Coin Terms

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

A


About Good

The grade AG-3. The grade for a coin that is just below good. On an About Good coin, only the main features of it are present. Date, mint mark, peripheral lettering, or other features sometimes are partially worn away.

About Uncirculated

Alternate term for Almost Uncirculated.

abrasions

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

Accumulation

  1. A grouping of a particular date, type, or series. Example: an accumulation of Morgan Dollars.
  2. A random grouping of coins, often as a monetary hoard. Opposite of a coin collection.

adjustment marks

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

AG

Acronym for About Good.

AGW (Actual Gold Weight)

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

album friction

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

album slide marks

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

alloy

A combination of two or more metals.

Almost Uncirculated

The grades AU50, 53, 55, and 58. These coins often look Uncirculated at first glance, but closer inspection will reveal slight friction or rub.

Altered surfaces

Cleaning or other impairment that renders a coin less desirable to collectors.

alteration

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

American Numismatic Association

It is a non-profit organization of coin collectors and dealers, chartered by an Act of Congress in 1912. Membership is highly recommended. Write to them at: 818 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80901.

ANA

Acronym for the "American Numismatic Association."

ANACS certificate

A uniquely numbered opinion of authenticity and/or grade from the ANA Certification Service.

ANACS

(American Numismatic Association Certification Service) originated by offering authentication, and later provided grading services. The grading service and acronym were sold by the ANA and now operate under this name as a third-party grading service.

ANE

Acronym for American Numismatic Information Exchange. NGC and PCGS certified coins trade sight-unseen through this electronic network system.

ancients

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

annealing

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

anvil die

The lower die on a minting machine.

Arrows

Design element usually found in the left (viewer's right) claw of the eagle seen on many US coins.

Arrows and rays

Term referring to 1853 quarters and half dollars. The rays were removed in 1854 because of striking difficulties created by the busy design.

Arrows at date

Term referring to the arrows to the left and right of the date. These were added to the dies to indicate a weight increase or decrease.

artificial toning

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

Ask

The lowest current asking price of a particular coin issue and grade offered for sale. Also see: Bid

assay

To determine the purity of an alloy.

attributes

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

AU

Acronym for About (Almost) Uncirculated.

Auction

An offering of coins or other items for sale where the buyer must bid against other potential buyers with no set price. This is in contrast with ordering from a catalog, price list, or advertisement at an advertised price.

authentication

Determination of the genuineness of an item.

B


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bag

The cloth sacks in which coin are stored and transported.

bag mark

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

bag toning

Coloring acquired from the storage bag of coins.

Barber coinage

Common name for the Charles Barber designed Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and half dollars struck during the 1890s and early 1900s.

Bank-wrapped rolls

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

Basal state

The condition of a coin that is identifiable only as to date, mint mark (if present), and type; one-year-type coins may not have a date visible.

Basal value

The value base on which Dr. William H. Sheldon's 70-point grade/price system started. The lowest-grade price was one dollar ($1) for the 1794 large cent - upon which he based his system.

Baseball cap coin

Slang for a Pan-Pac commemorative gold dollar coin. The figure on this coin wears a cap similar to a baseball cap.

basining

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

Beaded border

Small round devices around the edge of a coin, often seen on early U.S. coins.

BG Gold

Term sometimes applied to California fractional gold coins as documented in the Breen-Gillio reference work California Pioneer Fraction Gold.

bi-metallic

a coin comprised of two different metals, bonded together.

Bid

The highest price offered to buy a particular coin issue and grade either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium. Also see: Ask

Bidder

  1. A dealer issuing a quotation on an electronic trading system.
  2. A participant in an auction.

blank

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

blended

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

Bluebook

A blue-cover, wholesale pricing book for United States coins.

Bluesheet

Synonym for the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter.

BN

Short for Brown; refers to copper coins.

Body bag

Slang term for a coin returned from a grading service in a plastic sleeve within a flip. The coin referred to is deemed a "no-grade" and is not graded or encapsulated. Coins are no-grades for a number of reasons, including questionable authenticity, polishing, cleaning, and/or repair.

Bonded Coins

bourse

Term synonymous with a coin show.

bourse floor

The area where a coin show occurs.

Braided Hair

Style of hair on half cents and large cents from 1840 on. The hair is pulled back into a tight bun drawn with a braided hair cord.

branch mint

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

Breast feathers

The central feathers of eagle designs, particularly Morgan dollars. Fully struck coins typically command a premium and the breast feathers are usually the highest point of the reverse.

Breen

The late Walter Breen.

Breen Book

Slang for Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. It was published in 1988.

Breen letter

A written or typed document by Walter Breen rendering his opinion on a particular numismatic item. Prior to 3rd party certification, this was a common method collectors and dealers used to authenticate a unique item.

Breen-Gillio

Numbering system base on the book California Pioneer Fraction Gold by Walter Breen and Ron Gillio.

brilliant

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

Brilliant Uncirculated

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

Broad Strike

Coin struck without a collar, thus when the coin is struck the metal is allowed to expand and increase in diameter. May be centered or uncentered, but must not have any missing lettering or design detail.

brockage

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

bronze

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

brown

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

BU

Short for Brilliant Uncirculated.

BU rolls

Wrapped coins (usually in paper) in specific quantities for each denomination. Cents are quantity 50, nickels quantity 40, dimes quantity 50, quarters quantity 40, half-dollars and dollars 20, etc.

buckled die

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

Buffalo nickel

Slang for the Indian Head nickel, struck from 1913 to 1938. The animal depicted is an American Bison.

bulged die

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

Bullet sale

A trademark of Heritage Numismatic Auctions, referring to a public auction model with an exceptionally short lead-time between the consignment deadline and the sale date.

Bullet toning

See target toning.

bullion

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

bullion coin

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

burnished strike

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

burnishing

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

burnishing lines

Lines resulting from burnishing.

burnt

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

business strike

A regular issue coin meant to go into circulation.

bust

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

Bust dollar

Slang term for silver dollars struck from 1795 through 1803.

Buyer's Premium (Fee)

If you acquire a coin from an auction, the "buyer fee" is the percentage you'll need to pay on top of your winning bid. For instance, you bid $1000 for a coin with a buyer fee of 5% and you win, you will have to pay $1050 ($1000 plus 5% of your bid, which is $50).

