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Terminology

A

about good

  • one of the lowest grades in most grading standard books. Typically an about good coin is a very worn coin with some outline of the design and a readable date. Falls below below the grade of good.

About Uncirculated

  • Same as "Almost Uncirculated". Sometimes abbreviated as "AU".

abrasion

  • marks or small scratches on the surface of a coin where another coin or object has slid across or bumped the coin. Can also be caused by the coin sliding in a holder or coin drawer. Not as deep or noticeable as bag marks. Usually found on the high parts of a coin or in the open fields (background).

Ag

  • elemental abbreviation for SILVER

AG

  • Same as "About good".

Almost Uncirculated

  • A coin or paper money note that is very close to being uncirculated. Upon first glance it may appear uncirculated. When inspected closely it will have a slight amount of wear or friction. Same as "About Uncirculated". Sometimes abbreviated as "AU".

altered date

  • a coin with the date manipulated or altered after the coin was produced. Often done to try to deceive someone. For example, someone might alter the date of a 1944-D cent to look like a 1914-D cent.

anvil die

  • bottom die. A coin is struck using two dies. One for the obverse (front) of the coin and another for the reverse (back). The anvil die is the one on the bottom, which is usually the reverse. The term comes from when the die was placed on an anvil with the coin blank (planchet) on top. The hammer die (top die) was placed on top of the coin and struck with a hammer. See "hammer die" and "die".

Au

  • elemental abbreviation for GOLD

AU

  • See "About Uncirculated" or "Almost Uncirculated".

B

BU - see Brilliant Uncirculated

bag mark

  • Mark(s) on a coin that occurred during the production process. Come from coins bumping into each other when placed in bags at the mint. Larger size coins typically exhibit more bag marks than smaller ones. A coin can still be uncirculated even if it has obvious bag marks.

blank

  • a blank piece of metal on which a coin design can be stamped. Also called a planchlet. Usually already cut into the shape of a coin - but without any design.

brilliant uncirculated

  • a descriptive term used to indicate an uncirculated coin that still retains a lot of the brilliant luster. Not a heavily toned coin. BU is used to abbreviate brilliant uncirculated.

buffing

  • a polishing of a coin sometimes with an abrasive that leaves a finish that attempts to counterfeit mint luster. A buffed coin often is worth less than one that has not been cleaned. See whizzed.

bullion

  • term used when referring to items made of precious metal. Particularly silver, gold, and platinum. Often produced in the form of ingots, bars, rounds, and coins. Bullion value of a coin would be the "value of the metal" the coin contains.

bullion coin

  • coins made of precious metal and traded at current bullion prices, or at a small premium over bullion.

business strike

  • a coin produced for general use and circulation. Non-business strikes would be coins such as proofs, and special uncirculated coins or sets not intended to circulate.

bust

  • portrait on a coin, usually the head or head and shoulders.

C

COA

  • certificate of authenticity. A paper certificate usually from the issuing mint that declares the coin or item is genuine.

cameo

  • a coin (usually a proof) that has a mirror like background to the surface of the coin and a design that is frosted looking. Special

treatment of the dies (that strike the coins) make this cameo frosted effect. Modern day proof coins are struck from specially treated dies to give this frosted (cameo) appearance. On older proof coins the first produced by a die might have a cameo appearance. Later as the dies starts to wear (or break in) the coins produced will have less and less of the cameo frosting. One with a frosted cameo design will bring a premium, sometimes a substantial one. Even today, some coins sell for more if the cameo effect is more pronounced than the typical coin.

cast coin

  • a coin that was made by pouring melted metal into a mold or cast. Not made by striking a die against a blank like most coins. Casting was a common process used to try to counterfeit coins.

certified

  • A coin determined to be genuine by a coin grading or authentication service. Sometimes graded as well. Often a certified coin is accompanied by a photograph certificate or is sealed in a plastic slab. See "slabbed"

chop marks

  • oriental marks or characters stamped into previously made coins. Often found on silver trade dollars and other precious metal coins. When coins were used for trading purposes a oriental assayer would test a piece of the coin for purity. If it met his approval he would stamp his mark into the coin indicating to others it was pure and accurate weight. Today some collectors specialize in "Chop marked" coins. However, for many coins the chop marks may hurt the value.

