Coin Dictionary a through z ; Press "example" to see samples of items
A abrasions Light friction rubbing or scuffing which is different from hairlines and bag marks. Sometimes referred to as "cabinet friction" because many times it is caused by a sliding action in a coin cabinet.
accumulation Quantities of coins, tokens and other numismatic material which has not been sorted, classified, attributed nor organized in any meaningful way, unlike a true coin collection.
adjustment marks Marks or grooves caused by filing a planchet prior to striking in order to reduce it to a standard weight. This was a fairly common practice on many early U.S. coins, in particular bust dollars.
album a holder with slots for storing and displaying coins in a book type manner. Common brand names include Whitman, Dansco and Harco.
alloy A combination of two or more metals, such as electrum or cupro-nickel.
alterations Illegal practice of tampering with the date, mint mark, or other feature of a coin in an attempt to be deceptive. For example, adding an "S" mintmark to a 1909-VDB Lincoln Cent struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
ancient (example) A coin produced prior to the generally accepted date of 500 A.D.
artificial toning Adding color(s) to a coin by various treatments with chemicals, heat and other methods in an attempt to increase its value. While a coin with natural toning may at times provide exceptional eye-appeal and command higher prices than an untoned specimen, a coin known to have been artificially toned (a deceptive practice) will bring much lower than usual prices.
attribute noun: A specific characteristic of a coin. verb: Identifying a coin via the origin, denomination, type, date, mintmark, variety, etc.
authentication (example) Determination by a numismatic expert as to the status of a coin being original and genuine - not counterfeit.
bag marks Nicks and scratches resulting from contact with other coins in the same mint bag. Especially common on large, heavy coins such as Morgan Dollars.
bank note (example) Paper money issued by a bank and payable to bearer.
bas relief A style in which the design elements are raised within depressions in the field, so that no part of the design is undercut.
billon A low-grade alloy of silver and other metals, usually copper, which is used in minor coinage.
bi-metallic A coin with the center and outer ring(s) having different metal alloys.
bit (example) Spanish pieces of eight were physically cut into eight pieces with each piece as one bit. The quarter dollar is sometimes referred to as two bits, so that an eighth of a dollar would be one bit or 12 and one-half cents.
blank A piece of metal (usually round) being prepared for coinage before the rims have been raised via the upsetting mill.
blemishes Minor nicks, marks, flaws or spots of discoloration that mar the surface of a coin.
bourse A place where dealers, collectors and the general public get together to buy, sell and trade coins with each other. Usually the most active section of a coin show.
brass A yellowish alloy consisting mainly of copper and zinc.
broadstrike/broadstruck A coin struck without a firmly seated collar which results in an outwards "spread", but still includes all design details.
brockage A mirror image of a design from one side of a coin impressed on the opposite side, e.g. a newly struck coin may adhere to the die, causing the next coin struck to have a First Strike Mirror Brockage of the coin stuck to the die; by the second strike the mirror is distorted, and later strikes are termed Struck Through A Capped Die.
bronze (example) An reddish/brown alloy consisting mainly of copper and tin, with a small amount of zinc.
bullion (example1)(example2) (example3) A coin or other object composed primarily of a precious metal (such as gold, silver or platinum) with little to no numismatic value over and beyond that of the metal itself.
bureau of Engraving and Printing An agency of the U.S. Treasury Department responsible for the production of currency.
business strike (example) A coin struck with the intent of serving in the channels of commerce, i.e. to be circulated.
cabinet friction See abrasions.
canadian (Example) Post confederation Canadian numismatics.
cameo (example1) (example2) A coin, usually a Proof strike, with a frosted or satiny central device surrounded by a mirrorlike field.
cartwheel (example) The pattern of light reflected by flow lines of mint state coins, resembling spokes of a wheel; Name given to the British pennies and twopences of 1797 due to their unusually broad rims.
certified coin (example) A coin authenticated and graded by an unbiased, 3rd-party professional service.
cherry pick To secure the purchase a rare variety of a coin worth a premium over the seller's asking price for a common variety.
