Rare Coin Dictionary
The rare coin market has its own unique words, phrases, abbreviations
and slang. Knowing these will help you communicate with dealers and
collectors efficiently. Use the Alphabetical
Listing below to find the word(s) you're looking for.
This dictionary is provided by PCGS as a courtesy.
- About Good
- The grade AG-3. The grade of a coin that falls short of Good. Only the
main features of the coin are present in this grade. Peripheral lettering,
date, stars, etc. sometimes are partially worn away.
- About Uncirculated
- Alternate of Almost Uncirculated.
of a coin where a foreign object or another coin has displaced metal
in an abraded fashion. Similar to a bag mark but usually on the high
points or open fields and not as deep or acute as the former.
miscellaneous grouping of coins, often as a monetary hoard. Opposite
of a coin collection. A second use is as a grouping of a particular
date, type, or series. (Example: an accumulation-of Bust Halves.)
file marks seen mainly on gold and silver coins prior to 1840. These
removed excess metal from overweight planchets. After 1840 these are
seldom seen as the filing was on the rim and was usually obliterated
by the striking process.
is for "About Good" (the grade) and "3" (the corresponding numerical
designation). Most of the lettering on the coin is readable, but there
is moderately heavy wear into the rims. This grade is frequently found
on Standing Liberty Quarters coins where the obverse is fully Good
(or better) but the reverse is heavily worn.
to album slide marks, though the friction may be only slight rubbing
on the high points. Album friction is very common on coins with high
relief designs. For example Walking Liberty Half Dollars in Choice
Unicirculated can be found with very minor friction on the hips of
Miss Liberty. Another example of this friction can be found on the
knee and leg of many Unicirculated examples of Standing Liberty Quarters.
Better to look for coins without this problem.
usually parallel, imparted to the surface of a coin by the plastic
"slide" of Whitman Coin albums. Walking Liberty Half Dollars in Choice
Unicirculated can be found with very minor friction on the hips of
Miss Liberty. Another example of this friction can be found on the
knee and leg of many Unicirculated examples of Standing Liberty Quarters.
Better to look for coins without this problem.
combination of two or more metals.
grades AU50, 53, 55, and 58. A coin that on first glance appears Uncirculated
but upon closer inspection has slight friction or rub.
coin that has a date, mint mark, or other feature that has been changed,
added, or removed, usually to simulate a rarer issue.
non-profit numismatic organization founded in 1888 for the advancement
for "American Numismatic Association."
- (American Numismatic Association Certification Service)
only authentication was offered, grading was added later. The grading
service and acronym were sold by the ANA and now operate under this
name as a third party grading service.
uniquely numbered opinion of authenticity and/or grade from the ANA
Certification Service. The ANA now only authenticates, having sold
the name and grading service. Old ANACS certificates that include
the grade of the coins should be considered highly unreliable. The
grading certification program saw major swings in the grading standard.
As a result many coins graded by ANACS from 1980 through 1988 were
term for coins of the world struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 450 A.D.
- The heating of a die or planchet to soften the
metal before preparation of the die or striking of the coin.
lower die, usually the reverse - although on some issues with striking
problems, the obverse was employed as the lower die. Because of the
physics of minting, the fixed lower-die impression is slightly better
struck than the upper-die impression.
- Design element usually found in the left (viewer's
right) claw of the eagle seen on many United States coins. After 1807,
there usually were three arrows while prior to that time the bundle
consisted of numerous ones.
- 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.
- arrows at date
- Term referring to the arrows to the left and right of the date, added to the dies to
indicate a weight increase or decrease.
- artificial toning
- Coloring added to the surface of a coin by chemicals and/or heat. Many different
methods have been employed over the years.
- The selling quotation of a coin either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or
- The elements that make up a coin's grade. The main ones are marks (hairlines for
Proofs), luster, strike, and eye appeal.
- This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "50" (the numerical designation
of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-50." This is the lowest of the
four AU grades, with the others being AU53, AU55, and AU58. Between 50%
and 100% of the surfaces will exhibit luster disturbances, and perhaps the only
luster still in evidence will be in the protected areas. The high points of the coin
will have wear that is easily visible to the naked eye.
