About Good: a
grading term for a coin that is so badly worn that you can barely
recognize the type and date.
a grading term used to describe a coin that is nearly new.
friction, a shallow scrape, or a mark on the surface of a coin.
harsh cleaning agent that destroys the surface of a coin.
disorganized pile of coins just waiting for a numismatist’s touch to
turn it into a coin collection.
scratches made when a file is used to lower the weight of a planchet
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: a holder
designed to store and display coins.
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 blend
of different metals.
another way of saying About Uncirculated.
altered coin: a
coin that has been changed in any way to make it appear more
Association: the leading organization for collectors of U.S.
abbreviation for the American Numismatic Association.
third-party grading service in Sidney, Ohio.
ancient: an old
coin struck before Medieval times.
The heating of a die or planchet to
soften the metal before preparation of the die or striking of the
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
estimate of a coin’s worth.
fake colors on a coin that usually hide flaws.
special characteristic of a coin or the act of identifying a coin.
the variety of a coin according to specialized reference works.
abbreviation for About (or Almost) Uncirculated.
method of offering and selling coins to the highest bidder.
determining whether a coin is real or not.
bag: the heavy
cloth bag used by the Mint to ship coins.
nicks and dings caused when coins smack into each other.
Dimes, Quarter Dollars, and Half Dollars designed by Charles Barber
and issued from 1892 to 1916.
raised design elements in a sunken area.
a decorative, outer ring of tiny raised beads found on some coins.
wholesale buy price offered by coin dealers.
who bids in an auction.
the unique number assigned to you at an auction, used to properly
record who bought what.
alloy containing a small amount of silver mixed with a base metal.
of a Spanish 8 Reales “Piece of Eight. Two bits equal a quarter
(hence, the cheer: …two bits, four bits, six bits, a Dollar)
blank: the disk
of metal that is later stamped to make a coin.
defects on the surface of a coin.
popular price guide used for buying coins. Guess what color the
popular weekly price guide for certified coins. Guess what color
the paper is.
bourse: a coin
show where dealers buy and sell among themselves and with the
Braided Hair: a
design type found on Half Cents and Large Cents dating from 1839 to
any U.S. Mint other than the Philadelphia Mint (the “mother” of all
brass: a yellow
alloy of copper and zinc.
the feathers on the chest of the eagle, usually the highest point on
the back of many U.S. coins, especially Morgan Dollars.
to describe the flashy luster of a coin.
Uncirculated: a “brand new” coin that is bright and flashy.
error coin struck outside of its collar, resulting in an expanded
reddish alloy of copper and a small amount of tin.
color of copper coins that have toned down from their original,
bright red color.
abbreviation for Brilliant Uncirculated.
BU rolls: set
quantities of coins that are Brilliant Uncirculated. Example: a BU
roll of Morgan Dollars has 20 coins, all Uncirculated.
the popular 5 Cent piece with an Indian Head on the front and a
buffalo on the back, issued from 1913 to 1938.
bulged die: a
coin with wavy, concave or convex surfaces caused by a defective
metal, usually gold or silver in ingot or round form. It is the pure
form of a precious metal such as gold, silver, copper, or platinum,
from which coin metal alloys are made. The U.S. Gold Eagle is not
really pure bullion; it is an alloy of 91.67% gold, 3% silver, and
5.33% copper, although the total amount of gold content weighs out
to a solid ounce. The U.S. Silver Eagle and the U.S. Gold American
Buffalo are both considered to be true bullion coins, since their
alloy is at least 99.9% pure.
bullion coin: a
coin that has no collector premium above the value of its metal.
burnished strike (planchet):
These planchets were burnished at the Mint prior to the striking of
altering the surfaces of a coin to make it look better than it
actually is. Burnishing is a bit more aggressive than polishing.
a coin struck for use in circulation.
the United States Silver Dollars issued from 1795 to 1804.
the premium charged to a successful bidder at auction, added to the
hammer price (final bid) of each lot. In recent years, the buyer’s
fee has risen from zero percent to fifteen percent.
C: the mintmark
of the U.S. Mint at Charlotte, North Carolina.
faint rub on the highest points of coins, usually caused by sliding
around in a tray.
cameo: a coin
that has frosty devices and brilliant fields.
a measure of how frosty the devices are versus how deeply mirrored
the fields are.
Capped Bust: a
design type used on American coins from 1807-1839.
carbon spot: a
small spot of corrosion or oxidation on a coin caused by a spot of
moisture. When you talk around coins - Say it, don’t spray it!
official U.S. Mint in Carson City, Nevada that issued coins from
1870 to 1893.
dazzling, swirling effect reflected when a coin is turned under a
light source. The more dazzling the “cartwheel,” the more desirable
a fake coin made by pouring melted metal into a mold. These will
usually fail the ring test.
printed listings offered by coin dealers at auction or fixed
prices. These are often great sources of information and
mintmark of the U.S. Mint at Carson City, Nevada.
abbreviation for the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter (also known as
the “Blue Sheet”).
abbreviation for the Certified Coin Exchange.
abbreviation for the Coin Dealer Newsletter (also known as the “Grey
census: no, I
don’t care who lives in your house! This is a listing of coins,
usually the best ones known for that date. Specialists often refer
to this as the “Condition Census.”