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C

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

C-Mint

Term applied to the gold coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch Mint. This Mint only struck gold coins from its opening in late 1837 until it was seized by the Confederacy. (Coins struck in late 1837 were actually dated 1838.)

cabinet friction

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

CAC

The initials stand for Certified Acceptance Corporation, a company which reviews coins that are already graded and encapsulated by a third-party grading service. If the coin meets CAC's standards as high-end for the assigned grade, it will receive a green CAC sticker.

CAM

Abbreviation for Cameo.

Cameo

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

Canadian

Term for coins and other numismatic items of Canada. (as in, "Got any Canadian?")

Canadian silver

Slang term for the silver coins of Canada.

Cap Bust

Alternate term for Capped Bust

Capped Bust

A term describing any of the various representations of the head of Miss Liberty depicted on certain early 1807-1839 U.S. coins by a bust with a floppy cap. The design is attributed to John Reich.

capped die

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

carbon spot

Carbon spots refer to the dark (brown or black) spots that are found on a coin's surface. These spots can range in sizes and have different shapes. These carbon spots are the result of oxidation. The presence of carbon spots on a coin can negatively affect its value.

Carson City Mint

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

cartwheel

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

cast blanks

Planchets made by a mold method.

cast counterfeit

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

Castaing machine

A machine invented by French engineer Jean Castaing that added the edge lettering and devices to early U.S. coins before they were struck. Castaing machines were used until the introduction of close collar dies, which applied the edge device during the striking process.

CC

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

census

A compilation of the known specimens of a particular coin.

cent

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

CH

An abbreviation for Choice.

Chain Cent

The popular name for the Flowing Hair Chain cent of 1793, the first coins struck in the newly occupied Mint building.

Chapman Proof

1921 Morgan dollar Proofs supposedly struck for coin dealer Henry Chapman, having cameo devices and deeply mirrored surfaces like most Morgan dollar Proofs.

Charlotte Mint

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

chasing

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

choice

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

Choice Unc

Abbreviation for Choice Uncirculated.

Choice Uncirculated

An Uncirculated coin in grade MS-63 or MS-64.

circulated

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

circulation

Coins used by the general public for commerce.

circulation strike

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

clad

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

clash marks

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

clashed dies

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

Classic Era

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

Classic Head

An image of Miss Liberty that depicts the style of a Roman or Greek athlete wearing a ribbon around the hair.

cleaned

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

Cleaning Coins

DO NOT CLEAN YOUR COINS! Just like any antique piece of furniture, or painting, the original surfaces of a coin are much more desirable by collectors than altered or damaged surfaces. As a result, cleaned coins are worth significantly less money than wholly original coins. Even though a coin is dark in color, does not mean that it is less valuable. The metal in coins often oxidizes and produces a wide array of colors called toning. Some collectors hunt for wholly original coins with this type of toning.

clip

A coin struck from a clipped planchet.

clipped

A term for an irregularly cut planchet.

clogged die

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

close collar

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

Cohen variety

A die variety for half cents, denoted as C-1, C-2a, etc. Also see: Die Variety

coin

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

Coin collection

A grouping of coins assembled for fun or profit.

Coin collector

An individual who accumulates coins in a methodical manner.

Coin Dealer Newsletter

A weekly newsletter that reports the wholesale trading ranges of nearly all U.S. coins.

coin friction

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

coin show

A place where dealers sell and trade coins.

coinage

The metallic money of a country.

collar

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

commemorative

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

Commercial grade

A synonym for Market Grade.

commercial strike

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

common

An issue that is readily available.

common date

A date of an issue that is readily available.

complete set

A term for all possible coins within a series.

condition

The state of preservation for a particular coin.

Condition Census

A listing of the finest known examples of a particular issue. There is no fixed number of coins in a Condition Census.

condition rarity

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

Consensus grading

The process of evaluating the condition of a coin by using multiple graders.

Conserved

Numismatic conservation involves examination, scientific analysis, and a reliance upon an extensive base of numismatic knowledge to determine the nature of a coin's state of preservation and the extent of any damage. Conservation also encompasses appropriate procedures to protect the coin's original appearance and to guard against future deterioration to whatever extent possible.

Professional conservation should not be confused with "Coin Doctoring", in which an attempt is made to improve the appearance and grade of a coin through deceptive means such as artificial toning and where unaccepted or unorthodox methods are employed. Also not qualifying as conservation is restoration where mechanical repairs are made such as filling holes, smoothing out scratches, and re-engraving of detail.

contact marks

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

Contemporary counterfeit

A coin, usually base metal, struck from crude dies and made to pass for legal tender at the time of creation. Sometimes such counterfeits are collected along with the genuine coins, particularly in the case of American Colonial issues.

Continental dollars

"Dollars" struck in pewter (scarce), brass (rare), copper (extremely rare) and silver (extremely rare) that are dated 1776, but likely struck sometime later. Certain Benjamin Franklin sketches inspired the design.

copper spot

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

copper-nickel

An alloy composed of copper and nickel.

Coppers

Slang for pre-Federal copper, half cents, and large cents, minted through 1857.

copy

Any reproduction of a coin.

Copy dies

Dies made at a later date, usually showing slight differences from the originals. Also used to denote counterfeit dies copied directly from a genuine coin.

Coronet Head

Alternate name for Braided Hair design by Christian Gobrecht. This is sometimes also called the Liberty Head design.

corrosion

Damage that results when reactive elements act upon metal.

COUNTER BROCKAGE

counterfeit

A coin that is not genuine.

counter stamp

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

counting machine mark

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

cud

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

cull

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

cupro-nickel

An alloy of copper and nickel.

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D

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

D-Mint

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

Dahlonega Mint

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

date

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

dealer

Someone who buys, sells or trades coins.

Deep Cameo

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

deep mirror proof like

A coin that has deeply reflective mirror-like fields.

denomination

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

denticles

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

dentils

Short for denticles.

Denver Mint

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

design

A particular motif on a coin.

design type

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

designer

The individual responsible for a particular motif used for a coin

device

Any specific design element.

