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
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. These scratches were made at the mint in order to reduce the weight of a coin so that its metal value wouldn't exceed its face value. As such, adjustment marks do not reduce the value of a coin nearly as much as a series of equally visible scratches which were not "mint-caused."   This was a fairly common practice on many early U.S. coins, in particular bust dollars and gold coins, but can be found on copper  and lower denomination silver coins as well. 

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
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
Determination by a numismatic expert as to the status of a coin being original and genuine - not counterfeit.

B  Top

bagmarks
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
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
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
An reddish/brown alloy consisting mainly of copper and tin, with a small amount of zinc.

bullion
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
A coin struck with the intent of serving in the channels of commerce, i.e. to be circulated.

C  Top

cabinet friction
See abrasions.

Canadian
Post confederation Canadian numismatics.

cameo
A coin, usually a Proof strike, with a frosted or satiny central device surrounded by a mirror-like field.

cartwheel
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
A coin authenticated and graded by an unbiased, 3rd-party professional service.

cherrypick
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
Denotes money that has served a purpose in the channels of commerce, i.e. it is no longer mint state (uncirculated).

clad
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
A coin issued by a colony, such as those produced in the eastern American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries.

commemorative
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
See paper money.

D  Top

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 prooflike
An attribute given to coins with highly reflective mirror-like 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
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.

E  Top

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.

F  Top

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.

G  Top

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 our article on Grading United States Coins.

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.

H  Top

hairlines
Light scratches in the surface of a coin, usually caused by light polishing.

half cent
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) reengraved 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.

I  Top

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  Top

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.

K  Top

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.

L  Top

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  Top

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
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
The value of precious metal in a coin (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 luster).

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.

N  Top

natural toning
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, casino chips, tokens, medals, paper money and similar objects.

numismatist
A student and/or collector who is knowledgeable in numismatics.

O  Top

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.

overdate
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.

overgrade
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.

P  Top

paper money
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
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
Coins struck mainly for collectors as special presentation pieces using specially polished or otherwise prepared dies.

prooflike
An business strike coin having mirror-like fields giving it an appearance similar to that of a proof strike.

proof set
A specially packaged set of proof coins.

Q  Top

quarter eagle
A U.S. $2.50 gold coin minted from 1796 through 1929.

R  Top

rarity
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
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.

S  Top

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
Paper money that was once redeemable for its face value in silver.

silver clad
A clad coin with one layer containing silver, e.g. U.S. half dollars 1965-1970.

silver eagle
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  Top

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
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  Top

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.

V  Top

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  Top

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.

world coins
A collection of coins issued by various nations.

Y  Top

year set
A collection of coins with one of each denomination for a specific year and country. A popular birthday gift.

Ask - The lowest asking price of a particular coin offered for sale by one dealer to another as reported by the Coin Dealer Newsletter. The "ask" price is usually about 10% higher than the "bid" price. (See "Bid").

 

Bagmarks - Abrasions which occur on coins that were shipped in mint bags. Most often this term applies to silver dollars, although virtually any coin can have bagmarks. Bagmarks in no way mean that a coin is not mint state. In fact, even a Mint State-67 coin can have some bagmarks.

 

Bid - The highest price offered to buy a particular coin by one dealer from other dealers, as reported by the Coin Dealer Newsletter. When applied to circulated coins, and other fairly standard items, the bid/ask prices are usually accurate, meaningful and useful. When applied to mint state coins, especially Mint State and Proof 65, they can be somewhat misleading. The implication is that all MS-65's are equal, which is simply not the case. In fact, no two coins are absolutely identical. One buyer's MS-65 is often another buyer's MS-64 + or MS-65 +. The CDN "Bid" prices generally reflect wholesale trading ranges for only the most conservatively graded mint state coins. Sight-unseen bid prices for P.C.G.S. coins are also listed on the A.N.E. network, and in the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter. Of course, sight-unseen bids are almost always lower than sight-seen prices such as dealer-to-dealer transactions at coin shows. (See "A.N.E." and "C.C.D.N:')

 

Brilliant - Untoned. Without tarnish or oxidation, and with original cartwheel (i.e. frosty) or prooflike luster. A copper coin is usually referred to as brilliant if it has full original red. A silver, nickel or gold coin is usually described as brilliant if it has no toning or oxidation (although it may have some spots or light toning hues about the periphery), and its original luster is more or less intact.