Cent: the U.S.
coin valued at one-hundredth of a Dollar. Commonly known as the
authenticated and graded by any of the independent, third-party
Dealer Newsletter: a weekly publication that records dealer Bid
and Ask prices for certified U.S. coins.
Exchange: an electronic system that allows dealers to trade in
certified U.S. coins.
issued in 1793, this coin had a chain of 13 links on the reverse
that was supposed to represent the original American colonies.
However, some people thought the chain represented bondage, so it
was quickly replaced with a wreath!
official U.S. Mint at Charlotte, North Carolina that issued coins
from 1838-1861. Mintmark “C.”
buying a coin at a price way below its true value. This is where
your knowledge can make you money!
Usually used with other grading terms, for example, “Choice Very
Fine” or “Choice Uncirculated.”
equal to Mint State 63 on a scale of 1 to 70.
small mark punched onto coins (usually Trade Dollars) by Asian
merchants who “certified” the coins authenticity and value.
coin that is worn and no longer Uncirculated.
anywhere a coin is used or where it might become worn. This can
include banks, your pocket, your piggy bank, gumball machines, the
store…you name it.
a coin that was made to be used and spent. The opposite are Proof
coins that are made specially for collectors and are not meant to be
made of layers of metal. Examples include our modern Dimes,
Quarters, Half Dollars, and One Dollars that have centers of copper
and outer layers of a copper-nickel alloy.
the damage caused when dies smash into each other with no coin blank
between them. Clash marks can be minor, severe, or anything
design type used on U.S. Half Cents from 1809-1836 and gold coins
from 1834 and 1839.
cleaned: a coin
that has dirt or toning removed with a cleaning agent. Cleaning
ranges from light to severe, depending on what is used to clean the
coin. Cleaning may disqualify a coin from being certified. TIP:
leave cleaning to the professionals, as cleaning generally lowers
the collector value of a coin.
missing portion of the edge of a coin caused when coin blanks are
punched improperly out of metal strips.
clipped: a coin
that has a portion missing out of the edge because the planchet was
cut improperly or someone removed some of the metal.
cutting a small amount of silver or gold from the edge of a coin for
coin: a round
piece of metal to which designs have been applied and a value
a carefully organized grouping of coins that have been identified,
classified, and valued.
a person, like you, who loves coins and wants to own as many as
Newsletter: a weekly publication popularly known as the
“Greysheet” that lists dealer Bid and Ask prices for U.S. coins.
someone who attempts to improve the appearance of a coin by
cleaning, repairing, plugging and/or any other deliberate
coin show: a
gathering of coin dealers in a public place for the purpose of
meeting and trading with collectors and other dealers.
Coin World: the
weekly numismatic newspaper published by Amos Press of Sidney, Ohio.
monthly numismatic magazine published by Miller Magazines, Inc.
the monthly numismatic magazine published by Krause Publications of
edge die of a coin that prevents the coin from spreading out when it
organized accumulation of coins.
anyone who accumulates coins in a systematic, organized manner.
coin issued by, or used in, any of the American colonies. Includes
some foreign coins.
a coin struck specially to honor a place, event, or person.
Commemorative coins are generally sold at a premium and are not
meant to circulate.
common: a coin
that is readily available and inexpensive.
common date: a
coin that is readily available and inexpensive.
grade of a coin.
a listing of the top examples known of a given coin. For instance,
the Condition Census for Large Cents includes the best examples
known of a particular variety.
a coin that is common in low grade but very rare in high grade. For
example, some coins are unknown in Uncirculated condition.
the coins that are given to an auction house or dealer to sell.
person whose coins are sold at auction or by a dealer.
any marks on a coin that occur from contact with another coin or
counterfeit: a fake made close to the date that appears on the
Dollars: large coin struck in 1776, usually in Pewter,
considered by many to be the first U.S. Silver Dollar.
the reddish spots of color that occasionally appear on gold coins
due to oxidation of the small amount of copper in the alloy.
an alloy used on United States coins that mixes Copper and Nickel in
the Flying Eagle and Indian Head Cents struck from 1856 to 1864.
copy: a replica
of a real coin, usually meant to deceive.
copy dies: dies
made officially or illegally from either actual coinage dies or
design type of a head of Liberty with a crown-like ornament. Used
on U.S. copper coins from 1816-1857 and U.S. gold coins from
pitting or green oxidation that appears on the surfaces of coins.
Light corrosion is called “porosity,” moderate corrosion is called
“granularity,” and heavy corrosion is called “pitting.”
cud: a raised
area on a coin caused when a chip of metal falls off a die.
cull: a coin
worn almost completely smooth.
recently developed term to describe coins that have been cleaned,
but where the cleaning has been so light and well done that it is
impossible to tell. Curation will not disqualify a coin from being
D: the mintmark
of the U.S. Mints at Denver, Colorado and Dahlonega, Georgia.
abbreviation for coins struck at the Denver or Dahlonega Mints.
official U.S. Mint at Dahlonega, Georgia that struck gold coins from
1838 to 1861.
defects or problems that affect a coin after it is struck.
date: the year
in which a coin is struck.
person who buys and sells coins, hopefully at a profit.