Device punch

A steel rod with a raised device on the end used to punch the element into a working die. This technique was used before hubbed dies were used as a standard.

die

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

die alignment

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

die break

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

die crack

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

die line

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

die rust

Rust accumulated on a die improperly stored.

die state

A specific point in the life of a coinage die.

die striations

Raised lines on coins that were struck with polished dies.

die trial

A test striking of a die.

die variety

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

die wear

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

dime

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

ding

Term for a small sized mark.

dipped

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

dipping solution

Acid based solution used to remove toning from coins.

disme

The original spelling of dime.

DMPL

Abbreviation for Deep Mirror Proof like. An exceptionally deep mirror-like proof like coin with little, if any, cartwheel lustre. Also see: DPL

doctored

The PNG Board of Directors has adopted this initial definition:
Coin doctoring is the action of a person or the enabling of another to alter a coin's surface or appearance, usually to diminish or conceal defects, and thereby represent the condition or value of a coin as being superior to its actual condition or value.

Among the practices defined as doctoring are effacing hairlines by polishing or manipulating the surfaces of proof coins, applying substances to the surface of coins to hide marks and defects, hiding marks or otherwise changing the appearance of a coin by adding toning, adding chemicals or otherwise manipulating the surfaces to create �cameo� frost on the devices of proof coins, and making a coin appear more fully struck by re-engraving portions of the devices, such as re-engraving bands on the reverse of a Mercury Dime or adding head detail to a Standing Liberty Quarter.

Altering dates or mintmarks or other struck portions of a coin to make it appear to be from a mint date or type other than that of origin, and altering business strike coins to make them resemble proof issues are also examples of coin doctoring. This definition is not intended to be all-inclusive, but only illustrative of forms of coin doctoring.

dollar

The denomination, consisting of one hundred cents.

Double Eagle

Literally two eagles, or twenty dollars.

Double Edge Lettering-Inverted

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

Double Edge Lettering-Overlap

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

double(d) die

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

double-struck

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

Draped Bust

The design of Miss Liberty with a drape across her bust. This is attributed to Mint engraver Robert Scot, who presumably copied the design after a portrait by Gilbert Stuart.

drift mark

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

dull

Term for a coin that lacks luster.

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EAC

Abbreviation for Early American Coppers

eagle

A gold coin with a face value of ten dollars.

Early American Coppers (Club)

A club dedicated to advancing the study of pre-1857 United States copper coinage including Colonials.

early strike

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

ED

Acronym for environmental damage.

edge

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

edge device

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

Electrotype

A duplicate coin created by the electrolytic method, where metal is deposited into a mold made from the original. The obverse and reverse metal shells are then filled with metal and fused together. The edges are then sometimes filed smooth to obscure the seam.

elements

The various devices seen on a coin.

Eliasberg

Short for Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., who was the only collector ever to assemble a complete collection of United States coins.

Emission sequence

The order in which die states are struck. Also, the die use sequence for a particular issue.

engraver

The person responsible for the design of a coin.

envelope toning

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

environmental damage

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

Eroded die

Synonym for a worn die.

error

A coin that varies from the norm unintentionally.

Essai

Term for trial or pattern striking. The anglicized version is essay and literally means a test or trial.

exergue

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

Expert

A specialist in a particular numismatic area. (i.e. A gold expert, a Morgan Dollar expert, a CC-Mint expert, etc.)

Extra Fine

Alternate term for Extremely Fine.

extremely fine

A grade of coin with nearly full detail and only the high points worn (usually grades EF40 and EF45).

Extremely High Relief

The 1907 double eagle issue designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The coin had so much depth that multiple punches from a powerful press were required to fully bring up the detail. Because of this difficulty, the design was lowered, resulting in the High Relief. This too was lowered to create the Standing Liberty double eagle, or Saint.

eye appeal

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

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F

Abbreviation for Fine

face value

The stated value on a coin backed by a government.

fair

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

fake

A counterfeit or altered coin.

Fantasy piece

A term applied to coins struck at the whim of Mint officials. Examples include the various 1865 Motto and 1866 No Motto coins.

Faces

Term referring to the motif on the reverse of Mercury dimes. The design consists of a bundle of rods banded (wrapped) around an ax with a protruding blade. The designation "full bands" refers to faces on which there is complete separation in the central bands across the rods.

Fat head

Term for the Large Size Capped Bust quarters and half eagles.

FB

Acronym for Full Bands.

FBL

Acronym for Full Bell Lines.

FH

Acronym for Full Head.

Fiat currency

Coins or paper money that do not have metal value or are not backed by metal value.

field

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

fine

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

finest known

The best-known condition of a coin.

First shot

Term for the opportunity to buy a numismatic item before it is offered to others.

First strike

A coin struck early in the life of a die. First strikes can be characterized by striated or mirror-like fields if the die was polished. First strikes are almost always fully or well struck, with crisp detail.

Five

Term for a five-dollar gold coin or half eagle.

Five Indian

Term for the Indian Head half eagles struck from 1908 to 1929.

Five Lib

Term for the Liberty Head half eagles struck from 1839 until 1908.

Fixed price list

A listing of items for sale at established prices.

Flat edge

Term referring to the particular specimens of High Reliefs that do not have a wire edge. Also see: Wire edge

flat luster

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

flip

A plastic sleeve in which coins are stored.

flip rub

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

flow lines

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

Flowing Hair

The design of Miss Liberty with long, flowing hair that is attributed to Mint engraver Robert Scot.

Flying Eagle

Term for Flying Eagle Cent.

Flying Eagle Cent

The small cent, struck in 88% copper and 12% nickel, that replaced the large cent.

focal area

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

Foreign

A numismatic item not from the United States.

Four-dollar gold piece

An experimental issue, also known as a Stella, struck in 1879-1880 as a pattern coin.

FPL

Acronym for Fixed Price List.

FR

Acronym for Fair.

Franklin

Synonym for Franklin half-dollar.

Franklin half-dollar

The half-dollar struck from 1948 until 1963 designed by John Sinnock. The coin featured Ben Franklin on the obverse and the Liberty Bell on the reverse.

friction

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

frost

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

frosted devices

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

frosty luster

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

FS

Acronym for Full Steps.

