About Good – One of the lowest coin grades in the coin grading scale. Only the main features of the coin are present in this condition. Peripheral lettering, date, stars, etc. sometimes are partially worn away.
About Uncirculated – The grades AU50, 53, 55, and 58. A coin that on first glance appears Uncirculated but upon closer inspection has slight friction or rub.
abrasions – Area(s) of a coin where a foreign object or another coin has displaced metal in an abraded fashion. Similar to a bag mark but usually on the high points or open fields and not as deep or acute as the former.
accumulation – A miscellaneous grouping of coins, often as a monetary hoard. Opposite of a coin collection. A second use is as a grouping of a particular date, type, or series. (Example: an accumulation–of Bust Halves.)
adjustment marks – Pre-striking file marks seen mainly on gold and silver coins prior to 1840. These removed excess metal from overweight planchets. After 1840 these are seldom seen as the filing was on the rim and was usually obliterated by the striking process.
AGW (Actual Gold Weight) – This refers to the amount of pure gold in a coin, medal or bar. Any alloys are part of the gross weight of a gold coin, but not part of the AGW.
album friction – Similar to album slide marks, though the friction may be only slight rubbing on the high points.
album slide marks – Lines, usually parallel, imparted to the surface of a coin by the plastic “slide” of an album.
alloy – A combination of two or more metals.
Almost Uncirculated – Alternate of About Uncirculated.
alteration – A coin that has a date, mint mark, or other feature that has been changed, added, or removed, usually to simulate a rarer issue.
American Eagle – In 1986, the U.S. Mint began selling silver bullion coins in the denomination of $1. The next year, they added a series of gold coins to the series, eventually expanding to 1/10, ¼, ½, and 1 ounce gold versions. Each coin features a family of eagles on the reverse, hence the name.
American Numismatic Association – A non-profit numismatic organization founded in 1888 for the advancement of numismatics.
ANA – Short for “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
ANACS certificate – A uniquely numbered opinion of authenticity and/or grade from the ANA Certification Service. The ANA now only authenticates, having sold the name and grading service.
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.
ANS – Short for “American Numismatic Society.”
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.
See Also — hammer die
arrows – Design element usually found in the left (viewer’s right) claw of the eagle seen on many United States coins. After 1807, there usually were three arrows while prior to that time the bundle consisted of numerous ones.
arrows and rays – Term referring to the quarters and half dollars of 1853. The rays were removed in 1854 because of striking difficulties presented by the busy design.
arrows at date – Term referring to the arrows to the left and right of the date, added to the dies to indicate a weight increase or decrease.
artificial toning – Coloring added to the surface of a coin by chemicals and/or heat. Many different methods have been employed over the years.
assay – To analyze and determine the purity of a metallic alloy.
attributes – The elements that make up a coin’s grade. The main ones are marks (hairlines for Proofs), luster, strike, and eye appeal.
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.
authentication – The process of determining the genuineness of a coin or other numismatic item.
bag – A generic term for the cloth sacks where the coins are stored and transported. These came into use in the mid-nineteenth century and replaced wooden kegs for this purpose.
bag mark – A generic term applied to a mark on a coin from another coin; it may, or may not, have been incurred in a bag.
bag toning – Coloring acquired from the bag in which a coin was stored. The cloth bags in which coins are transported contain sulfur and other reactive chemicals.
When stored in such bags for extended periods, the coins near and in contact with the cloth often acquired beautiful red, blue, yellow and other vibrant colors. Sometimes the pattern of the cloth is visible in the toning; other times, coins have crescent-shaped toning because another coin was covering part of the surface. Bag toning is seen mainly on Morgan silver dollars, though occasionally on other series.
Bank-wrapped rolls – Rolls of coins that are wrapped at a Federal Reserve Bank from original Mint bags.
Such rolls are often desirable to collectors because they have not been searched or “picked” by collectors or dealers. Sometimes it is abbreviated as OBW, for “original bank wrapped.”
Barber coinage – Common name for the Charles Barber designed Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and half dollars struck from 1892 until 1916 (1915 for the half dollar).
basal state – The condition of a coin that is identifiable only as to date mint mark (if present), and type; one-year-type coins may not have a date visible.
basal value – The value base from which Dr. William H. Sheldon’s 70-point grade/price system started; this lowest-grade price was one dollar 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 wears a cap similar to a baseball cap.
basining – The process of polishing a die to impart a mirrored surface or to remove clash marks or other injuries from the die.
beaded border – Small, round devices around the edge of a coin, often seen on early U.S. coins. These were replaced by dentils.
BG Gold – Term sometimes applied to California fractional gold coins as encompassed in the Breen-Gillio reference work titled California Pioneer Fraction Gold, including additional discoveries.
bid – The buying quotation of a coin either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium.
bidder – Either the dealer issuing a quotation on one of the electronic trading systems or a participant in an auction.
bidder number – The number assigned by auction houses to the various participants in their auction. In the past, codes or nom de plumes were also commonplace at sales.
blank – The flat disk of metal before it is struck by the dies and made into a coin. It is also called a coin blank or planchet.
blended – A term applied to an element of a coin (design, date, lettering, etc.) that is worn into another element or the surrounding field.
Bluebook – A blue-covered, wholesale pricing book for United States coins issued on a yearly basis.
BM – The designation BM refers to “Branch Mint,” meaning any US Mint other than Philadelphia. You will usually find this designation used to describe Branch Mint Proof coins, such as the 1879-O BM Proof Morgan dollar, 1893-CC BM Proof Morgan dollar, etc.
BN – Short for Brown
body bag – Slang term for a coin returned from a grading service in a plastic sleeve within a flip. The coin referred to is a no-grade example and was not graded or encapsulated. Coins are no-grades for a number of reasons, such as questionable authenticity, cleaning, polishing, damage, repair, and so on.
bourse – Term synonymous with coin show
bourse floor – The physical area where a coin show takes place
boy wonder – Slang name for a young coin dealer who bursts upon the numismatic scene and quickly becomes a top flight dealer.
Braided Hair – Style of hair on half cents and large cents from 1840 onward consisting of hair pull back into a tight bun 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 seen on numerous eagle designs. Fully struck coins usually command a premium and the breast feathers are usually the highest point of the reverse.
(They are the most deeply recessed area of the die, so metal sometimes does not completely fill the breast feather area, usually because of insufficient striking pressure. Incorrectly spaced or lapped dies will also cause “striking” weakness.)
Breen – Slang for the late Walter Breen. Often heard in context of Breen letter, Breen said, Breen wrote, and so on. A controversial personal life has dimmed the impact Breen had on numismatics.
Breen Book – Slang for Walter Breen’s magnum opus, Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, published in 1988.
Breen letter – A document, usually one page, written or typed by Walter Breen giving his opinion on a particular numismatic item. Before certification, this was the usual method employed by collectors and dealers desiring to sell an esoteric item such as a branch-mint Proof, early Proof, and so on.
Breen-Gillio – Numbering system base on the book on California fraction gold coins by Walter Breen and Ron Gillio titled California Pioneer Fraction Gold.
brilliant – A coin with full luster, unimpeded by toning, or impeded only by extremely light toning.
Brilliant Uncirculated – A generic term applied to any coin that has not been in circulation. It often is applied to coins with little “brilliance” left, which properly should be described as simply Uncirculated.
brockage – A brockage is a Mint error, an early capped die impression where a sharp incused image has been left on the next coin fed into the coining chamber. Most brockages are partial; full brockages are rare and the most desirable form of the error.
bronze – An alloy of copper, tin and zinc, with copper the principal metal.
The term applied to a copper coin that no longer has the red color of copper. There are many “shades” of brown color – mahogany, chocolate, etc. (abbreviated as BN when used as part of a grade).
BU – Short for Brilliant Uncirculated.
BU rolls – Wrapped coins (usually in paper) in specific quantities for each denomination. Fifty for cents, forty for nickels, fifty for dimes, forty for quarters, and so on.
buckled die – A die that has “warped” in some way, possibly from excess clashing, and that produces coins which are slightly “bent.” This may be more apparent on one side and occasionally apparent only on one side.
Buffalo nickel – Slang for the Indian Head nickel struck from 1913 to 1938. The animal depicted is an American Bison.
A polishing of a coin sometimes with an abrasive that leaves a finish that attempts to counterfeit mint luster.
bulged die – A die that has clashed so many times that a small indentation is formed in it. Coins struck from this die have a “bulged” area.
bullet toning – See Also target toning
bullion – Slang for coins, ingots, private issue, and so on that trade below, at, or slightly above their intrinsic metal value. Only the precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, and palladium) are included as bullion. Copper cents could also technically be classed as bullion.
bullion coin – A legal tender coin that trades at a slight premium to it’s melt value.
burn mark – See Also counting machine mark
Burnished – This word has two distinct meanings in the world of numismatics, so you have to consider the context in order to discern the correct meaning. The word “burnished” can refer to specially prepared planchets (usually 18th century) that were used for specimen coins or other special coins of the era. These planchets were burnished at the Mint prior to the striking of the coin.
As a second meaning, “burnished” can refer to any coin that was abrasively cleaned after it left the Mint, and the word is often used as a synonym for “whizzed” (the worst kind of cleaning, where the metal is actually moved around).
burnishing – A process by which the surfaces of a planchet or a coin are made to shine through rubbing or polishing. This term is used in two contexts – one positive, one negative. In a positive sense, Proof planchets are burnished before they are struck – a procedure done originally by rubbing wet sand across the surfaces to impart a mirror like finish. In a negative sense, the surfaces on repaired and altered coins sometimes are burnished by various methods.
In some instances, a high-speed drill with some type of wire brush attachment is used to achieve this effect.
burnishing lines – Lines resulting from burnishing, seen mainly on open-collar Proofs and almost never found on close-collar Proofs. These lines are incuse in the fields and go under lettering and devices.
burnt – Slang for a coin that has been over-dipped to the point were the surfaces are dull and lackluster.
business strike – A regular issue coin, struck on regular planchets by dies given normal preparation. These are the coins struck for commerce that the Mint places into circulation. It is also called regular strike or commercial strike.
bust – The head and shoulders of the emblematic Liberty seen on many United States issues.
Bust dollar – Slang for silver dollars struck from 1795-1803. (Those dated 1804 were first struck in 1834 for inclusion in Proof sets. Those Proofs dated 1801, 1802, and 1803 were also struck at dates later than indicated.)
C – Mintmark used to signify 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 its seizure by the Confederacy. (Those coins struck in late 1837 were dated 1838.)
cabinet friction – Slight disturbance seen on coins (usually on the obverse) that were stored in wooden cabinets used by early collectors to house their specimens. Often a soft cloth was used to wipe away dust, causing light hairlines or friction.
Cameo – The term applied to coins, usually Proofs and prooflike coins, that have frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the fields. When this is deep the coins are said to be “black and white” cameos.
Occasionally frosty coins have “cameo” devices though they obviously do not contrast as dramatically with the fields as the cameo devices of Proofs do.
Canadian – Slang for the coins and other numismatic items of the Canada.
Canadian silver – Slang for the silver coins of Canada. (Mainly struck in 80% fineness.)
Capped Bust – A term describing any of the various incarnations of the head of Miss Liberty represented on early U.S. coins by a bust with a floppy cap. This design is credited to John Reich.
capped die – The term applied to an error in which a coin gets jammed in the coining press and remains for successive strikes, eventually forming a “cap” either on the upper or lower die. These are sometimes spectacular with the “cap” often many times taller than a normal coin.
carbon spot – A spot seen mainly on copper and gold coins, though also occasionally found on U.S. nickel coins (which are 75 percent copper) and silver coins (which are 10 percent copper). Carbon spots are brown to black spots of oxidation that range from minor to severe – some so large and far advanced that the coin is not graded because of environmental damage.