Deep Cameo: a
coin that shows heavy contrast between the frosted devices and the
Prooflike: a coin struck for circulation that has extremely
reflective surfaces. You can see yourself in these impressive
the face value of a coin, as stated on the coin. Examples:
denominations include Half Dollars, $2.50 gold, Three Cents, etc.
tooth-like outer borders on some coins.
official U.S. Mint at Denver, Colorado that struck coins from 1906
design: the art
and lettering that appear on coins.
the name given to the design on a particular U.S. coin.
person who creates the design of a coin. He/she may also be the
device: any of
the design elements on a coin.
die: the steel
cylinder with a design on it used to strike one side of a coin.
die break: a
fracture in a die that can range from a small crack to sinking of a
major portion of the die.
die crack: fine
lines of raised metal that are transferred to a coin when the die
cracks under pressure.
die rust: dies
are made of steel and occasionally rust, causing pits in the die and
raised bumps of metal on the coins struck from those dies.
die state: the
status of a die relative to wear, breaks, and condition.
every die is unique, especially early U.S. dies engraved by hand. A
die variety is a unique combination of obverse and reverse dies.
Some die varieties can be extremely rare.
Dime: U.S. coin
with a face value of Ten Cents.
ding: a small
mark on the surface or edge of a coin.
dip: to clean a
coin in a chemical bath to remove toning.
spelling of “Dime,” pronunciation believed to be “Deem” (from the
abbreviation for Deep Mirror Prooflike (used by PCGS).
coin that has been cleaned, altered, repaired, or otherwise
“improved” to make it more valuable.
official U.S. denomination equal to 100 Cents or 1/10 of an Eagle.
official name for a $20 gold piece.
doubled die: a
die or coin on which the details appear doubled.
a coin that has been struck twice from the dies.
abbreviation for Deep Prooflike (used by NGC).
design type used on many U.S. coins from 1795-1807.
usually referring to the lack of luster.
eagle: the bird
that appears on the backs of most U.S. silver and gold coins. Also,
the official term for a U.S. $10 gold piece.
early release: NGC offers the
Early Releases designation for coins received by NGC during their
first month of release. (similar to PCGS First Strike)
edge: known as
the third side of a coin, this is the surface that encircles a coin.
any marking, lettering or ornamentation on the edge of a coin.
abbreviation for Extra Fine or Extremely Fine.
well-made, deceptive copy of a coin created by joining two halves
together over a lead center. Only one electrotype can be made at a
time. Electrotypes will fail the ring test and close examination
will reveal a seam along the edge.
natural alloy of gold and silver, used to make some of the first
various designs, lettering, and markings on a coin.
placed in a sealed plastic holder by any of the independent,
third-party grading services.
person who actually cuts the design of a coin into the die.
damage: damage to a coin caused by the elements (pollution,
moisture, and excess oxidation).
error: a coin
that results from a mistake in the coining process.
guess as to what a coin will sell for at auction, usually based on
price guides and comparable sales.
section of a coin, separated by a dividing line.
who knows as much as possible about a numismatic subject. Expertise
can be gained through study or examination of many coins.
Extra Fine: a
well-preserved coin with a grade range from 40 to 49 on a grading
scale of 1 to 70.
same as Extra Fine.
eye appeal: the
visual aspects of a coin. Coins with nice eye appeal are worth a
face value: the
value that is stated on a coin. For example: the face value of a
Dime is Ten Cents; the collector value of the same coins may be
Fair: a grading
term for a coin that is so worn that it is barely identifiable as to
counterfeit coin meant to deceive.
fantasy: a coin
that has nothing to do with reality.
fasces: the ax
bound in a bundle of sticks that appears on the back of Mercury Head
Dimes struck from 1916 to 1945.
field: the flat
surfaces of a coin that surround the designs and legends.
Fine: a grade
range from 11 to 19 on a grading scale of 1 to 70.
percentage of metal in gold and silver coins. Example: a 1964 Dime
has a fineness of 90%.
the coin ranked as the best example known of a denomination, type,
date, or variety.
first strike: designation for
the the first or one of the earliest coins, struck from a pair of
dies. These may be Prooflike, well struck and nearly perfect.
Beginning in 2005, PCGS began designating coins "first strike"
packaged and delivered by the U.S. Mint in the 30 day period
following the initial sales date of a new product release. (similar
to NGC Early Release)
nickname for the silver Three-Cents issued from 1851-1873.
fixed price list:
a published listing of a dealer’s inventory, priced for sale.
the blank piece of metal on which a coin is struck.
variety of 1907 $20 “High Relief” gold coins that has a flat
border. The edge on this coin is actually lettered!
reduced brilliance due to dark toning, impaired surfaces, or
flip: a coin
holder (usually 2” x 2”) made of clear, soft plastic, with pockets
on both sides. Some contain the dreaded PVC!
when a coin is struck, the metal flows outward from the center,
resulting in microscopic lines that add to the luster of a coin.
design type on most copper and silver U.S. coins struck from
Flying Eagle: design type of U.S.