- This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "53" (the numerical designation
of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-53." There is obvious wear on
the high points with light friction covering 50-75% of the fields. There are
noticeable luster breaks, with most of the luster still intact in the protected areas.
- This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "55" (the numerical designation
of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-55." There is slight wear on the
high points with minor friction in the fields. Luster can range from almost
nonexistent to virtually full, but it will be missing from the high points. The grade
of "Choice AU" equates to AU55.
- This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "58" (the numerical designation
of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-58." There is the slightest wear
on the high points, even though it may be necessary to tilt the coin towards the
light source to see the friction. In many cases the reverse of an AU58 coin will be
fully Mint State. Less than 10% of the surface area will show luster breaks. The
grade of "Borderline Unc" equates to AU58.
- An offering of coins for sale where the buyer must bid against other potential
buyers, as opposed to ordering from a catalog, price list, or advertisement at a set
- The process of determining the genuineness of a coin or other numismatic item
- A generic term for the cloth sacks in which coin are stored and transported. These
came into use in the mid-nineteenth century and replaced wooden kegs for this
- bag mark
- A generic term applied to a mark on a coin from another coin; it may, or may not,
have been incurred in a bag.
- bag toning
- Coloring acquired from the bag in which a coin was stored. The cloth bags in
which coins were transported contained sulfur and other reactive chemicals.
When stored in such bags for extended periods, the coins near and in contact with
the cloth often acquired beautiful red, blue, yellow and other vibrant colors.
Sometimes the pattern of the cloth is visible in the toning; other times, coins have
crescent-shaped toning because another coin was covering part of the surface,
preventing toning. Bag toning is seen mainly on Morgan silver dollars, though
occasionally on other series.
- Bank-wrapped rolls
- Rolls of coins that were wrapped at a Federal Reserve Bank from original Mint
bags. Such rolls are often desirable to collectors because they have not been
searched or "picked" by collectors or dealers. Sometimes abbreviated as OBW,
for "original bank wrapped."
- Barber coinage
- Common name for the Charles Barber designed Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and
half dollars struck from 1892 until 1916 (1915 for the half dollar).
- 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 from which Dr. William H. Sheldon's 70-point grade/price system
started; this lowest-grade price was one dollar for the 1794 large cent upon which
he based his system.
- The process of polishing a die to impart a mirrored surface or to remove clash
marks or other injuries from the die.
- beaded border
- Small, round devices around the edge of a coin, often seen on early U.S. coins.
These were replaced by dentils.
- BG Gold
- Term sometimes applied to California fractional gold coins as encompassed in the
Breen-Gillio reference work titled California Pioneer Fraction Gold, including
- The buying quotation of a coin either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or
- Either the dealer issuing a quotation on one of the electronic trading systems or a
participant in an auction.
- bidder number
- The number assigned by auction houses to the various participants in their
auction. In the past, codes or nom de plumes were also commonplace at sales.
- The flat disk of metal before it is struck by the dies and made into a coin.
- A term applied to an element of a coin (design, date, lettering, etc.) that is worn
into another element or the surrounding field.
- A blue-cover, wholesale pricing book for United States coins issued on a yearly
basis. Dealers used it from the late 1940's through the 1970's and collectors as a
guide in determining the prices they would pay to collectors for rare coins. It is
largely out of use for the purpose and has been supplanted almost entirely by the
Coin Dealer Newsletter's publications and online computer networks.
- Slang for the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter.
- The designation BM refers to "Branch Mint," meaning any US Mint other than
Philadelphia. You will usually find this designation used to describe Branch Mint
Proof coins, such as the 1883-CC Proof Morgan dollar, 1893-CC BM Proof
Morgan dollar, etc.
- Short for Brown
- body bag
- Slang term for a coin returned from a grading service in a plastic sleeve within a
flip. The coin referred to is a no-grade example and was not graded or
encapsulated. Coins are no-grades for a number of reasons, such as questionable
authenticity, cleaning, polishing, damage, repair, and so on.
- Term synonymous with coin show
- bourse floor
- The physical area where a coin show takes place
- Braided Hair
- Style of hair on half cents and large cents from 1840 onward consisting of hair
pull back into a tight bun with a braided hair cord.