circulation

  • coins used in commerce to purchase items by the populace are in circulation. A circulated coin is one that has been used one time or often more. Coins that have any kind of wear from handling, etc are also considered circulated.

clad

  • Clad coinage is a term used to describe coins that have a core of one type of metal and an outer layer of another metal or metals. Clad differs from a plated coin in that the clad blank (or planchlet) is treated to seal the layers of metal together.

clad coin

  • Coins that have a core (center layer) and outer layer made of different metals.(See silver clad)

coin

  • object usually made of flat metal, small and round. Issued by a government as money. Usually, accepted by community as having value.

coin silver

  • means the purity used in silver coins.

collar

  • when a coin is struck the collar on the printing press surrounds the rim of the coin preventing the metal from flowing outside of the collar.

colonials

  • coins produced by the colony states

commem

  • nickname for commemorative. See "commemorative".

commemorative

  • a special coin or medal issued to honor an outstanding person, place, or event. Often one time or short lived production. Many times commemorative coins are not produced for general circulation.

condition

  • The physical state of a coin. Usually indicating the amount of wear. (See grading standards)

contact mark

  • a mark or marks on a coin that happened from coming in contact with another coin or object. Usually contact marks are small. Often this term is used to indicate marks on a coin that are not as obvious as bag marks. However, sometimes it is used to mean the same thing. See "abrasions", "bag mark", or "gouges".

copper nickel

  • A metal alloy of copper and nickel. "Cupro-nickel" is a similar term. See "cupro nickel".

copy

  • refers to a reproduction of a coin or paper note.

corrosion

  • chemical reaction on the surface of a coin. Corrosion can result from a coin coming in contact with other things (chemicals) including chemicals in the air. This can come about because of things coming in contact with the coin years earlier. Corrosion damages a coins surface and is usually worse in copper, nickel, zinc, and silver coins. Some experts think that toning on the surface of a coin may help slow down this harmful process. Also see "toning".

counterfeit

  • a coin or piece of currency that is fake or reproduced in order to make people think it is genuine.

cud

  • when a coin is struck by a broken die the place where the die is broken or missing will often show up as extra metal on the surface of a coin. This extra piece of metal or "cud" can be from a piece of the die being missing or a still intact, but moved.

cull

  • a below grade coin compared to other coins in a roll, tube, or group. Sometimes used to mean a very slick, worn, or defective coin. "Cull it out" - means to remove it from others because of its defects or low grade.

cupro-nickel

  • a mixture of copper, nickel, and possibly other metals. Today this term is most often used to refer to the current coins made by fusing layers of copper and nickel or combination alloy mixtures, resulting in a "sandwich" type of coin.

currency

  • any kind of coins or paper money that is used as a medium of exchange.

D

damaged

  • A damaged coin would be one that has had something happen to it to cause a defect. Examples would be: holes, bent, major nicks, corrosion, scratches, mutilation. Usually makes the coin worth much les than one without any defects.

denomination

  • different values of money.

denticles

  • small tooth like raised areas around the edge of a coin. Often found all around the front (obverse) and back (reverse) of the coin, right next to the edge.

die

  • an engraved metal stamp used for stamping out the design of a coin. The die is often hardened so that when it strikes the metal blank an impression will be left indicating the coins design, value, and wording. See "anvil die" and "hammer die"

die clash

  • damage to a coin die that occurs when the top and bottom dies collide without a coin in the press. The dies will may hit each other with such force that they damage each other leaving a trace of the impression on one or both dies. Resulting coins produced may exhibit "clash marks". Clash marks will show some of the reverse design on the obverse side of the coin, some of the obverse design on the reverse, or both.

die defect

  • damage or defect of a coin die. The coins produced by that die will exhibit the same defects.

double die

  • a coin that shows numbers or letters doubled. Caused by the coin die having been made with a doubled design on parts of it.

E

edge lettering

  • letters or designs made on the side edge of a coin. Most modern day coins have plain or reeded edges. Sometimes called edge device.

engraver

  • an artist who creates a coin's design as a model or sculpture. In earlier days the engraver would actually cut out the design onto the die.

edge

  • the side of the coin. Some coins will have lettering, ornamental designs, or plain edges.

error

  • a coin that has some type of production defect on it. Modern production procedures attempt to keep error coins from being released.

