Beverly Hills Rare Coins

Professionals In Rare Coins For Over 25 years



Numismatics Glossary

Beverly Hills Rare Coins

Professionals In Rare Coins For Over 25 years

Numismatics Glossary

Glossary of Coin Terms:


About Good (AG) – a grade equal to 3 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale. Only the main features of the coin are present in this grade. Peripheral lettering, date, stars, etc. are partially worn away.

About Uncirculated (AU) – the adjectival term that equates to a numeric grade of 50, 53, 55, or 58

Abrasions – similar to a bag mark but usually on the high points or open fields and not as deep or acute.

Adjectival Grade – a term, such as “Good” or “Uncirculated,” used to describe a coin’s condition. Numbers were later added by Dr. William Sheldon in the late 1940s

Adjustment Mark – these are striations that appear on some pre-19th century silver and gold coinage. They are the result of mint workers filing excess silver or gold from overweight planchets prior to striking. These marks are sometimes still visible after striking and should not be confused with damage. After 1840 these are seldom seen as the filing was on the rim and was usually obliterated by the striking process.

AGW (Actual Gold Weight) – This refers to the amount of pure gold in a coin, medal or bar. Any alloys are part of the gross weight of a gold coin, but not part of the AGW.

Album slide marks – Lines, usually parallel, imparted to the surface of a coin by the plastic “slide” of a coin album.

Alloy – a mixture of two or more metals

Alteration – a coin that has a date, mint mark, or other feature that has been changed, added, or removed, usually to simulate a rarer issue.

ANA – American Numismatic Association, the national organization for coin collectors

ANACS (American Numismatic Association Certification Service) – a third party grading service.

Ancients – general term for coins of the world struck between 700 BC. and  1453 AD.

Annealing – The heating of a die or planchet to soften the metal before preparation of the die or striking of the coin.

ANS – American Numismatic Society, a coin collecting organization founded in 1858.

Anvil die – The lower die, usually the reverse of the coin. Because of the physics of minting, the fixed lower-die impression is slightly better struck than the upper-die impression.

Arrows and rays – term referring to the quarters and half dollars of 1853. The rays were removed in 1854 because of striking difficulties presented by the busy design.

Artificial toning – coloring added to the surface of a coin by chemicals and/or heat. Many different methods have been employed over the years.

Assay – the testing of an ore sample to determine its precious metal value

Attribution – the designation of a coin’s variety according to standard reference books

Authentication – the determination of a coin’s genuineness

Bag Mark – a surface mark, usually a small nick, acquired by a coin through contact with other coins in a mint bag.(also known as contact marks)

Bag Toning – When stored in cloth mint bags for extended periods, the coins near and in contact with the cloth often acquired beautiful red, blue, yellow and other vibrant colors.

Bank-wrapped rolls – rolls of coins that were wrapped at a Federal Reserve Bank from original Mint bags.

Barber Coins – Common name for the Charles Barber designed Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and half dollars struck from 1892 until 1916.

Baseball Cap Coin – slang for a Pan-Pac commemorative gold dollar coin. The figure wears a cap similar to a baseball cap.

Basining – the process of polishing a die to impart a mirrored surface or to remove clash marks, or other injuries from the die.

Base Metal – a non-precious metal, such as copper, nickel or zinc

Blank – an unstruck coin disc, the same as “planchet”

BN – abbreviation for Brown, a designation used to describe the color of a copper coin. Related terms: RB(Red Brown) and RD (Red).

Bourse – a popular term for the sales floor of a coin show.

Brass – an alloy of copper and zinc.

Brilliant Uncirculated – an adjectival grade defined as being MS 60 or higher.

Bronze – an alloy of copper and tin.

Bullion – refined precious metal in any form, including bars, rounds or coins.

CAM – abbreviation for cameo designation.

Cartwheel – an old slang term for American Silver Dollars.

Cartwheel Luster – luster that rotates like a windmill when a coin is turned in the light. (often associated with Morgan Dollars).

