The following coin glossary contains nearly 200 coin collecting terms. This helpful resource is for beginners and veterans alike.
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about good or AG- According the the Sheldon scale grading standard, this is one of the lowest grades a coin can merit. The grade, date and designs will be present but worn and hard to read. Usually consistent with coins prior to 1950.
abrasion – Scratches on the coins surface. This can happen with coin to coin contact or when a hard object comes in contact with the coin. Abrasions are not as deep of gashes as bag marks. Usually located on the highest parts of a coins design.
Ag – Elemental abbreviation for Silver
AGW – Actual gold weight. Term refers to the actual gold weight of a coin. Figure would not include other metals in the coin’s composition.
alloy – Two or more metals mixed into one. Usually done to increase strength.
almost uncirculated or AU – A coin that is close to uncirculated condition. At first glance it may appear gem brilliant uncirculated. However, inspected closely using magnification it will have a slight amount of wear. Same as “About Uncirculated”.
altered date – A coin where the date has been manipulated after the coin was struck. Often done to try to deceive someone for financial gain.
American Eagle – Introduced in 1986 to be the Unites States Gold and Silver standard. Platinum eagles later came in 1997. The Mint considers their mint state issues investment grade bullion while the proof issues are only for collectors.
American Numismatic Association or A.N.A. – The premier nonprofit educational coin collectors organization in America. They support the education and expansion of numismatics.
ancients – Extremely rare coins struck between 600 B.C. to 450 A.D.
anvil die – The anvil die is the bottom of two dies used to strike a coin, which is usually the reverse.
annealing – The process of heating coin blanks in a furnace. This process is needed to soften the metal prior to striking designs into the coins.
assay – Determination of the purity of a metal by scientific means. Assay bars guarantee a specific amount of metal content.
attributes – The defining quality elements that define a coin’s grade. Example: brilliance, toning, eye appeal, luster, etc.
Au – Elemental abbreviation for GOLD.
bag mark – Gashes and marks on a coin that occur during late in the production process. Happens when coins bump into each other when sliding down the metal chute into a bag with thousands of similar coins. Larger size coins typically exhibit more bag marks than smaller ones. As the bags gets transferred around the country, they gain more bag marks.
bar – Usually shaped as a rectangle in ingot form. Can be palladium, gold, silver, or any precious metal. Bars can vary in size from a few grams up to hundreds of pounds.
basining - The polishing process applied to a die to impart a mirrored surface or to remove the coin of contact marks or other imperfections from the die.
billon – A relatively low grade alloy of silver mixed with another metal. The silver portion is usually less than 50% silver.
bimetallic – see dual metal
bit – Verbiage used to indicate 1/8 of a dollar. In earlier days due to a shortage of available smaller denomination coins, these silver dollars were carefully cut into pieces shaped like slices of pie. A small piece equal to one eighth of the dollar was called a “piece of eight” or a “bit”.
blank – Also called a planchet. Blanks are cut out to size out of large sheets of metal. Blanks then are sent to the presses to have designs struck into them.
Breen-Gillio – Walter Breen and Ron Gillio, authors of the book California Pioneer Fraction Gold. They developed a rarity numbering system for California fraction gold coins.
brilliant uncirculated or BU – Term used to indicate a coin that still retains a lot of the original brilliance and luster and was withheld from circulation.
bronze - An alloy mixture of zinc, tin and copper. Copper being the principal metal.
buffing – The polishing of a coin with an abrasive that leaves a finish that attempts to mislead mint luster. Coin buffing is looked down upon as is decreases a coins value.
bullion – Term used when referring to precious metal coins. Usually Mint’s produce Silver, Gold, Platinum and sometimes Palladium. Bullion is traded in the form of coins, ingots, and bars.
burnished die – In 2005, the US Mint began a new finish for some of their coins known as satin finish. To achieve this, they burnished the dies by blasting them with tiny glass and steal beads. When struck, the coins surface appears slightly wet, or with a satin affect.
business strike – A coin that is produced for commerce and circulation. Currently business strike coins are struck by the Denver and Philadelphia Mints.
cameo – A coin that features a mirror like background with a contrasting frosted design. Special polishing of the dies make this cameo mirrored effect.
carbon spots - Spots seen primarily on gold and copper coins. Carbon spots are dark brown to black spots of oxidation. Carbon spots can decrease overall quality and value of a coin.
cast coin – A coin that is produced by pouring melted metal into a mold as opposed to striking a die against a blank.
CC Mint – Located in Carson City, Nevada. Operated from 1870 until 1893.
certified – Also known as graded. A coin that has been authenticated and certified for it’s condition by a coin grading service. Since the 60′s, collectors use the Sheldon scale of 0-70 (70 being flawless). Certified coins are slabbed airtight in shatterproof plastic holders displaying their grade and details.
circulation – Coins used in commerce to purchase products and services are in circulation. A circulated coin will feature signs of wear and use.
clad – Clad coins have a core of one type of metal and an outer layer of another metal or metals. US dimes, quarters, and half dollars since 1965 have been clad, a composition of nickel and copper.