Fugio cents

1787 one-cent coins that are considered by some to be the first regular issue U. S. coin. Since they were authorized by the Continental Congress, this would seem to be a logical assumption. However, Congress did not pass the Mint Act until 1792, so an argument for the half dismes (half-dimes) of 1792 as the first regular issue is also valid.

Full Bands

Abbreviated as FB, this term is applied to Mercury (Winged Liberty Head) dimes when the central band is fully separated.

Full Bell Lines

Abbreviated as FBL, this term is applied to Franklin half-dollars when the lower sets of bell lines are complete.

Full Head

Abbreviated as FH, this term is applied to Standing Liberty quarters when the helmet of the head has full detail.

Full Steps

Term applied to a Jefferson five-cent piece when 5� or 6 steps of Monticello are present.

full strike

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

FUN Show

The annual convention sponsored by the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) held in early January. Considered by most dealers to be the best coin show of the year!

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Galvano

The large metal relief turned in a portrait lathe to become a steel hub.

Garrett

Term relating to the Garrett family. There were two main collectors, Thomas H. Garrett and John W. Garrett, who formed this extensive collection from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. It was later given to Johns Hopkins University and sold in five auction sales.

gem

Slang term for a superb coin.

Gem BU

Synonym for Gem Brilliant Uncirculated.

Gem Unc

Synonym for Gem Uncirculated.

Gem Uncirculated

See Gem.

Gobrecht

Synonym for "Gobrecht dollar."

Gobrecht dollar

Silver dollars dated 1836, 1838, and 1839 struck in those years and later restruck. These are named for their designer, Christian Gobrecht, Chief Engraver from 1840 to 1844.

gold

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

Gold commem

Synonym for gold commemorative.

Gold commemorative

Any of the eleven gold coins struck from 1903 until 1926 to honor a person, place, or event. Also, any of the modern United States commemorative gold issues sometimes referred to as modern gold commems.

Gold dollar

  1. Originally a small gold coins of one-dollar denomination struck from 1849 until 1889.
  2. Recently the term has been used to describe a coin from the Native American one dollar coin series.

Good

Grade usually with little detail but outlined major devices.

grade

Grades are simply the numerical or adjectival value of a coin. A grader identifies the amount of wear on the coin. A coin circulated widely can receive too much wear. A coin is basically graded based on the amount of wear it has received.

Grader

A person who evaluates the condition of coins.

grading

The process of identifying the condition of a coin.

Greysheet

A Coin Dealer Newsletter.

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Hair

The area of a coin that represents hair and may be an important aspect of the grade.

hairlines

Fine cleaning lines found mainly in the fields of coins.

Half

Synonym for half-dollar.

Half cent

The lowest-value coin denomination ever issued by the U. S., representing 1/200th of a dollar. Half cents were struck from 1793 until 1857.

Half disme

The original spelling of half dime. The first United States regular issue was the 1792 half disme supposedly struck in John Harper's basement using the newly acquired Mint presses.

Half Dollar

The denomination first struck in 1794 that is still issued today.

Half Eagle

Literally, half the value of an Eagle. The Eagle was defined by the Mint Act of 1792 as equal to ten silver dollars.

half rolls

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

hammer die

The upper die which is usually the obverse.

haze

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

Heraldic Eagle

Also called the large eagle, this emblem of Liberty got its name because of its resemblance to the eagles of heraldry.

high end

Any coin at the upper end of a particular grade.

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.

Hoard

A group of coins held for either numismatic or monetary reasons.

Hoard coin

A coin that exists, or existed, in a quantity held by an individual, organization, etc. Examples include Stone Mountain half dollars still held by the Daughters of the Confederacy.

Hoarder

An individual who amasses a great quantity of a numismatic item.

Hobo nickel

An Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel which has been engraved with the portrait of a hobo or other character, often by a hobo. These are popular with some collectors and some are so distinctive that they have been attributed to particular "hoboes."

holder toning

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

hub

The steel device from which a die is produced.

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impaired Proof

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

incomplete strike

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

Incused design

The intaglio design used on Indian Head quarter eagles and half eagles. The devices on these coins were recessed to try and deter counterfeiting and improve durability.

Independent Coin Grading Company (ICG)

ICG is a grading service located in Englewood, CO.

Indian cent

Synonym for an Indian Head cent.

Indian Head cent

U.S. cents struck from 1859 until 1909 with an Indian head designed by James Longacre.

Indian Head eagle

The Saint-Gaudens designed ten-dollar gold coin struck from 1907 until 1933.

Indian penny

Synonym for Indian Head cent.

intrinsic value

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

Iridescencent

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 lustre to shine through with its full intensity.

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Jefferson nickel

The five-cent coin struck beginning in 1938 through to this day. Felix Schlag was the designer.

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key coin

The most important coin in a particular series.

Knife edge

Synonym for wire edge.

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lamination

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

Large cent

A large copper U.S. coin - issued from 1793 until 1857 - valued at one-hundredth of a dollar. It was later replaced by a much smaller cent made from a copper-nickel alloy.

Large date

Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. The use of this term implies that a medium or small date exists for the coin or series.

Large Eagle

Synonym for Heraldic Eagle.

Large letters

Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. The use of this term implies that medium or small letters exist for the coin or series.

Large Motto

Synonym for the 1864 two-cent coin with large lettering for the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST". Congress mandated this inscription for all coinage and it has been used on nearly every coin since that time. Also see: Small Motto

Large size

A term referring to the particular diameter of a coin in a series. The use of this term implies that there is a small size with the same motif.

LD

Acronym for large date.

legal tender

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

legend

A phrase appearing on a coin such as: "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA"

lettered edge

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

Lettering

The alphabet characters used in creating legends, mottos, and other inscriptions on a coin.

Lib

Term for Liberty Head. (i.e. a $10 Lib, a $20 Lib).

Liberty

The symbolic figure used in many coin designs.

Liberty Cap

The head of Miss Liberty, with a cap on a pole by her head. This design was used on certain U.S. half cents and large cents.

Liberty Head

The design used on most U.S. gold coins from 1838 until 1908. Morgan dollars and Barber coinage are also sometimes referred to as Liberty Head coins.