Certification – the process of having a coin authenticated, graded and encapsulated by a third party grading service.

Choice Uncirculated – an adjectival grade defined as being MS 63 or higher.

Circulation Strike– coin intended for eventual use in commerce as opposed to a Proof coin. (also known as a business strike)

Clad – a laminated or sandwiched coin of various metals, usually copper & nickel.

Collar – a retaining ring for the planchet, which imparts a coin’s edge, whether plain or reeded.

Commemorative – a coin honoring an event, place or individual, usually of limited mintage.

Condition census – a roster of the five or six finest known specimens of a particular coin

Contact Marks – small nicks imparted by contact with other coins

Contemporary Counterfeit – a counterfeit coin that was made at the same time that the genuine issue was being made.

Coronet – a crown or tiara frequently seen on the Liberty portrait of 19th Century US coins

Counterfeit – a non-genuine coin, whether made to circulate as money or to deceive collectors.

Crack-out– a coin that has been removed from a grading service holder.

Cud – a raised, unstruck area on a coin that is created when the planchet is struck by a broken die and the planchet metal fills the die break.

Currency – circulating money, used numismatically to denote a non-proof coin

Denomination – the face value of a coin, such as one cent, ten cents, etc.

Denticles – the toothlike projections seen on the borders of older US coins

Device – a raised design element on a coin, such as a portrait or lettering

Die – a cylindrical shaft of steel that imparts one side of a coin’s design (two are required)

Die Break – a term used to describe the void of a die that is created when a piece of that die breaks and becomes detached. A die break forms a “cud” when the planchet is struck.

Die Clash – a term for the image that appears on a coin that is struck from two dies that had clashed together without a planchet in between. This clash results in each die having an imprint of the opposite die, which is then imparted on the coin when struck.

Die Crack – a fine raised line on a coin, caused by a broken die.

Die Defect – an imperfection on a coin, caused by a damaged die.

Die Variety – any minor alteration in the basic design of a coin.

Dipped – chemical cleaning of a coin.

Double Die – a die that has been given two misaligned impressions from a hub. (also a coin made from such a die)

Double Eagle – a United States $20 gold coin, issued from 1850 to 1933.

Doubloon – popular name for a Spanish gold coin.

DPL – abbreviation for Deep Proof Like designation

DMPL – Deep Mirror Proof Like

Eagle – a U.S. $10 gold coin, issued from 1795 to 1933

Edge – the thin side of a coin, it can be plain, reeded, lettered or starred

Electrum – naturally occurring mixture of gold and silver used for some of the world’s first coins.

Encapsulated coin – one which has been sealed inside a plastic holder

Extremely Fine (XF) (also known as “Extra Fine”) – the adjectival term for a grade of either 40 or 45 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale.

Fair (FR) – a grade equal to 2 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale.

FB – abbreviation for Full Split Bands designation for the Mercury dime series.

FBL – abbreviation for Full Bell Lines designation for the Franklin half dollar series.

FH – abbreviation for Full Head designation for the Standing Liberty quarter series.

Field – the flat surface area of a coin between the various devices

Fine (F) – the adjectival term for a grade of either 12 or 15 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale.

Fineness – the percentage or decimal proportion of precious metal in a coin.

Flip – a flexible, transparent, plastic envelope having one pocket for a coin and one for its label

Frosted – describes a coin’s surface which is textured rather than smooth or glassy

FT – abbreviation for Full Torch designation in the Roosevelt dime series.

Gem Uncirculated – an adjectival grade defined as being MS 65 or higher.

Good (G) – the adjectival term for a grade of either 4 or 6 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale.

Grade – the numerical value assigned to a coin’s condition on a scale of 1 to 70.

GSA – acronym for the General Services Administration, which sold millions of surplus Morgan and Peace dollars in the 1970s.

Hairlines – fine scratches on a coin’s surface that may affect its grade.

