Certified Coin Exchange
CDN: Acronym for Coin Dealer Newsletter
Census: A compilation of the known specimens of a particular numismatic item.
Cent: A denomination valued at one-hundredth of a dollar, struck by the U.S. Mint.
Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter: A weekly newsletter that reports the trading ranges of nearly all U.S. coins.
Certified Coin Exchange: The bid/ask real-time coin trading and quotation system owned by the American Teleprocessing Company.
Chain Cent: The popular name for the Flowing Hair Chain cent of 1793, the first coins struck in the newly occupied Mint building.
Chapman Proof: 1921 Morgan dollar Proofs supposedly struck for coin dealer Henry Chapman, having cameo devices and deeply mirrored surfaces like most Morgan dollar Proofs.
Charlotte: 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.
Chasing: 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.
Choice: 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".
Choice Unc: Abbreviation for Choice Uncirculated.
Choice Uncirculated: An Uncirculated coin in grade MS-63 or MS-64.
Circulated: A term applied to a coin that has wear, ranging from slight rubbing to heavy wear.
Circulation: A term applied to coins that have been spent in commerce.
Circulation strike: A coin meant for commerce. An alternate term for Business Strike or Regular Strike.
Clad: A term used to describe any of the modern "sandwich" coins that have layers of both copper and nickel.
Clad bag: Usually applied to a $1,000 bag of 40% silver half-dollars although it also could apply to any bag of "sandwich" coins.
Clash marks: The images of the dies seen on coins struck from clashed dies.
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.
Classic Era: 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.)
Classic Head: An image of Miss Liberty that depicts the style of a Roman or Greek athlete wearing a ribbon around the hair.
Cleaned: 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.
Cleaning Coins: DO NOT CLEAN YOUR COINS! Just like any antique piece of furniture, or painting, the original surfaces of a coin are much more desirable by collectors than altered or damaged surfaces. As a result, cleaned coins are worth significantly less money than wholly original coins. Even though a coin is dark in color, does not mean that it is less valuable. The metal in coins often oxidizes and produces a wide array of colors called toning. Some collectors hunt for wholly original coins with this type of toning.
Clip: Slang term for a coin struck from a clipped planchet.
Clipped: Term for an irregularly cut planchet. A clip can be straight or curved, depending upon where it was cut.
Clogged die: A die that has a contaminant lodged in the recessed areas. Coins struck from a clogged die will have diminished or even missing detail.
Close collar: 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.
Closed collar: Alternate term for close collar
Cohen variety: A die variety for half cents, denoted as C-1, C-2a, etc.
Also see: Die Variety.
Coin: 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.
Coin collection: A grouping of coins assembled for fun or profit.
Coin collector: An individual who accumulates coins in a methodical manner.
Coin Dealer Newsletter: A weekly newsletter that reports the wholesale trading ranges of nearly all U.S. coins.
Coin friction: Term applied to the area resulting when coins rub together in rolls or bags and small amounts of metal are displaced. Also see: Roll Friction.
Coin show: An exchange composed of coin dealers displaying their items for sale and trade.
Coin World: A leading weekly numismatic publication established in 1960.
Coinage: The issuance of metallic money of a particular country.
COINage: Monthly numismatic magazine.
Coins Magazine: Monthly numismatic periodical
Collector Technologies, Inc.: Corporate entity that owns and operates AbaCoin.com. Based in Belmont, MA.
Commem: Synonym for "commemorative."
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.
Commercial grade: A synonym for Market Grade.
Commercial strike: A synonym for regular strike or business strike.
Common: 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.
Common date: 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.
Complete set: 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.
Condition: The state of preservation of a particular numismatic item.
Condition Census: A listing of the finest known examples of a particular issue. There is no fixed number of coins in a Condition Census.
Condition rarity: A term to indicate a common coin that is rare when found in high grades.
Consensus grading: The process of evaluating the condition of a coin by using multiple graders.
Conserved: 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.
Contact marks: 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.
Also see: Bags Mark.
Contemporary counterfeit: 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.
Continental dollars: "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.
Copper spot: 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.
Copper-nickel: The alloy (copper 88%, nickel 12%) used for small cents from 1856 through mid-1864.
Copper-Nickel Cent: 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.
Coppers: Slang for pre-Federal copper, half cents, and large cents, minted through 1857.
