Coin Terms

The following is a comprehensive list of common coin terms. This glossary can help anyone talk or understand the lingo of experienced collectors and dealers or numismatists.

 

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

A


 

abrasions

    Marks on a coin where another object has displaced metal in an abrasive manner.

adjustment marks

    File marks on coins where excess metal was removed from overweight planchets.

AGW (Actual Gold Weight)

    The amount of pure gold in a coin, not including any other metals.

album friction

    Usually rubbing on the high points of a coin created from pages slid against each other in an album.

album slide marks

    Usually parallel lines created by the plastic slide of an album.

alloy

    A combination of two or more metals.

alteration

    Coin that has been changed in some manner to simulate a more valuable issue.

ancients

    Coins struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 450 A.D.

annealing

    Process of heating a planchet to soften the metal before striking to help prevent cracking.

anvil die

    The lower die on a minting machine.

artificial toning

    Coloring added to the surface of a coin by the use of chemicals or heat.

assay

    To determine the purity of an alloy.

attributes

    The elements, like luster and strike, that make up a coin's grade.

authentication

    Determination of the genuineness of an item.

B


 

bag

    The cloth sacks in which coin are stored and transported.

bag mark

    A mark on a coin made from another coin; Not necessarily the result of being in a bag.

bag toning

    Coloring acquired from the storage bag of coins.

Bank-wrapped rolls

    Rolls of coins wrapped at a Federal Reserve Bank from original Mint bags.

basining

    The process of polishing a die to impart a mirrored surface. Can also be used to remove marks from a die.

bi-metallic

    a coin comprised of two different metals, bonded together.

blank

    Flat disk of metal before it is struck by the dies and made into a coin.

blended

    A term applied to an element of a coin worn into another element.

bourse

    Term synonymous with a coin show.

bourse floor

    The area where a coin show occurs.

branch mint

    A subsidiary mint affiliated with the main mint of a country. In the U.S., any government mint other than the Philadelphia Mint.

brilliant

    A coin with full luster, which may contain extremely light toning at most.

Brilliant Uncirculated

    A generic term applied to any coin that has not been in circulation.

brockage

    A mint error where a sharp incused image has been left on the next coin fed into the chamber.

bronze

    An alloy of mostly copper, with some tin and zinc.

brown

    Term for a copper coin that no longer shows the red color of copper.

BU

    Short for Brilliant Uncirculated.

bust

    a portrait on a coin, usually including the head, neck and upper shoulders.

buckled die

    A die that has warped in some way, producing coins that are slightly bent.

bulged die

    A die that has a small indentation formed in it, producing coins with a bulged area.

bullion

    Term for a precious metal coin, ingot, etc. that trade near their intrinsic metal value.

bullion coin

    A legal tender coin that trades near it's melt value.

burnished strike

    Term where planchets were burnished at the mint prior to striking.

burnishing

    Process of polishing or rubbing of a coin to create a shiny appearance.

burnishing lines

    Lines resulting from burnishing.

burnt

    Term for a coin that has been over-dipped to creating surfaces that are dull.

business strike

    A regular issue coin meant to go into circulation.

C

 


 

C

    Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch Mint.

cabinet friction

    Slight wear on a coin that was stored in a wooden cabinet.

Cameo

    Coins showing frosted devices and lettering that contrast highly with the fields.

capped die

    An error where a coin gets jammed in the press for successive strikes, eventually forming a "cap".

carbon spot

    Spot of oxidation seen on a coin.

Carson City Mint

    Located in Nevada, this mint produced gold and silver coins from 1870-1893.

cartwheel

    The effect seen on some coins when they are rotated giving the viewer an impression the luster is rotating around like a wheel.

cast blanks

    Planchets made by a mold method.

cast counterfeit

    A replication of a coin created by making molds of the obverse and reverse, then casting base metal in those molds.

CC

    Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada branch Mint.

census

    A compilation of the known specimens of a particular coin.

cent

    A denomination valued at one-hundredth of a dollar, sometimes referred to as a"penny"

CH

    An abbreviation for "Choice."

