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Coin Glossary of Terms

Coin Glossary of Terms

When investing in gold and silver coins and other precious metals bullion, it’s important to know the meaning of coin collecting terminology. Below we have compiled a list of coin terms that every precious metals purchaser should become familiar with. Reading through the coin glossary of terms will expand your coin collecting vocabulary however we also recommend bookmarking this page for quick reference in the future.

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About Good

A lower subjective grade than good. A well worn coin were only the main features are recognizable.

About Uncirculated

A subjective grade of coin that has seen very little circulation.

Abrasions

Scratches or marks on a coin. Abrasions are often caused by mint production, coins being stored together in bags, or from common handling.

Adjustment Marks

Small marks from tiny filing on early coins to reduce the weight of the coin blanks so they would be the proper weight.

Ag

The chemical symbol for silver which can be found on the periodic chart of the elements.

AG

Short for “About Good”, a lower subjective grade than good. A well worn coin were only the main features are recognizable.

AGW

Actual Gold Weight

Alloy

A mixture of two or more metals.

Almost Uncirculated

A subjective grade of coin that has seen very little circulation.

Altered Surfaces

A coin whose surface was either cleaned, brushed, or in some cases tooled by adding or removing elements of the coin

American Eagle Coin

The series of US Mint coins made since 1986 in Gold, Silver, and Platinum bullion. These coins are prized for their high bullion content and not designed for circulation as currency.

American Eagle Proof Coin

The series of US Mint collector coins made since 1986 in Gold, Silver, and Platinum bullion. These coins are prized for their high bullion content and not designed for circulation as currency. Modern proof coins are made with special dies that enhance the design of each coin.

American Numismatic Association

The ANA has become the largest nonprofit numismatic organization in the world.

ANA

The American Numismatic Association has become the largest nonprofit numismatic organization in the world.

ANACS – (American Numismatic Association Certification Service)

ANACS is he oldest coin grading and authentication service.

Ancients

A term referring to coins struck from 600 BC to 450 AD.

Annealing

A heat treatment of metal that changes it properties, particularly its hardness. This process is often done to coin dies or blanks as part of the minting process

ANS

The abbreviation for the American Numismatic Society.

Anvil Die

The lower die used in minting coins.

Arrows

A popular design element in US coins; arrows are often seen in the claw of the American Eagle.

Artificial Toning

Some collectors prize “toned” coins but toning created by other than nature is frowned upon. Artificial toning is often created by adding heat or chemicals to the coins to change the surface tone.

Ask

The Ask Price is the lowest listed price requested by a seller. This is often used in conjunction with the Bid which is the highest listed price a buyer is willing to pay.

Assay

To assay a metal is to determine its purity, and, when combined with the objects weight can determine the items value.

Attributes

Often collectors speak of a coins Attributes. This refers to the coins appearance, and production quality.

Au

The chemical symbol for gold which can be found on the periodic chart of the elements.

AU

Short for “Almost Uncirculated”, a subjective grade of coin that has seen very little circulation.

Authentication

The process used to decide if a coin is genuine, unaltered, its attributes, and often is grade.

Bag

Mints often bulk store coins in cloth bags, though other materials are now being used. The term bag often refers to a particular quantity of silver coins as well as in a 90% bag or a bag holding a specific face value of silver coins.

Bag Mark

A scratch, ding, or other mark made from coins touching each other when they are stored in a bag.

Bag Toning

The change of surface appearance of coins stored in a bag for a long period of time. Often humidity and other climate factors change the surface color of such coins.

Bank Note

A Bank Note is a promissory note issued by a bank that is redeemable on demand.

Bank-Wrapped Rolls

Circulated coins are often counted by machine and then inserted into paper rolls for each handing, storage, and counting. These rolls are called bank rolls. In the US, rolls are often in universal quantity and face value; 50 pennies, 40 nickels, 50 dimes, 40 quarters, 20 half dollars, and 25 dollars.

Barber Coins

The term Barber coin refers to coins designed by United States Chief Engraver Charles Barber. These coins were minted from 1892 to 1916.