Half cent – a US copper coin of that value, issued from 1793 to 1857.

Half dime – a US silver five-cent coin, issued from 1794 to 1873.

Half eagle – a US $5 gold coin, issued from 1795 to 1929.

Hoard – in numismatics, a large accumulation of coins, often of the same or similar type.

Hub – a steel cylinder bearing one side of a coin’s design and used to produce dies.

Humbert Gold – gold coins produced by Augustus Humbert as a U.S. assayer with Moffat & Co.

Intrinsic value – the value of a coin’s metal, irrespective of its face or collector value.

Junk Silver – common date silver coins taken from circulation worth only bullion value.

Key Date – usually the lowest-mintage and  most expensive coin in a particular series.

Legal Tender – a coin declared by a government to be acceptable in the payment of all debts

Legend – an inscription which appears on a coin, such as LIBERTY

Lettered Edge – the edge of a coin on which either raised or sunken letters appear

Luster – the brilliant or “frosty” surface quality of an uncirculated coin.

Matte – an intentionally non-reflective finish used on certain proof coins.

Master Die – the main die produced from the master hub. Many working hubs are prepared from this single die.

Master Hub – the original hub created by the portrait lathe. Master dies are created from this hub.

Melt Value – slang term for the intrinsic precious metal value of a particular numismatic item.

Milled – machine-made coinage. Planchets are typically fed through rollers that imprint and cut the coin to shape.

Milling Mark – a mark that results when the reeded edge of one coin hits the surface of another coin. Such contact may produce just one mark or a group of marks.

Minor Coin – a base-metal coin of small value, such as a cent or nickel.

Mint – the structure where coins are produced, or the governmental body overseeing its work.

Mintage – the number of coins of a particular date struck at a given mint during a particular year.

Mint Error – coins with major mint errors as a result of human or mechanical error during manufacturing.

Mintmark – a small letter or letters appearing on a coin to denote its city of manufacture.

Mint State (MS) – describes an unworn coin, the same as Uncirculated

Mirror – the brilliant surface of a coin, typically the fields of a proof or prooflike coin.

MS – the abbreviation for Mint State, used with a numerical figure to grade unworn/uncirculated coins.

NGC- Numismatic Guaranty Corporation– a third party grading service.

No Motto – coins struck without the motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST.”

Numerical Grading – specifically, the Sheldon 1-70 scale employed by PCGS, NGC and others.

Numismatics – the science of money; coins, paper money, tokens, inscribed bars, and all related items.

Numismatist – One who studies or collects money and related items.

Obverse – the front side of a coin (“heads”)

Overdate – a coin variety in which one date is impressed over another

Over Mintmark – A coin struck with a die on which one mintmark is engraved over a different mintmark.

Pan-Pac – short for Panama-Pacific Exhibition.

Patina – Synonym for toning.

Pattern – an experimental coin made as a test of a new design, material or technology

PCGSProfessional Coin Grading Service – established in 1985, this was the first third-party grading service to grade, encapsulate, and guarantee the authenticity for numismatic material.

Pedigree – a coin’s past or present ownership.

Peripheral Toning – Light, medium, or dark coloring around the edge of a coin.

PF – the abbreviation for Proof, it’s used with a numerical figure to grade proof coins.

PL – abbreviation for Prooflike designation

Plain Edge – the edge of a coin which is smooth and lacking any decoration

Planchet – a blank disc that will be stamped between dies to produce a coin

Plugged – a term used to describe a coin that has had a hole filled, often so expertly that it can only be discerned only under magnification.

Poor (PO) – a grade equal to 1 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale

Pop Report – Short for “PCGS Population Report.”

Press – a compression machine in which dies come together to stamp a coin

Proof (PF) – a high-quality coin for collectors made in small numbers from specially prepared dies.

Prooflike – having the appearance of a proof coin. (mirrored fields)

Proof Set – a coin set containing Proof issues from a particular year.