chop mark A symbol added to money by someone other than the government which issued it to indicate authenticity. Commonly found on U.S. Trade Dollars which circulated in the Orient.
circulated (example) money that has served a purpose in the channels of commerce, i.e. it is no longer mint state (uncirculated).
clad (example) composed of more than one metallic layer, e.g. dimes, quarters, and halves currently minted by the U.S.
clash mark(s) Elements of designs from the opposite side of a coin which is the result of coin dies clashing into one another when no planchet is present during the striking process.
cleaning Any procedure that removes corrosion, unattractive toning, etc. such as dipping or rubbing with abrasive materials.
cleaned coin A coin which has been dipped, polished, whizzed, wiped, etc. Generally speaking, a certain amount of very light cleaning (such as dipping) done by a professional may be acceptable.
clip A coin, planchet or blank missing a portion of metal from its periphery, caused by an error during production of the blank, usually at the end of a strip.
clipping Deliberate shearing or shaving from the edge of gold and silver coins. Was quite common from the Byzantine to the Colonial eras, so much so that many authorities employed edge devices in order to discourage this practice.
coin A piece of metal (usually round) with a distinctive stamp and of a fixed value and weight issued by an authority and intended to be used as a medium of exchange.
coin show An event where numismatic items are bought, sold, traded and often exhibited.
collar A device in a coining press used to restrict the outward flow of metal during striking. Allows the rounding of coins to be much more precise. Also, can be used to put an edge design on the coin.
collection An organized unit of various numismatic holdings.
colonial (example) A coin issued by a colony, such as those produced in the eastern American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries.
commemorative (example) A coin with a design honoring a person, place or event in history.
condition census The finest known specimens of a particular coin type or variety.
contact marks Small surface scratches or nicks which is caused by contact of coins in the same bag.
counterfeit A fake coin deceptively made with the intent of passing it off as if it were the genuine article.
cud A raised lump of metal on a coin caused by a piece of the die breaking off.
cull A coin that is worn to the point of being barely identifiable, and/or damaged.
cupro-nickel (or copper-nickel) composed of an alloy of copper and nickel, such as the U.S. Flying Eagle cents struck from 1856 thru 1858.
currency (example) See paper money.
damage A problem such as scratches, nicks, holes, harsh cleaning, pitting, etc. which lowers the value of a numismatic item.
date The year(s) stamped on a coin, representative of the year it was minted.
dealer An individual or organization that regularly buys, sells and trades coins.
deep mirror proof like (example) An attribute given to coins with highly reflective mirrorlike fields, giving it a similar look to that of a proof strike.
delamination Metal missing (or nearly so) from the surface due to incomplete bonding in the planchet.
denarius (example) An ancient Roman silver coin weighing about 3 grams, roughly the same size as a U.S. dime but much thicker.
denomination The face value of a coin.
denticles (dentils) Tooth-like raised features near the rim of a coin.
design The arrangement of devices, lettering, etc. on a coin.
designer The artist(s) responsible for a coin's design.
device A major design element, e.g. the bust of a person or a ship on the high seas.
die A piece of steel (usually cylindrical) bearing at one end the design of one side of a coin.
die chip A small fragment broken off from a die similar to a cud, but much less dramatic.
die clash Upper and lower dies coming together in a coin press without a planchet between them.
die crack A narrow fissure in the surface of a die which produces a raised line on the coins it strikes.
die erosion Normal wear on a die from its use in the minting process.
die state The condition of a die at a specific time in its life.
die polish Small raised lines in the field of a coin resulting from polishing of a die to remove chips, clash marks, etc.
dipping A form of cleaning by immersion in a liquid which is capable of causing molecular changes in the surface (with the intent of providing a more appealing look).
disme A frequently-used spelling of "dime" in the 17th century.
double denomination An error in which a coin is restruck by the die pair of another denomination.
double die A term sometimes intended to mean a doubled die coin and sometimes indicating a machine doubled coin (note that there are vast differences in the values).