Basal State

A coin that is in its Basal State is a well worn coin that is identifiable as a coin but because of wear or destruction you cannot determine other basic information about it such as its year or mint mark.

Basal Value

The Basal Value is the value of a coin in its Basal State.

Baseball Cap Coin

This term is sometimes used when referring to the $1 gold coin from the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco. The coin features the image of a Panama Canal laborer with a cap. The cap looks very similar to a baseball cap.

Basining

Basining of coin dies is polishing to improve the image quality of the coins struck.

Beaded Border

A series of small beads around the border of a coin.

Bid

The Bid is the highest listed price a buyer is willing to pay. Often used in conjunction with the Ask price, which is the lowest listed price requested by a seller

Billon

An alloy of mostly copper or bronze but containing some silver.

Bi-Metallic

A Bi-Metallic coin is a coin that contain two separate metals or alloys. One metal often encircles the other metal. For example the 2000 Library of Congress Commemorative $10 coin made by the US Mint.

Bit

A Bit is 1/8 of the old Spanish silver dollar, which served as the popular currency in the early United States. In the US people often refer to a quarter dollar as “two bits.”

Blank

A blank is the circular flat metal pre-shaped and weighed before it is struck by dies to create a coin. This is often also referred to as a planchet.

Bluebook

A book made with precut areas to hold coins. These are often blue.

Bluesheet

The “Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter” is called the Bluesheet.

BN

BN is short for “Brown” and refers to the toned condition of the coin, usually pennies.

Body Bag

Grading services often rejected a coin as gradable due to cleaning or another reason and returned such ungraded coins back to dealers in what was referred to as Body Bags. Now, services like PCGS often return such coins in holders, or slabs and designate the coins as “Genuine,” if in fact they are.

Bourse

A Bourse is a trading floor for coins or stocks. Many countries refer to their stock trading exchanges as a Bourse.

Bourse Floor

The actual area in the Bourse where trading occurs.

Breen-Gillio

Breen and Gillo wrote a book called California Fractional Gold Book on “Historic Gold Rush Small Change 1852-1857, And Suppressed Jewelers Issues 1858-1882.”

Brilliant

Untoned and non-spotted surface condition of a coin. A coin containing its original luster.

Brilliant Uncirculated

A coin that is both Brilliant and never been in circulation.

Brown

“Brown,” or BN for short, and refers to the toned condition of the coin, usually pennies.

BU

Abbreviation for Brilliant Uncirculated.

BU Rolls

A roll of coins in Brilliant Uncirculated condition.

Bullion

A coin, bar, or other form of the following precious metals; gold, silver, platinum, palladium.

Bullion Coin

A coin made of one the following precious metals; gold, silver, platinum, palladium.

Burnished

Mints often create burnished coins by polishing the planchets before striking the coins.

Burnt

An over cleaned or dipped coin.

Business Strike

A coin produced for common circulation.

Bust Dollar

The Bust Dollar was one of the first coins Minted by the New United States government. Mintages range from 1794 to 1803.

Buyer’s Premium

The amount a buyer pays over the selling price in a coin auction.

CAC

Certified Acceptance Corporation

CAM

Abbreviation for Cameo.

Cameo

A cameo coin is a proof coin struck in a manner that results in contrasting mirror finishes and frosted appearance on the main lifted features of the coin. In a rare instance a non proof coin may be referred to as “proof like” or PL when graded.

Carbon Spot

A grey or black spot on the surface of a coin, often on silver coins. Often caused by storage in highly humid locations.

Carson City Mint

The US Mint that was located in Carson City Nevada in the second half of the 1800’s. This area of Nevada saw massive silver extracted in the area at the time of the mints operation.

Cartwheel Luster

A reflection that appears to move and rotate when a coin is itself rotated. A term of high quality reflection on a coin, particularly silver dollars.

CC

The mint mark for the Carson City US Mint.

CCE

Abbreviation for the Certified Coin Exchange. A dealer network through which coins are traded.

Census

The particular known quantity of a numismatic item or group.

Certified Coin Exchange

The Certified Coin Exchange is a dealer network through which coins are traded.

CH

The abbreviation for a Choice coin.

Charlotte Mint

The US Mint location in Charlotte North Carolina. It closed due to the US Civil War.