F

face value

  • the exchange value for which a coin is made to be spent or exchanged. Yet if it is silver or a rare date the collector value may be more. Face Value is not its collector or precious metal value.

fair

  • A very heavily worn coin. Date may only be partially visible. One of the lowest grades of a coin.

filler

  • a coin used to "fill in" the place in a collection until a better grade coin can be found or purchased to take its place. Often a low grade or damaged coin may be used as a filler until a nice one can be found.

field

  • the background surface of a coin not used for the design or inscription

fine

  • Fine is a medium grade coin. A Fine coin will have some detail present in the recessed areas. However, it is not sharp and there is a lot of details still missing. You may be pleased to locate a fine grade coin, particularly when the coin is scarce or rare.

first strike

  • the first coins that a coin die makes when it begins minting coins. Sometimes these first strikes will show extra details that are not observable after the die has minted a large number of coins.

friction

  • the rubbing of a coin that’s result in a wear on its surface. Typically, friction causes various degrees of noticeable wear and results in lowering the desire (and value) of a coin. Friction can be caused by a coin sliding in a holder, coin drawer, or even by a good intending collector who tries to "clean" the coin.

frosted proof

  • a proof coin that has a mirror like surface in the background with a frosted (or dull) surface on the design. Some frosted proof coins will bring a premium price.

G

Gem BU

  • means GEM quality Brilliant Uncirculated coin. Indicates that this uncirculated coin shows mint brilliance and is extremely attractive for the type of coin. Some might say it sparkles like a "GEM".

gouges

  • heavy marks on a coin where the metal was gouged out from coming in contact with something. Typically worse than "contact marks" or "bag marks".

grade

  • a rating or clarification that indicates how much wear a circulated coin has. Grades can also indicate the degree of perfection for uncirculated coins.

grading standards

  • a set of criteria indicating how much wear a coin shows.

gram

  • metric weight often used to weigh precious metals. About 31.10 grams are in a troy ounce.

H

hairlines

  • very light lines or scratches on the surface of a coin. Sometimes caused by light cleaning or polishing.

hammer die

  • top die. The hammer die is the top die that is placed on top of the coin blank and struck. Years ago this was done with a hammer. See "anvil die" and "die".

head

  • the obverse or front of most coins. Usually with a portrait of someone but not always.

I

incuse

  • the part of a coin's design that is pressed into the surface. Opposite of relief. Rather than the design being raised up off of the surface of the coin, it is pressed into the metal. See "reeded edge" and "lettered edge"

inscription

  • the words stamped (written) on a coin

intrinsic value

  • the value of the precious metal that a coin is made of. Often called "bullion value"

J

junk silver

  • silver coins of circulated quality. Often used to describe bags or common 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.

     

K

key date

  • a scarce date that is often hard to find to complete a collection. Usually more difficult to find, of lower mintage, or more expensive.

L

legal tender

  • coins, paper money, or other currency issued by a government and used as money. The legal tender value of a coin is the value placed on it by the government. It may be different than the intrinsic value (bullion value) or collector value.

legend

  • the main lettering on a coin.

lettered edge

  • The edge of a coin that has lettering on the outside of it. Usually it is raised, but sometimes incused. Most coins today have a plain edge or "reeded" edge. Having something inscribed or a design on the edge of a coin was prevalent when coins were made of precious metal. Supposedly it made it easier to detect when a coin that had some of its precious metal shaved off the edge. See reeded edge.