Liberty Seated

The motif featuring Miss Liberty seated on a rock first used on the Gobrecht dollars of 1836-1839. This design was used on nearly all regular issue silver coinage from 1837 through 1891.

light line

The band of light seen on photographs of coins.

Lincoln cent

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

Lincoln penny

Slang for Lincoln Head cent.

lint mark

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

LL

Acronym for large letters.

Long Beach

Synonym for the Long Beach Coin and Stamp Exhibition held in Long Beach, California, America's largest commercial coin show. This show is held three times a year, usually in February, June, and October.

Lot

A unique number assigned by an auction house to an item or items sold in a particular sale.

loupe

A small magnifying glass used to examine coins.

luster

The brightness of a coin that results from the way in which it reflects light. Many different types of lustre exist, and one of the trickiest parts of the grading process is determining whether the lustre of a coin is artificial (see whizzed), natural as made, or diminished through wear, friction, cleaning, or other factors.

lustrous

Coins that still have original mint bloom.

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Major variety

A coin that is widely recognized as having a major difference from other coins of the same date, design, type, and mint. Also see: Minor variety

Market grade

The grade at which most reputable dealers and auction houses would offer an uncertified coin.

marks

Imperfections acquired after striking.

master die

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

master hub

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

Matte Proof

A certain type of proof minted in the U.S. mostly from 1908 to 1916. Gold and silver matte proofs have a dull, granular (i.e. sandblasted) finish without any mirror-like qualities. Copper and nickel matte proofs are really more like Roman finish proofs. Also see: Roman Finish

MD

Acronym for medium date.

Medal press

A high-pressure coining press acquired by the U.S. Mint, in the 1850s. It was used to strike medals, and other issues.

Medium date

Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. The use of this term implies that a large or small date exists for the coin or series.

Medium letters

Term referring to the size of the lettering on a coin. The use of this term implies that large or small letters exist for that coin or series.

melt

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

Mercury dime

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

metal stress lines

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

milling mark

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

Minor variety

A coin that has a minor difference from other coins of the same design, type, date, and mint. Also see: Major variety

mint

A coining facility.

Mint bloom

Original lustre that is still visible on a coin. Also see: Lustre

mint set

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

Mint set toning

Term referring to toning acquired by coins after years of storage in their original cardboard holders.

Mint State

A grade of a business strike coin (1 - 70) that has never been in circulation. It may have many marks, or none at all.

mintage

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

mint mark

A mint mark is a special inscription or mark on the coin. It is usually in small letters and identifies the US Mint that produced the coin. Mint marks provide good clues on the value of coins.

mis-struck

Error coins that have striking irregularities.

mishandled Proof

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

missing edge lettering

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

Morgan dollar

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

mottled toning

Uneven toning.

motto

An inscription or phrase on a coin.

mule Error

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

mutilated

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

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new

A coin that never has been in circulation.

New Orleans Mint

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

nickel

  1. Popular term for a five-cent piece struck in cupro-nickel alloy.
  2. May also refer to the alloy of which the coin is made.

No Arrows

Term applied to coins without arrows by their dates during years when other coins had arrows by the date. (i.e. the 1853 Arrows half dime and the 1853 No Arrows half dime.)

No Motto

Coins struck without the motto, "IN GOD WE TRUST".

No Stars

Term referring to the Gobrecht-designed Liberty Seated coins without stars.

No "CENTS" nickel

Liberty Head nickels struck in 1883 without a denomination. The lack of a denomination was very confusing to the public and led to the "racketeer" nickel scandal. Also see: Racketeer nickel

No-grade

Term applied to a coin returned from a third-party grading service that was not encapsulated. This can be due to questionable authenticity, cleaning, damage, or other reasons.

Not Sold

This indicates an item that did not sell at auction because it did not receive bids equal to or greater than the reserve (minimum bid) amount set by the consignor, or the opening bid.

Numerical grading

The Sheldon 1-70 scale employed by NGC, PCGS, and other third-party grading services.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation

A third-party grading service based in Parsippany, New Jersey.

Numismatic News

A leading weekly coin newspaper established in 1952.

numismatics

The science of money.

numismatist

One who studies or collects money.

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O

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

O-Mint

Coinage of the branch Mint in New Orleans, Louisiana

obverse

The front, or heads side, of a coin that usually has the date on it.

Oct

Synonym for octagonal - the Pan-Pac octagonal commemorative fifty-dollar coin.

off center

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

Open collar

A device used to position a planchet over the lower die. It was employed specifically for striking early U.S. coins whose edges had already been stamped with reeding or lettering.

orange-peel surfaces

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

original

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

original roll

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

original toning

Term for the color acquired naturally by a coin.

over-mint mark

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

over dipped

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

overdate

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

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P

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

P-Mint

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

Pan-Pac

Synonym for Panama-Pacific Exhibition.

Pan-Pac slug

Synonym for the round or octagonal 1915-dated Panama-Pacific fifty-dollar commemorative coins.

Panama-Pacific Exhibition

A 1915 exhibition held in San Francisco, California to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal.

Paper money

Synonym for currency.

partial edge lettering

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

patina

Synonym for toning.

Pattern

A test striking of a coin produced to trial a proposed design, composition, or size. Patterns were often struck in metals other than the one proposed.

PCGS

Abbreviation for Professional Coin Grading Service, a leading grading service located in Newport Beach, CA.

PCGS Population Report

Monthly publication by PCGS listing the number of coins graded and their grade.

Peace dollar

Synonym for the silver dollar struck from 1921 to 1935. The Peace dollar was designed by Anthony Francisci to commemorate the peace following World War I. 1921 featured another coin designated High Relief. In 1922, the relief was lowered resulting in the Regular Relief type that was issued through 1935. (example of obverse)

pedigree

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

penny

Slang for a one-cent coin.

peripheral toning

Coloring around the edge of a coin.

Philadelphia Mint

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

Piedfort

A term that means "double thick."

Pioneer gold

Privately issued gold coins struck prior to 1861. The term is generally associated with the private issues from California and the other post-1848 ore finds in Nevada, Oregon, and Colorado.

PL

Abbreviation for proof like.

plain edge

A flat, smooth edge.

planchet

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

planchet defects

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

planchet flaw

An irregular hole in a coin blank.

planchet striations

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

plated

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

platinum

Precious metal of extremely high value.

plugged

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

PNG

Acronym for Professional Numismatists Guild.