doubled die A die with doubled device details, letters and/or numerals resulting from an error in manufacture. Also, a coin struck from such a die.
double eagle A U.S. $20 gold coin, minted from 1849 through 1933.
drachma An ancient Greek silver coin weighing about 3 grams. The predecessor to the Roman denarius.
eagle A U.S. $10 gold coin minted from 1795 through 1933. Also, the current U.S. bullion program pieces.
edge The perimeter of coin, sometimes referred to as the "3rd" side.
electrum A naturally occurring alloy of silver and gold. The earliest coins of ancient Asia Minor and many Byzantine issues were struck in this metal.
e Pluribus Unum The Latin motto found on many U.S. coins - translates to "Out of many, one".
error Any mistake in the minting process which results in a different appearance than intended on the resulting coin(s).
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 initial(s).
exonumia Tokens, medals and other non-monetary coin-like objects.
face value The ordinary monetary worth of a coin or note at the time of issue.
field The background on a coin, not used for a design or inscription.
fillet head The head of Liberty on U.S. coins with her hair tied with a band, generally on the forehead.
fineness The purity of a precious metal coin, usually expressed as a percentage one thousand parts.
fishscale A 3 cent silver U.S. coin sometimes referred to as a trime. Also, a 5 cent silver Canadian piece.
flan Another term for a planchet.
flip A plastic coin holder, usually with 2 sections - one for the coin - one for a small card containing information about the coin.
flow lines Microscopic lines in the surface of a coin resulting from the outward flow of metal during the striking process.
fiat money Money not backed by specie and is legal tender by virtue of decree.
flyspecks Minute oxidation spots on a coin, often caused by small droplets of spittle from talking over the coin.
fugio cent The first coin issued by authority of the United States in 1787. Fugio is Latin for "I fly", in this instance, referring to time.
galvano An epoxy coated plaster relief model of a coin created in order to produce master hubs, which in turn produce coin dies.
grade Condition assigned to a coin mainly in an effort to determine its relative value. See "NGC" and "PCGS"
greysheet The nickname given to the Coin Dealer Newsletter, a price guide for U.S. coins intended primarily for dealer-to-dealer transactions for uncertified coins.
hairlines Light scratches in the surface of a coin, usually caused by light polishing.
half cent (example) A U.S. copper coin minted from 1793 through 1857 (1/200th of a dollar).
half dime A U.S. silver coin minted from 1794 through 1873 (five cents).
half eagle A U.S. $5 gold coin minted from 1795 through 1929.
high points The areas of highest relief in a coin design. Usually the first to show evidence of wear or abrasion. May be incomplete due to a "soft" strike.
hobo nickel A coin (usually a U.S. Buffalo nickel) re-engraved to produce a different image.
holed Having a hole drilled through it, usually for jewelry use.
holder A device designed for storage and/or display of numismatic items.
hub A steel bar used to make coin dies.
impaired proof A proof coin with wear or damage resulting from circulation or mishandling.
incuse Design elements are impressed into the surface (opposite of relief).
inscription The legend or lettering on a coin.
intrinsic Net metallic value sans numismatic/face value. J
jugate Conjoined busts facing the same direction slightly offset from each other in such a way as to allow the bottom bust to be partially seen while the top bust is shown in its entirety.
key date The rarest (or one of the most rare) and therefore most expensive members of a coin series, e.g. the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent or 1916-D Mercury dime.
KM number Chet Krause/Clifford Mishler number assigned to a coin in popular reference books.
lamination A defect caused by metal detaching from the rest of a coin. Somewhat common with clad coinage.
large cent A U.S. copper coin minted from 1793 through 1857, similar in size to a current U.S. quarter (worth 1/100th of a dollar). Also, a similar Canadian coin issued between 1858-1920.
legend The principle inscription on a coin other than the denomination or nation which issued it.
lettered edge The inscription found on the edge of a coin.
loonie Popular name for the Canadian loon dollar coin first issued in 1987.
loupe A type of magnifying glass used by numismatists to more closely examine a coin.
luster The glossy brilliance of a coin seen from the reflection of light off the flow lines.