M

matte proof

  • matte proof coins are special proofs that have a grainy "sandblasted" look on the surface. Matte proof coins were sometimes made in the early part of the 1900's. Normal proof coins have a mirror like brilliant surface.

medal

  • an object made of metal that resembles a coin. Often medals are made or given to recognize a person, place, or occasion. Medals have no stated value and are not intended to circulate as money. Sometimes a medal may have intrinsic value (bullion value).

medium of exchange

  • something accepted by people as having a certain value that is used to exchange or trade. Often coins and paper money are used as mediums of exchange, but it can be anything.

milled edge

  • coin production process that produces the edge of the coin.

mint

  • place where coins are produced (manufactured).

mint lustre

  • a frosty, satiny, unique shine found on uncirculated coins

mint mark

  • a small letter on a coin that identifies which of the mints the coin was produced at.

mint set

  • a complete set of coins produced by a particular mint (contains one of each denomination). Mint sets usually contain "uncirculated" non-proof coins.

mint state

  • uncirculated

mintage

  • the number of coins produced (the quantity made for that country, date, mintmark, and type of coin)

motto

  • a saying, phrase, or principle sometimes found on a coin.

mylar

  • a clear trademark polyester material used to store coins

N

numismatist

  • a coin collector. Often used to indicate someone who is a serious coin hobbyist or one who studies an area of coin collecting.

numismatics

  • the hobby of coin collecting.

O

oddity

  • when something unusual happens to a coin it is sometimes called an oddity. Can be an "error" that was made at the mint, or something that was done to a coin after the minting of the coin.

obsolete

  • a coin design or series that is no longer being produced.

obverse

  • the front side of a coin. Usually the obverse side of a coin has the main design, date and sometimes mintmark. The back of the coin is called the reverse. In the 1800's obverse and reverse meant the opposite of what they mean today.

off center

  • describes the way a coin was struck by the printing dies. If the coin was not placed properly and the dies strike it off center then parts of the design will be missing from the coin. Sometimes an off-center coin will have part of the blank planchlet showing.

original roll

  • a group of coins that were wrapped in paper wrappers at the time of their production. In early days coins were shipped to banks in cloth bags or kegs. Sometimes later they were shipped in rolls. Silver coins stored in rolls will often have toning on and near the edges but not in the center. Some coins stored in rolls will have fewer marks than those stored or transported in bags or kegs. The number of coins in a roll may vary by denomination and time of issuance.

over strike

  • a coin that instead of being struck on a blank planchet was accidentally struck on a previously struck coin.

P

pattern

  • a coin that was struck as an experiment or as a trial piece. Usually, a new design or made of experimental metal alloys. However, older patterns were released to dignitaries, etc and are legally available to buy or sell in the numismatic market place.

planchet

  • a blank round piece of metal from which the coin is struck. Sometimes called a flan.

precious metal

  • metals of value. Typically gold, silver, platinum. However, can include palladium and rhodium.

proof

  • a coin produced from polished dies and/or planchlets. Most often each proof coin is struck twice/or more which gives the coin a very sharp degree of detail and mirror like surface. Proof coins are usually made for numistmatic purposes, presentations, or souvenirs. Proofs are usually not made to circulated in commerce. Mishandling can lower the value and grade of a proof coin.

proof set

  • a group of the different denominations of the proof coins made for one year. Sometimes packaged as a set by the mint

 

Q

R

raw

  • means the coin has not been slabbed or certified

reeded edge

  • The edge of a coin that has small reed like lines on it. See "lettered edge" and "incused edge".

relief

  • the part of the design that is raised from the surface of the coin.

restrike

  • a coin minted from original dies, however at a later date than originally intended.

reverse

  • the back side of the coin. Opposite of obverse. In the 1800's obverse and reverse meant the opposite of what they mean today. See "obverse".

reverse cameo

  • a coin where the background is frosted looking and the design has a polished mirror like look to it. See "cameo".

riddler

  • a machine that sorts out wrong size/defective blanks (planchets)

rim

  • the raised edge of a coin created by the upsetting mill. The idea being that if the edge on both sides of the coin is raised like the design it will help protect the coins design from wear.

roll

  • a group of coins in the same denomination in a paper wrapper package by banks, dealers, or the Mint. Sometimes a roll is put into a plastic coin tube. The number of coins in a roll depend on the denomination.

rounds

  • coin shaped silver pieces. Not official legal tender, however they may be accurate in bullion weight. Like silver bars only shaped like a coin.