PNG certificate

A document (in duplicate: one for the coin owner and one kept on-file at PNG) completed by a PNG dealer that provided a guarantee of authenticity prior to third-party grading services.

PO

Abbreviation for Poor. (Also P).

polished die

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

Polyvinyl chloride

A somewhat active chemical found in some types of plastic coin flips. Polyvinyl Chloride will cause some coins to tone or turn green over time.

poor

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

Pop Report

Synonym for a report issued by NGC or PCGS, which summarizes the coins certified to date.

Population

The population of a coin refers to how many coins have been certified by a given grading service in that particular grade. The amount higher refers to how many have been certified in a higher grade by that grading service. The population data corresponds to the particular coin date, variety, and mint. For example, an 1881-S $1 Morgan silver dollar graded MS68 currently has a population of 48 coins with only 1 being graded higher. PCGS and NGC provide periodic reports of population data and we always use the latest figures available in giving our descriptions.

porous

A rough or granular surface.

PQ

Acronym for premium quality.

PR

Short for Proof.

premium quality

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

presentation striking

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

press

Any of the various machines used to produce coins.

Price guide

A periodical listing prices for numismatic items. The guide might differentiate between buy and sell (Bid/Ask), as well as wholesale or retail prices.

Price list

Synonym for fixed price list

Pristine

Term describing coins in original, unimpaired condition. Pristine coins are typically graded MS/PR-67 and higher.

Professional Coin Grading Service

A leading third-party coin grading service located in Newport Beach, California.

Professional Numismatists Guild

An organization of Numismatic dealers founded in 1955.

proof

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

Proof dies

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

proof set

A coin set containing Proof issues from particular year.

proof-only issue

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

proof like

A coin that has mirror-like surfaces.

Provenance

Synonym for pedigree.

Punch

A steel rod with a device, a date, lettering, and other symbols on the end which was hammered into a working die.

put-together roll

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

PVC

Acronym for polyvinyl chloride.

PVC damage

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

PVC flip

A soft coin flip that contain PVC.

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quarter

Short for a coin of the quarter (1/4) dollar denomination.

Quarter Eagle

Literally, one-fourth of an eagle, equal to a two-and-one-half dollar gold coin. The quarter eagle was first struck in 1796, struck sporadically thereafter, and was discontinued in 1929.

questionable toning

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

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Racketeer nickel

A gold-plated 1883 No "CENTS" Liberty Head five-cent coin ("V" nickel). Legend has it that a deaf-mute gold-plated these unfamiliar coins and would use them as legal tender. Sometimes, he was given change for a five-dollar gold piece since the V on the reverse could be interpreted as either five cents or five dollars! They have also been gold-plated since that time to sell to collectors.

rainbow toning

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

rare

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

rarity

Relative unavailability of a coin.

Rarity scale

A numerical-rating system used to quantify rarity. One example is the Universal Rarity Scale.

Raw

Refers to any coin that is not encapsulated by a grading service.

rays

Term for the lines that represent sun rays on coins.

RB

Abbreviation for red and brown or Red-Brown.

RD

Abbreviation for Red.

red

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

red-brown

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

reeded edge

The grooved notches on the edge of some coins.

reeding mark(s)

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

regular issue

Coins struck for commerce.

regular strike

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

relief

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

replica

A reproduction of a particular coin.

restrike

A coin struck later than indicated by its date.

retoned

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

reverse

The back, or tails side, of a coin, usually has no date.

rim

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

rim nick

A mark on the rim of a coin

Ring test

A test that may determine whether a coin was struck or is an electrotype or cast copy. The coin is balanced on a finger and gently tapped with a metal object. Genuine coins have a high-pitched ring or tone, while electrotypes and cast copies have little or none. It should be noted that this test is not always an accurate method for identifying electrotype or cast copy coins.

Rip

A slang term for a coin which was purchased below the market wholesale price and is easily resalable for a good profit.

roll

A set number of coins rolled in a coin wrapper.

roll friction

Minor marks seen on coins stored in rolls.

rolled edge

Term synonymous with rim.

Rolled Edge Ten

Common name for a particular 1907 variety of the Indian Head eagle.

roller marks

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

Roman finish

A scaly finish, similar to that of Satin Proofs. This was an experimental Proof surface used mostly on U.S. gold coins of 1909 and 1910.

rub

The barest trace of wear on the high points of a coin. Just a step more severe than "friction" on the scale of adjectives used to describe degrees of wear. Usually, a coin with rubbing has virtually full mint lustre intact. Also see: Friction

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S

Mintmark used by the San Francisco, California branch mint.

S VDB

Synonym for the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Head penny.

S-Mint

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

Saint

Synonym for the Saint-Gaudens inspired double eagle gold coin.

Saint-Gaudens

Family name of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the preeminent sculptor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. At the request of President Teddy Roosevelt, he began a redesign of the eagle and double eagle coins in 1907 although he died mid-production.

San Francisco Mint

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

satin luster

Fine luster seen on many business strike coins.

scratch

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

Screw press

The first type of coining press used at the U.S. Mint. The screw press had a fixed lower die, and an upper die attached to a threaded rod. By rotating a series of weighted arms that were attached to the threaded rod, the screw mechanism drove the upper die downward to strike the planchet. The screw press invention is credited to Donato Bramante.

SD

Acronym for small date.

Sea salvage coin

A coin retrieved from the ocean, often recovered from a ship wreck.

Seated

Synonym for Liberty Seated silver coins issued from 1837 through 1891.

Seated coinage

Synonym for Liberty Seated coinage.

second toning

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

semi-common

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

Semi-numismatic

Refers to a coin that has a significant bullion value and some numismatic value.

semi-prooflike

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

series

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

set

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

Sheldon

The late Dr. William H. Sheldon who wrote the seminal work on 1793 to 1814 large cents.

Sheldon Book

The large cent book, first published in 1949 as Early American Cents and reissued in 1958 as Penny Whimsy by W. Sheldon, W. Breen and D. Paschal.

Sheldon numbers

The reference numbers (S-1, S-2, etc.) for 1793 to 1814 large cents as documented in the books, Early American Cents and Penny Whimsy.