Chasing

The method of creating or changing a mint mark on a coin to fraudulently increase its value.

Choice

A term used to positively describe a coins condition.

Circulated

A coin that has been used by the general public as money. Circulated coins show signs of wear and marks from handling.

Circulation Strike

A business strike, a coin produced for general public use in commerce.

Clad

A coin whose surface is one metal or alloy while internally it is another metal or alloy usually of a lesser value. Thus a clad coin gives the appearance of greater intrinsic value.

Cleaning Coins

A coin that has been treated, dipped, or rubbed so as to removed dirt, etc. Often such cleaning removes the original luster and surface of a coin.

Coin Friction

The mark that results on coins bagged or stored together.

Commem

The abbreviation for a Commemorative Coin.

Commemorative

A coin minted in honor of a person or organization and sometimes used to raise funds for that organization.

Commercial Grade

A coin that is marked or discussed as a higher grade than an official grading service might grade it.

Commercial Strike

A business strike, a coin produced for general public use in commerce.

Common

A coin readily available in large quantity. Not rare.

Contemporary Counterfeit

A counterfeit coin struck of non precious metal but created to pass in circulation for a coin of higher value.

Coppers

Coins that are early half cent and large cents.

Crossover

A coin graded by one grading service but later sent, usually by a different owner to another grading service so that it would be slabbed in their holder.

Cull

A badly damaged coin ensuring it has no numismatic value. However, culls still remain worth their face value or their “melt value.”

D

Mint mark for the Denver US Mint on coins from 1906 to the present.

Dahlonega Mint

The now closed US Mint in Dahlonega Georgia that operated from 1838 to 1861.

DC

Abbreviation for highly sought Deep Cameo grade on proof coins.

DCAM

Abbreviation for highly sought Deep Cameo grade on proof coins.

DDO

Abbreviation for Double Die Obverse.

Deep Cameo

A grade given a proof coin of exceptional quality where the coin has mirrored finishes and frosted raised surfaces.

Deep Mirror Prooflike

A grade given a non-proof coin, a mint state coin, of exceptional quality where the coin has mirrored finishes and frosted raised surfaces. A coin so excellently struck it resembles a proof coin.

Denomination

The dollar amount given a coin on its face value by the government minting the coin.

Denver Mint

The US Mint in Denver CO.

Die

The metal upon which the design of a coin is engraved that is then used to strike the coin blank to mint the coin.

Die Break

An impression on a coin made from being struck by a die that is cracked or damaged.

Die Crack

An impression on a coin made from being struck by a die that is cracked or damaged.

Die Line

An impression on a coin made from being struck by a die that is cracked or damaged.

Die Variety

When a mint produces coins it generally uses many dies as they wear out from use. Often the next series of dies has variations or varieties that allow the coins produced from that die to be identified as such.

Dipped

A dipped coin is one which has been cleaned by dipping it in a solution.

DMPL

Abbreviation for Deep Mirror Proof Like. A highly prized grade for a coin.

Doctored

A problem coin that has been altered in an attempt to enhance its appearance and value.

Double Die

A double die coin is particular error made when a coin is struck twice by the dies when minted. Such action results in a second offset impression over the first one struck.

Double Eagle

A Liberty Head or Saint Gaudens gold coin with a face value of $20.

Draped Bust

A US coin design of the late 1700 to the early 1800’s that features Liberty with a drape across her bust. Such coins were minted in various denominations and metals including gold and silver.

Dull

A coin that has no luster often from the coin being cleaned.

Eagle

A pre-1934 US gold coin with a face value of $10.

Early Strike

A coin that is one of the first stuck by a die. This may result in the coin having more detailed qualities and possibly a more mirrored finish. In addition, early strikes can provide raised areas of the coin a frosted finish before the dies wear down from use.

Edge Device

Features or designs minted on the edge of the coin.

EF

The grade given to a coin that is extremely fine or extra fine.

Encapsulated Coin

A coin that is graded and “slabbed” – placed in a tamper proof sealed holder by the grading service.

Engraver

The individual who carves and works a die in order to place the coin design in reverse on the die.