Charlotte Mint

    B branch Mint at Charlotte, North Carolina that operated from 1838-1861 and was closed due to the Civil War.

chasing

    A method used by forgers to create a mint mark on a coin by heating the surface and manipulating the metal to form the mint mark.

choice

    A term to describe an especially attractive example of a particular grade.

circulated

    A term applied to a coin that shows wear consistent with use in commerce.

circulation

    Coins used by the general public for commerce.

circulation strike

    A coin meant for commerce, also known as business strike.

clad

    A term used to describe "sandwich" coins that have layers of copper and nickel.

clash marks

    Coins showing signs of a clashed die where the obverse will have images from the reverse and vice versa.

clashed dies

    Dies damaged by striking each other without a planchet between them, usually creating an obverse image to the reverse die and vice versa.

Classic Era

    The term describing the period from 1792 until 1964 of U.S. coins.

cleaned

    Term to describe a coin whose original surface has been removed.

clip

    A coin struck from a clipped planchet.

clipped

    A term for an irregularly cut planchet.

clogged die

    A die that has some contaminant lodged in the recessed areas creating coins with diminished detail.

close collar

    The edge device, also known as a collar die, that surrounds the lower die.

coin

    Metal formed into standard designs enabling it to be circulated as money with government backing.

coin friction

    Term for an area resulting from coins rubbing together which displaces small amounts of metal.

coin show

    A place where dealers sell and trade coins.

coinage

    The metallic money of a country.

collar

    A metal piece that restrains the expanding metal of a coin during striking.

commemorative

    Coins issued to honor some person, place, or event.

commercial strike

    A synonym for regular strike, circulation strike or business strike.

common

    An issue that is readily available.

common date

    A date of an issue that is readily available.

complete set

    A term for all possible coins within a series.

condition

    The state of preservation for a particular coin.

condition rarity

    A term to indicate a common coin that is rarely found in high grades.

contact marks

    Generally small marks on a coin that are incurred through contact with another coin or a foreign object.

copper spot

    A spot, usually on gold coinage, indicating an area of copper concentration that has oxidized.

copper-nickel

    An alloy composed of copper and nickel.

copy

    Any reproduction of a coin.

corrosion

    Damage that results when reactive elements act upon metal.

counterfeit

    A coin that is not genuine.

counterstamp

    An impression placed on a coin after it has left the Mint of origin.

counting machine mark

    A dense patch of lines caused by the rubber wheel of a counting.

cud

    An area of a coin struck by a die that has a complete break across part of its surface.

cull

    A coin that is usually non-collectible due to its extremely bad condition.

cupro-nickel

    An alloy of copper and nickel.

D


D

    Mintmark used on coins from the Dahlonega, Georgia, Mint from 1838 to 1861 and on coins struck at the Denver, Colorado, Mint from 1906 to the present.

D-Mint

    Term used for coinage struck at the branch Mint in Dahlonega, Georgia, from 1838 to 1861, and coinage struck at the branch Mint in Denver, Colorado, from 1906 to the present.

Dahlonega Mint

    Branch mint located in Dahlonega, Georgia, used from 1838-1861. The Dahlonega Mint struck only gold coins and utilized the "D" mintmark.

date

    The numerals on a coin representing the year in which it was struck.

dealer

    Someone who buys, sells or trades coins.

Deep Cameo

    Coins that have deeply frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the fields.

deep mirror prooflike

    A coin that has deeply reflective mirror-like fields.

denomination

    The face value assigned by a government to a specific coin.

denticles

    The tooth-like devices around the rim visible on many coins.

dentils

    Short for denticles.