Small Cents from 1856-1858; also the reverse of the 1836-1839
Flying Eagle Cent:
the One Cent coin struck from 1856-1858.
microscopic carbon spots on the surface of a coin.
piece: a pattern coin issued in gold in 1879 and 1880, nicknamed
Dollar: the U.S. Half Dollars struck from 1948 to 1963 with the
head of Benjamin Franklin on the front.
rub or wear on a coin.
frost: on Uncirculated coins, a
crystalline luster. On Proof coins, the slightly grainy finish that
is given to the devices.
raised design elements that still have a white, slightly grainy
finish. Opposite: brilliant devices.
luster that is crisp, bright, and slightly crystalline in
copper coins struck in 1787 by private minters under contract with
the U.S. government. Many of the design elements are credited to
Mercury Head Dimes that have fully defined bands on the fasces.
Only well struck coins will have these features.
Full Bell Lines:
Franklin Half Dollars that have clearly defined horizontal lines on
the bottom of the bell on the reverse. Only well struck coins will
have these features.
Standing Liberty Quarter Dollars that have full details on Liberty’s
head. Only well struck coins will have these features.
Full Steps: a
Jefferson Nickel with complete details on the steps leading up to
Monticello, indicating a rare full strike.
full strike: a
coin that has complete details thanks to a crisp, bold stamp from
exceptionally beautiful and well struck coin.
a grade range of 65 to 66 on a scale of 1 to 70.
U.S. Silver Dollars designed by Christian Gobrecht and struck from
1836 to 1839.
gold: a soft,
precious metal of yellow color.
U.S. coins issued in gold, in a variety of denominations, to
commemorate various events or important people in American history.
the U.S. $1 gold coins struck from 1849-1889.
Good: a grading
term for a coin that is very worn but which has most of the devices
determination of the degree of wear (or lack thereof) on a coin.
usually, an expert that determines the grade of a coin for an
independent, third-party grading service.
art or skill of determining the condition of a coin.
nickname for the Coin Dealer Newsletter.
fine, thin surface scratch that is usually caused by wiping a coin
with a cloth. Hairlines affect grades and values negatively,
depending on how many are present.
Half Cent: the
U.S. copper coins struck from 1793 to 1857 worth one-half of one
Half Dime: the
U.S. silver coins struck from 1794 to 1873 worth five Cents..
Half Disme: the
1792 Half Dime (believed to be pronounced “Half Deem”, after the
the Fifty Cents coins struck from 1794 until today.
Half Eagle: the
official government term for a Five Dollars gold piece.
halogen light: an extremely bright
light that is often used to grade coins.
haze: a light
film on a coin caused by oxidation or PVC.
design type that shows an eagle with outspread wings and a shield on
its chest. Used on many U.S. coins from 1795 until today.
the tops of the design elements on a coin, where wear is most likely
variety of the 1907 $20 gold piece designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens
on which the design elements are much higher than usual.
hoard: an accumulation of the same
type or types of coins.
hoard coin: a
coin that is known to have originated from a hoard.
person who builds a hoard.
Hobo nickel: a
Buffalo Nickel with the Indian’s head re-engraved into amusing
holed: a coin
that has a hole drilled through it, usually so that it can be worn
hub: a die with
an incuse design, used to make dies for coining.
a Proof coin that has been spent, cleaned, or otherwise damaged.
a normal light bulb, usually 75 Watts, used to grade coins.
a coin that has parts of the design missing or weak. This can be
caused by poor pressure, mis-aligned dies, or foreign matter on the
to designs or lettering that are impressed into a coin (instead of
being raised). The best examples of this are the $2.5 and $5 Indian
gold pieces issued from 1908-1929.
Indian Head cent:
the U.S. One Cent coins struck from 1859-1909.
Indian Head Eagle:
the U.S. $10 gold coins struck from 1907-1933.
the U.S. One Cent coins struck from 1859-1909.
the wording or legends on a coin.
the metal or bullion value of a coin, regardless of the face or
person who buys or collects coins with the intent to make a profit.
refers to the brightness or reflectivity of toning on a coin.
the U.S. Five Cents coins struck from 1938 until today.
key: the coin in a series that is the
hardest to obtain and generally the most valuable.
knife edge: the
wire rim caused when metal squeezes between the die and the collar
under extreme pressure.
lamination: a “peeling” defect in a
planchet caused by air or impurities when the planchet strip is
Large Cent: the
U.S. One Cent coins struck from 1793 to 1857.
large date: the opposite of a small
date. This is a relative term.
legend: any of
the wording or lettering on a coin. A motto can be a legend.
an edge of a coin that has been imprinted with raised or incuse
of the letters or words that appear on a coin or its edge.
female embodiment of the American concept of freedom and liberty.
