U.S. Coin Price Guide

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S: the mintmark of the U.S. Mint at San Francsico, California.

Saint-Gaudens: 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.”

saltwater Unc.: an otherwise Uncirculated coin that has been immersed in the ocean for many years, resulting in slightly grainy surfaces.

San Francisco: 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.

scratch: the long mark left when a foreign object is dragged across the surface of a coin.

screw press: 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.

Seated coinage: a shortened term for coins with the Liberty Seated design type.

seller’s fee: the commission charged to the consignors in an auction.  Tip: these fees are negotiable depending on the value of the consignment.

semi-prooflike: a coin that has mirrored surfaces that aren’t quite strong enough to be called Prooflike.

series: the complete listing of all dates and mints struck of a denomination or design type.

set: a complete collection of all dates and mints struck of a denomination or design type.

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.

Shield nickel: the U.S. Five Cents pieces struck from 1866 to 1883.

show: a numismatic convention.  See: Bourse.

sight seen: an offer for a coin subject to verification and acceptance of the grade.

sigh unseen: an offer for a coin that requires no verification of the grade.

silver: a semi-precious metal with a white luster used to strike many U.S. coins from 1794 to 1964 (plus a few modern commemoratives and bullion coins.

silver commemoratives: special silver coins struck to honor people, places, or events.  Commemoratives are often used to raise funds and their mintages are usually limited.

silver dollar: the $1 coins struck by the U.S. from 1794 to 1935 (plus a few modern commemoratives).

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.

slab: the plastic cases used by grading and certification services.  Also, a coin that has been slabbed.

slabbed: the act of sealing a coin in a protective plastic case, usually performed by grading and certification services.

slider: a slightly worn coin that is so nice that many people would call it Uncirculated.  Ranks 58 on the grading scale of 1 to 70.

slug: nickname 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.

small letters: some coins and varieties may have Small Letters, Medium Letters, or Large Letters.

Small Motto: 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.

Specimen: a coin specially prepared for presentation purposes.  Specimens may or may not be Proofs.

split grade: describes a coin that is better than one grade but not quite as good as another.  Example – VF-EF (Very Fine to Extremely Fine).

splotchy toning: 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.

spread: the difference between buy and sell (or Bid and Ask) offers.

St. Gaudens: 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.”

Standing Liberty quarter: the U.S. Quarter Dollars struck from 1916 to 1930.

staple scratch: 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 Colonies.

State Quarter: 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.

Stella: nickname for the $4 gold patterns struck in 1879 and 1880.

storecards: any token on which one or both sides contains a merchant’s advertisement.

striations: fine lines that appear on dies or planchets.  Striations are natural and should not be confused with: Hairlines.

strike: the 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.

strip: the 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 dies.

struck copy: a counterfeit made using dies in a press.

struck counterfeit: a fake coin that is struck using dies in a press.

successful bidder: the winner in an auction.

surface preservation: how well the surfaces of a coin have survived intact.

surface: the outer layers of metal on all sides of a coin.

switch: the substitution of one coin for another, usually in an attempt to deceive or defraud.

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