Denver Mint

    Branch mint started in 1906 in Denver, Colorado. This mint uses the "D" mintmark.

design

    A particular motif on a coin.

design type

    A specific motif on coins which may be used for several denominations or subtypes.

designer

    The individual responsible for a particular motif used for a coin

device

    Any specific design element.

die

    A steel rod engraved, punched, or hubbed with devices, to create a coin.

die alignment

    Term to indicate the relative position of the obverse and reverse dies to each-other.

die break

    An uncommon area of a coin that is the result of a broken die.

die crack

    A raised, irregular line on a coin that is the result of a hairline break in the die.

die line

    These are the raised lines on the coins resulting from the polish lines on the die.

die rust

    Rust accumulated on a die improperly stored.

die state

    A specific point in the life of a coinage die.

die striations

    Raised lines on coins that were struck with polished dies.

die trial

    A test striking of a die.

die variety

    A coin that can be linked to a given set of dies whose characteristics were imparted to the coins it struck.

die wear

    Deterioration in a die caused by excessive use, resulting in coins of less detail than desired.

dime

    The denomination, one tenth of a dollar, issued since 1796 by the United States.

ding

    Term for a small sized mark.

dipped

    Term applied to a coin that has been placed in a mild acid wash that removes the toning from most coins.

dipping solution

    Acid based solution used to remove toning from coins.

disme

    The original spelling of dime.

doctored

    Term used for a coin that has been enhanced by some means.

dollar

    The denomination, consisting of one hundred cents.

Double Eagle

    Literally two eagles, or twenty dollars.

Double Edge Lettering-Inverted

    A coin sent through the edge lettering device twice, with one set of lettering upside down.

Double Edge Lettering-Overlap

    A coin sent through the edge lettering device twice with both sets of lettering in the same direction.

double(d) die

    A die that has been struck more than once resulting in the doubling of design elements.

double-struck

    A condition that results when a coin is not ejected from the dies and is struck a second time.

drift mark

    A discoloration of a coin resulting from impurities in the die.

dull

    Term for a coin that lacks luster.

E


 

eagle

    A gold coin with a face value of ten dollars.

early strike

    One of the first coins struck from a set of dies.

edge

    The area which borders the coin's surface. Sometimes referred to as the third side.

edge device

    A group of letters or emblems on the edge of a coin.

elements

    The various devices seen on a coin.

engraver

    The person responsible for the design of a coin.

envelope toning

    A term applied to toning that results from storage in paper envelopes which contain reactive chemicals.

environmental damage

    Damage seen on a coin that has been exposed to the elements

error

    A coin that varies from the norm unintentionally.

exergue

    The lower section of a coin or medal, usually divided from the field by a line and often containing the date, mintmark or engraver's initials.

extremely fine

    A grade of coin with nearly full detail and only the high points worn.

eye appeal

    The element of a coin's grade that draws the viewer's attention. The overall appearance of a coin.

F


 

face value

    The stated value on a coin backed by a government.

fair

    A grade consistent with heavy wear. Devices are usually partially visible.

fake

    A counterfeit or altered coin.

field

    The portion of a coin where there is no design element.

fine

    Grade where most of a coin's detail is worn away. Some detail is , but not sharp.

finest known

    The best-known condition of a coin.

flat luster

    A poor type of luster seen on coins struck from worn dies.

flip

    A plastic sleeve in which coins are stored.

flip rub

    Discoloration on the highest points of a coin resulting from contact with a flip.

flow lines

    The lines resulting from the metal flowing outward from the center of a planchet as it is struck.

focal area

    Area of a coin to which a viewer's eye is drawn.

friction

    Slight wear on a coin's high points or in the fields.

frost

    An intense luster (not mirror-like) caused by striking a coin with sandblasted dies.

frosted devices

    Raised elements on coins struck with dies that have received a frosted treatment in their recessed areas.

frosty luster

    The crystalline appearance of coins struck with dies that have frost in their recessed areas.

full strike

    A coin that displays the full detail intended by the designer.

G


 

gem

    Slang term for a superb coin.

gold

    Precious metal that is bright yellow in color. It is dense, soft, shiny and malleable.

Good

    Grade usually with little detail but outlined major devices.

grade

    The condition of a coin.

grading

    The process of identifying the condition of a coin.