Miss Liberty is a favorite subject on U.S. coins and she has
appeared in a number of different forms.
design type of U.S. copper coins struck from 1793-1796.
any of the anonymous female heads that have appeared on U.S. coins.
the Five Cents coins struck from 1883 to 1913, with a head of
Liberty on the front and a large V on the back.
design type used on U.S. silver coins struck from 1836 to 1891.
the U.S. One Cent piece struck from 1909 until today.
high-power magnifying glass used to examine coins.
shiny quality of new metal. Luster decreases as wear increases.
coin that is bright and shiny.
mail bid sale:
a type of auction that accepts bids only by mail, fax, phone, etc.
and where no bids are accepted from the floor.
a design change that is obvious but not significant enough to
warrant a change in the type.
marks: the defects caused when a coin
is hit by foreign objects or other coins.
Matte Proof: a
Proof coin with dull, slightly grainy surfaces. Applies to Proof
coins struck from 1908-1916, Peace Dollars 1921-1922, and some
modern Jefferson Nickel Proofs.
circular piece of metal that looks like a coin but has no value
stamped on it.
bullion or intrinsic value of a coin.
the U.S. Ten Cent pieces struck from 1916 to 1945. The front of
these coins has a head of Liberty wearing a winged cap, supposedly
representing freedom of thought, and looking slightly like the Roman
milling mark: a contact mark on a coin
caused by the reeded edge of another coin.
a difference between two coins that is insignificant.
official government building where coins are struck.
quantity made of a coin.
mint error: a coin that was improperly
struck at the mint. See: Error.
mint set: a
specially packaged set of Uncirculated coins produced and sold by
the U.S. Mint.
mint set toning:
the sought-after, beautiful toning created by the paper holders of
U.S. mint sets from 1947 to 1958.
“brand new” or Uncirculated coins that range from 60 to 70 on a
grading scale of 1 to 70.
quantity struck by the Mint of a particular coin.
small letter (or letters) on a coin that identify the mint where the
coin was struck.
coin that was made improperly. See: Error.
a Proof coin that has been spent, cleaned, or otherwise damaged.
the name for the anonymous lady that appears on many U.S. coins.
the silver U.S. One Dollar coins struck from 1878-1921.
uneven or mixed coloring on a coin.
like “IN GOD WE TRUST” or “E PLURIBUS UNUM” that appear on many U.S.
abbreviation for Mint State, a grading term, usually tied to a
number (for example, MS-63, MS-70, etc.).
unintended pairing of two dies.
multiple-struck: a coin that was
struck more than once.
severely damaged coin.
everyday term for an Uncirculated or Mint State coin.
the official U.S. Mint at New Orleans, Louisiana that struck coins
from 1838 to 1909.
abbreviation for the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (a third-party,
independent grading service).
nick: a small
contact mark on a coin.
hard metal used to make Five Cent pieces. Also, the alloy on modern
a system used to describe the condition of a coin. The numerical
system currently in use for American coins ranges from 1 to 70, with
70 indicating a perfect coin.
Corporation: an independent, third-party grading and
certification service located in Parsippany, New Jersey.
the weekly numismatic newspaper published by Krause Publications.
related to coins.
the study of coins and coin collecting.
the person who studies and collects coins.
front of a coin, usually the side with the date or head. When you
flip a coin and call “Heads,” this is the side you want.
coin that was not perfectly centered when it was struck. Off-center
strikes can range from minor to extreme.
coin that has never been cleaned or impaired in any way.
a roll of coins that remains as fresh as the day the coins were
first placed together.
natural color on a coin, as opposed to artificial toning.
a coin with two mintmarks, one on top of the other.
coin that has received one too many chemical baths in a mis-guided
cleaning attempt. In other words, someone blew it!
overdate: a coin with two dates (or
parts of dates), one on top of the other.
the deliberate or unintentional grading of a coin above its true
grade. This practice is sometimes used to sell coins for more than
they are worth.
tarnish or corrosion on a coin caused by chemical reaction with its
surroundings. Some tarnish is okay, any corrosion is bad.
patina: refers to the surface crust on
an ancient coin or the color on a more modern coin.
pattern: a coin
that tests a design to see how it appears in coin form and to
determine if it strikes up properly. By definition, a pattern is a
design type that was never accepted for regular use.
abbreviation for the Professional Coin Grading Service, Inc., one of
the leading independent, third-party grading services.