Carson City Mint – Located in Nevada, this mint produced gold and silver coins from 1870-1893. It was closed from 1885-1889 due to a lack of funding. In 1893 the mint was permanently closed due to internal corruption.
In 1895 it was found that several employees and prominent community officials were stealing bullion from the mint and this dashed all hopes of the mint ever reopening. Coins minted in Carson City are among the most popular branch-mint issues. This mint uses the “CC” mintmark.
cartwheel – The pleasing effect seen on some coins when they are rotated in a good light source. The luster rotates around like the spokes of a wagon wheel. A term applied mainly to frosty Mint State coins, especially silver dollars, to describe their luster. Also, a slang term for a silver dollar.
cast blanks – Planchets made by a mold method, rather than being cut from strips of metal.
cast counterfeit – A replication of a genuine coin usually 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 away.
Casting machine – A device invented by French engineer Jean Castaing, which added the edge lettering and devices to early U.S. coins before they were struck. This machine was used until close collar dies were introduced which applied the edge device in the striking process.
catalog – A printed listing of coins for sale either by auction or private treaty. As a verb, to write the description of the numismatic items offered.
CC – Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada branch Mint.
CC-mint – Term applied to coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada branch Mint.
census – A compilation of the known specimens of a particular numismatic item.
cent – A denomination valued at one-hundredth of a dollar, struck continuously by the U.S. Mint since 1793 except for 1815. (Actually, some cents dated 1816 were struck in December of 1815.)
Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter (CCDN) – The official name for the Bluesheet that lists bid/ask/market prices for third-party certified coins.
Certified Coin Exchange – The bid/ask coin trading and quotation system owned by the American Teleprocessing Company. Certified Assets Exchange, a Collectors Universe 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 – Those 1921 Morgan dollar Proofs supposedly struck for coin dealer Henry Chapman. These have cameo devices and deeply mirrored surfaces like most Morgan dollar Proofs. (George Morgan did bill Henry Chapman for 10 Proof Morgan dollars in 1921. Possibly, more coins from these dies were struck for others as there apparently more known than ten.)
Charlotte Mint – Located in North Carolina, the branch Mint at Charlotte operated from 1838-1861 and was closed due to the Civil War. The Charlotte mint struck only gold coins (mostly from local, native ore), all of which bear the “C” mintmark.
chasing – A method used by forgers to create a mint mark on a coin. It involves heating the surfaces and moving the metal to form the mint mark.
Cheerios Dollar – One of 5,500 2000-P Sacagawea Dollars placed along with a 2000-P Lincoln Cent in boxes of Cheerios cereal to promote the new Dollar coin. Some design details on the “Cheerios” Dollars are different from later strikes, causing some experts to propose the “Cheerios” Dollar as a pattern coin.
choice (CH) – An adjectival description applied to coin’s grade, e.g., choice Uncirculated, choice Very Fine, etc. Used to describe an especially attractive example of a particular grade.
Choice Uncirculated (Choice Unc) – Un Uncirculated coin grading 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 and have received wear.
circulation strike – An alternate term for Business Strike or Regular Strike. A coin meant for commerce.
clad – A term used to describe any of the modern “sandwich” coins that have layers of copper and nickel. (A pure copper core surrounded by a copper-nickel alloy.) Also used for the 40-percent silver half dollars.
clad bag – Usually applied to a one-thousand dollar bag of 40-percent 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. The obverse will have images from the reverse and vice versa.
clashed dies – Dies that have been damaged by striking each other without a planchet between them. Typically, this imparts part of the obverse image to the reverse die and vice versa.
Classic Era – The term describing the period from 1792 until 1964 when silver and gold coins of the United States were issued. (Gold coins, of course, were not minted after 1933.)
Classic Head – A depiction of Miss Liberty that recalls the “classic” look of a Roman or Greek athlete wearing a ribbon around the hair. The motif was first used on the John Reich designed large cent struck from 1808 until 1814. The next year, the half cent was changed to this design. This head was also copied by William Kneass for the quarter eagle and half eagle designs first struck in 1834.
cleaned – A term applied to a coin whose original surface has been removed. The effects may be slight or severe, depending on the method used.
clip – Slang for a coin struck from a clipped planchet.
clipped – A term for an irregularly cut planchet. A clip can be straight or curved, depending upon where it was cut from the strip of metal.
clogged die – A die that has grease or some other contaminant lodged in the recessed areas. Coins struck from such a die have diminished detail, sometimes completely missing.
close collar – The edge device, sometimes called a collar die, that surrounds the lower die. Actually open and close collars are both closed collars – as opposed to segmented collars. The close collar imparts reeding or a smooth, plain edge.
Closed collar – Alternate form of close collar
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 systematic grouping of coins assembled for fun or profit.
coin collector – A coin collector is an individual who accumulates coins in a systematic manner
Coin Dealer Newsletter (CDN) – Weekly periodical, commonly called the Greysheet, listing bid and ask prices for many United States coins.
coin friction – Term applied to the area resulting when coins rub together in rolls or bags and small amounts of metal are displaced.
coin show – A bourse composed of coin dealers displaying their wares for sale and trade.
Coin Universe Hall of Fame – A listing of famous numismatists, past and present, available on the internet through the Coin Universe portal.
Coin World – Weekly numismatic periodical established in 1960.
coinage – The issuance of metallic money of a particular country.
collar – A metal piece that either positions a planchet between the upper and lower dies and/or restrains the expanding metal of a coin during striking.
Collars are considered the “third” die and, today, are used to impart the edge markings to a coin. Collars can be merely a hole in a flat piece of metal or a set of segments that pull away from the coin after it is struck.
An individual who amasses a systematic group of coins or other numismatic items. Sometimes, he is referred to as a numismatist.
commem – Short for “commemorative.”
commemorative – Coins issued to honor some person, place, or event and, in many instances, to raise funds for activities related to the theme. Sometimes called NCLT (non-circulating legal tender) commemoratives.
commercial grade – A grade that is usually one level higher than the market grade; refers to a coin that is “pushed” a grade, such as an EF/AU coin (corresponding to 45+) sold as AU-50.
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 a 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. (i.e. A 1799 eagle is a common date within its series just as an 1881-S silver dollar is a common date within the Morgan series. Obviously, the 1799 eagle is rare compared to the 1881-S dollar.)
complete set – A term for all possible coins within a series, all types, or all coins from a particular branch Mint. Examples would include a complete set of a series (The three-dollar series can have but one complete set, that being the Harry Bass Foundation set that includes the unique 1870-S.
Yes, it is possible that the cornerstone coin could appear someday and change the unique status; a complete gold type set would include examples of all types from 1795 until 1933; a complete set of Charlotte Mint gold dollars must include the 1849-C Open Wreath example of which there are but four currently verified.)
condition – The state of preservation of a particular numismatic issue.
condition rarity – A term to indicate a common coin that is rare when found in high grades. Also, the rarity level at a particular grade and higher.
consensus grading – The process of determining the condition of a coin by using multiple graders.
contact marks – Marks (sometimes called bag marks) on a coin that are incurred through contact with another coin or a foreign object. These are generally small, compared to other types of marks such as gouges.
contemporary counterfeit – A coin, usually base metal, struck from crudely engraved dies and made to pass for face value at the time of its creation. Sometimes such counterfeits are collected along with the genuine coins, especially in the case of American Colonial issues.
Continental dollars – 1776 dated “dollars” struck in pewter (scarce), brass (rare), copper (extremely rare) and silver (extremely rare). Although likely struck sometime later than 1776, these saw extensive circulation. The design was inspired by certain Benjamin Franklin sketches. Some of these were possibly struck as pattern “cents” instead of “dollars.”
copper spot – A spot or stain commonly seen on gold coinage, indicating an area of copper concentration that has oxidized. Copper spots or stains range from tiny dots to large blotches.
copper-nickel – The alloy (88% copper, 12% nickel) used for small cents from 1856 until mid-1864.
Copper-Nickel Cent – The cents issued from 1859 until 1864 in the copper-nickel alloy. These were called white cents by the citizens of the era because of their pale color compared to the red cents of the past.
coppers – Slang for half cents, large cents, and pre-Federal copper issues.
copy – Any reproduction, fraudulent or otherwise, of a coin.
copy dies – Dies made at a later date, usually showing slight differences from the originals. Examples include the reverse of 1804 Class II and III silver dollars and 1831 half cents with the Type of 1840-57 reverse. Also used to denote counterfeit dies copied directly from a genuine coin.
Coronet Head – Alternate name for Braided Hair design by Christian Gobrecht (also called Liberty Head design).
corrosion – Damage that results when reactive chemicals act upon metal. When toning ceases to be a “protective” coating and instead begins to damage a coin, corrosion is the cause. Usually confined to copper, nickel and silver regular issues, although patterns in aluminum, white metal, tin, etc., also are subject to this harmful process.
cost – The price paid for a numismatic item.
counterfeit – Literally, a coin that is not genuine. There are cast and struck counterfeits and the term is also applied to issues with added mint marks, altered dates, etc.
counterstamp – A stamp or impression placed on a coin after it has left the Mint of origin. Counterstamps were frequently used as advertising gimmicks on Large Cents and other coins. The counterstamp leaves a permanent impression on the metal and may hurt the value of the coin. It may also help the value, as in the case of an Ephraim Brasher counterstamp.
counting machine mark – A dense patch of lines caused by the rubber wheel of a counting machine where the wheel was set with insufficient spacing for the selected coin. Many coins have been subjected to counting machines – among these are Mercury dimes, Buffalo nickels, Walking Liberty half dollars, Morgan and Peace dollars, and Saint-Gaudens double eagles.
crossover – A word that is used to describe a coin that graded the same at two different grading services. Also written as two words: cross over. “I was sure that the coin wouldn’t cross over, so I didn’t buy it.” or “That coin’s definitely a crossover.”
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 a retained cud, where the faulty piece of the die is still in place, or a full cud, where the piece of the die has fallen away. Retained cuds usually have dentil detail if on the edge, while full cuds do not.
cull – A coin that is basically non-collectible due to its extremely bad condition. A coin that will not even qualify for a grade of Poor-1, usually because of extensive environmental damage or other post-striking damage.
cupro-nickel – Any alloy of copper and nickel. Now usually used in reference to the modern “sandwich” issues. The copper-nickel cents, three-cent nickel issues, and nickel issues are also cupro-nickel.
D – Mintmark used on gold coins of the Dahlonega, Georgia, Mint from 1838 to 1861 and on coins of all denominations struck at the Denver, Colorado, Mint from 1906 to the present.
D-Mint – Term used for the gold coinage struck at the branch Mint in Dahlonega, Georgia, from 1838 to 1861, and for the coinage struck at the branch Mint in Denver, Colorado, from 1906 to the present.
Dahlonega Mint – After the discovery of gold in the southern United States a new mint was constructed in Dahlonega, Georgia. The first coinage exited its doors in 1838 and it continued minting until it was closed due to the civil war in 1861.
The 1861-D gold dollars were struck after the Mint was seized; the mintage figure for this rare issue is not listed in Mint records and has been estimated at 1,000 to 1,500 examples. The Dahlonega Mint struck only gold coins and used the “D” mintmark.
date – The numerals on a coin representing the year in which it was struck. Restrikes are made in years subsequent to the one that appears on them. Also, slang for a more valuable issue within a series.
DC – Short for Deep Cameo.
DCAM – Short for Deep Cameo.
dealer – Someone whose occupation is buying, selling, and trading numismatic material.
debase – To lower the silver/gold value of the coin by altering its purity, but with the same market value as the pure coin. This often happens during periods of high inflation.