H


 

hairlines

    Fine cleaning lines found mainly in the fields of coins.

half rolls

    Rolls issued with one half the number of coins in a roll that would be considered normal today.

hammer die

    The upper die which is usually the obverse.

haze

    A cloudy film on a coin, whether original or added.

high end

    Any coin at the upper end of a particular grade.

holder toning

    Toning acquired by a coin as a result of storage in any holder.

hub

    The steel device from which a die is produced.

I


 

impaired Proof

    A Proof coin that that is no longer in a proof state, such as a circulated Proof.

incomplete strike

    A coin that is missing detail due to a problem during the striking process.

indian Head cent

    U.S. cents struck from 1859 until 1909 with an Indian head design.

intrinsic value

    The value of the metal(s) contained in a coin.

K


 

key coin

    The most important coin in a particular series.

L


 

lamination

    A piece of metal that has nearly become detached from a coin.

legal tender

    Coins issued by a government which can be used to pay debts and for commerce.

legend

    A phrase appearing on a coin..

lettered edge

    A coin edge that displays an inscription or other design elements other than plain or reeded.

Liberty

    The symbolic figure used in many coin designs.

light line

    The band of light seen on photographs of coins.

Lincoln cent

    The Victor D. Brenner designed cent first struck in 1909.

Lincoln penny

    Slang for Lincoln Head cent.

lint mark

    A repeating depression on a coin caused by a thread that adhered to a die during striking.

loupe

    A small magnifying glass used to examine coins.

luster

    The glossy brilliance of a coins reflecting the light off the flow lines.

lustrous

    Coins that still have original mint bloom.

M


 

marks

    Imperfections acquired after striking.

master die

    The main die produced from the master hub which is used to create many working hubs.

master hub

    The original hub created by the portrait lathe which is used to create master dies.

melt

    Term for the intrinsic value of the metals composing a particular numismatic item.

Mercury dime

    Slang for the Winged Liberty Head dime issued from 1916 until 1945.

metal stress lines

    Radial lines resulting from the metal flowing outward from the center of the planchet during the minting process.

milling mark

    A mark resulting from the reeded edge of one coin hitting the surface of another.

mint

    A coining facility.

mint set

    A set of uncirculated coins from a year comprising coins from each Mint that produced them.

Mint State

    A grade of a business strike coin that has never been in circulation. It may have many marks, or none at all.

mintage

    The number of coins of a particular date struck at a given mint during a particular year.

mintmark

    The tiny letter(s) used to denote the mint at which a particular coin was struck.

mis-struck

    Error coins that have striking irregularities.

mishandled Proof

    A Proof coin that has been circulated, cleaned, or otherwise treated to reduce its condition.

missing edge lettering

    A coin which does not display any of the intended design on the edge of the coin

Morgan dollar

    The common term used for the Liberty Head silver dollar struck from 1878 until 1904 and again in 1921.

mottled toning

    Uneven toning.

motto

    An inscription or phrase on a coin.

mule Error

    Error where the obverse die is of one coin and the reverse die is of another coin.

mutilated

    A coin that has been damaged to the point where it no longer can be graded.

N


 

new

    A coin that never has been in circulation.

New Orleans Mint

    Branch mint operated in New Orleans, Louisiana from 1838 until 1861 and again from 1879 to 1909. This mint uses the "O" mintmark.

nickel

    Popular term for a five-cent piece struck in cupro-nickel alloy.

numismatics

    The science of money.

numismatist

    One who studies or collects money.

O


 

O

    Mintmark for coins struck at the New Orleans, Louisiana branch Mint.