Environmental Damage

Damage to a coin brought on by exposure to the environment including humidity or heat.

Error Coins

An error coin is one that is minted and manufactured with some non-approved feature or damage. Many many error coins are the result of mint employees deliberately producing errors for fun or profit. Other errors result from machinery malfunctions.

Exergue

The lower area of a coin where often is found the date or designers initials.

Extremely High Relief

A high relief coin is one where is surface features are deep and very high providing a design relief that can enhance the coins designs. High relief coins are not made for circulation as they usually fail to stack on top of each other and are more difficult to produce.

F

The grade of Fine.

Face Value

The fiat value of the coin as stated on the coins design. Modern precious metals coins often have a face value significantly below the precious metal value of the coin.

Fasces

A fasces is a bundle of sticks bound together with an axe blade protruding from it. Originally a Roman symbol of power and authority, dipicting the power of gathering as a group. The symbol is used on many coins the world over.

FB

FB stands for Full Bands. It is the grading feature when the bands that bind the fasces on a coin, usually a dime, are seen as two bands side by side. Often with minor wear or worn dies these two bands merge as one band and are then not Full Bands.

FBL

Through worn dies or wear the lines around the Liberty Bell on a Franklin half dollar often appear to be incomplete and have separation. When those bands fully encompass the bell without separation they are said to be Full Bell Lines or FBL.

Fiat Currency

Fiat Currency is currency whos value is set by government dictate or fiat. This differs from commodity monies which are exchangable for or consisting of a certain commodity such as gold or silver. Fiat currency is usually issued as notes not redemable in specie, and/or token coinage of primarily base metals.

Field

The flat area of a coin that is has no image or inscription.

Fine

A grade term.

Fineness

The numeric purity of a coin’s precious metal content express as a decimal. For example .999 gold.

First Strike

This term has two meanings. First the grading service PCGS has a registered trademark on the term First Strike as it applies to coin grading. For a coin to be graded First Strike by PCGS it must either come to them within the first 30 days of the mint shipping a coin or be in an unopened and sealed package from the mint showing the packaged shipped within the first 30 days of a coin’s release. More generally the term First Strike is used to designate a coin that one of the first struck by a set of dies thereby giving the coin more detail, mirroring, or frosty features on raised services. The US mint does not designate any of its product as First Strike.

Flip

A Flip or Coin Flip is an inexpensive flexible plastic sleeve that is used to hold a coin.

Frosted Devices

The raised area of a coin that is struck by a new die often exhibits a frosted appearance. In modern proof coins this appearance is designed into the dies from the start.

Full Bands

FB stands for Full Bands. It is the grading feature when the bands that bind the fasces on a coin, usually a dime, are seen as two bands side by side. Often with minor wear or worn dies these two bands merge as one band and are then not Full Bands.

Full Bell Lines

Through worn dies or wear the lines around the Liberty Bell on a Franklin half dollar often appear to be incomplete and have separation. When those bands fully encompass the bell without separation they are said to be Full Bell Lines or FBL.

Full Steps

A nickel where the image of the steps on the reverse are fully detailed.

Fun Show

The coin trade show held annually called the Florida United Numismatists Show.

Gem

A descriptive term to designate a coin of a very high grade or a coin that is likely to grade high.

Good

A low coin grade.

Grade

A numerical rating given a coin by professional grading services based upon the coins condition, wear, eye appeal, and strike. Grading firms grade coins on a scale where 70 is the highest, perfect, grade. Click Here for a complete list of coin grading standards.

Grader

The professional that inspects and determines the grade a coin should receive.

Grading

The process by which a grader assigns a grade. Often referenced in conversation by collecters when the mention “Sending out for grading”

Green Sheet

The Currency Dealer Newsletter is called the Greensheet.

Gresham’s Law

Gresham’s Law is a corolary of the law of supply and demand. It states that when two or more monies are assigned the same fiat value by goverment the undervalued money will be held by the public and removed from circulation, while the over valued money will be used in exchange. An example of this can be seen with older dimes vs currently minted dimes. While the face value of a 1950 dime and a 2010 dime is the same, one almot never sees a 1950 dime in circulation. Because it was minted in silver, people would rather keep a 1950 dime for it’s melt value than spend it at face value.