Report: a monthly compilation of all coins graded by the
Professional Coin Grading Service, Inc., broken down by date and
grade. A very useful tool for determining the rarity of various
coins and grades.
the U.S. $1 coins struck from 1921 to 1935.
list of prior owners of a coin.
for the U.S. One Cent.
color that appears in the peripheries of a coin.
outer areas on the front and back of a coin.
the “mother” of all U.S. Mints, located at Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. Early coins from Philadelphia had no mintmark; more
modern issues bear the letter “P.”
privately issued gold coins struck by a variety of minters anywhere
in America where gold was discovered.
pitted: a coin
that has tiny pockmarks of missing metal caused by corrosion.
plain edge: an
edge of a coin that has no marking, reedings, or lettering of any
blank piece of metal upon which a coin is struck.
flaws on a coin that are believed to have been in the metal before
the coin was struck. These are not treated as harshly as
circulation marks or defects, if at all.
same as a planchet defect.
striations: defects in a blank planchet, caused by impurities in
the metal, that are not obliterated when the coin is struck.
plated: a coin
to which an extra layer of metal was applied chemically or
electronically (usually gold or silver).
precious metal used primarily in bullion coins.
plugged: a coin
that once had a hole drilled through it, but now the hole has been
filled or “plugged” to bring the coin back to its original
appearance and full value.
plus: used with
grading terms to indicate an above-average coin. Example – Very
abbreviation for the Professional Numismatists Guild.
before they are used for the first time, or after they have become
worn, dies are often polished to make the surfaces nice and smooth.
Polished dies may be highly reflective or may have die polishing
a chemical used to soften the plastic in some coin holders and
albums. Also known as PVC, this chemical can damage the surfaces of
Poor: a grading
term for a coin that is so badly worn that you can barely recognize
the type and date. See “About Good.”
slightly pitted due to cleaning or chemical action.
abbreviation for Premium Quality.
a coin that is above-average for the grade.
striking: a coin struck for a special occasion. These may or
may not have been struck as Proofs, but they are generally prepared
under special circumstances.
machinery used to strike coins.
a special set of Proof U.S. coins
that includes the normal denominations, plus one or more of the
Proof commemorative coins issued that year.
any number of publications that list wholesale and/or resale prices
for coins, often in a number of different grades or categories.
price list: a
published listing of a dealer’s inventory, priced for sale.
the price that a coin sold for at auction. This usually includes
the buyer’s fee.
perfect and absolutely original.
Grading Service: an independent, third-party grading service
located in Newport Beach, CA.
Numismatists Guild: an association of professional coin dealers.
Proof : a
special process for producing coins of exceptional quality and
brilliance. Proof coins will exhibit a full strike, mirrored
surfaces, and sometimes a cameo effect.
Proof set: the specially packaged set
of Proof coins produced and sold by the U.S. Mint each year.
Proof dies: the
dies used to strike Proof coins. Modern Proof dies are specially
prepared, with frosted devices and deeply mirrored fields.
coins that were struck only as Proofs.
circulation strike that mimics the deeply reflective appearance of a
fancy word for pedigree. Be sure to raise your nose in the air
whenever you say this word.
polyvinyl chloride, the chemical plasticizer that can damage coins.
PVC damage: the
damage caused to a coin by polyvinyl chloride.
abbreviated name for a Quarter Dollar or Twenty-Five Cent piece.
the official name for a $2.5 gold piece.
toning: color on a coin that is suspected of being artificial.
in 1883, the first of the new Liberty Nickels were struck without
the word “CENTS.” Con men applied reeding to the edges, gold-plated
some of them, then passed them off as $5 gold pieces!
color on a coin that includes many of the hues of a rainbow.
determination of how common or rare a coin is.
rarity scale: a
system used to rate the rarity of a coin, usually from 1 to 10, with
1 being common and 10 being unique.
raw: a coin
that has not been certified. Warning: there could be a reason why!
rays: refers to the lines radiating on
the backs of the Quarter Dollars and Half Dollars in 1853 to
indicate a change in their weights.
a copper coin that has full, original red color.
indication that a copper coin is partially brown yet still contains
some of the original mint red color.
popular name for “The Guidebook of United States Coins.” Guess what
color the cover is.
reeded edge: an
edge with raised vertical or diagonal marks designed to make it
obvious if anyone has removed any metal from the edges. This was
important when coins were valued for their full weight in precious
or semi-precious metal.
contact marks caused by the edge reeding of another coin. See:
a coin that was meant to be used in general circulation. See:
raised portions of a coin, usually the design elements.
replica: a copy
of a coin.
coin from genuine dies, struck later than the year indicated on the
coin, usually to satisfy collectors.
retoned: a coin
that was stripped of color, then artificially toned to make it look
back of a coin, usually the side without a date or a head. When you
flip a coin and call “Tails,” this is the side you want.
rim: the point where the periphery
meets the edge of a coin.
rim bruise: a flattened area on the
rim of a coin, usually caused when the coin is dropped.
rim ding: a
contact mark on the rim of a coin.
rim nick: same
as a rim ding.
ring test: a
method of determining if a coin is a cast counterfeit by tapping it
with a pen or pencil. A genuine coin has a nice ring to it, like a
tuning fork. A cast fake will give a dull thud.
roll: a set quantity of coins that
banks “roll up” in paper wrappers. Example: a roll of Quarters has
describes the rounded rim on a rare variety of 1907 Indian Head $10
roller marks: parallel lines caused
when metal strips are flattened between two rollers. Roller marks
are most often seen on the high points of Silver Dollars, especially
those that were struck softly.