Deep Cameo – The term applied to coins, usually Proofs and prooflike coins, that have deeply frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the fields – often called “black and white” cameos. Specifically applied to those 1950 and later Proofs that meet deep cameo standards (DCAM).
deep mirror prooflike – Any coin that has deeply reflective mirror-like fields, the term especially applicable for Morgan dollars. Those Morgan dollars that meet PCGS standards are designated deep mirror prooflike (DMPL).
denomination – The value assigned by a government to a specific coin.
denticles – The tooth-like devices around the rim seen on many coins. Originally these are somewhat irregular, later much more uniform – the result of better preparatory and striking machinery.
dentils – Short for denticles.
Denver Mint – The Denver Mint was established in 1906. It had formerly been an Assay Office since 1863. Today, this Mint manufactures coins of all denominations for general circulation, medals, coin dies, stores gold and silver bullion, manufactures uncirculated coin sets and commemorative coins. This mint uses the “D” mintmark.
design – A particular motif on a coin or other numismatic item. The Seated Liberty, Barber, Morgan, etc. are examples of designs.
design type – A specific motif placed upon coinage which may be used for several denominations and subtypes, e.g., the Liberty Seated design type used for silver coins from half dimes through dollars and various subtypes therein.
designer – The individual responsible for a particular motif used for a numismatic series.
device – Any specific design element. Often refers to the principal design element, such as the head of Miss Liberty.
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 became the norm.
die – A steel rod that is engraved, punched, or hubbed with devices, lettering, the date, and other emblems.
die alignment – Term to indicate the relative position of the obverse and reverse dies. When the dies are out of alignment, several things can happen: If the dies are out of parallel, weakness may be noted in a quadrant of the coin’s obverse and the corresponding part of the reverse; and if the dies are spaced improperly, the resultant coins may have overall weakness; if the dies are spaced too close together, the resultant coin may be well struck but the dies wear more quickly.
die break – An area of a coin that is the result of a broken die. This may be triangular or other geometric shape. Dies are made of steel and they crack from use and then, if not removed from service, eventually break. When the die totally breaks apart, the resultant break will result in a full, or retained, cud depending whether the broken piece falls from the die or not.
die crack – A raised, irregular line on a coin, ranging from very fine to very large, some quite irregular. These result when a hairline break occurs in a die.
die line – These are the raised lines on the coins that result from the polish lines on the die, which are incuse, resulting in the raised lines on the coins.
die rust – Rust that has accumulated on a die that was not stored properly. Often such rust was polished away, so that only the deeply recessed parts of the die still exhibited it. A few examples are known of coins that were struck with extremely rusted dies – the 1876-CC dime, for one.
die stage – There are two definitions for this term. One, many numismatists use it as a synonym for “die state.” Two, some numismatists use the term “die stage” to refer to the specific status of a certain die state. For instance, in die state XYZ this coin exhibits a large cud at six o’clock, but in this particular die stage the cud isn’t fully formed.
die state – A readily identified point in the life of a coinage die. Often dies clash and are polished, crack, break, etc., resulting in different stages of the die. These are called die states. Some coins have barely distinguishable die states, while others go through multiple distinctive ones.
die striations – Raised lines on coins that were struck with polished dies. As more coins are struck with such dies, the striations become fainter until most disappear.
die trial – A test striking of a particular die in a different metal.
die variety – A coin that can be linked to a given set of dies because of characteristics possessed by those dies and imparted to the coin at the time it was struck. In the early years of U.S. coinage history, when dies were made by hand engraving or punching, each die was slightly different. The coins from these unique dies are die varieties and are collected in every denomination. By the 1840’s, when dies were made by hubbing and therefore were more uniform, die varieties resulted mainly from variances in the size, shape, and positioning of the date and mintmark.
die wear – Deterioration in a die caused by excessive use. This may evidence itself on coins produced with that die in a few indistinct letters or numerals or, in extreme cases, a loss of detail throughout the entire coin. Some coins, especially certain nickel issues, have a fuzzy, indistinct appearance even on Uncirculated examples.
dime – The denomination, one tenth of a dollar, issued since 1796 by the United States.
ding – Slang term for a small to medium size mark.
dipped – A term applied to a coin that has been placed in a commercial “dip” solution, a mild acid wash that removes the toning from most coins. Some dip solutions employ other chemicals, such as bases, to accomplish a similar result. The first few layers of metal are removed with every dip, so coins repeatedly dipped will lose luster, hence the term “overdipped”.
dipping solution – Any of the commercial “dips” available on the market, usually acid-based.
disme – The original spelling of dime, the s silent and thought to have been pronounced to rhyme with steam. (This variation was used in Mint documents until the 1830s and was officially changed by the Coinage Act of 1837.)
DNC – Did Not Cross (you will still be charged the grading fees)
doctored – Term used for a numismatic item that has been enhanced by chemical or other means. Usually, this is used in a derogatory way.
dollar – The 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 world-wide 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. One gold double eagle dated 1849 is known and is part of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Nearly half a million examples dated 1933 were struck by the U.S. Mint, but virtually all were melted when private gold ownership was outlawed that year. (Currently federal officials claim it is illegal to own any 1933-dated specimens that survive.)
double(d) die – A die that has been struck more than once by a hub in misaligned positions, resulting in doubling of design elements. Before the introduction of hubbing, the individual elements of a coin’s design were either engraved or punched into the die, so any doubling was limited to a specific element.
With hubbed dies, multiple impressions are needed from the hub to make a single die with adequate detail. When shifting occurs in the alignment between the hub and the die, the die ends up with some of its features doubled – then imparts this doubling to every coin it strikes. The coins struck from such dies are called doubled-die errors – the most famous being the 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln cent. PCGS uses doubled die as the designation.
Double(d)-Die – Slang for the rare 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent variety.
double-struck – A condition that results when a coin is not ejected from the dies and is struck a second time. Such a coin is said to be double-struck. Triple-struck coins and other multiple strikings also are known. Proofs are usually double-struck on purpose in order to sharpen their details; this is sometimes visible under magnification.
Doubloon – Popular name of a Spanish gold coin originally valued at 4 dollars.
DPG – Short For Daily Price Guide, specifically the Coin Universe Daily Price Guide
Draped Bust – The design attributed to Mint engraver Robert Scot that features Miss Liberty with a drape across her bust. Scot presumably copied the design after a portrait by Gilbert Stuart.
drift mark – An area on a coin, often rather long, that has a discolored, streaky look. This is the result of impurities or foreign matter in the dies. One theory is that burnt wood was rolled into the strips from which the planchets were cut, resulting in these black streaks.
dull – Term for a numismatic item that is lack luster. This may be the result of cleaning, oxidation, or other environmental conditions.
EAC – Short for Early American Coppers
eagle – A gold coin with a face value of ten dollars. Along with the dollar, this was the basis of the U.S. currency system from 1792 until 1971. No U.S. gold coins were struck for circulation after 1933, and all gold coins issued prior to that time were recalled from circulation.
ear – An area of certain coins that is important to the strike. (i.e. The hole in the ear of the Standing Liberty quarter is a necessary component of a Full Head designation.)
Early American Coppers (Club) – A club or society to advance the study of pre-1857 United States copper coinage including Colonials. Many members specialize collecting large cents by Sheldon numbers.
early strike – One of the first coins struck from a pair of dies. Such coins are generally fully struck, with no die flaws, and they are usually Prooflike and/or exhibit cameo contrast.
edge – The third side of a coin. It may be plain, reeded, or ornamented – with lettering or other elements raised or incuse.
edge device – A group of letters or emblems on the edge of a coin. Examples would be the stars and lettering on the edge of Indian Head eagles and Saint-Gaudens double eagles.
electrotype – A duplicate coin created by the electrolytic method, in which metal is deposited into a mold made from the original. The obverse and reverse metal shells are then filled with metal and fused together – after which the edges sometimes are filed to obscure the seam.
elements – For numismatic condition purposes, the various components of grading. In other numismatic contexts, this term refers to the various devices and emblems seen on coins.
Eliasberg – Short for Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. who was the only collector to assemble a complete collection of United States coins. Thus, the Eliasberg pedigree on a particular coin is held in the highest numismatic esteem.
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 for a particular numismatic item.
envelope toning – A term applied to toning that results from storage mainly in 2 x 2 manila envelopes; most paper envelopes contain reactive chemicals.
environmental damage – Corrosion-effect seen on a coin that has been exposed to the elements. This may be minor, such as toning that is nearly black, to major – a coin found in the ground or water which has severely pitted surfaces. PCGS does not grade coins with environmental damage.
eroded die – Synonym for “worn die.”
errors – These are the mint or striking mistakes that occur in the process of minting the coins producing error coins. Usually a mis-made coin are not intended for circulation, but can also refer to an engraving or die-cutting error not discovered until the coins are released to circulation. Double dies, planchet clips, off-metal strikings, are examples of these mint errors.
essai – Term for trial, pattern, and experimental strikings. The anglicized version is essay and literally means a test or trial.
exergue – A feature at the lower part of a coin, usually set off by a horizontal bar that displays the date or denomination.
expert – A specialist in a particular numismatic area. (i.e. A copper expert, a gold expert, a paper money expert, a D-Mint expert, etc.)
Extra Fine – Alternate form of Extremely Fine.
Extremely Fine – The grades EF40 and 45 in coin grading. This condition has nearly full detail with only the high points worn, the fields rubbed often with luster still clinging in protected areas.
Extremely High Relief – The 1907 double eagle issue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens that had such medallic depth that multiple blows from a powerful press were required to fully bring up the detail. Because of this difficulty, the Mint engraver lowered the design resulting in the High Relief, which again was lowered to create the familiar Standing Liberty double eagle, or Saint, as to which they are commonly referred.
eye appeal – The element of a coin’s grade that “grabs” the viewer. The overall look of a coin.
The stated value on a coin, at which it can be spent or exchanged. The face value is usually different from a coin’s numismatic or precious metal value.
The adjective corresponding to the grade FR-2. In this grade, there is heavy wear with the lettering, devices, and date partially visible.
Slang for a counterfeit or altered coin.
A term applied to coins struck at the whim of Mint officials. Examples include the 1868 large cent Type of 1857 and the various 1865 Motto and 1866 No Motto coins.
Term to designate the Roman symbol of authority used as a motif on the reverse of Mercury (Winged Liberty Head) dimes. It consists of a bundle of rods 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.
Slang for the Small Size Capped Bust quarter and half eagles. (Mainly heard as “fat head fives.)
Coins and paper money that do not have metal value or are not backed up by metal value.
The portion of a coin where there is no design – generally the flat part (although on some issues, the field is slightly curved).
The adjective corresponding to grades of a coin. In these grades, most of a coin’s detail is worn away. Some detail is present in the recessed areas, but it is not sharp.
The best-known condition example of a particular numismatic item.
Slang for the opportunity to get the first opportunity to buy items from a particular numismatic deal or from a particular dealer.
fixed price list (FPL)
A dealer listing of items for sale at set prices.
Term referring to the particular specimens of High Reliefs that do not have a wire edge.
A subdued type of luster seen on coins struck from worn dies. Often these coins have a gray or otherwise dull color that makes the fields seem even more lackluster.
This has two meanings. First, it is the term for the plastic sleeve in which coins are stored. Also, it can mean to quickly sell a recently purchased coin, usually for a short profit.
Discoloration, often only slight, on the highest points of a coin resulting from contact with a flip. On occasion, highly desirable coins sold in auctions have acquired minor rub from being repeatedly examined by eager bidders. The shifting of the coin, although it may be slight, can cause this rub.
To sell a new purchase for a short profit.
The lines, sometimes visible, resulting from the metal flowing outward from the center of a planchet as it is struck. The “cartwheel” luster is the result of light reflecting from these radial lines.
The design attributed to Mint engraver Robert Scot that features Miss Liberty with long, flowing hair.