Grey Sheet

The “Coin Dealer Newsletter” is called the Greysheet.

High Relief

A high relief coin is one where is surface features are deep and very high providing a design relief that can enhance the coins designs. High relief coins are not made for circulation as they usually fail to stack on top of each other and are more difficult to produce.

Hobo Nickel

A hobo nickel is a coin, usually a nickel, that a carver or engraver has tooled to create a new image on the coin as a work of art.

Intrinsic Value (Bullion Value)

The Intrinsic Value is the melt value of a coin. In other words it is the value of the metal in the coin only.

Key Coin

A Key Coin is the coin in a series of coins that is of the lowest population and therefore the most difficult to obtain and often more valuable coin.

Key Date

A Key Date coin is the coin in a series of coins whose date and mint mark are of the lowest population and therefore the most difficult to obtain and often more valuable coin.

Legend

A phrase on a coin.

Lettered Edge

The edge of a coin that has the a design element to it or verbiage rather than just a reeded or plain edge.

Major Variety

Coins of the same denomination, year, and mint often have different varieties based upon differing dies used or other distinguishing characteristics. The Major Variety is the predominate variety.

Melt

The value of a coins intrinsic metal price.

Mint Error

An error coin is one that is minted and manufactured with some non-approved feature or damage. Many many error coins are the result of mint employees deliberately producing errors for fun or profit. Other errors result from machinery malfunctions.

Mint State

A coin that has never been in circulation. Also, non-proof coins that when graded are designated with a grade of 60 or above as in MS69 for example.

Mintage

The number of coins struck by a mint for a particular year and mint mark.

Mintmark

The letter on the coin designating the mint that produced the coin.

Morgan Dollar

The name of the Silver $1 struck from 1878 to 1921. Named after US Mint employee George Morgan.

MS

Abbreviation for Mint State.

Mule Error

A coin whose obverse does not properly match its reverse.

NGC

The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.

NGC Census Report

The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation report showing how many coins they have graded by denomination, year, mint mark, etc., and at which grades.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation

NGC One of the few highly respected coin grading and certification companies.

Numismatics

The study, research, and education of coins, currency, and money.

Numismatist

An individual involved in the study, research, and education of coins, currency, and money.

Obverse

The face of a coin. Its “heads up” side.

Original

A coin that has never been treated, or cleaned.

Original Roll

A roll of coins in a paper wrapper and stored directly after being minted.

Overdate

A coin struck from a die whose date was revised to a later date by the mint or issuer so as to still be useable in the next year.

Pattern

A coin struck as test.

PCGS

The highly respected coin grading service Professional Coin Grading Service.

PCGS Population Report

A report by PCGS showing the number of coins they have graded by year, mintmark, and/or label.

Peace Dollar

A silver dollar produced from 1921 to 1935..

Phrygian Cap

A Phrygian Cap is a soft conical cap worn during the Roman Empire by slaves to signify freedom and the pursuit of liberty.

Piedfort

A Piedfort is a thick heavy coin designed for its presentation. The thickness often allows for a design with deeper relief.

Pioneer Gold

Gold coins struck by private mints or companies during the gold rush era.

PL

Abbreviation for Proof Like.

Plain Edge

A planchet is the circular flat metal pre-shaped and weighed before it is struck by dies to create a coin. This is often also referred to as a blank.

Planchet

A coin blank before it is struck.

Plugged

A coin that has been doctored to fill a hole or deep scratch.

Polyvinyl Chloride

Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, is a chemical used in some coin flips. PVC can severely damage a coin.

Pop Report

The population report from a grading service showing how many of a particular coin have been minted vs graded.

Pop Top

A coin that is the highest grade in its graded population.

PQ

Abbreviation for Premium Quality.

PR

Abbreviation for Proof.

Price Guide

A listing of suggested or realized coin prices by a grading service or other entity.

Professional Coin Grading Service

The highly respected coin grading service Professional Coin Grading Service.

Proof

A coin struck for collectors or presentation. Not struck for general circulation.