Copy: Any reproduction, fraudulent or otherwise, of a coin.
Copy dies: 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.
Coronet Head: Alternate name for Braided Hair design by Christian Gobrecht. This is sometimes also called the Liberty Head design.
Corrosion: 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.
Cost: The price paid for a numismatic item.
Counterfeit: 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.
Cud: 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.
Cupro-nickel: 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.
D-Mint: Term used for the coinage of the branch Mints in Dahlonega, Georgia, or Denver, Colorado.
Dahlonega: The branch Mint located in Dahlonega, Georgia that struck gold coins from 1838 until 1861 when it was seized by the Confederacy.
Date: 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.
DCAM: Abbreviation for Deep Cameo.
Dealer: Someone who's occupation is buying, selling, and trading numismatic material.
Deep Cameo: 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.
Denomination: The value assigned by a government to a specific coin.
Denticles: 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.
Dentils: Alternative term for denticles.
Design: The motif of a coin or other numismatic item. Barber coins and Washington quarters are examples of designs.
Design type: A specific motif placed upon coinage, which may be used for several denominations and subtypes.
Designation: An addition to the grade of a coin to denote characteristics of the coin not covered by the coin's grade. A designation may refer to the coin's color, strike, or overall appearance. All copper coins have a color designation, but other coins may not have a designation at all, even if one is available for their series. Designations do not affect the coin's grade, but almost always affect the coin's value. Some common examples of designations are Red, Prooflike, Cameo and Full Bands.
Designer: The individual responsible for creating a particular motif used on a numismatic series.
Device: Any specific design element. Often refers to the principal design element.
Device punch: 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.
Die: A steel rod that is engraved, punched, or hubbed with the date, lettering, devices, and other emblems used to strike a coin.
Die alignment: Term to indicate the relative position of the obverse and reverse dies.
Die break: An area of a coin that is the result of a broken die.
Die cracks: Raised lines, which appear on a coin as a result of that coin having been struck by a cracked die.
Die line: Raised lines, which appear on a coin as a result of polish lines on the die.
Also see: Die Striations, Polishied die.
Die rust: Pitting or roughness appearing on a coin as a result of that coin having been struck by a rusted die.
Die state: 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.
Die striations: Raised lines on coins that were struck with polished dies.
Die trial: The test striking of a particular die in a different metal.
Die variety: 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.
Die wear: The loss of detail on a coin due to wear on the die used to strike it (rather than wear on the coin itself).
Dime: The denomination, one tenth of a dollar, issued since 1796 by the United States.
Ding: Slang for a small- to medium-sized mark on a coin.
Also see: Rim ding.
Dipped: 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.
Dipping solution: Any of the commercial cleaners or "dips"on the market, usually acid-based.
Disme: 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.
DMPL: Abbreviation for Deep Mirror Prooflike. An exceptionally deep mirror-like prooflike coin with little, if any, cartwheel lustre. Also see: DPL.
Doctored: Typically considered a derogatory term. A doctored coin has been enhanced by chemical or other means.
Dollar: 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).
Double Eagle: Literally two eagles, or twenty dollars. A twenty-dollar U.S. gold coin issued from 1850 through 1932.
Double(d) die: 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.
Double-struck: 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.
Draped Bust: 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.
Drift mark: 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.
Dull: Term for a numismatic item that lacks luster. Dulling may be the result of natural or artificial conditions.
EAC: Abbreviation for Early American Coppers
Eagle: 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.
ED: Acronym for environmental damage.
Edge: The third side of a coin. It may be reeded, ornamented, or plain.
Edge device: Letters or emblems on the edge of a coin. Examples would be the stars and lettering on the edge of Saint-Gaudens double eagles.
EF: Acronym for Extremely Fine
Electrotype: 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.
Elements: The various devices and emblems seen on coins.
Eliasberg: Short for Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., who was the only collector ever to assemble a complete collection of United States coins.
Emission sequence: The order in which die states are struck. Also, the die use sequence for a particular issue.
Engraver: The person responsible for the design and/or punches used to craft a coin.
Envelope toning: Coloration that results from storage in small manila "coin envelopes". Most paper envelopes contain reactive chemicals.
Environmental damage: Corrosion-effect seen on a coin that has been exposed to the elements. The damage may range from minor dulling to severe pitting.
Eroded die: Synonym for a worn die.