Flying Eagle Cent
The small cent, struck in 88% copper and 12% nickel, that replaced the large cent. This featured James Longacre’s reduction of the Gobrecht eagle used on the reverse of the silver dollars of 1836-1839.
The area of a coin to which a viewer’s eye is drawn. An example is the cheek of a Morgan dollar.
four-dollar gold piece
An experimental issue, also known as a stella, struck in 1879-1880 as a pattern. Often collected along with regular-issue gold coins, this was meant to be an international coin approximating the Swiss and French twenty-franc coins, the Italian twenty lira, etc.
Franklin half dollar
The John Sinnock designed half dollar struck from 1948 until 1963. This featured Ben Franklin on the obverse and the Liberty Bell on the reverse.
Slight wear on a coin’s high points or in the fields.
A crystallized-metal effect seen in the recessed areas of a die, thus the raised parts of a coin struck with that die. This is imparted to dies by various techniques, such as sandblasting them or pickling them in acid, then polishing the fields, leaving the recessed areas with frost.
Raised elements on coins struck with treated dies that have frost in their recessed areas. Such coins have crystalline surfaces that resemble frost on a lawn.
The crystalline appearance of coins struck with dies that have frost in their recessed areas. Such coins show vibrant luster on their devices and/or surfaces; the amount of crystallization may vary. Also, this term is applied to coins whose entire surface his this look.
Term applied to Mercury (Winged Liberty Head) dimes when the central band is fully separated (FB). There can be no disturbance of the separation. Also applicable to Roosevelt dimes that display full separation in both the upper and lower pair of crossbands on the torch.
Full Bell Lines
Term applied to Franklin half dollars when the lower sets of bell lines are complete (FBL). Very slight disturbance of several lines is acceptable.
Term applied to Standing Liberty quarters when the helmet of the head has full detail (FH). Both Type 1 and 2 coins are so designated but the criteria is different for both.
Term applied to a Jefferson five-cent example when at least 5 steps of Monticello are present.
A numismatic item that displays the full detail intended by the designer. Weak striking pressure, worn dies or improper planchets can sometimes prevent all the details from appearing, even on uncirculated specimens.
The first coin show each year. This annual convention is sponsored by the Florida United Numismatists and is held in early January.
The large metal relief used in the portrait lathe from which a positive reduction in steel, called a hub, is made.
Adjectival description applied to Mint State and Proof-65 coins. It also is used for higher grades and as a generic term for a superb coin.
Gem Uncirculated (Gem Unc)
The adjectival equivalent of Mint State 65 or 66.
The silver dollars dated 1836, 1838, and 1839 struck in those years and restruck later (some 1836-dated coins were struck in 1837). These are named for their designer, Christian Gobrecht, Chief Engraver from 1840 to 1844 but defacto engraver when William Kneass suffered his stroke in 1835.
Short for gold commemorative.
Any of the eleven commemorate coins struck in gold from 1903 until 1925. Also, any of the modern United States commemorative gold issues, sometimes called modern gold commems.
The small coins of one dollar denomination struck from 1849 until 1889.
The adjective corresponding to the grades G-4 and G-6. Coins in these grades usually have little detail but outlined major devices. On some coins, the rims may be worn to the tops of some letters.
The numerical or adjectival condition of a coin.
An individual who evaluates the condition of coins.
The process of numerically quantifying the condition of a coin. Before the adoption of the Sheldon numerical system, coins were given descriptive grades such as Good, Very Good, Fine, and so forth.
Fine cleaning lines found mainly in the fields of Proof coins, although they sometimes are found across an entire Proof coin as well as on business strikes.
The lowest-value coin denomination ever issued by the United States, representing one-two hundredth of a dollar. Half cents were struck from 1793 until the series was discontinued in 1857.
The original spelling of half dime. The first United States regular issue was the 1792 half disme supposedly struck in John Harper’s basement with the newly acquired Mint presses.
The denomination first struck in 1794 that is still struck today.
Literally, half the value of an Eagle. The Eagle was defined by the Mint Act of 1792 as equal to ten silver dollars.
At times rolls were issued with one half the number of coins in a roll that we consider to be normal today. For instance, Liberty nickels (1883-1912) were often issued with 20 coins in the roll (face value one dollar).
A powerful light source that enables a viewer to examine coins closely. This type of light reveals even the tiniest imperfections.
The upper die, usually the obverse – although on some issues with striking problems, the reverse was employed as the upper die. The lower die is the anvil die.
A cloudy film, original or added, seen on both business-strike coins and Proofs. This film can range from a light, nearly clear covering with little effect on the grade to a heavy, opaque layer that might prevent the coin from being graded.
A term applied to any coin at the upper end of a particular grade.
The Saint-Gaudens inspired effort of Charles Barber to reduce the Extremely High Relief down to a coin with acceptable striking qualities. After 11,250 coins, this effort was abandoned. However, these were released and quickly became one of the most popular coins of all time.
A group of coins held for either numismatic or monetary reasons. A numismatic hoard example would be the hoard of Little Orphan Annie dimes (1844). A monetary hoard example would be the 100,000 plus coins in the Economite, Pennsylvania hoard of the nineteen century. That hoard consisted mainly of half dollars.
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, the superb group of 1857 quarters that surfaced in the 1970s, and so on.
An individual who amasses a quantity of a numismatic item(s).
An Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel which has been engraved with a 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 specific “hoboes.”
Any toning acquired by a coin as a result of storage in a holder. Mainly refers to toning seen on coins stored in Wayte Raymond-type cardboard holders which contained sulfur and other reactive chemicals. Sometimes vibrant, spectacular reds, greens, blues, yellows, and other colors are seen on coins stored in these holders.
Minting term for the steel device from which a die is produced. The hub is produced with the aid of a portrait lathe or reducing machine and bears a “positive” image of the coin’s design – that is, it shows the design as it will appear on the coin itself. The image on the die is “negative” – a mirror image of the design.
A Proof coin that grades less than PR-60; a circulated Proof.
Direct light from a lamp, as opposed to indirect light such as that from a fluorescent bulb.
A coin that is missing design detail because of a problem during the striking process. The incompleteness may be due to insufficient striking pressure or improperly spaced dies.
The intaglio design used on Indian Head quarter eagles and half eagles. These coins were struck from dies which had fields recessed, so that the devices – the areas usually raised – were recessed on the coins themselves. This was an experiment to try to deter counterfeiting and improve wearing quality.
Indian Head cent
Those James Longacre design cents struck from 1859 until 1909. From 1859 until mid-1864, these were composed of copper-nickel alloy, while those struck mid-1864 to 1909 were struck in bronze.
Indian Head eagle
The Saint-Gaudens designed ten-dollar gold coin struck from 1907 until 1933.
The words stamped (written) on a coin
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. Today’s “sandwich” coins are termed fiat currency.
An individual who buys numismatic items strictly for profit, not caring to complete a set or particular collection.
A “glow” displayed by a coin, often gleaming through light pastel colors.
The Felix Schlag designed five-cent coin first struck from 1938 to date.
Silver coins of circulated quality. Often used to describe bags or common US silver coins that were pulled out of circulation when silver was disappearing. Does not mean the coins are damaged. Junk silver rolls or bags usually will not contain scarce dates, low mintages, or high quality coins.
The major, or most important, coin in a particular series. The “key” coin is usually the lowest-mintage coin and/or the most expensive coin in a particular set. The 1916-D dime, for instance, is usually considered the key coin of the Mercury dime series.
It is the lowest mintage coin of the set and the most expensive (in most grades). The 1919-D dime is the “condition rarity key” of the Mercury dime series, as it is the most expensive coin in top condition.
Most sets have more than one key coin. In Lincoln cents, for instance, the 1909-S V.D.B., the 1914-D, the 1922 Plain and 1955/55 Doubled Die are all considered to be key coins in most grades. In MS65RD the 1926-S is the rarest of the regular issues, so it is considered the “condition rarity key.”
At times any scarce or rare coin is referred to a “key” coin. The terms “key to the set” or “key to the series” are also used as synonyms for “key coin.”
Slang term for outstanding. (i.e. That 1880-S silver dollar has killer luster.)
The number one coin. The 1804 dollar was referred to as the “King of Coins” in an 1885 auction catalogue. Since then, the word “King” has come to mean the most important coin of a particular series.
Slang for wire edge.
A thin piece of metal that has nearly become detached from the surface of a coin. If this breaks off, an irregular hole or planchet flaw is left.
A large copper U.S. coin, one-hundredth of a dollar, issued from 1793 until 1857, when it was replaced by a much smaller cent made from a copper-nickel alloy. The value of copper in a large cent had risen to more than one cent, requiring the reduction in weight.
large date (LD)
Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that a medium or small date exists for that coin or series.)
Alternate form of Heraldic Eagle.
large letters (LL)
Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that medium or small letters exist for that coin or series.)
A term referring to the particular diameter of a coin in a series. (Use of this term implies that there is a small size or diameter with the same motif. Examples are the Large and Small size Capped Bust quarters.)
Coins and currency issued by the government as official money that can be used to pay legal debts and obligations.
A phrase that appears on a coin – for instance, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
A coin edge that displays an inscription or other design elements, rather than being reeded or plain. The lettering can be either incuse (recessed below the surface) or raised. Incuse lettering is applied before a coin is struck; the Mint did this with a device called the Castaing machine. Raised lettering is found on coins struck with segmented collars; the lettering is raised during the minting process, and when the coin is ejected from the dies, the collar “falls” apart, preventing the lettering from being sheared away.
The alphabet characters used in creating legends, mottoes, and other inscriptions on a coin, whether on the obverse, reverse, or edge.
The symbolic figure used in many U.S. coin designs.
The head of Miss Liberty, with a cap on a pole by her head, used on certain U.S. half cents and large cents.
The design used on most U.S. gold coins from 1838 until 1908. This design was first employed by Christian Gobrecht, with later modifications by Robert Ball Hughes and James Longacre. Morgan dollars and Barber coinage sometimes are referred to as Liberty Head coins.
Short for Liberty Head or “V” nickel struck from 1883 until 1912. (The coins dated 1913 were clandestinely struck and are not regular issues.)
The motif designed by Christian Gobrecht first used on the Gobrecht dollars of 1836-1839 featuring Miss Liberty seated on a rock. This design was used on nearly all regular issue silver coinage from 1837 until 1891. (1838-1891 for quarters, 1839-1891 for half dollars, and 1840-1873 for dollars.)
The band of light seen on photographs of coins, especially Proofs. This band also is seen when a coin is examined under a light.
The Victor D. Brenner designed cent first struck in 1909 and continuing until today although the reverse was changed in 1959 to the Memorial Reverse. These were struck in bronze until 1982, except for 1943 when they were issued in steel with a zinc coating and 1945-1945 when melted shell casings were employed to produce planchets. Currently, the Lincoln cent is struck on planchets composed of a zinc core and a 5% copper coating.
A repeating depression on a coin, usually thin and curly, caused by a thread that adhered to a die during the coin’s production. Lint marks are found primarily on Proofs. After dies are polished, they are wiped with a cloth, and these sometimes leave tiny threads.
Short for the Long Beach Coin and Stamp Exhibition held in Long Beach, California. This show is held three times a year, usually in February, June, and October. These are among the most popular commercial exhibitions each year.
The unique number assigned by the auction house to an item(s) to be sold in a particular sale. (i.e. The 1858 Seated dollar was lot 455 of the FUN 1999 sale.)
A magnifying glass used to examine coins. Loupes are found in varying strengths or “powers”.
luster or lustre
In numismatics, the amount and strength of light reflected from a coin’s surface or its original mint bloom. Luster is the result of light reflecting on the flow lines, whether visible or not.
A term used to describe coins that still have original mint bloom.
mail bid sale
An auction sale where bidding is limited to bids by mail. (Today, that also may include by phone, fax, or email.)