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 applied today, incorporates numerical grades 1 through 70 to correspond with various descriptive grades as follows:
Poor - 1
Fair - 2
Almost Good - 3
Good - 4 to 6
Very Good - 8 to 10
Fine - 12 to 15
Very Fine - 20 to 35
Extremely Fine - 40 to 45
Almost Uncirculated - 50 through 58
Mint State - 60 through 70.

shield

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

Shield nickel

Synonym for the Shield five-cent coin struck from 1866 until 1883.

Shiny spots

Areas on Matte, Roman, and Satin Proof coins where the original dulled surface has been disturbed.

shotgun rolls

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

Show

Synonym for a bourse or coin show.

Sight seen

A term meaning that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular grade may view the coin before buying it.

Sight unseen

A term meaning that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular grade offers to pay a certain price without examining the item.

silver

A soft, white, lustrous precious metal.

Silver commem

Synonym for silver commemorative coins.

Silver commemoratives

Coins struck at various times from 1892 through 1954 and post-1982, to celebrate a person, place, or event.

Silver dollar

Silver coin that served as a cornerstone of U.S. currency from 1792 through 1935. Also see: Dollar, Trade dollar

Silver nickel

Synonym for Wartime nickel.

Silver-clad

A coin whose overall metal makeup is 40% silver and 60% copper. Kennedy half dollars (struck from 1965 until 1970) are silver-clad halves.

Skirt lines

Lines representing the folds of Liberty's flowing gown on Walking Liberty half-dollars.

SL

Acronym for small letters.

slab

Holder in which a coin is encapsulated.

slabbed

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

Sleeper

A coin which is undervalued or under priced.

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.

Slug

Term for the octagonal and round fifty-dollar gold coins struck during the California gold rush. Legend has it that the term came about when criminals used the two-and-one-half ounce coins wrapped in a cloth to bonk their victims on the head. For an unrelated reason, 1915 Pan-Pac fifty-dollar commemorative issues are also referred to as slugs.

Small cent

Cents of reduced size that replaced the large cent as of 1857.

Small date

Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. The use of this term implies that a large or medium date exists for that coin or series.

Small Eagle

Referring to the coin design with the plain eagle on a perch, first used on the 1794 half dime and half dollar.

Small letters

Term referring to the size of the lettering used in the design on a coin. The use of this term implies that large or medium letters exist for the coin or series.

Small Motto

Abbreviation for the variety of two-cent coin of 1864 with small letters in the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST". Also see: Large motto

Small size

A term referring to the diameter of a coin in a series. The use of this term implies that there is a large diameter coin with the same motif.

SMS

Acronym for Special Mint Set

SP

Abbreviation for Specimen Strike.

Spark-erosion die

A die made by an electrolytic deposition method. Because the surfaces of the die are very rough (a result of the process), they must be polished to remove surface imperfections.

Spark-erosion strike

A coin made from spark-erosion dies, often showing signs of pitting in the relief areas as a result of the die surface.

Special Mint Set

A set of special coins that were first struck in limited quantities in 1965 and officially released in 1966-1967. They were intended to replace Proof sets, which had been discontinued by the U.S. Mint in an effort to stop coin hoarding. In 1968, The Mint resumed the issuing of Proofs.

Specimen

Referring to a special set of coins struck at the Mint from 1792 to 1816 that display many characteristics of the later Proof coinage.

Specimen Strike

Also see: Specimen

Split grade

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

splotchy toning

Color that is uneven.

spot

A discolored area on a coin.

Standard silver

The official composition of U.S. silver coinage, determined by the Mint Act of 1792. Initially set at approximately 89 percent silver and 11 percent copper, it was later changed to 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper.

Standing Liberty

Design motif of Miss Liberty in an upright front-facing position.

Standing Liberty quarter

Synonym for the quarter dollar struck from 1917 until 1930. It was designed by Hermon MacNeil.

Staple scratch

A line on a coin resulting from its improper removal from a cardboard stapled holder.

Star

A five-pointed or six-pointed design element used on many U.S. coins.

State quarter

Synonym for the 1999 and later Washington quarters struck with unique reverse designs for each State. These quarters are to be issued in the order of admittance to the United States. The order for the original 13 colonies was determined by the date which each State ratified the Constitution.

Steam-powered press

A coining press driven by a steam-powered engine.

steel cent

Common name for the 1943 U.S. cents.

Steelies

Synonym for 1943 steel cents.

Stella

Abbreviation for the experimental four-dollar gold coins struck by the U.S. Mint in 1879-1880. The term comes from the large star on the coins' reverse.

Sterling Silver

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

Stock edge

A counterfeit edge collar used for creating fake coins.

Store cards

Merchant tokens, usually composed of copper, created to help alleviate the shortage of small change during the nineteenth century. These were widely accepted in their immediate areas.

Stress lines

Synonym for "flow lines."

Striations

Term for the incused polish lines on a die which result in raised lines on coins. While these are usually fine, parallel lines, they may also manifest themselves as swirling, or even criss-cross lines. Planchet striations are burnishing lines not struck away by the minting process that are incused on the coins.

strike

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

strip

The flat metal from which planchets are cut.

struck

A term used to describe a coin produced from dies

Struck copy

A replica of a particular coin made from dies, possibly but not necessarily meant to deceive.

Struck counterfeit

A fake coin produced from false dies.

struck thru

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

surface preservation

The condition of the surface of a coin.

surfaces

The obverse and reverse of a coin.

sweating

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

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Tab toning

Term referring to toning often seen on commemorative coins which were sold in cardboard holders with a round tab. Such coins have a circle in the center and are said to have "tab toning".

Tail feathers

Refers to the tail feathers on the Eagle on the reverse of certain U.S. coins. Particularly, the Morgan Silver Dollar.

Target toning

Toning effect that resembles an archery target - with deeper colors on the periphery often fading to white or cream color at the center.

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). Technical graders often ignore factors such as strike and eye-appeal.

Teddy's Coin

Synonym for J-1776, the unique gold striking of the 1907 Indian Head double eagle.

Ten

Slang for an eagle or ten-dollar gold coin.

Ten Indian

Synonym for an Indian Head eagle.