Proof Set

A set of coins with one coin per denomination as issued in the same year and released as a set by the mint.

Prooflike

A non-proof coin of such high quality, luster, mirroring, etc. as to appear to be a proof coin.

Pvc Damage

Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, is a chemical used in some coin flips. PVC can severely damage a coin.

Quarter Eagle

A two and one half dollar gold coin.

Raw

A coin that has not been graded by a professional grading service.

Redbook

An annual retail price guide for coins.

Reeded Edge

The edge of a coin that has small vertical grooves or lines that encircle a coin. Reeded edges were placed on coins so that the coin holder could tell if the silver or precious metal of the coin had been shaved on the edges.

Restrike

A coin struck at a later year than the date indicated on the dies. This is due to old dies being reused or recreated.

Reverse

The tails side of a coin.

Saint

Short for a Saint-Gaudens gold coin.

Saint-Gaudens

A series of gold coins designed by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens that feature Liberty striding toward the coin holder and a dramatic eagle on the reverse.

Satin Finish

A coin finish where the dies are made so the field is not shinny or mirrored but have a silky finish.

Seignorage

The profit, or loss, generated from the minting or printing of currency. Its cost vs. its face value.

Seignorage -Historic

Historically, seignorage was the price charged by the government to exchange bullion for coinage at the mint.

Set Registry

The coin grading services offer the ability for collectors to list their coins in registries thereby allowing them to share their collection with others. The registries are set up by coin categories and often collectors stride to rank high against other collectors for the best set in the registry.

Sight Seen

A term used when bidding or offering a coin that means the buyer would like to view the coin before the purchase.

Sight Unseen

A term used when bidding or offering a coin that means the buyer does not or will not view the coin before the purchase.

Slab

When the professional grading services grade a coin it is then placed in a sealed placed container often referred to as a slab.

SMS

Abbreviation for Special Mint Set

Spots

Spots are deposits on coins, often carbon deposits, that decrease the eye appeal of a coin and thereby its value.

Steel Cent

During the 2nd World War the US Mint produced pennies from steel instead of copper in an effort to conserve copper.

Stella

The very rare and highly collectible $4 gold pieces struck in 1879 & 1880.

Strike

The method of impacting a coin blank with a die to create a coin. The quality of strike is a factor in a coins grade.

Struck Thru

This error is an incuse mark caused by foreign material on the blank during striking into coin. The foreign material may or may not be still embeded in the coin.

Territorial Gold

Gold coins minted by private companies during the US Gold Rush.

TF

Abbreviation for Tail Feathers on a Morgan Silver Dollar.

Thaler

“Dollar” is an audio morph of the word “Thaler”. The original Joachimsthaler was a silver coin minted by the Count Schlick in the Joachims Valley in the early 1600s. The word “Joachimsthaler” morphed into “thaler” which morphed into “Dollar”.

Toned

Toned refers to the surface area of a coin that has changed its appearance and graduated color due to environmental causes. Some collectors prize certain toned coins.

Trade Dollar

A silver coin issued in the late 1800’s for trade in foreign commerce.

Troy Weight

1 troy ounce = 480 grains or 31.1034768 grams

Type Collecting

Some collectors are “type” collectors. A “type” collector has one of each type of coin in their collection but not all the varieties of a coin series.

Type One

The first coin in a type series.

Ultra Cameo

A grading term designating the highest quality of cameo.

Ultra High Relief

A coin minted with a very great variation of depth and usually not minted for circulation. A high relief allows the coins design to stand out and impress.

UNC

Abbreviation for Uncirculated.

Uncirculated

A coin that has never been released in to general commerce or use as money. Such coins retain their original features that might normally wear during commerce.

Variety

A coin of the identical date and design but containing small changes as dies were changed and slight design elements changed over the course of minting all of this issue.

VDB

VDB stands for Victor D. Brenner who designed the image for the Lincoln cent and whose initials we placed on the early strikes of this coin in a large format. Controversy erupted over his large initials being so prominent on the coin and they were later removed as minting continued.

Walker

Slang for the Walking Liberty half dollar.

Whizzed

The inappropriate mechanical polishing or brushing of a coin in an attempt to improve its luster and value.