A coin that is easily recognized as having a major difference from other coins of the same design, type, date, and mint.
A numerical grade that matches the grade at which a particular coin generally is traded in the marketplace.
Imperfections acquired after striking. These range from tiny to large hits and may be caused by other coins or foreign objects.
The main die produced from the master hub. Many working hubs are prepared from this single die.
The original hub created by the portrait lathe. Master dies are created from this hub.
An experimental Proof striking, produced by the U.S. Mint mainly from 1907 to 1916, which has sandblasted or acid-pickled surfaces. These textured surfaces represented a radical departure from brilliant Proofs, having even less reflectivity than business strikes.
A high-pressure coining press acquired by the U.S. Mint, circa 1854-1858, to strike medals, patterns, restrikes, and some regular-issue Proofs.
medium date (MD)
Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that a large or small date exists for that coin or series.)
medium letters (ML)
Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that large or small letters exist for that coin or series.)
melt or melt value
Slang term for the intrinsic value of a particular numismatic item.
Common name for the Winged Liberty Head dime issued from 1916 until 1945. The A.A. Weinman motif was quickly compared to the Roman god Mercury and the name stuck with the public.
metal stress lines
Radial lines, sometimes visible, that result when the metal flows outward from the center of the planchet during the minting process.
A mark that results when the reeded edge of one coin hits the surface of another coin. Such contact may produce just one mark or a group of staccato-like marks.
A coin that has a minor difference from other coins of the same design, type, date, and mint. This minor difference is barely discernible to the unaided eye. The difference between a major variety and a minor variety is a matter of degree.
A coining facility.
Original luster that is still visible on a coin.
See “error coins in coin collecting”
Variation of mintmark
A set of Uncirculated coins from a particular year comprising coins from each Mint. (Usually, this term refers to government issued Mint Sets, although for many years, it has been loosely used for any set of Uncirculated coins from a particular year. Also, the government Mint Sets issued from 1947 until 1958 were double sets.)
mint set toning
This term refers to the colors and patterns coins have acquired from years of storage in the cardboard holders in which Mint Sets were issued from 1947-1958. Since 1959, Mint Sets have been issued in plastic sleeves, thus they do not tone as spectacularly.
The term corresponding to the numerical grades MS-60 through MS-70, used to denote a business strike coin that never has been in circulation. A Mint State coin can range from one that is covered with marks (MS-60) to a flawless example (MS-70).
The number of coins of a particular date struck at a given mint during a particular year. (This may not equal the “official” mintage for that calendar year, especially for pre-1840 coinage. The Mint reported coins struck in the calendar year, regardless of the date(s) on the issue. For instance, the 1804-dated dollar was included in Proof Sets struck in 1834 because the “official” mintage figures for 1804 included silver dollars although it is now known that these were dated 1803 or possibly even earlier.)
The tiny letter(s) stamped into the dies to denote the mint at which a particular coin was struck.
Term applied to the error coins that have striking irregularities.
A Proof coin that has been circulated, cleaned, or otherwise reduced to a level of preservation below PR-60.
Term applied to the various incarnations of the emblematic Liberty represented on United States coinage.
Slang for an incredible coin, usually one that grades MS/PR-67 or higher. A secondary use is as an adjective, such as monster luster or monster color.
Slang for an incredible coin, usually one that grades MS/PR-67 or higher.
The common term used for the Liberty Head silver dollar struck from 1878 until 1904 and again in 1921. George Morgan was the assistant engraver but his design was selected over William Barber’s for the dollar.
Morgan was passed over for the Chief Engraver’s job when William Barber died in 1879. Charles Barber, William’s son, received the job and Morgan remained an assistant until Charles died in 1918. Morgan was then elevated to position of Chief Engraver, which he held until his death in January, 1925.
Uneven toning, usually characterized by splotchy areas of drab colors.
This is a rare Mint error where the obverse die is of one coin and the reverse die is of another coin. The most famous of the Mule errors is a Sacagawea dollar/Washington quarter Mule, where a Washington quarter obverse is paired with a Sacagawea reverse.
See Also — double-struck
A term used to describe a coin that has been damaged to the point where it no longer can be graded.
A term for a coin that never has been in circulation.
The branch Mint established in 1838 in New Orleans, Louisiana. It struck coins for the United States until its seizure in 1861 by the Confederacy. (Some 1861-O half dollars were struck after the seizure.) It reopened in 1879 and struck coins until 1909 (actually closed in 1910). Now this facility is a museum.
New Orleans Mint
The New Orleans opened its doors in 1838 and minted gold and silver coins until 1861, when the Confederates took over operations for a short time. Minting resumed in 1879 minting and continued until 1909. The New Orleans facility served as an assay office from 1909-1942 when it was permanently closed. This mint uses the “O” mintmark.
Popular term for a five-cent piece struck in cupro-nickel alloy (actually 75% copper, 25% nickel).
No “CENTS” nickel
Those Liberty Head or “V” nickels struck in 1883 without a denomination. This was very confusing to the public and led to the “racketeer” nickel scandal.
Term applied to coins without arrows by their dates during years when other coins had arrows by the date. (Example: the 1853 No Arrows half dime and 1853 Arrows half dime.)
Coins struck without the motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST.” This motto was mandated by an act of Congress and appeared on nearly every United States coin since the 1860s. (Teddy Roosevelt felt this was sacrilegious and had it removed from the newly redesigned 1907 eagles and double eagles. Citizen protests soon were overwhelming and it was restored in 1908.) This also refers to coins struck before the motto was added in the 1860s.
Term applying to the Christian Gobrecht designed Liberty Seated coins without stars.
Term applied to a coin returned from a third-party grading service that was not encapsulated because of varying reasons. (This could be for cleaning, damage, questionable authenticity, etc.)
Specifically, the Sheldon 1-70 scale employed by PCGS and others.
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC)
Third-party grading service based in Parsipany, New Jersey.
Weekly numismatic periodical established in 1952.
The science of money; coins, paper money, tokens, inscribed bars, and all related items are included.
One who studies or collects money or substitutes thereof.
See also what is a coin collector? in the 2-clicks coin collecting guide.
Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the New Orleans, Louisiana branch Mint.
Term used for the coinage of the branch Mint in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The front, or heads side, of a coin. Usually the date side.
A coin struck on a blank that was not properly centered over the anvil, or lower, die.
Its name notwithstanding, a closed collar that surrounded the anvil (or lower) die used in striking early U.S. coins on planchets whose edges already had been lettered or reeded. An open collar was a restraining, or positioning, collar that made it easier to position a planchet atop the lower die, and also sometimes kept the planchet from expanding too far.
The dimple-textured fields seen on many Proof gold coins; their surfaces resemble those of an orange, hence the descriptive term. Some Mint State gold dollars and three-dollar gold coins exhibit this effect to some degree.
A term used to describe a coin that never has been dipped or cleaned, or a coin struck from original dies in the year whose date it bears.
Coins in fixed quantities wrapped in paper and stored at the time of their issuance. The quantities vary by denomination, but typically include 50 one-cent pieces, 40 nickels, 50 dimes, 40 quarters, 20 half dollars and 20 silver dollars. U.S. coins were first shipped to banks in kegs, later in cloth bags, and still later in rolls. Silver and gold coins stored in such rolls often have peripheral toning and untoned centers. Obviously, coins stored in rolls suffered fewer marks than those in kegs or bags.
Rolls of coins that have been together since the day they were removed from their storage bags. Also, rolls of Mint State coins that have never been searched or “picked over.”
Term for the color acquired naturally by a coin that never has never been cleaned or dipped. Original toning ranges from the palest yellow to extremely dark blues, grays, browns, and finally black.
A coin struck with a die on which one mintmark is engraved over a different mintmark. In rare instances, branch mints returned dies that already had mintmarks punched into them; on occasion, these were then sent to different branch mints and the new mint punched its mintmark over the old one. Examples include the 1938-D/S Buffalo nickel and the 1900-O/CC Morgan dollar.
A coin that has become dull from too many baths in a dipping solution.
A coin struck from a die with a date that has one year punched over a different year. Save a few exceptions, the die overdated is an unused die from a previous year. Sometimes an effort was made to polish away evidence of the previous date.
Mintmark used by the main mint located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Term applied to the coins struck at the main Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Term used among collectors for notes of the entire field of currency, no matter what medium on which they may be printed.
Synonym for toning.
A test striking of a coin produced to demonstrate a proposed design, size, or composition (whether adopted or not). Patterns often are made in metals other than the one proposed; examples of this include aluminum and copper patterns of the silver Trade dollar. Off-metal strikes such as this also are referred to as die trials of a pattern.
Common name for the silver dollar struck from 1921 to 1935. Designed by Anthony Francisci to commemorate the peace following World War I, the first year featured another coin designated High Relief. In 1922, the relief was lowered resulting in the Regular Relief type that continued until 1935.
A listing of a coin’s current owner plus all known previous owners.
In American numismatics, slang for a one-cent coin.
Light, medium, or dark coloring around the edge of a coin.
The “mother” Mint, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. First established in 1792, the Philadelphia Mint has occupied four different locations. Currently, it is located in Independence Square, within sight of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
The Philadelphia mint engraves all U.S. coins and medals, manufactures coin and medal dies, manufactures coins of all denominations for general circulation, manufactures commemorative coins, and produces medals. This mint currently uses the “P” mintmark but coins produced prior to 1980 have no mintmark.
Slang for a coin bought at a bargain price.
Term to describe the dealer who sells a pick off.
A term that means “double thick,” it usually refers to French coins that were made in a double thickness to signify double value. Sometimes spelled Piefort.
Those privately-issued gold coins struck prior to 1861. These include coins struck in Georgia and North Carolina although no “pioneers” were responsible for the gold mined in those states. Generally associated with the private issues from California and the other post-1848 finds in Nevada, Oregon, and Colorado.
A flat, smooth edge seen mainly on a small-denomination coinage.
The blank disk of metal before it is struck by a coining press which transforms it into a coin. Type I planchets are flat. Type II planchets have upset rims from the milling machine, these to facilitate easier striking in close collars.
Any of the various abnormalities found on coin blanks. These include drift marks, laminations, clips, and so forth.
An irregular hole in a coin blank, sometimes the result of a lamination that has broken away.
Fine, incuse lines found on some Proof coins, though rarely on business strikes, usually the result of polishing blanks to impart mirrorlike surfaces prior to striking.
A term used to describe a coin to which a thin layer of metal has been applied-for example, gold-plated copper strikings of certain U.S. pattern coins.
Precious metal sometimes used for coinage. The only United States issues struck in platinum are the pattern half dollars of 1814 and the modern platinum Eagles.
A term used to describe a coin that has had a hole filled, often so expertly that it can only be discerned only under magnification.
A die that has been basined to remove clash marks or other die injury. In a positive sense, Proof dies were basined to impart mirrorlike surfaces, resulting in coins with reflective field.
A chemical used in coin flips to make them pliable.
The grade PO-1. A coin with readable date and mint mark (if present), but little more, barely identifiable as to type. (One-year type coins do not require a readable date to qualify for this grade.)
A description indicating a rough or granular surface, typically seen on pre-1816 copper coins.
A term applied to coins that are the best examples within a particular grade.
A coin, often a Proof or an exceptionally sharp business strike, specially struck and given to a dignitary or other person.
Any of the various coining machines. Examples include the screw press and the steam-powered knuckle-action press.
The asking quotation for a particular numismatic item. “What’s the price?” is a common phrase on the bourse floor.
A periodical, whether electronic or paper, listing approximate prices for numismatic items, whether wholesale or retail.
A term applied to coins in original, unimpaired condition. These coins typically are graded MS/PR-67 and higher.
Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS)
Established in 1985, this was the first third-party grading service to grade, encapsulate, and guarantee the authenticity for numismatic material. Based in Newport Beach, California.