PVC Damage – a film, usually green, left on a coin after storage in flips that contain polyvinyl chloride.

Quarter eagle – a US $2.50 gold coin, issued from 1796 to 1929

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

R1, R2, R3, etc. – a scale of coin rarity ranging from R1 (very common) to R8 (unique)

RB – abbreviation for Red Brown, a designation used to describe the color of a copper coin. Related terms: BN (Brown) and RD (Red).

RD – abbreviation for Red, a designation used to describe the color of a copper coin. Related terms: BN(Brown) and RB (Red Brown).

Red Book – the popular name for “A Guide Book of United States Coins,” by R.S. Yeoman

Redfield Hoard – a very famous hoard of silver dollars collected by LaVere Redfield in the 1940s and 1950s. Approximately 400 bags, or some 400,000 coins, were in the hoard.

Reeded Edge – the edge of a coin on which raised lines appear

Relief – the portion of a coin’s design which is raised above the smooth surface or field.

Restrike – a coin made years after the original edition but from the same dies.

Reverse – the back side of a coin (“tails”)

Series – a continuous run of coins of the same type, such as the Indian Head Cent series of (1859-1909).

Sheldon Grading Scale – the grading scale popularized by Dr. William Sheldon in the late 1940s that grades coin on a scale from 1-70. Still used by most major grading companies today.

Slab – a slang term for an encapsulated coin

SP – Specimen

Specie – coined money, as opposed to paper money or other store of wealth

Starred Edge – the edge of a coin featuring either raised or sunken stars

Strike – the action of producing a coin, or the quality of a coin’s detail sharpness

Toning – the term for the color seen on many coins. There are infinite shades, hues, and pattern variations seen, the result of how, where, and how long a coin is stored. Every coin begins to tone as it leaves the die, as all United States coins contain reactive metals in varying degrees.

Tooling Mark – A line, usually small and fine, found on both genuine and counterfeit coins. On genuine coins, such lines result when Mint workmen touch up dies to remove remnants of an overdate or other unwanted area. On counterfeits, they often appear in areas where the die was flawed and the counterfeiter has attempted to “fix” the problem.

Trade Dollar – a special type of US silver dollar made from 1873 to 1885, primarily for export

Trime – a US silver three-cent piece, issued from 1851 to 1873

Troy Weight – a method of weighing gold and silver and the coins made from those metals. There are 480 grains (or 20 pennyweights) in a troy ounce. There are twelve troy ounces in a troy pound.

Type Collecting – assembling a collection of one of each coin denomination and design.

Type Coin – a representative coin, usually a common date, from a particular issue of a specific design, size, or metallic content.

UC – abbreviation for Ultra Cameo designation

Uncirculated – describes an unworn coin; this means the same as Mint State

V-Nickel – common name for the Liberty Head five-cent coins struck from 1883 through 1912. (The 1913 was struck clandestinely and is not listed in Mint reports. The few known are amongst the most valuable coins in the world).

VAM Number – unique number assigned to each die combination of Morgan and Peace dollar known to the authors of The Complete Catalog and Encyclopedia of United States Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars. Called VAM because of the authors Leroy Van Allen and  A. George Mallis.

Variety – a coin that differs from its basic design type in some distinctive way and is thus differentiated by collectors

Very Fine (VF) – The adjectival term for a grade of 20, 25, 30, or 35 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale.

Very Good (VG) – The adjectival term for a grade of either 8 or 10 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale

Walker –  slang term for a Walking Liberty half dollar coin.

Wartime nickel – Nickels struck during World War II comprised of 35% silver, 9% manganese, and 56% copper.

Wheel Mark – a concentrated area of hairlines which are caused when a coin gets stuck in the rubber wheel of a coin counting machine.

Whizzing – term to describe the process of mechanically moving the metal of a lightly circulated coin to simulate luster. Usually accomplished by using a wire brush attachment on a high-speed drill.

Wire rim – a fine, raised line of metal around the rim of very sharply struck coins.

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