Error: 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.
Essai: Term for trial or pattern strikings. The anglicized version is essay and literally means a test or trial.
Expert: A specialist in a particular numismatic area. (i.e. A gold expert, a Morgan Dollar expert, a CC-Mint expert, etc.)
Extra Fine: Alternate term for Extremely Fine.
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.
Eye appeal: 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
Fair: The grade FR-2.
Fake: A counterfeit or altered coin.
Fantasy piece: A term applied to coins struck at the whim of Mint officials. Examples include the various 1865 Motto and 1866 No Motto coins.
Fasces: 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.
Fat head; Term for the Small Size Capped Bust quarters and half eagles.
FB; Acronym for Full Bands.
FBL; Acronym for Full Bell Lines.
FH; Acronym for Full Head.
Fiat currency: Coins or paper money that do not have metal value or are not backed by metal value.
Field: The flat (or slightly curved) portion of a coin where there is no design.
Fine: Term for the grades F-12 and F-15.
Finest known: The best-known condition example of a particular numismatic item.
First shot: Term for the opportunity to buy a numismatic item before it is offered to others.
First strike: 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.
Five: Term for a five-dollar gold coin or half eagle.
Five Indian: Term for the Indian Head half eagles struck from 1908 to 1929.
Five Lib: Term for the Liberty Head half eagles struck from 1839 until 1908.
Fixed price list: A listing of items for sale at established prices.
Flat edge: Term referring to the particular specimens of High Reliefs that do not have a wire edge.
Also see: Wire edge.
Flat luster: 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.
- To quickly sell a recently purchased item - usually for a fast profit.
Flip rub: Discoloration, often only slight, on the highest points of a coin caused by contact with a flip.
Flow lines: 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.
Flowing Hair: The design of Miss Liberty with long, flowing hair that is attributed to Mint engraver Robert Scot.
Flying Eagle: Term for Flying Eagle Cent.
Flying Eagle Cent: The small cent, struck in 88% copper and 12% nickel, that replaced the large cent.
Focal area: The area of a coin to which a viewer's eye is drawn. Liberty's cheek is the focal point of the Morgan Dollar.
Foreign: 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.
FPL: Acronym for Fixed Price List.
FR: Acronym for Fair.
Franklin: Synonym for Franklin half-dollar.
Franklin half-dollar: 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.
Friction: 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.
Frost: An effect seen on the raised parts of a coin whereby the metal appears crystallized.
Frosted devices: Raised elements on coins struck with treated dies to impart a crystallized appearance.
FS: Acronym for Full Steps.
Fugio cents: 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.
Full Bands: 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.
Full Head: Abbreviated as FH, this term is applied to Standing Liberty quarters when the helmet of the head has full detail.
Full Steps: Term applied to a Jefferson five-cent piece when 5½ or 6 steps of Monticello are present.
Full strike: A numismatic item that has full detail. The metal flows into all areas of the die.
FUN Show: The annual convention sponsored by the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) held in early January.
Galvano: The large metal relief turned in a portrait lathe to become a steel hub.
Garrett: 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.
Gem: 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.
Gem BU: Synonym for Gem Brilliant Uncirculated.
Gem Unc: Synonym for Gem Uncirculated.
Gem Uncirculated: See Gem.
Gobrecht: Synonym for "Gobrecht dollar."
Gobrecht dollar: Silver dollars dated 1836, 1838, and 1839 struck in those years and later restruck. These are named for their designer, Christian Gobrecht, Chief Engraver from 1840 to 1844.
Gold commem: Synonym for gold commemorative.
Gold commemorative: 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.
Gold dollar: Small coins of one-dollar denomination struck from 1849 until 1889.
Good: The grades G-4 and G-6.
Grade: The numerical or adjectival condition of a coin.
Grader: A person who evaluates the condition of coins.
Grading: The process of numerically quantifying the condition of a coin.
Greysheet: A synonym for the Coin Dealer Newsletter.
Hair: The area of a coin that represents hair and may be an important aspect of the grade.
Hairlines: 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.
Half: Synonym for half-dollar.
Half cent: 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.
Half disme: 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.
Half Dollar: The denomination first struck in 1794 that is still issued today.
Half Eagle: Literally, half the value of an Eagle. The Eagle was defined by the Mint Act of 1792 as equal to ten silver dollars.