 

Brilliant Proof - A particular type of proof coin, which boasts a full mirror surface in the fields. (See "Proof," "Matte Proof," and "Roman Finish.")

 

Business Strike - A coin which was struck for use in general circulation, as opposed to a proof coin produced strictly for collector purposes.

 

Cameo - A proof, or prooflike coin with exceptional contrast between the fields and the devices. On a cameo coin, the fields are mirror-like, while the devices give a frosty appearance.

 

Carbon Spot - A dark discoloration on the surface of a coin. It is possible that this discoloration is caused by a planchet imperfection prior to striking, or it may be caused by improper storage of the coin. Regardless of the cause, carbon spots are difficult, if not impossible, to remove without leaving pits in the coin's surface. If they are large enough, they can significantly lower the grade and value of a coin.

 

Cartwheel - An effect caused by the natural luster on most mint state, and on some proof coins. When the coin is tilted back and forth, beams of light seem to circle the central devices of the coin.

 

   
Choice - An adjective which the A.N.A. applies to coins of MS-65 or Proof-65 grade. Many dealers apply the term to MS/Proof-63 coins, and call MS/Proof-65 coins "Gem."

 

Cleaned - When a coin has been cleaned with baking soda or other mild abrasives, it may take on a slightly washed out look. Most dealers can tell that the coin has been cleaned. For all practical purposes, however, it is impossible to tell if most silver or gold coins have been judiciously and expertly cleaned just once or twice in Jewel-Luster(c) or soap and water, or any other basically non-abrasive solution. If the luster or color of the coin appears even the slightest bit unnatural as a result of past cleaning, the coin is usually described as "cleaned" when catalogued for sale.

 

   
   
Commercial Grade - A synonym for Market Grade.

 

Conservative Grade - A grade which gives the "benefit of the doubt" to the purchaser rather than to the seller.

 

Corrosion - Damage which occurs on the surface of some coins, generally due to improper storage. Corrosion is caused when a chemical reaction, such as rust, actually eats into the metal.

 

Clashed Dies - Extraneous design detail often appears on a die as a result of two dies coming together without a planchet between them during the minting process. Coins struck from such dies are said to be struck from clashed dies, or to have die clashes or clash marks. (See "Die," "Die Scratches!')

 

Denticles - The tooth-like projections which make up the inner rim on some coins. They were discontinued on most United States coins in the early twentieth century.

 

Devices - The focal figure(s) of a coin, such as Miss Liberty's head and the eagle which appear on the Morgan silver dollar.

 

Die - The metal mold used to strike a coin.

 

Die Cracks - Raised lines which appear on a coin as a result of that coin having been struck by a cracked die.

 

Die Rust - Pitting or roughness appearing on a coin as a result of that coin having been struck by a rusted die.

 

Die Scratches - Raised lines which appear on a coin as a result of scratches on the die used to strike that coin. Die scratches (and similarly die cracks and die clashes) do not diminish the value of a coin nearly as much as scratches acquired after the coin is struck. In many cases, they do not affect the value of the coin at all.

 

Die Variety - A coin which has already been attributed by denomination, date, mintmark and major variety (such as Morgan Dollar, 1879-S, Reverse of '78) can often still be broken down by die variety. Research has been done in many series assigning numbers to the various combinations of dies known to have struck coins of each of the various years and mintmarks. A few examples of reference works on die varieties are: Sheldon (large cents), Valentine (half dimes), Browning (early quarters), Overton (bust half dollars), Van- Allen/Mallis (Morgan silver dollars), and Breen (Us. gold coins $1 through $10).

 

Die Wear - The loss of detail on a coin due to wear on the die used to strike it (rather than wear on the coin itself.