C Mint – Located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Began operations in late 1837 until its seizure by the Confederacy in 1861. Produced gold coins only.
COA – Certificate of authenticity. A paper certificate from the issuing mint declaring the coins authenticity and sometimes lists mintage and composition.
coin blog – Available on the internet, some sites will regularly post specific content regarding coin collecting, coin trading and overall industry insight.
coin show - Exhibitions held all over the world where coin collectors, buyers and sellers come together.
collar – The collar on the printing press surrounds the rim of the coin. This prevents the metal from flowing outside of the collar under extreme pressure.
commemorative – A coin or medal struck to honor an important person, place, or event in history. These are available for a short period of time and produced in low numbers.
condition – The actual state of a coin. The Sheldon scale has been used since the 60′s to describe a coins condition with a merit between 0 and 70 (70 being flawless).
contact mark – A mark on a coin that happens from coming in contact with another coin or hard object.
copper nickel - A metal alloy of 88% copper and 12% nickel. This alloy was used for the 1856-1864 US Flying Eagle and Indian cents.
coppers - The nickname used for older copper coins, large cents, and half cents.
copy – A reproduction of a coin. Some copies are considered illegal. Government regulations require reproductions of US coins to be larger or smaller than the original so not to confuse the authenticity.
corrosion – A chemical reaction on a coins surface. Corrosion can result from a coin coming in contact with other things such as chemicals and gases in the air. Corrosion can damage a coins surface.
counterfeit - A coin that is fake or a reproduction in order to make people think it is the real thing.
crack-out – A certified coin that has been removed from its certification slab.
cud – When a coin is struck by a broken die, the area where the die is broken will produce extra metal on the coins surface called cud.
cull – A below grade coin compared to other coins in the group. Sometimes used to describe a defective coin. “Cull it out” – means to remove it from the group because of its defective condition or low grade.
currency – Paper money or coins used as a medium of exchange
DMPL – or Deep Mirror Proof Like – an uncirculated coin (usually silver coin) that displays mirror like qualities of a proof coin. These coins usually demand a premium.
D Mint – Located in Denver, Colorado. Began operations in 1906 and still producing coins today. Back between the years 1838 and the civil war, the “D” mint mark was used by the US mint in Dahlonega, Georgia.
denomination – Designated values of money used in an economy. Currently, the US is using 6 different denominations of coins; the cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar.
denticles – Located around the furthest edge of a coin, they are small tooth-like raised areas of metal. Denticles are particularly seen on older coins and often found the obverse and reverse of the coin.
die - A precisely sized and engraved metal disk used for stamping the design into coins. Dies undergo a hardening process so that when it strikes the metal blank, the design will be pressed into the metal.
die clash – When a coin is not present in the collar and the dies come together with great force, a die clash will occur causing damage to the die. The dies leave a trace of the impression on one another. If this problem is not caught right away, clash marks will show some of the reverse design on the obverse side of the coin, some of the obverse design on the reverse, or both.
die defect – Can be minor or major damage or defect of a coin die. The coins produced by the defected die will show the same defects.
die variety – A small change to the design that results in a slightly different variety.
double die – A coin that shows a doubled set of numbers or letters. This is caused by the coin die having been made with a doubled design on parts of it. An example would be the popular 1955 double die Lincoln cent.
double eagle - Used when describing the twenty dollar gold piece struck from 1850 to 1932. The term was used because the double eagle’s gold content was twice that of an eagle $10 gold piece. The Double Eagle gold coin is just shy of 1 ounce of gold.
dual metal - A coin composed of two precious metals. Extremely rare, almost never produced by the Mint. Example; the 2000 Library of Congress Gold and Platinum coin.
Eagle - Name for the old gold $10 coins made up until 1932. These older gold coins contained nearly 1/2 ounce of gold and featured an eagle design on the reverse. The eagle is not to be confused with the modern issue american eagle coins.
edge lettering – Sometimes referred to as an edge device. Edge lettering is used as one of the US Mint’s new technologies to display the coins markings. Among the lineup of coins with edge lettering are the presidential dollars, the 2009 St. Gauden’s Ultra High Relief and the 5 ounce America the Beautiful bullion coins.
electrum – A mixture of silver and gold that happens naturally. Some of the first coins ever produced were made of this alloy.
encapsulated – Once a coin has been professionally graded, it is placed into a shatter-proof container. Sealed encapsulation ensures preservation of the coins quality from air and moisture.
engraver – An artist who begins creating a coin’s design as a model or sculpture usually about 12 to 20 inches in diameter.
error - A coin that displays some type of manufacturing defect on it. Modern Mint procedures make a strong attempt to keep error coins from being released.
exergue – The area of a coin that is beneath the coins main design. Typically bearing the date and often separated by a line or transition in the design.