Ten Lib

Synonym for a Liberty Head eagle.

Territorial Gold

Coins and bars privately struck during the various gold rushes.

TF

Abbreviation for Tail Feathers.

Thaler

The Germanic spelling of the silver-dollar size coins from Europe. The English word "dollar" is derived from this word.

Three

Synonym for the Indian Head three-dollar gold coin.

Three Cent Nickel

Three-cent coins composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel struck from 1865 -1889. The Liberty Head design by James Longacre was copied from the earlier Liberty Head motif by Christian Gobrecht.

Three Cent Silver

Three-cent coin with a star motif that was struck in silver alloy.

Thumbed

Term for a coin that has been doctored in a specific way to hide marks, hairlines, or other disturbances. The thumb is rubbed lightly over the disturbances, and the oils in the skin help to disguise any problems.

Tissue toning

Color, often vibrant, acquired by coins stored in original Mint paper. The toning is caused by sulfur in the paper reacting with the coin.

token

A substitute for a coin.

Toned

An adjective which describes a coin with toning.

toning

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

tooling mark

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

Trade dollar

A U.S. silver coin issued from 1873 until 1885 that is slightly heavier than the regular silver dollar. Named because it was intended to facilitate trade in the Far East, the Trade dollar was made with a marginally higher silver content in an attempt to gain acceptance in commerce throughout the world.

transfer die

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

Transitional

Synonym for transitional issue.

Transitional issue

A coin struck after an "official" series ends, or before an "official" series starts. It can also refer to a coin struck with either the obverse or the reverse of a discontinued or upcoming series.

Treasure coin

A coin known to have come from a shipwreck or from a buried or hidden source.

Trial strike or striking

Also see: Die trial

Trime

Synonym for a three-cent piece.

troy weight

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

Turban Head

Synonym for Draped Bust.

Twenty

Synonym for a double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.

Twenty Lib

Synonym for a Liberty Head double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.

Two and a Half

Synonym for a quarter eagle or two-and-one-half dollar gold coin.

Two-cent piece

Synonym for the Shield two-cent coin struck from 1864 - 1873.

type

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

type coin

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

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Ultra Cameo

A term used, most notably by NGC, to denote Proof coins that have deeply frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the mirror fields. Also see: "Deep Cameo."

ultra high relief

Alternate name for the Extremely High Relief.

ultra rarity

A coin that is represented by only a few examples.

Unc

Short for uncirculated.

Uncirculated

As the term implies, this type of coin has never been used or circulated. What this means is that an uncirculated coin will not have any wear on it. There are also different types of uncirculated coins such as Mint State uncirculated, Brilliant Uncirculated, or New.

Used

Term used to describe a coin that has light to heavy wear or circulation.

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V-nickel

Synonym for the Liberty Head five-cent coins struck from 1883 - 1912. (The 1913 was struck clandestinely and is not reported in Mint documents.)

VAM number

Unique number (such as VAM-105) assigned to each set of Morgan and Peace dollar dies documented in The Complete Catalog and Encyclopedia of United States Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars. Abbreviated VAM because of the authors Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis.

Van Allen-Mallis

Authors of The Complete Catalog and Encyclopedia of United States Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars first published in 1971, and reprinted in 1998.

variety

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

VDB

Synonym for the 1909 VDB Lincoln Head cent. Controversy arose over having a non-Mint engraver's initials on a coin, so Victor D. Brenner's initials were removed. In 1918, the VDB was returned to the Lincoln Head cent in a less conspicuous spot on the slanted area at the bottom of Lincoln's shoulder.

Very Fine

Term for the grades VF-20, 25, 30, and 35.

Very Good

Term for the grades VG-8 and VG-10.

Very Fine

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

Vest pocket dealer

A part-time coin merchant.

VF

Acronym for Very Fine.

VG

Acronym for Very Good.

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W

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

W-Mint

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

Walker

Synonym for a Walking Liberty half-dollar.

Walking Liberty

Synonym for a Walking Liberty half-dollar.

Walking Liberty half dollar

U.S. half dollars struck from 1916 - 1947.

War nickel

Synonym for Wartime nickel.

Wartime nickel

Five-cent coins struck during World War II with the composition 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese. Historic legend has it that the metallic change was driven by a need for nickel to be used in the war effort. However, recent research indicates that the boost to morale by having an intrinsic-value small denomination coin may have played an important part in the issuance of the Wartime nickel.

Washington quarter

Synonym for the Washington quarter dollar.

Washington quarter dollar

Quarter dollar first struck in 1932, as a circulating commemorative coin to celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of George Washington's birth. It was designed by Laura Gardner Frazier and was a continuing series from 1934 through 1998 (with a special Bicentennial reverse in 1976). For 1999, the obverse was redesigned and the State quarter series begins. Each of the 50 State quarters will have a different reverse design with 5 new issues per year.

watery look

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

weak edge lettering

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

weak strike

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

Wear

Visible erosion of metal, usually beginning from the highest points of a coins. Eventually, lettering, details, or entire devices are obliterated. Wear should not be confused with a weak strike. It is possible for a worn coin to have more detail than a weakly struck mint state coin.

Wheel mark

Synonym for "counting machine mark."

West Point Mint

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

whizzing

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

wire edge

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

Wire Edge eagle

The 1907 Indian Head eagle coin of which only 500 were struck. Technically a pattern, this design featured a fine wire rim and surfaces that were both satiny and striated. An unknowledgeable numismatist will look at one of these specimens and consider it hairlined or harshly cleaned.

Wire Edge Ten

Synonym for the 1907-dated Wire Edge Indian Head eagle.

Wire rim

Synonym for wire edge.

With arrows

Alternate term for arrows at date.

With arrows and rays

Synonym for arrows and rays.

With motto

Alternate term for motto.

With rays

Alternate term for rays.

working die

A die used to strike coins.

working hub

A hub used to create the working dies.

World Coins

Coins from countries other than the United States.

worn die

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

Wreath cent

Synonym for the second large cent type of 1793.

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X and Y


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XF

Abbreviation for Extremely Fine.

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Zerbe Proof

Morgan dollars specially struck in 1921 for numismatist Farran Zerbe. Also see: Chapman Proof