M machine doubling Doubling of details resulting from loose dies during the striking process (much more common and much less valuable than die doubling).
matte proof A proof coin with a grainy surface appearance produced by dies treated to obtain a minutely etched surface
medal (example) A coin-like object struck to honor one or more persons or events, but without any denomination (which may then classify it as a commemorative coin).
melt value The value of precious metal in a coin after it is melted (see intrinsic).
milled edge A raised rim around the outer surface of a coin.
mint A manufacturing facility for producing coins.
mintage The number of coins produced by a mint for a specific time period.
mint bloom The original surface of a newly minted coin (see lustre).
mint mark A letter or symbol used to denote the mint which produced the coin.
mint set A specially packaged group of uncirculated coins from one or more mints of the same nation containing at least one coin for most or all of the denominations issued during a particular year.
mint state A level of preservation signifying the same basic condition as when originally delivered from the mint (uncirculated).
misplaced date One or more digits of a date punched away from the intended location.
motto A world or phrase found on a coin, e.g "E Pluribus Unum".
mule A coin struck from two dies not intended to be used together
NGC (example) Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America. NGC was founded in 1987, and for coin grading, its opening heralded the introduction of a new standard of integrity. From the beginning, NGC focused on only one objective, a standard of consistent and accurate grading.
natural toning (example) Coloration resulting from chemical change on the surface during normal environmental exposure over a prolonged period.
nick A small mark on a coin usually caused by contact with a another coin.
numismatics The art and science relating to the study of coins, tokens, medals, paper money and similar objects.
numismatist A student and/or collector who is knowledgeable in numismatics.
obol A small ancient Greek silver coin (worth 1/6 of a drachma).
obverse The front or "heads" side of a coin, usually the side with the date and main design.
off center An error caused by incorrectly centering the planchet during the striking process, which results in part of the design missing from the coin.
original Refers to a coin that has not been "doctored", i.e. cleaned or tampered with post the original minting process.
over date A coin struck from a die with one or more digits of the date repunched over a different digit, e.g. the 1942/1 Mercury dime.
over grade The practice of assigning a higher grade to a coin than it truly deserves.
over mintmark A mintmark punched on top of another mintmark, such as a 'D' over an 'S'.
overstrike An impression made with different dies on a previously struck coin.
oxidation The formation of oxides or tarnish on the surface of a coin from exposure to humidity, air pollutants, or other environmental elements.
PCGS Professional Coin Grading Service. PCGS began serving the coin-buying public on February 3, 1986. The firm is responsible for dramatic improvements throughout the rare coin industry which have forever changed the way rare coins are bought and sold. In addition to standardized grading, PCGS offered a cash-backed grading guarantee.
paper money (example) Paper notes with standardized characteristics issued as money.
paranumismatica Another term for exonumia.
patina A surface film found on coins (usually brown or green) caused by oxidation over a long period of time.
pattern A coin struck as a trial or test piece for a new design - many times without all final legends, dates, design details, etc. - may be struck on different alloys than the final issue.
piece of eight (example) An early Spanish coin with a face value of eight reales.
pitted Having a rough surface due to loss of metal by corrosion.
planchet A piece of metal - previously termed a blank - now with raised rims from an upsetting machine - but not yet struck by the coin dies.
plugged A holed coin that has been filled.
porous Having a granular surface as the result of oxidation.
prestige set A set of coins produced by the U.S. Mint containing one or more proof commemorative coins released in the same year, as well as a proof cent, nickel, dime, quarter and half.
problem coin Any coin that has been cleaned, damaged or has other undesirable traits.
proof (example) Coins struck mainly for collectors as special presentation pieces using specially polished or otherwise prepared dies.
prooflike An business strike coin having mirrorlike fields giving it an appearance similar to that of a proof strike.
proof set A specially packaged set of proof coins.
quarter eagle A U.S. $2.50 gold coin minted from 1796 through 1929.