 

D.M.P.L. - Abbreviation for Deep Mirror Prooflike. An exceptionally deep mirror-like prooflike coin with little if any cartwheel luster. Synonym: "D.P.L." (See P.L.)

 

Dipped - A coin which has been cleaned in a soap solution, the most popular of which is called "Jewel Luster"(c), is said to have been dipped. The term "dipped" is not considered necessary in, say, a catalog description of a coin, unless the dipping has caused noticeable dulling of luster, or an otherwise unnatural appearance (usually on copper coins). The practice of dipping coins is not advisable, except by bonafide experts, and even then only on rare occasions.

 

Eye-Appeal - The aesthetic effect a coin has on its viewer. Although somewhat subjective, like any form of art, that which constitutes eye-appeal (or the lack of it) is generally agreed upon by most experienced numismatists.

 

Field - The flat part of a coin's surface which surrounds the devices, date, legend and other parts of the coin's design.

 

Flip - A clear, flexible plastic holder used to display and store coins. (See "PVC").

 

Friction - A disturbance which appears either on the high-points of a coin or in the fields, as a result of that coin rubbing against other objects. A coin is said to have friction when only the luster is disturbed, and no actual wear of the metal is visible to the naked eye. Many strictly uncirculated coins can have some friction, often from storage in old style coin cabinets or albums or from rubbing against other coins in rolls. (See "Rubbing").

 

Frosty - An adjective used to describe a coin which possesses cartwheel luster. (See "Cartwheel").

 

Gem - An adjective which the A.N.A. applies to coins which grade Mint State or Proof-67. Many dealers, however, apply the adjective to any coin which they grade MS/Proof-65.

 

Grey Sheet - A synonym for the Coin Dealer Newsletter.

 

Hairline - A thin, shallow scratch on the surface of a coin, usually caused by improper cleaning, or mishandling. Hairlines are found on virtually all proof coins, and are considered the most important single factor in grading high quality proof coins. They sometimes appear on business strikes as well. Hairlines tend to show up more often on prooflike business strikes.

 

Hallmark - An independent grading service in Woburn, Massachusetts recently formed by Q. David Bowers and Lee Bellisario.

 

High Relief - A coin with deep concave fields, due to its design. High relief coins required extra pressure to be fully struck, and were difficult to stack. Therefore, the few coins struck in high relief by the U.S. mint (such as the 1921 Peace dollar, and the 1907 Roman Numerals double eagle) were each made for only one year.

 

Iridescent - Probably the most desirable form of toning on a silver or nickel coin. Iridescent toning covers virtually all of the coin's surface, while still permitting all of the coin's natural luster to shine through with its full intensity. Some numismatists feel that in order for toning to be called iridescent it must have all the colors of the rainbow, or at the very least, most of them.

 

Lamination - A form of planchet flaw caused by imperfections in the metal, whereby a thin strip of the metal separates itself from the coin.

 

Lint Mark - A characteristic which occurs mostly on proof coins as a result of a piece of lint on the die or planchet during the striking process. This lint creates an incused scratch-like mark on the coin. Lint marks are distinguishable from hairlines by their evenness of depth and lack of raised ridges on their borders. They are also identifiable by their interesting thread-like shapes. Since a lint-mark is mint caused, it has a much smaller effect on the grade and value of a coin, than a hairline of equal size and prominence.

 

Luster - The brightness of a coin which results from the way in which it reflects light. Many different types of luster exist, and one of the trickiest parts of the grading process is determining whether the luster of a coin is artificial (See "whizzed"), natural as made, or diminished through wear, cleaning, friction, temperature, humidity, etc. (Alternate spelling "Luster.")

 

Market Grade - The grade at which most reputable dealers and auction houses would offer an uncertified coin. Also the standard employed by the N.C.I. (Numismatic Certification Institute) grading service. Often the retail market grade is less conservative than the technical grade. Factors other than the state of preservation are taken into account. Generally, a coin graded by retail market standards trades dealer to dealer at less than the current Coin Dealer Newsletter "bid" price, but often substantially over the "bid" price for the next lowest grade. CDN "bid" prices usually reflect wholesale trading ranges for the most conservatively graded coins on the market. (Synonym: "Commercial Grade").