Professional Numismatists Guild
A dealer organization begun in 1955. The membership is restricted by financial and longevity requirements.
A coin usually struck from a specially prepared coin die on a specially prepared planchet. Proofs are usually given more than one blow from the dies and are usually struck with presses operating at slower speeds and higher striking pressure. Because of this extra care, Proofs usually exhibit much sharper detail than regular, or business, strikes.
A coin set containing Proof issues from particular year. A few sets contain anomalies such as the 1804 dollar and eagle in 1834 presentation Proof sets.
Specially prepared dies, often sandblasted or acid-picked, that are used to strike Proof coins. Often, the fields are highly polished to a mirrorlike finish, while the recessed areas are left “rough”; on coins struck with such dies, the devices are frosted and contrast with highly reflective fields. Matte, Roman, and Satin Proof dies are not polished to a mirror-like finish.
A coin struck only in Proof, with no business-strike counterpart.
Term to designate a coin that has mirror-like surfaces, the term especially applicable to Morgan dollars.
A steel rod with a device, lettering, date, star, or some other symbol on the end which was sunk into a working die by hammering on the opposite end of the rod.
Term applied to a roll of coins that is not original, usually the best condition coins have been removed and replaced with lesser quality coins. (It is not unusual to find slightly circulated coins in such rolls.)
Short for polyvinyl chloride.
A film, usually green, left on a coin after storage in flips that contain PVC. During the early stage, this film may be clear and sticky.
Any of the various soft coin flips that contain PVC.
Short for a coin of the quarter dollar denomination.
Correct terminology for a two-and-one-half dollar gold coin. This denomination, two and one half dollars or one fourth of an eagle, was first struck in 1796, struck sporadically thereafter, and discontinued in 1929.
Term to describe the color on a coin that may not be original. After a coin is dipped or cleaned, any subsequent toning, whether acquired naturally or induced artificially, will look different than original toning.
A gold-plated 1883 No “CENTS” Liberty Head five-cent coin (“V” nickel). The story goes that a deaf-mute gold-plated these unfamiliar coins and would buy something for a nickel or less. Sometimes, he was given change for a five-dollar gold piece since the V on the reverse could be interpreted as either five cents or five dollars! (They have also been gold-plated since that time to sell to collectors.)
Term for toning which is usually seen on silver dollars stored in bags. The “colors of the rainbow” are represented, stating with pale yellow, to green, to red, to blue, and sometimes fading to black.
A relative term indicating that a coin within a series is very difficult to find. Also, a coin with only a few examples known. A rare Lincoln cent may have thousands known while a relatively common pattern may only have a few dozen known.
The number of specimens extant of any particular numismatic item. This can be the total number of extant specimens or the number of examples in a particular grade and higher. (This is referred to as condition rarity.)
A term referring to a numerical-rating system such as the Universal Rarity Scale.
Numismatic slang for a coin or other numismatic item that has not been encapsulated by a grading service.
Term for the lines that represent sun rays on coins. First used on Continental dollars and Fugio cents, they were also used on some 1853-dated quarters and half dollars as well as 1866 and some 1867 five-cent coins.
Term used for a copper coin that still retains 95 percent or more of its original mint bloom or color.
A copper coin that has from 5 to 95 percent of its original mint color remaining (RB).
First issued in 1947, this yearly price guide has been the “bible” of printed numismatic retail price guides.
Term for the grooved notches on the edge of some coins. These were first imparted by the Mint’s edge machine, later in the minting process by the use of close collars – these sometimes called the third die or collar die.
A mark or marks caused when the reeded edge of one coin hits the surface of another coin. The contact may leave just one mark or a series of staccato-like marks.
Term for the coins struck for commerce. These may be both Regular and Proof strikes of a regular issue. In addition, there can be die trials of regular issues.
Term to denote coins struck with normal coining methods on ordinarily prepared planchets. Synonymous with business strike.
The height of the devices of a particular coin design, expressed in relation to the fields.
A copy, or reproduction, of a particular coin.
If a date was punched into the die and then punched in again in a different position it is considered to be a repunched date. A dramatic example of the repunched date is the 1894/94 Indian cent, where the two dates are clear, bold and well separated. Most repunched dates are more subtle, such as the 1887/6 Morgan dollar. Such coins as the 1909/8 $20 gold piece or the 1942/1 Mercury dime are not repunched dates, but Doubled Dies, where the changes were made to the working die from a differently-dated working hub.
A coin struck later than indicated by its date, often with different dies. Occasionally, a different reverse design is used, as in the case of restrike 1831 half cents made with the reverse type used from 1840-1857.
A term used to describe a coin that has been dipped or cleaned and then has reacquired color, whether naturally or artificially.
The back, or tails side, of a coin. Usually opposite the date side.
A machine used by mints that screens out planchets of the wrong size and shape prior to striking.
The raised area around the edges of the obverse and reverse of a coin. Pronounced rims resulted from the introduction of the close collar, first used in 1828 for Capped Bust dimes. (The Mint had experimented with close-collar strikings as early as 1820.)
Slang for rim nick.
Term for a mark or indentation on the rim of a coin or other metallic numismatic item.
A test used to determine whether a coin was struck or is an electrotype or cast copy. The coin in question is balanced on a finger and gently tapped with a metal object- a pen, another coin, and so on. Struck coins have a high-pitched ring or tone, while electrotypes and cast copies have little or none. This test is not infallible; some struck coins do not ring because of planchet defects such as cracks or gas occlusions; also, some cast copies have been filled with glass (or other substances) and do ring.
A numismatic purchase that is bought substantially below the price for which it can be resold.
A set number of coins “rolled up” in a coin wrapper. In old times, a roll meant the coins were rolled up in a paper wrapper, today they are likely to be slid into a plastic coin tube. Groups of nineteenth century coins are sometimes referred to as rolls when they exist in sufficient quantities even when they might not have come in rolls during their years of issue nor or are they currently in a roll! (Cents are 50 to a roll, nickels 40 to a roll, dimes 50 to a roll, quarters 40 to a roll, half dollars 20 to a roll, and dollars 20 to a roll. Gold coins are sometimes seen in rolls but the number of coins vary. Rolls of five dollar and twenty dollar coins have been rolled 20, 40, and 50 to a roll – other variations are certainly possible. Gold dollars, quarter eagles, three-dollar coins, and eagles have also be seen in rolls of varying quantities.)
Minor displacement of metal, mainly on the high points, seen on coins stored in rolls.
Term synonymous with rim (the raised edge around a coin). This has become part of the vernacular because of the Rolled Edge Indian Head eagle.
Rolled Edge Ten
Common name for the Indian Head eagle struck as a regular issue with a mintage reported by some as 20,000, but according to official Mint correspondence the figure was 31,550. However, some have considered it a pattern because all but 42 coins were reportedly melted. It is occasionally seen circulated but the average coin is Mint State 63 or higher.
Term to describe the mostly parallel incuse lines seen on some coins after striking. These were originally thought to be lines resulting from debris “scoring” the metal strips before the blanks were cut. However, new research has pointed to the final step of strip preparation, the draw bar. To reduce the strips to proper thickness, the final step was to pass them through the draw bar. It certainly seems logical that debris in the draw bar may cause these lines, if so, then draw-bar marks or lines would be a more appropriate term.
An experimental Proof surface used mainly on U.S. gold coins of 1909 and 1910. This is a hybrid surface with more reflectivity than Matte surfaces but less than brilliant Proofs. The surface is slightly scaly, similar to that of Satin Proofs.
Term for slight wear, often referring just to the high points or the fields
Mintmark used by the San Francisco, California branch mint.
Short for 1909-S VDB Lincoln Head cent.
Term applied to the coins struck at the San Francisco, California branch Mint.
The Sacagawea dollar is a one dollar value circulating coin that was introduced in the year 2000. It is also called the “golden dollar” in the non-numismatic community because of its color.
The coin honors Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian woman who was a guide and interpreter for the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804. Glenna Goodacre designed the obverse of the coin and Thomas D. Rogers created the reverse. Sacagawea dollars are struck for circulation at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints, while Proofs are struck in San Francisco.
Last name of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the preeminent sculptor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. At the request of President Teddy Roosevelt, he redesigned the eagle and double eagle in 1907 although he died mid-production. Also, slang for the Liberty Head double eagle or Saint.
A very deceptive term. Generally, a term to describe coins with a finely pitted surface, however, recent discoveries of coins that have been exposed to saltwater for over a hundred years has made this term inaccurate, if not obsolete. The sand, not the saltwater, likely does the pitting on gold and silver coins in the ocean. A better term for these coins would be sandblasted Uncs or sand-damaged Uncs.
San Francisco Mint
The United States branch Mint located in San Francisco, California that struck coins from 1854 until 1955. After closing as a Mint, it served as an assay office until it reopened as a coinage facility in 1965. This facility manufactures annual proof coin sets, manufactures silver proof coin sets and manufactures commemorative coins. This mint uses the “S” mintmark.
Another of the experimental Proof surfaces used on U.S. gold coins after 1907. The dies were treated in some manner to create the silky surfaces imparted to the coins.
Fine, silky luster seen on many business strike coins, especially copper and nickel issues. Almost no “cartwheel” effect is seen on coins with this type of luster.
A detracting line that is more severe than a hairline. The size of a coin determines the point at which a line ceases to be viewed as a hairline and instead is regarded a scratch; the larger the coin, the greater the tolerance.
The first type of coining press used at the U.S. Mint. Invented by Italian craftsman Donato Bramante, this press had a fixed anvil (or lower) die, with the hammer (or upper) die being attached to a rod with screw-like threads. When weighted arms attached to the rod were rotated, the screw mechanism quickly moved the rod with the die downward, striking the planchet placed into the lower die. The struck coin then was ejected and the process was repeated.
sea salvage coin
A coin retrieved from the ocean, usually from a ship wreck. The conception that these coin will have pitted surface has been exploded by the recent Brother Jonathon and Central America recoveries. These coins do not have pitted surfaces! The action of the shifting tides evidently causes sand to “blast” the surface of some coins, while others protected from this action retain nearly intact Mint luster.
Term commonly used for Liberty Seated coinage.
Any toning, natural or artificial, that results after a coin is dipped or cleaned. This second toning is seldom as attractive as original toning, although some coins “take” second toning better than others.
The profit generated from the printing or coining of currency. This word also has many other related meanings, most often associated with taxes created through inflation.
Term to denote coins that are neither scarce nor common. An example would be Uncirculated 1903 Morgan dollars.
Term indicating a coin that has a significant bullion value and some numismatic value. The most recognized examples are Liberty Head and Saint-Gaudens double eagles.
A term used to describe a coin that has some mirror-like surface mixed with satin or frosty luster. Reflectivity is obscured on such a specimen, unlike the reflectivity on prooflike and deep mirror prooflike coins.
A particular design or motif used over a period of time. This can used for a single denomination, or in some cases, used for several denominations. The Liberty Seated series encompasses five denominations, the Barber series three, etc.
A term indicating a collection of coins in a series, a collection of types, or a collection from a particular Mint. Examples include a complete series set (Lincoln cents from 1909 to date); a type set of gold coins (8 or 12 piece sets are the most common); a set of branch mint quarter eagles (Dahlonega quarter eagles from 1838 to 1859)
Specifically, Dr. William Sheldon who wrote the seminal work on 1793 to 1814 large cents.
The large cent book, first published in 1949 as Early American Cents with only Dr. Sheldon listed, updated in 1958 with Walter Breen and Dorothy Paschal also listed as authors with the new name, Penny Whimsy.
The reference number for 1793 to 1814 large cents per the Sheldon books, Early American Cents and Penny Whimsy. When certain Sheldon numbers are mentioned among large cent aficionados, an immediate hush is observed until all the facts of that particular specimen are disseminated.