Round - AKA, Silver Round usually One Ounce of pure
silver although they are offered in various sizes from a half ounce
up to a Kilo and even more. The value of silver rounds is directly
related to the current value of silver. Usually valued at silver
spot with a slight premium added depending on the popularity of the
S: the mintmark
of the U.S. Mint at San Francsico, California.
last name of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the designer of the impressive
$10 and $20 gold coins struck by the United States from 1907 to
1933. The $20 versions are known as “Saints.”
an otherwise Uncirculated coin that has been immersed in the ocean
for many years, resulting in slightly grainy surfaces.
the official U.S. Mint at San Francisco, California that struck
coins from 1854 until today. Mintmark “S.”
satin finish: a
special, matte-like finish on some Proof U.S. gold coins struck from
1907 to 1915 and on 1936 Buffalo Nickels.
satin luster: a soft, mellow
brilliance on the surface of a coin.
long mark left when a foreign object is dragged across the surface
of a coin.
old-style machinery used to strike coins. Weighted arms are rotated
quickly to propel a large screw that slams the dies together.
sea salvage coin:
a coin recovered from a shipwreck.
a shortened term for coins with the Liberty Seated design type.
the commission charged to the consignors in an auction. Tip: these
fees are negotiable depending on the value of the consignment.
a coin that has mirrored surfaces that aren’t quite strong enough to
be called Prooflike.
complete listing of all dates and mints struck of a denomination or
set: a complete
collection of all dates and mints struck of a denomination or design
Sheldon scale: the grading scale
developed by Dr. William Sheldon that ranks coins on a scale of 1 to
70, with 70 representing perfection.
shield: a popular design element on
U.S. coins that is really a flag in the shape of a shield.
the U.S. Five Cents pieces struck from 1866 to 1883.
numismatic convention. See: Bourse.
sight seen: an
offer for a coin subject to verification and acceptance of the
sigh unseen: an
offer for a coin that requires no verification of the grade.
semi-precious metal with a white luster used to strike many U.S.
coins from 1794 to 1964 (plus a few modern commemoratives and
commemoratives: special silver coins struck to honor people,
places, or events. Commemoratives are often used to raise funds and
their mintages are usually limited.
the $1 coins struck by the U.S. from 1794 to 1935 (plus a few modern
silver Eagle: a
bullion coin containing one ounce of silver and a face value of $1,
first produced by the U.S. Mint in 1986.
plastic cases used by grading and certification services. Also, a
coin that has been slabbed.
act of sealing a coin in a protective plastic case, usually
performed by grading and certification services.
slightly worn coin that is so nice that many people would call it
Uncirculated. Ranks 58 on the grading scale of 1 to 70.
for the heavy $50 gold pieces issued privately and officially
following the Gold Rush in California.
small cent: as
opposed to the Large Cent, these are the smaller-sized copper One
Cent pieces struck from 1856 until today.
small date: the
opposite of “large date.” Likewise, date size is relative.
Small Eagle: the scrawny eagle design
used on U.S. gold and silver coins struck from 1794 to 1798.
some coins and varieties may have Small Letters, Medium Letters, or
refers to a scarce 1864 Two Cents variety that has a small “IN GOD
WE TRUST” on the obverse.
small size: a
variety or type struck on a smaller diameter planchet. Compare
with: Large Size.
spark-erosion die: used to strike
counterfeit coins, these dies are made by placing a steel cylinder
close to an actual coin, then arcing electricity between the two to
create a nearly perfect duplicate (in reverse) of the coin.
Special Mint Set:
official Mint Sets issued by the U.S. government in 1965, 1966, and
1967. The quality of the coins was better than normal Mint Set
coins, but not as nice as Proof coins.
coin specially prepared for presentation purposes. Specimens may or
may not be Proofs.
describes a coin that is better than one grade but not quite as good
as another. Example – VF-EF (Very Fine to Extremely Fine).
color on a coin that is original but mottled and unattractive.
spot: a tiny
area of discoloration or corrosion on the surface of a coin.
difference between buy and sell (or Bid and Ask) offers.
last name of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the designer of the impressive
$10 and $20 gold coins struck by the United States from 1907 to
1933. The $20 versions are known as “Saints.”
quarter: the U.S. Quarter Dollars struck from 1916 to 1930.
some types of coin holders are stapled shut. Sometimes (rarely, I
hope) a coin can be scratched by the staple as the coin is removed
from the holder.
star: until the
early 1900’s, small stars appeared on most American coins. Usually
thirteen in number, the stars represented the original American
any of the new Quarter Dollars issued under the U.S. Mints “50
States Quartersä” Program
beginning in 1999.
steel cent: the
1943 Lincoln Cents struck of zinc-coated steel as an emergency
replacement for the usual bronze.
nickname for the $4 gold patterns struck in 1879 and 1880.
token on which one or both sides contains a merchant’s
striations: fine lines that appear on
dies or planchets. Striations are natural and should not be
confused with: Hairlines.
degree to which metal flows into the recesses of the dies when a
coin is struck. The strike of a coin is usually referred to as
weak, soft, bold, or full.
flattened sheet of metal from which blank planchets are punched.
struck: a coin
created in a press by stamping a blank piece of metal with a pair of
struck copy: a counterfeit made using
dies in a press.
a fake coin that is struck using dies in a press.
the winner in an auction.
preservation: how well the surfaces of a coin have survived
outer layers of metal on all sides of a coin.
substitution of one coin for another, usually in an attempt to
deceive or defraud.
person or company whose primary business is to sell coins over the
electronic system that allows coin dealers to communicate and trade
with each other.
tensor light: a
special bulb used to grade coins. Tensor bulbs are usually brighter
than incandescent but not as blinding as halogen.
privately issued gold coins of the mid 1800’s. See: Pioneer Gold.