O-Mint

    Coinage of the branch Mint in New Orleans, Louisiana.

obverse

    The front, or heads side, of a coin.

off center

    A coin struck on a blank that was not properly centered over the anvil.

orange-peel surfaces

    The dimple-textured fields seen on many gold proof coins.

original

    A coin that never has been dipped or cleaned, or a coin struck from original dies in the year whose date it bears.

original roll

    Coins in fixed quantities wrapped in paper and stored at the time of their issuance.

original toning

    Term for the color acquired naturally by a coin.

over -mintmark

    A coin struck with a die on which one mintmark is engraved over a another mintmark.

over dipped

    A coin that has become dull from too many dips in an acid solution.

overdate

    A coin struck from a die with a date that has one year punched over a previous year.

P


 

P

    Mintmark used by the main mint located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

P-Mint

    Term applied to the coins struck at the main Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

partial edge lettering

    A coin that has at least one complete letter or star missing on the edge.

patina

    Synonym for toning.

pedigree

    A listing of a coin's current owner plus all known previous owners.

penny

    Slang for a one-cent coin.

peripheral toning

    Coloring around the edge of a coin.

Philadelphia Mint

    The "mother" Mint, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which opened in 1792. This mint currently uses the "P" mintmark but coins produced prior to 1980 have no mintmark.

Piedfort

    A term that means "double thick."

plain edge

    A flat, smooth edge.

planchet

    The blank disk of metal before it is struck by a coining press which transforms it into a coin.

planchet defects

    Various abnormalities found on coin blanks including drift marks, laminations, clips, etc.

planchet flaw

    An irregular hole in a coin blank.

planchet striations

    Fine, incuse lines found on coins, usually the result of polishing blanks to impart mirror like surfaces prior to striking.

plated

    A term used to describe a coin to which a thin layer of metal has been applied.

platinum

    Precious metal of extremely high value.

plugged

    A coin that has had a hole filled with a base metal to replace a more valuable metal.

polished die

    A die that has been basined to remove clash marks or other die defects.

poor

    A coin grade with readable date and mint marks, but little more.

porous

    A rough or granular surface.

PR

    Short for Proof.

premium quality

    Coins that are the deemed to be the best examples within a particular grade.

presentation striking

    A coin specially struck and given to a dignitary or other person.

press

    Any of the various machines used to produce coins.

pristine

    A term applied to coins in original condition.

proof

    A coin usually struck from a specially prepared coin die on a specially prepared planchet, which results in much sharper detail.

proof set

    A coin set containing Proof issues from particular year.

Proof dies

    Specially prepared dies, often sandblasted or acid-picked, that are used to strike Proof coins.

proof-only issue

    A coin struck only in Proof with no business-strike coins of the same design produced.

prooflike

    A coin that has mirror-like surfaces.

put-together roll

    A roll of coins that is not original but has been rolled from coins that has been "picked-over".

PVC damage

    A film left on a coin after storage in flips that contain PVC.

PVC flip

    A soft coin flip that contain PVC.

Q


 

quarter

    Short for a coin of the quarter dollar denomination.

questionable toning

    Term to describe the color on a coin that may not be original.

R


 

rainbow toning

    Term for toning of coins that includes all colors of the rainbow.

rare

    A term indicating that a coin within a series is very difficult to find.

rarity

    Relative unavailability of a coin..

rays

    Term for the lines that represent sun rays on coins.

red

    Term used for a copper coin that retains 95 percent or more of its original color.

red-brown

    Term used for a copper coin that has from 5 to 95 percent of its original color remaining

reeded edge

    The grooved notches on the edge of some coins.

reeding mark(s)

    Marks caused when the reeded edge of one coin hits the surface of another coin.

regular issue

    Coins struck for commerce..

regular strike

    Coins struck with normal methods on ordinarily prepared planchets. Synonymous with business strike.

relief

    The height of the devices of a design in relation to the fields.

replica

    A reproduction of a particular coin.

restrike

    A coin struck later than indicated by its date.

retoned

    A coin that has been dipped or cleaned and then has reacquired its tone.

reverse

    The back, or tails side, of a coin..

rim

    The raised area around the edges of the obverse and reverse of a coin

rim nick

    A mark on the rim of a coin or .

roll

    A set number of coins rolled in a coin wrapper.

roll friction

    Minor marks seen on coins stored in rolls.

rolled edge

    Term synonymous with rim.

roller marks

    Term to describe the mostly parallel incuse lines seen on some coins after striking.

rub

    Term for slight wear.