Hammer die: 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.
Also see: Anvil die.
Haze: A cloudy film seen on business-strike coins and Proofs. It may occur naturally or be added.
Heraldic Eagle: Also called the large eagle, this emblem of Liberty got its name because of its resemblance to the eagles of heraldry.
High end: A term applied to any coin at the upper end of a particular grade.
Also see: Premium quality.
High Relief: 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.
Hoard: A group of coins held for either numismatic or monetary reasons.
Hoard coin: 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.
Hoarder: An individual who amasses a great quantity of a numismatic item.
Hobo nickel: 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."
Holder toning: Any toning acquired by a coin as a result of storage in a holder.
Hub: Minting term for the steel device that is used to produce a die.
Impaired Proof: A Proof coin that grades lower than PR-60.
Also see: Mishandled proof.
Incomplete strike: 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.
Incuse design: 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.
Independent Coin Grading Company (ICG): ICG is a grading service located in Englewood, CO.
Indian cent: 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.
Indian penny: Synonym for Indian Head cent.
Intrinsic value: 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 Flat Currency).
Iridescencent: 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.
Jefferson nickel: The five-cent coin struck beginning in 1938 through to this day. Felix Schlag was the designer.
Knife edge: Synonym for wire edge.
Lamination: A form of planchet flaw caused by imperfections in the metal, whereby a thin strip of the metal separates itself from the coin.
Large cent: 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.
Large date: 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.
Large Eagle: Synonym for Heraldic Eagle.
Large letters: 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.
Large Motto: 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.
Also see: Small Motto.
Large size: 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.
LD: Acronym for large date.
Legend: Any phrase that appears on a coin. For example "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA".
Lettered edge: A coin edge that displays an inscription or other design elements, rather than being plain or reeded (see Reeded edge).
Lettering: The alphabet characters used in creating legends, mottos, and other inscriptions on a coin.
Lib: Term for Liberty Head. (i.e. a $10 Lib, a $20 Lib).
Liberty: A symbolic figure used in many U.S. coin designs.
Liberty Cap: 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.
Liberty Head: 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.
Liberty Seated: 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.
Lincoln: Synonym for a Lincoln Head cent.
Lincoln 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.
Lincoln penny: Synonym for Lincoln Head cent.
Lint mark: 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.
LL: Acronym for large letters.
Long Beach: 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.
Lot: A unique number assigned by an auction house to an item or items sold in a particular sale.
Loupe: A magnifying glass used to examine coins.
Luster: Synonym for lustre.
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, natural as made, or diminished through wear, friction, cleaning, or other factors.
Lustrous: A term used to describe a coin that still has its original mint bloom.
Major variety: A coin that is widely recognized as having a major difference from other coins of the same date, design, type, and mint.
Also see: Minor variety.
Market grade: The grade at which most reputable dealers and auction houses would offer an uncertified coin.
Marks: Imperfections acquired after a coin is struck.
Master die: The main die produced from the master hub.
Also see: Master Die, Working Hub and Working die.
Master hub: The original hub created by the portrait lathe. Master dies are created from this hub.
Matte Proof: 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.
MD: Acronym for medium date.
Medal press: A high-pressure coining press acquired by the U.S. Mint, in the 1850s. It was used to strike medals, and other issues.
Medium date: 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.
Medium letters: 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.
Melt: Term for the intrinsic metal value of a coin.
Mercury dime: 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.
Also see: Flow Lines.
Mil: A unit of measurement to describe length or width. Equals 1/1000 of an inch, usually referring to the thickness of metal plating on a medal or coin.
Milling mark: 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.
Minor variety: A coin that has a minor difference from other coins of the same design, type, date, and mint.
Also see:Major Variety.
Mint: A facility where coins are crafted.
Mint bloom: Original lustre that is still visible on a coin.
Also see: Lustre.
Mint error: See Error.
Mint set: 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.
Mint State: 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.
Mintage: The number of coins of a particular date struck at a given mint during a specific year.
Mintmark: Letter(s) stamped into a coin to denote the mint at which it was struck.
Mis-struck: Term applied to "error coins" with striking irregularities.
Mishandled Proof: A proof coin that somehow escaped into circulation or was otherwise significantly abused.
ML: Acronym for medium letters.
Morgan: Synonym for Morgan dollar.
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.
Mottled toning: Splotchy