Thaler: any of
the silver European coins, usually the size of a U.S. Silver
Dollar. The “Th” is pronounced as “t.” Try it out and guess where
we got the word “Dollar” from!
The Numismatist: official, monthly
publication of the American Numismatic Association.
Three Cents -
Nickel: a small coin made of Nickel with a value of Three Cents,
issued between 1865 and 1889.
Three Cents -
Silver: a teensy, tiny silver coin issued between 1851 and 1873
with a value of Three Cents. Also known as a “Fishscale” or “Trime.”
applying a foreign substance to the surface of a coin with your
thumb, usually to cover a flaw, hairline, or small defect.
token: a small
coin with no stated value. These are usually made for commemorative
or advertising purposes.
color changes that occur on coins as a result of oxidation or
contamination. Sometimes toning can be ugly; often it can be quite
beautiful. Beware of artificial toning.
Trade dollar: a
special Silver Dollar made from 1873 to 1885 that was sent to Asia
to compete with silver bullion coins of other countries. Many of
these have interesting chopmarks.
a coin found as part of buried or sunken treasure.
trial strike: a
test striking of a die, usually to see how the final coin would look
or to see how the mint machinery would work.
for the Three Cents silver pieces struck from 1851-1873
design type used on U.S. gold coins from 1795 to 1807.
nickname for a U.S. $20 gold piece.
nickname for the U.S. $20 gold pieces with a head of Liberty on the
front, struck from 1849 to 1907.
Two and a Half:
nickname for U.S. $2.50 gold pieces.
Two Cents piece:
the copper U.S. Two Cent pieces struck from 1864 to 1873.
type: any particular design or
type coin: the
most common example of the type, and the most affordable.
Ultra High Relief: an extremely rare
variety of the 1907 $20 St. Gaudens gold piece that has extremely
high relief and wire rims.
ultra rarity: a
coin of which there is only a few known.
the person with the second-highest bid in an auction. Also known as
the grading of a coin below its true grade. This practice is
sometimes used to purchase coins below what they are really worth.
VAM: the designation given to Morgan
and Peace Dollar varieties listed by Leroy Van Allen and George
V-Nickel: nickname for the Liberty
Head Nickels struck from 1883 to 1913.
variety: changes in design elements or
placement. See: Minor Variety and Major Variety.
initials of Victor David Brenner, designer of the Lincoln Cent.
These appear on some of the 1909 Cents, often increasing their value
Very Fine: a grade range of 20 to 39
on a grading scale of 1 to 70.
Very Good: a
grade range of 7 to 11 on a grading scale of 1 to 70.
vest pocket dealer:
a person who deals in coins on a casual basis and who normally does
not operate a coin shop or take tables at coin shows.
abbreviation for Very Fine.
abbreviation for Very Good.
Half Dollar: the U.S. Half Dollars struck from 1916 to 1945.
want list: a
list of the coins you need to complete your collection.
the U.S. Five Cents pieces struck from 1942 to 1945 in which silver
and manganese was substituted for Nickel.
Dollar: the U.S. Quarter Dollars struck from 1932 until today.
weak strike: a
coin that did not receive a full impression from the dies.
on the surface of a coin.
well struck: a
coin that has complete details thanks to a crisp, bold stamp from
West Point: the
official U.S. Mint at West Point, New York that struck coins from
1984 until today.
application of a high-speed rotating brush to the surface of a coin
with the intent to create an artificial luster.
wire edge: a variety of the 1907 $20
High Relief gold coin that has a partial or full wire rim. The
other variety is the Flat Edge.
wire rim: the knife edge caused when
metal squeezes between the die and the collar under extreme
silver coins of 1853-1855 and 1873-1874 that have arrowheads on
either side of the date to indicate changes in their weight.
with arrows and
rays: silver Quarter Dollars and Half Dollars of 1853 that have
arrowheads on either side of the date and radiating rays on the
reverse to indicate changes in their weight.
refers to the U.S. silver and gold
coins struck between 1866 and 1907 that had the motto “IN GOD WE
TRUST” added to the design on the back.
silver Quarter Dollars and Half Dollars of 1853 that have arrowheads
on either side of the date and sun rays on the reverse to indicate
changes in their weight.
any coin issued by countries other than the United States.
worn die: a die
that has been used for so long that the details have begun to wear
down, resulting in a coin with less than adequate details.
the type of 1793 Cents with a wreath on the reverse that replaced
the 1793 Chain Cent.
XF: abbreviation for Extra Fine or
year set: a collection of all
denominations produced in a given year.