S


 

S

    Mintmark used by the San Francisco, California branch mint.

S-Mint

    Term applied to the coins struck at the San Francisco, California branch Mint.

San Francisco Mint

    The United States branch Mint in San Francisco, California. It operated from 1854 until 1955, reopening again in 1965. This mint utilizes the "S" mintmark.

satin luster

    Fine luster seen on many business strike coins.

scratch

    A detracting line that is more severe than a hairline mark.

second toning

    Any toning that results after a coin is dipped or cleaned.

semi-common

    Term to denote coins that are somewhere between common and rare.

semi-prooflike

    A coin that has some mirror-like surface mixed with satin or frosty luster.

series

    A particular design or motif used over a period of time.

set

    A collection of coins in a series, or a collection of types, or a collection from a particular Mint.

shield

    The emblem used on some coins in the shape of a shield.

shotgun rolls

    Rolls of coins that contain double the normal amount of coins in a roll or a paper-wrapped roll that is machine-crimped like the end of a shotgun shell.

silver

    A soft, white, lustrous precious metal.

slab

    Holder in which a coin is encapsulated.

slabbed

    The process of encapsulating a coin in a sonically sealed holder.

splotchy toning

    Color that is uneven.

spot

    A discolored area on a coin.

steel cent

    Common name for the 1943 U.S. cents.

Sterling Silver

    Sterling silver is a composition of 925 parts pure silver with 75 parts of copper.

strike

    Term to indicate the presence of a coin's intended detail or a term signifying the act of minting a coin.

strip

    The flat metal from which planchets are cut.

struck

    A term used to describe a coin produced from dies..

struck thru

    An error caused by a foreign object between the dies and the planchet.

surface preservation

    The condition of the surface of a coin.

surfaces

    The obverse and reverse of a coin.

sweating

    A procedure in which coins are placed in a bag and shaken vigorously to knock off small pieces of metal which are then melted down and resold. This produces small nicks in the original coins.

T


 

token

    A substitute for a coin.

toning

    The term for the color seen on many coins, which can occur in many hues.

tooling mark

    A line, usually small and fine, resulting from a reworking of the die to remove unwanted elements.

transfer die

    A die created by sacrificing a coin to create a model.

troy weight

    A method of weighing gold and silver. There are 480 grains (or 20 pennyweights) in a troy ounce. There are twelve troy ounces in a troy pound.

type

    A variation in design, size, or content of a specific coin design.

type coin

    Any coin of a particular design and denomination, usually one of the more common dates of any specific series.

U


 

ultra high relief

    Alternate name for the Extremely High Relief.

ultra rarity

    A coin that is represented by only a few examples.

Unc

    Short for uncirculated.

Uncirculated

    A coin that has never been in circulation or without wear.

V


 

variety

    A coin with the same date and design as another coin, with only slight differences.

Very Fine

    Grading term encompassing coins with nearly full detail down to coins with less than half detail.

W, X, Y and Z


 

W

    Mintmark used by the West Point, New York branch mint.

W-Mint

    Term applied to the coins struck at the West Point, New York branch mint.

watery look

    A look seen on the surfaces of most close-collar Proof coins where the surface portrays a wavy appearance.

weak edge lettering

    A coin where the edge lettering has a portion of a letter/star or inscription missing.

weak strike

    A coin that does not contain the intended detail because of improper striking pressure.

West Point Mint

    The West Point Mint was originally opened in 1937 as a bullion depository and starting as a minting facility in 1988. This mint uses the "W" mintmark.

whizzing

    The process of mechanically moving the metal of a coin to simulate luster.

wire edge

    K knife-like projection seen on rims created when metal flows between the collar and the dies.

working die

    A die used to strike coins.

working hub

    A hub used to create the working dies.

worn die

    A die that has lost its' detail from extended use.