 

Matte Proof - A certain type of proof minted in the US. mostly from 1908 to 1916. Gold and silver matte proofs have a dull, granular (i.e.. sandblast) finish without any mirror-like qualities. Copper and nickel matte proofs are really more like Roman finish proofs. (See "Roman Finish').

 

Milling Mark - A series of two or more small nicks on a coin which result from contact with the reeded edge of another coin, usually in a mint bag. Milling marks are generally more detrimental to the grade than normal bagmarks, because of their severity of depth and greater visual impact. (Synonym: "Reeding Mark").

 

Mint State - Describes a coin which has never been circulated. Thus, the coin has no wear. A mint state coin may still be weakly struck, and therefore lack the detail of even a lower grade coin. All mint state coins have some imperfections if you study them hard enough. The term "mint state" may also correctly be applied to coins that were struck as proofs.

 

Mishandled Proof - A proof coin which somehow escaped into circulation or was otherwise significantly abused.

 

N.C.l. - Abbreviation for Numismatic Certification Institute, Dallas, Texas.

 

N.G.C. - Abbreviation for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America, Parsippany, New Jersey. The leading coin grading service.

 

   
Obverse - The front, or "heads" side of a coin. Usually the side with the date.

 

Original - Referring to any aspect of a coin that retains its original state. Original toning means natural, not retoned or cleaned. Original luster means undisturbed luster that hasn't been enhanced through artificial means.

 

Original Roll - A roll of coins, all the same date, denomination, and mint mark, and usually of the same die variety, which seem to have been acquired by the same original owner, probably from the same original mint bag. Generally, all the coins in an original roll will have similar toning and luster.

 

P.C.G.S. - Abbreviation for Professional Coin Grading Service, Irvine, California. The second largest independent coin grading service

 

Patina - See "Toning"

 

P.L. - Abbreviation for Prooflike. A coin struck for general circulation which has, nonetheless, a somewhat mirror-like surface, similar to a brilliant proof. Prooflike coins are usually among the first coins to have been struck from a newly polished die. Naturally, unlimited degrees of prooflikeness exist. (See "Cameo" and "Semi-Prooflike.")

 

Planchet - The blank metal disk which becomes a coin when struck under high pressure between two dies.

 

Planchet Defect - Any defect of a coin which was caused by the planchet being imperfect prior to the coin being struck. (Synonym: "Planchet Flaw").

 

PQ - An abbreviation devised by Q. David Bowers in November, 1985. It stands for "Premium Quality" a term which describes the very finest coins which fall into the categories of Mint State-65 or Proof-65. For example, an MS-65PQ graded coin is considered more desirable than a coin described simply as MS-65. It should be noted that, as of this writing, the term is not (yet) universally used in this context, although Hallmark grading service employs the term on some coins it grades.

 

Presentation Piece - A coin which was obviously given special care when being struck. Similar to a proof, but not necessarily formally struck as one.

 

Proof - A coin which was made with special care, exclusively for collectors or investors and not struck for general circulation. Generally, proof coins are struck on specially selected and polished planchets. They are struck using polished dies. Usually the coins are made on a slower moving press, and/or are struck more than once. Most proof coins are brilliant, with a mirror-like surface. (See "Matte Proof," "Roman Finish," "Brilliant Proof," and "Cameo"). Proof is a method of manufacture, not a grade. However, proof coins are generally graded using the Sheldon scale (for example; Proof-60 or Proof-65).

 

PVC - Poly-Vinyl Chloride, a somewhat active chemical found in some types of plastic coin flips. PVC will cause some coins to tone or turn green over time. The effect is negligible on silver or gold coins (and removable), but PVC has been known to wreak havoc on copper, and to a lesser extent nickel coins, especially if the coins have been stored in warm or damp places over long periods of time. (See "Flip").