rarity (example) generally relates to the infrequency or relative unavailability of a coin, as a direct function of important factors such as the original mintage and overall survival rate.
rarity scale A convention for designating the relative rarity of a coin.
real (example) A former basic monetary unit of Spain and Spanish colonies.
red Book The nickname for A Guide Book to United States Coins, a retail price guide for U.S. coins published annually since 1947.
reeded edge The edge of a coin with grooved lines that run vertically around its perimeter.
relief The part of a coin design that is raised above its surface (opposite of incuse).
repunched date A date with one or more of the digits punched more than once in different locations and/or orientations.
repunched mintmark A mintmark punched more than once in different locations and/or orientations. (RPM) restrike A coin struck with authentic dies later than the original date of issue.
reverse The back or "tails" side of a coin.
rib The vein lines on the surface of a leaf.
rim The outer edge of a coin, often raised to avoid premature wear.
roman Finish Proof Term given to designate certain U.S. proof coins made at the Philadelphia mint in 1909-1910.
scratch A deep line or groove in a coin caused by contact with a sharp or rough object (much more dramatic than a hairline).
series One coin of each year issued from each mint of a specific design and denomination, e.g., Shield Nickels 1866-1883.
sight seen Available for examination prior to a final purchase decision.
sight unseen Unavailable for examination prior to a final purchase decision.
silver certificate (example) Paper money that was once redeemable for its face value in silver.
silver clad (example) A clad coin with one layer containing silver, e.g. U.S. half dollars 1965-1970.
silver eagle (example) A coin produced by the U.S. mint beginning in 1986 containing one ounce of silver and a face value of one dollar (not intended for circulation).
slab The sealed hard plastic holder used by 3rd-party professional grading services to house coins they have determined to be authentic - has a label denoting the specific grading service, grade assigned to the coin and other information.
slider A coin which is just this side of uncirculated with only very slight traces of wear - (AU58).
specie Precious metal used to back money, usually gold and silver.
split grade Assigning individual grades to the obverse and reverse sides of a coin.
spot A small area of corrosion or foreign substance. Also, short for spot price.
spot price The market price for immediate delivery of a commodity, such as gold, silver or platinum.
spread Difference between buy and sell prices on the same coin(s) from the same party. Also, the degree of separation between impressions on a doubled die.
stella A U.S. $4 gold coin pattern minted 1879-1880.
striations Thin raised lines on the surface of a coin, caused by excessive polishing of the die.
strike The process of impressing a design into a planchet by force of the dies to create a coin.
strike doubling Another term for machine doubling. T
tetradrachm An ancient Greek silver coin weighing about 13 to 17 grams, similar in size to a U.S. quarter but much thicker.
thumbing The rubbing of skin oil onto a coin in an attempt to hide contact marks.
token (example1) (example2) A coin-like object redeemable for a particular product or service, such as bus rides, beer or video games.
toning Color acquired from chemical change on the surface.
trade dollar A U.S. dollar coin minted from 1873 through 1885 specifically for commerce in the Orient; A U.K. dollar coin minted from 1895 through 1935 specifically for commerce in the Orient.
trime A small U.S. 3 cent silver coin minted from 1851-1873.
truncation The sharply cut off bottom edge of a bust.
tube A plastic container designed for storing a roll or similar quantities of coins of the same size.
type coin Any coin of a particular design and denomination, usually referred to one of the more common dates of any specific series.
type set A collection of coins of various designs. U
uncirculated A state of preservation used to describe coins that never circulated in the channels of commerce, i.e. a coin without any wear from circulation.
unique A coin of which only one specimen is known to exist, e.g. the U.S. 1870-S $3 gold piece
VAM A variety of U.S. silver dollar described in the book Morgan and Peace Dollars by Van Allen and Mallis.
variety A minor change from the basic design of a specific coin type W
want list A tabulation of collectibles sought by a collector, often including limits on condition and/or price.
wear Metal lost during handling and contact with other objects.
whizzing Alteration by mechanical polishing to produce a shiny surface.