S

series

  • collection of coins of one denomination that contains all the dates and mint marks of that design.

seigniorage

  • the difference between the cost of minting a coin and what the mint gets for it.

show

  • to display or show a group of coins. Coin shows (or bourses) occur often in many areas. There dealers may set up tables to display their inventory in an attempt to sell, buy, or trade coins with the public and / or other dealers.

site unseen

  • an offer to purchase a coin at a certain price without seeing the item. Although site unseen bids are common, the coin will still have to meet the grading criteria from the bidder's perspective. Site unseen bids are most prevalent when any concern over the grade is resolved by a third party grading service, such as with slabbed coins.

slab or slabbed

  • slang for a holder holding a coin that has been encapsulated by a coin grading service. Usually, the coin will graded, authenticated, and encapsulated in a sonically sealed holder, often by a 3rd party grading service.

slab

  • term used to identify a hard plastic encapsulation method that some coin grading services use to package/protect a coin. Usually a slabbed coin is graded and certified by the grading service as genuine. Often slabs are rectangular in shape and sealed to protect the coin from the elements.

slider

  • a term meaning the coin simulates a higher grade than it really is. Often a slider has been cleaned, treated, or whizzed to give the appearance of being uncirculated. Worth less than the coin that has not been cleaned or treated.

strike

  • a process of stamping a design into a coin planchet (blank). Usually metal dies with designs engraved in them are used. If the dies are struck weakly or just average it may effect the coin's value negatively vs. a well struck coin.

spotting or spot

  • a mark or marks on a coin of a different color. Often looking like spots of something on the coin. Usually, it is a form of tarnish or staining. Spotting may have a negative effect on the value of a coin depending on how severe it is, etc. Most professionals will advise you not to try to clean a spot (or spotting) off of a coin, as it may create friction or surface damage that may hurt the coins value even more.

T

tail

  • the reverse or back side of a coin

token

  • Something that looks like a coin, but is not legal tender issued by an official government. For example, parking tokens, video game machine tokens, and casino tokens. Some coin collectors shy away from collecting tokens. However, there are a few small groups of serious token collectors.

toning

  • Shading of color on coins. Toning can be in many forms from dark or brown to various shade of other colors. It can cover the whole coin or more often part of the coin. Toning results when the surface of the coin comes in contact with the air and environment it is exposed to. Traces of material in the metals will also play a roll in toning. Some think toning makes a "protective" coating over the surface of a coin that helps the coin resist corrosion. Toning can be even be artificially done by exposing the coin to certain reactive substances. Some "naturally" occurring toned coins bring a premium in the collector market due to their unique beauty. Others may bring less than an un-toned coin when the toning is unattractive. Also see "corrosion".

two bits

  • see "bits"

two by two

  • nickname for a typical holder for one coin. Measures 2 inches by 2 inches. Often made of cardboard with a clear mylar material in the center. Cardboard 2x2s are not the best way to store coins for the long term.

type

  • coins containing the same or a similar characteristic. Often in a type collection or set the dates do not matter. Rather the collector is interested in obtaining one of each representative design.

type set

  • collection of coins of one denomination.

     

U

unc

uncirculated

  • a new condition coin that does not have any sign of wear. Marks on the coin that may come from the manufacturing process do not keep a coin from being unciruclated. (Example, bag marks.) Even the slightest amount of wear or cleaning will keep a coin from grading uncirculated.

upsetting mill

  • machine used in coin production to raise the rim on both sides of a blank (planchet).

V

vest pocket dealer

  • old timer's term meaning a part time coin dealer. Someone who carries coins to sell/trade in their pockets.

varieties

  • minor differences in the design of a coin.

W

waffled

  • process where the mint destroys defective or worn coins by running them through a waffling machine. This canceling process gives the former coin a waffle like appearance. Coins cancelled in this manner are sold in bulk for scrap metal and often can not be distinguished as a coin, except by their size.

whizzed

  • a whizzed coin has been buffed or polished to give it the appearance of the luster found on a mint coin. Often whizzing is done on a high grade coin to try to sell the coin at a higher grade than it really is. Sometimes done by using a fine brush attachment on a high speed drill. Whizzing a coin may hurt the value of it rather than help it because it actually causes wear to the surface of the coin. See buffing. 

 

X

Y

 

year set

  • coin collection consisting of one of each kind (size and style) of coin issued by a country for a given year. (Mint marks are usually not of concern when collecting year sets.)

Z

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