The rarity scale introduced in 1949 in Early American Cents.
The emblem used on certain issues that has horizontal and vertical lines in a shield shape. These are first found in the center of the heraldic eagle and on each succeeding eagle until the end of the Barber quarter series in 1916. They shield as a single motif first appeared on the two-cent coins of 1864, later also used on the nickels of 1866. Starting in 1860, Indian Head cents used the shield motif at the top of the wreath on the reverse.
Common name for the Shield five-cent coin struck from 1866 until 1883. The 1866 and some 1867 coins have rays between the stars on the reverse and are referred to as Rays type (or With Rays type). Those 1867 through 1883 coins without the rays are called No Rays type.
Areas on Matte, Roman, and Satin Proofs where the surface has been disturbed. On brilliant Proofs, dull spots appear where there are disturbances; on textured-surface coins such as Matte, Roman, and Satin Proofs, these disturbances create “shiny” spots.
This term has two definitions. The first refers to rolls of coins that contain double the normal amount of coins in a roll. For instance, a shotgun roll of silver dollars contains 40 coins. The name derives from the length of the rolls being similar to the length of a shotgun shell. These double rolls were common and popular during the great roll boom of the 1960s. The second definition of “shotgun roll” refers to a paper-wrapped roll that is machine-crimped like the end of a shotgun shell.
Common term for a bourse or coin show. Example: the ANA show was great!
A term to indicate that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular grade wants to view the coin before he buys it. He may have a customer who wants an untoned coin – or a toned coin, or some other specific requirement.
A term to indicate that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular grade will pay a certain price without examining the item.
Term to indicate coins struck in silver (generally 90% silver and 10% copper but there are a few exceptions).
Originally, those commemorative coins struck from 1892 until 1954, although not in every year. These are all struck in 90% silver and 10% copper alloy. Of course, those post-1982 silver commemorative issues also could technically be so called.
A coin of the one dollar denomination that is struck in a composition of 90% silver (or so) and 10% copper. The silver dollar was introduced in 1794 and was issued for circulation in intermittent years through 1935. The most frequently seen silver dollars are the Morgan design (1878-1921) and the Peace design (1921-35). These coins remained in circulation until the 1960s, mostly in the western US. Modern dollar coins are sometimes called “silver dollars” as well, even though the pieces struck for circulation contain no silver.
On certain early American coins, a silver plug was inserted into a hole in the center of the coin, which was then flattened out when the coin was struck.
The purpose of the plug was to add weight or value to the coin to bring it into proper specifications. Examples include the 1792 Silver-Center Cent, a Specimen 1794 Silver Dollar, and several varieties of 1795 Silver Dollars.
Term to indicate a Kennedy half dollar struck from 1965 to 1970, whose overall content is 40 percent silver and 60 percent copper. These are commonly referred to as silver-clad halves because two outer layers containing primarily silver (80%) are bonded to a core made primarily of copper (79%).
The lines representing the folds on Miss Liberty’s flowing gown on Walking Liberty half dollars. The early issues (1916-1918 and some coins through the entire series) are particularly weak in this feature. Well struck coins with full skirt lines often bring substantial premiums over those that are weakly struck.
Numismatic slang for the holder in which a coin is encapsulated by a grading service. The coin contained therein is said to be slabbed.
The process of sending a coin to a third-party grading service to have it authenticated, graded, and encapsulated in a sonically sealed holder.
A term used to describe an AU coin that looks, or can be sold as, Uncirculated. Occasionally used as a reference to another grade; a slider EF coin, for example, would be a VF/EF coin that is nearly EF.
Slang for the octagonal and round fifty-dollar gold coins struck during the California gold rush. Allegedly, their name came from the fact that criminals used the two-and-one-half ounce coins wrapped in a handkerchief and slugged their victims on the head with this “weapon.” This could be a myth, as their massive size also could be construed to be a “slug” of gold. The 1915 Pan-Pac fifty-dollar commemorative issues are also referred to a slugs.
Those cents of reduced size, replacing the large cent in 1857. The 1856 small cents technically are patterns, but have been so widely collected with the regular issues that their acceptance is universal.
Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that a large or medium date exists for that coin or series.)
The plain eagle on a perch first used on the 1794 half dime and half dollar, although the 1795 half eagle is the first coin to use the term to denote a type coin.
Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that large or medium letters exist for that coin or series.)
Common short name for the particular variety of two-cent coin of 1864 with small letters in the motto. The inscription “IN GOD WE TRUST” was first used as a motto on the two-cent coinage of 1864.
A term referring to the particular diameter of a coin in a series. (Use of this term implies that there is a large size or diameter with the same motif. Examples are the Large and Small size Capped Bust quarters.)
A die made by an electrolytic deposition method. The surfaces of such a die are very rough, so they usually are extensively polished to remove the “pimples.” The recessed areas of the die, and the relief areas of any coin struck with the die, still have rustlike surfaces with tiny micro pimples.
A coin made from spark-erosion dies. These are characterized by the telltale “pimples” noted mainly on the areas in relief.
Special Mint Set
A set of special coins-neither business strikes nor Proofs-first struck in limited quantities in 1965 and officially released in 1966-1967- to replace Proof sets, which were discontinued as part of the U.S. Mint’s efforts to stop coin hoarding.
The quality of many of the 1965 coins was not much better than that of business strikes-but by 1967, some Special Mint Set (SMS) coins resembled Proofs. In fact, the government admitted as much when it revealed how the 1967 issues were struck. In 1968, Proof coinage resume. There have been similar issues since; the 1994 and 1997 Matte-finish Jefferson nickels, for example, are frosted SMS-type coins. There also are a few known 1964 SMS coins, these likely struck as tests in late 1964 for the new 1965 SMS strikings.
Term used to indicate special coins struck at the Mint from 1792-1816 that display many characteristics of the later Proof coinage. Prior to 1817, the minting equipment and technology was limited, so these coins do not have the “watery” surfaces of later Proofs nor the evenness of strike of the close collar Proofs.
Color that is uneven, both in shade and composition.
A discolored area on a coin. This can be a small dot of copper staining on a gold coin or a large, dark “tar” spot on a copper coin. The spot(s) can have a small or large effect on the grade of a coin depending on the severity, size, placement, number, and so on.
The official composition of U.S. silver coinage, set by the Mint Act of 1792 at approximately 89 percent silver and 11 percent copper, later changed to 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper-the composition seen in most U.S. silver coins.
Motif with Miss Liberty in a upright front-facing position. The design was used in 1907 on the Saint-Gaudens double eagles and later on the Hermon A. MacNeil quarter first struck in 1917.
Standing Liberty quarter
Common name of the Hermon MacNeil designed quarter dollar struck from 1917 until 1930.
A line on a coin resulting from its improper removal from a holder, usually one of the two-by-two inch cardboard type. Staples should be completely removed from any holder before the coin is removed!
A term for the five-pointed and six-pointed devices used on many U.S. coins. On the earliest U.S. coins, thirteen stars were depicted, representing the thirteen original colonies/states. As new states were admitted into the Union, more stars were added; up to sixteen appeared on some coins.
Adding stars for each state was impractical, however, so the number was reduced to the original thirteen. Exception include the forty-six stars, later forty-eight stars, around the periphery of Saint-Gaudens double eagles, reflecting the number of states in the Union at the time those coins were issued. Also, as a single motif, the star was used on the obverse of the three-cent silver issue from 1851 until 1873.
One of the 1999 and later Washington quarters struck with unique reverse designs for each state, issued in the order of admittance to the United States. (The order for the original 13 colonies was determined by the date which each state ratified the Constitution.)
A coining press driven by a steam-powered engine. This type of press, more powerful than its predecessors, was installed in the United States Mint in 1836, replacing the hand and horse-powered screw presses except for most Proof strikings and die hubbing.
Common name for the 1943 cents (and certain 1944 cents struck on left-over steel blanks) struck in steel and plated with zinc.
Sterling silver is a composition of 925 parts pure silver with 75 parts of copper. This is usually defined as .925 fine silver. Sterling silver is used to make jewelry and some household items, most notably silverware (knives, forks, etc.).
A counterfeit edge collar used for various-dated fakes. These have the same repeating characteristics.
Merchant tokens, usually composed of copper, which helped alleviate the small change shortage during the nineteenth century. These were widely accepted in their immediate areas.
Term for the incuse polish lines on the die which result in raised lines on coins. These are usually fine, parallel lines though on some coins they are swirling, still others with criss-cross lines. Planchet striations are burnishing lines not struck away by the minting process and are incuse on the coins
strike – n.
Term to indicate the completeness, or incompleteness, of a coin’s intended detail. v. The act of minting a coin.
The flat metal, rolled to proper thickness, from which planchets are cut.
A term used to describe a coin produced from dies and a coining press.
A replica of a particular coin made from dies not necessarily meant to deceive.
A fake coin produced from false dies.
An error caused by a foreign object that got between the dies and the planchet when a coin was struck. A common Struck Thru error is a piece of wire that leaves an indentation that is usually mistaken for a scratch.
The buyer of a particular lot from an auction, whether it is a mail-bid, internet, or a “normal” in-person auction.
The condition of the surface of a coin. On weakly struck coins, this is a better indicator grade than is the coins’ detail.
The entire obverse and reverse of a coin, although often used to mean just the field areas.
A procedure in which coins are placed in a bag and shaken vigorously to knock off small pieces of metal. Later these bits of metal are gathered and sold, producing a profit as the coins are returned to circulation at face value. Mainly employed with gold coins, leaving their surfaces peppered with tiny nicks.
Term to describe the toning often seen on commemorative coins which were sold in cardboard holders with a round tab. Coins toned in these holders have a circle in the center and are said to have tab toning.
Term used for coins with circles of color, similar to an archery target, with deeper colors on the periphery often fading to white or cream color at the center.
Slang for J-1776, the unique gold striking of the 1907 Indian Head double eagle. This was the first design submitted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the personal request of then President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. He had requested that the famous sculptor revamp the “mundane” United States coinage along classical Greek and Roman styles.
A coin merchant who sells coins over the telephone. These firms often employ numerous salespersons who usually work from leads.
A sale of coins in which the bids are placed via telephone. This may be accomplished by punching the buttons on a touch-tone phone to indicate the auction, lot number, and bid or by verbal confirmation with an employee of the auction firm.
Slang for an eagle or ten-dollar gold coin.
Common name for an Indian Head eagle.
Common name for a Liberty Head eagle.
A small, direct light source used by many numismatists to examine and grade coins.
Those coins and bars privately struck during the various gold rushes. These include coins not struck in territories. (Georgia and North Carolina were states when Templeton Reid and the Bechtlers struck their coins, but the term is applied to these issues. California also was a state when most issuers struck their coins.)
The Germanic spelling of the silver-dollar size coins from Europe. Our word dollar derives from this word.
Common name for the Indian Head three-dollar gold coin.
Three Cent Nickel
The 75% copper and 25% nickel three-cent coins with Liberty Head motif struck from 1865 to 1889. The design by James Longacre was copied from the Liberty Head motif by Christian Gobrecht.
Three Cent Silver
The three-cent coin with a star motif struck in silver alloy. (The first type of the series was the first United States regular issue struck in debased silver – 75% silver and 25% copper. The other two types were struck in the normal 90% silver and 10% copper alloy.)
A term used to describe a coin that has been doctored in a specific way to cover marks, hairlines, or other disturbances. Often associated with silver dollars, it actually is used on many issues, mainly business strikes. The thumb is rubbed lightly over the disturbances, and the oils in the skin help to disguise any problems.