 

Raw - Refers to any coin which has not been graded by a grading service.

 

Red & Brown - A term used to describe mint state (and sometimes proof) copper coins which have started to turn brown, but still show some of their original mint red.

 

Retoned - Coin dealer slang for a coin which has been artificially toned, usually through some sort of chemical means.

 

Reverse - The back or "tails" side of a coin.

 

Rip - Coin dealer slang for a coin which was purchased below the market wholesale price and is easily resalable to one or more coin dealers for a good profit.

 

Roman Finish - A hybrid between a brilliant proof surface and a matte surface. Roman finish proof gold coins were struck by the US. mint in 1909 and 1910, although a few examples exist in other years. Some consider Roman finish proofs to be the most beautiful of all proof coins. (Synonym: "Satin Finish").

 

Rubbing - The barest trace of wear on the high points of a coin. just a step above "Friction" on the scale of adjectives used to describe degrees of wear. Usually, a coin with rubbing has virtually full mint luster intact. Still, the wear is just a hair too noticeable for the coin to be called mint state.

 

Satin Finish - See "Roman Finish"

 

Select - An adjective which the A.N.A. applies to Mint State or Proof-63 coins.

 

Semi-Prooflike - A coin which has almost enough mirror-like reflectiveness to be called "prooflike."

 

Sheldon Scale - A system of grading which was originally introduced by the late Dr. William H. Sheldon, for the purpose of grading large cents. The system was adapted to all coins in the early 1970's. The Sheldon Scale, as used today, incorporates numerical grades I through 70 to correspond with various descriptive grades as follows:

Poor-1
Fair-2
Almost Good-3
Good-4,6
Very Good-8, 10
Fine-12,15
Very Fine-20,25,30,35
Extremely Fine-40,45
Almost Uncirculated-50, 55, 58
Mint State- 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70

 

Slab - The plastic holder in which the leading grading services will encapsulate a coin which they have graded.

 

Sleeper - A coin which is undervalued or underpriced.

 

Slider - A coin which a less scrupulous individual might sell at a higher grade than it really merits. The term usually refers to a nearly mint state coin which is, or could be offered as a full mint state.

 

Split Grade - A coin whose obverse grade is different from its reverse grade. Examples: MS-63/65 or Proof 63/60.

 

Strike - The sharpness of detail which the coin had when it was mint state. A full strike is a coin which exhibits the full detail that would appear on the sharpest known examples of that type.

 

Technical Grading - A system of grading which only takes into account that which has happened to a coin after the minting process (i.e. the state of preservation). Generally, technical grading is ultra critical of post-minting process imperfections affecting surface preservation and luster. Technical graders often ignore strike and eye-appeal. Although not always as meaningful in the real marketplace, technical grading tends to be more conservative, as a rule, than market grading.

 

Toned - An adjective which describes a coin with toning.

 

Toning - The coloring which has formed on the surface of a coin as a result of the metal's interaction with outside elements. (Synonym: "Patina").

 

Type - A date or group of dates encompassing all of a particular standard design. (Example: Morgan silver dollars). A type collection is a collection of coins formed by one example (usually one of the most common dates) of each type of coin.

 

Typical Uncirculated or Proof - A term which the A.N.A. suggests using to describe a Mint State-60 or Proof-60 coin. This is not necessarily the way a coin typically comes. (For example, a typical bag-quality 1881-S dollar is actually closer to Mint State-63).

 

Wear - Visible erosion of metal, usually beginning from the highest points of a coin. Eventually, details, letters, or entire shapes are obliterated. Wear should not be confused with strike. Sometimes a worn coin can have more detail than a weakly struck mint state coin.

 

Whizzed - An artificial process whereby the surface of a coin is buffed to give it the appearance of having natural cartwheel luster.

 

Wire Rim - An effect whereby a thin, wire-like section of the rim of a coin is raised above the rest of the rim along the outside. This effect is usually caused by very high striking pressure, and tends to occur mostly on proof and high relief strikings.


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