Color, often vibrant, acquired by coins stored in original Mint paper. Originally, this was fairly heavy paper; later, very delicate tissue. Sometime during the nineteenth century, the Mint began wrapping Proof coins, and occasionally business strikes, in this paper. The paper contained sulfur; as a result, the coins stored in it for long periods of time acquired blues, reds, yellows, and other attractive colors.
A substitute for a coin. These have been issued in the past and are still currently issued in huge quantities. Older ones generally were issued by stores and may not have been accepted at other establishments. The same is true today for most tokens, such as the gaming tokens issued by casinos, these being valid only at that particular establishment (or other casinos affiliated with the same owners).
The term for the color seen on many coins. There are infinite shades, hues, and pattern variations seen, the result of how, where, and how long a coin is stored. Every coin begins to tone as it leaves the die, as all United States coins contain reactive metals in varying degrees.
A line, usually small and fine, found on both genuine and counterfeit coins. On genuine coins, such lines result when Mint workmen touch up dies to remove remnants of an overdate or other unwanted area. On counterfeits, they often appear in areas where the die was flawed and the counterfeiter has attempted to “fix” the problem.
A U.S. silver coin, issued from 1873 until 1885, slightly heavier than the regular silver dollar and specifically intended to facilitate trade in the Far East-hence its name. Trade dollars were made with this marginally higher silver content than standard silver dollars in an effort to gain acceptance for them in commerce throughout the world.
A die created by sacrificing a coin for a model.
A coin struck after a series ends, such as the 1866 No Motto issues. A coin struck before a series starts, such as the 1865 Motto issues. A coin struck with either the obverse or the reverse of a discontinued series, an example being the 1860 half dime With Stars. A coin struck with the obverse or reverse of a yet-to-be-issued series, an example being the 1859 Stars half dime with the Legend-type reverse.
A coin known to have come a shipwreck or from a buried or hidden source.
trial strike or striking
Also see die trial
Term used for a three-cent piece.
A method of weighing gold and silver and the coins made from those metals. There are 480 grains (or 20 pennyweights) in a troy ounce. There are twelve troy ounces in a troy pound.
Synonymous With Draped Bust.
Common term for double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.
Common name for Liberty Head double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.
Two and a Half
Common name for a quarter eagle or two-and-one-half dollar gold coin.
Term commonly used for the Shield two-cent coin struck from 1864 until 1873. This James Longacre designed coin was the first to feature a shield as a stand-alone motif.
A variation in design, size, or metallic content of a specific coin design. Examples include the Small and Heraldic Eagle types of Draped Bust coinage, Large-Size and Small-Size Capped Bust quarters, and the 1943 Lincoln cent struck in zinc-coated steel.
A representative coin, usually a common date, from a particular issue of a specific design, size, or metallic content.
Term for any coin from the first Type within a Series.
Type One Buffalo
A 1913-dated Indian Head five-cent coin with the reverse buffalo (bison) on a raised mound.
Type One gold dollar
The Liberty Head design gold dollar struck from 1849 until mid-1854 in Philadelphia and for the full year in Dahlonega and San Francisco.
Type One nickel
The Jefferson Head five-cent coin struck from 1938 until mid-1942 and from 1946 until the present day.
Type One quarter
The Standing Liberty quarter struck from 1916 to mid-1917. This design features a bare-breasted Miss Liberty, a simple head detail, and no stars under the reverse eagle.
Type One twenty
Those Liberty Head double eagles struck from 1850 until mid-1866. These coins did not have a motto on the reverse and had “TWENTY D.” for the denomination.
Term for any coin from the third Type within a Series.
Type Three gold dollar
The Small Indian Head design struck from 1856 until the series ended in 1889. San Francisco did not receive the Type Three dies in time to strike the new design in 1856, those coins from that Mint being the Type Two style.
Type Three twenty
Those Liberty Head double eagles struck from 1877 until the series ended in 1907. These coins have the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the reverse and had “TWENTY DOLLARS” for the denomination.
Term for any coin from the second Type within a Series.
Type Two Buffalo
An Indian Head nickel with the reverse buffalo (bison) on level ground. These were struck from mid-1913 until the series ended in 1938.
Type Two gold dollar
The Large Indian Head design gold dollar struck from mid-1854 until 1855 in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans while San Francisco did not receive the new dies before the end of 1856 and struck Type Two coins during that year.
Type Two nickel
The Jefferson Head five-cent coin struck from mid-1942 until 1945. These are designated by a large mintmark above Monticello on the reverse and are composed of silver, manganese, and copper. These are the first U.S. coins to have a “P” mintmark to indicate their being struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
Type Two quarter
The Standing Liberty quarter struck from mid-1917 until the end of the series in 1930. This design features a covered-breast Miss Liberty, a more intricate head design, and three stars under the reverse eagle.
Type Two twenty
Those Liberty Head double eagles struck from mid-1866 until 1876. These coins have the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the reverse and had “TWENTY DOL.” for the denomination.
Ultra High Relief
Alternate name for the Extremely High Relief.
Term used for a coin or other numismatic item that is represented by only a few examples.
Short for uncirculated.
Term to indicate a coin or numismatic item that has never been in circulation, a coin without wear. See “Brilliant Uncirculated,” “Mint State,” and “new.”
The individual or entity that executed the bid preceding the winning bid. Close, but no cigar.
Universal Rarity Scale
A collectibles rarity information scale developed in 1998 by 21 major collectibles experts in order to both define rarity within their individual markets and allow collectors and dealers from different collectibles markets to more easily communicate with one another. The Universal Rarity Scale is a 10 point scale.
The least rare collectible items are those where more than 10,000 examples are estimated to exist. These items are designated “UR1” and are described as “readily available.” The rarest items are those where only one example is known to exist. These rarities are designated “UR10” and are described as “unique.”
A machine that raises the outer rim on a planchet prior to striking. Upsetting ensures that the rims are properly formed during striking.
Short for Universal Rarity Scale.
term to describe a coin that has light to heavy wear or circulation.
Common name for the Liberty Head five-cent coins struck from 1883 through 1912. (The 1913 was struck clandestinely and is not listed in Mint reports.)
Unique number assigned to each die combination of Morgan and Peace dollar known to the authors of The Complete Catalog and Encyclopedia of United States Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars. Called VAM because of the authors Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis.
The Morgan and Peace dollar variety book authors. First published in 1971, it was updated and reprinted in 1998.
Variety or varieties
A coin of the same date and basic design as another but with slight differences. PCGS recognizes all major varieties while there are thousands of minor varieties, most of which have significance only to specialists of the particular series. After hubbed dies, introduced in the 1840s, varieties are mainly variations in date and mintmark size and placement.
Short for 1909 VDB Lincoln Head cent. Controversy arose over having a non-Mint engraver’s initials on a coin, so Victor D. Brenner’s initials were removed. This was likely a jealous complaint from the Chief Engraver Charles Barber as the tiny B on the Barber series had generated no outcry.
This is a similar situation to the complaint lodged, again probably by the Chief Engraver of the time William Kneass, against the name-below-base Gobrecht dollars. This overt signing was moved to a less obvious position on the base of the rock of the Gobrecht dollar while, in 1918, the VDB was returned to the Lincoln Head cent albeit in a less conspicuous place on the slanted area at the bottom of Lincoln’s shoulder.
The term corresponding to the grades VF-20, 25, 30, and 35. This has the broadest range of any circulated grade, with nearly full detail on some VF-35 coins and less than half on some VF-20 specimens.
The term corresponding to the grades VG-8 and VG-10. In these grades, between Good and Fine, a coin has slightly more detail than in Good, usually with full rims except on certain series such as Buffalo nickels.
vest pocket dealer
A part-time coin merchant. The term originated with those individuals who roamed the bourse floor ready to whip out of their vests a small plastic coin binder containing coins in two-by-two cardboard holders. Today, not one-in-a-thousand individuals wears a vest, but the moniker stuck.
Mintmark used by the West Point, New York branch mint.
Term applied to the coins struck at the West Point, New York branch mint.
Walking Liberty half dollar
Those half dollars struck from 1916 until 1947. The Walking Liberty design by A.A. Weinman undoubtedly was inspired by the popular Saint-Gaudens/Charles Barber Liberty Standing double eagle then current.
Short for Wartime nickel.
Those five-cent coins struck during World War II comprised of 35% silver, 9% manganese, and 56% copper. Tradition has been that nickel was needed for the war effort, hence the metallic change. However, recent research has shown that the boost to morale by having an intrinsic-value small denomination coin may have played an important part in the issuance of the Wartime nickel.
Short for Washington quarter dollar.
Washington quarter dollar
The John Flanagan designed quarter dollar first struck in 1932 as a circulating commemorative coin. (This was to celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of George Washington’s birth.) It became a continuing series in 1934 and has been struck every year to 1998, albeit with a different reverse in 1976. In 1999, the obverse was redesigned and the State quarter series began to be struck. Each of the 50 State quarters will have a different reverse design with 5 new issues per year for 10 years.
A look seen on the surfaces of most close-collar Proof coins. Highly polished planchets and dies give the surfaces an almost “wavy” look-hence the term.
A term used to describe a coin that does not show intended detail because of improper striking pressure or improperly aligned dies.
An individual who is obsessed with a particular series or group of series. Examples are copper weenies, bust half weenies, etc.
West Point Mint
The West Point Mint was originally opened in 1937 as a bullion depository and was officially designated by Congress as a Mint on March 31, 1988. This mint manufactures American Eagle uncirculated and proof coins, manufactures all sizes of the proof and uncirculated silver, gold and platinum American Eagle coins, manufactures commemorative coins that Congress mandates, and stores platinum, gold and silver bullion. This mint uses the “W” mintmark.
Synonymous with “counting machine mark.”
Term to describe the process of mechanically moving the metal of a lightly circulated coin to simulate luster. Usually accomplished by using a wire brush attachment on a high-speed drill.
The thin, knife-like projection seen on some rims created when metal flows between the collar and the dies. Also, slang for the Wire Edge Indian Head eagle of 1907.
Wire Edge eagle
The 1907 Indian Head eagle for which only 500 coins were struck. Technically, a pattern, this design featured a fine wire rim and surfaces unlike any other United States issue. The fields and the devices of the die were heavily polished leaving myriad die striations that transferred to the struck coins. With a combination of satiny and striated surfaces, these rare coins have a look of their own. Often, unknowledgeable numismatists will look at one of these specimens and declare it hairlined or harshly cleaned.
Wire Edge Ten
Common name for the 1907-dated Wire Edge Indian Head eagle.
Alternate form of wire edge.
Alternate form of arrows at date.
with arrows and rays
Alternate form of arrows and rays.
Alternate form of motto.
Alternate for of rays.
Slang for a coin whose condition is particularly superb.
A die prepared from a working hub and used to strike coins.
A hub created from a master die and used to create the many working dies required for coinage.
Term applied to coins from countries other than the United States.
A die that has lost detail from extended use. Dies were often used until they wore out or were excessively cracked or broke apart. Coins struck from worn dies often appear to be weakly struck but no amount of striking pressure will produce detail that does not exist.
Common name for the second large cent type of 1793. Complaints about the Chain cent led to the redesign resulting in the Flowing Hair with wreath reverse type.
Letter X Y Z
Set of coins for any specific year containing one of each denomination of that year.
Those 1921 Morgan dollars specially struck for numismatist and Mint friend Farran Zerbe. These Proofs are not of the same quality as the other Proof Morgan dollars. The devices on these specimens usually are not frosted while the fields lack the depth of mirror normally associated with Proofs. In fact, the fields are characterized by heavy die polish, the planchets likely not burnished before striking. (Both Philadelphia and San Francisco examples are known.)
A grey inexpensive metal, usually alloyed with copper to make brass coins, but is also used in pure form for emergency coinage when the usual coinage metal is not available due to war or other serious crisis. Much of the coinage struck in Nazi-Occupied Europe was tin-plated zinc.