- branch mint
- One of the various subsidiary government facilities that struck, or still strikes,
- breast feathers
- The central feathers seen on numerous eagle designs. Fully struck coins usually
command a premium and the breast feathers are usually the highest point of the
reverse. (They are the most deeply recessed area of the die, so metal sometimes
does not completely fill the breast feather area, usually because of insufficient
striking pressure. Incorrectly spaced or lapped dies will also cause "striking"
- Slang for the late Walter Breen. Often heard in context of Breen letter, Breen said,
Breen wrote, and so on. Walter Breen's personal life dimmed the impact he had
numismatics. Sadly for him and his victims, he was serial pedophile.
- Breen Book
- Slang for Walter Breen's magnum opus, Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and
Colonial Coins, published in 1988.
- Breen letter
- A document, usually one page, written or typed by Walter Breen giving his
opinion on a particular numismatic item. Before certification, this was the usual
method employed by collectors and dealers desiring to sell an esoteric item such
as a branch-mint Proof, early Proof, and so on.
- Numbering system base on the book on California fraction gold coins by Walter
Breen and Ron Gillio titled California Pioneer Fraction Gold.
- A coin with full luster, unimpeded by toning, or impeded only by extremely light
- Brilliant Uncirculated
- A generic term applied to any coin that has not been in circulation. It often is
applied to coins with little "brilliance" left, which properly should be described as
- A brockage is a Mint error, an early capped die impression where a sharp incused
image has been left on the next coin fed into the coining chamber. Most
brockages are partial; full brockages are rare and the most desirable form of the
- An alloy of copper, tin and zinc, with copper the principal metal.
- The term applied to a copper coin that no longer has the red color of copper.
There are many "shades" of brown color -- mahogany, chocolate, etc. (abbreviated
as BN when used as part of a grade).
- Short for Brilliant Uncirculated.
- BU rolls
- Wrapped coins (usually in paper) in specific quantities for each denomination.
Fifty for cents, forty for nickels, fifty for dimes, forty for quarters, and so on.
- buckled die
- A die that has "warped" in some way, possibly from excess clashing, and that
produces coins which are slightly "bent." This may be more apparent on one side
and occasionally apparent only on one side.
- 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 clashed so many times that a small indentation is formed in it.
Coins struck from this die have a "bulged" area.
- bullet toning
- Many coins were stored by collectors in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries in
holders, albums, bags and envelopes that had extremely high sulfur contents. This
over time caused often dramatic toning on Silver and nickel coins. One of the
most common patterns of a toned circle of toning in the center of a coin. Often
resembling a bullet whole.
- Slang for coins, ingots, private issue, and so on that trade below, at, or slightly
above their intrinsic metal value. Only the precious metals (gold, silver, platinum,
and palladium) are included as bullion. Copper cents could also technically be
classed as bullion.
- bullion coin
- A legal tender coin that trades at a slight premium to it's melt value.
- A dealer-to-dealer term to describe a hopelessly over priced rare coin purchase.
- A process by which the surfaces of a planchet or a coin are made to shine through
rubbing or polishing. This term is used in two contexts -- one positive, one
negative. In a positive sense, Proof planchets are burnished before they are struck
-- a procedure done originally by rubbing wet sand across the surfaces to impart a
mirror like finish. In a negative sense, the surfaces on repaired and altered coins
sometimes are burnished by various methods. In some instances, a high-speed
drill with some type of wire brush attachment is used to achieve this effect.
- burnishing lines
- Lines resulting from burnishing, seen mainly on open-collar Proofs and almost
never found on close-collar Proofs. These lines are incuse in the fields and go
under lettering and devices.
- Slang for a coin that has been over-dipped to the point were the surfaces are dull
- Business strike
- A regular issue coin, struck on regular planchets by dies given normal
preparation. These are the coins struck for commerce that the Mint places into
circulation. Also known as regular and commercial strike coins.
- The head and shoulders of the emblematic Liberty seen on many United States
issues including Capped Bust and Draped Bust coins.
- Bust dollar
- Slang for silver dollars struck from 1795-1803. (Those dated 1804 were first
struck in 1834 for inclusion in Proof sets. Those Proofs dated 1801, 1802, and
1803 were also struck at dates later than indicated.)
- Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch
- 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 its
seizure by the Confederacy. (Those coins struck in late 1837 were dated 1838.)
- cabinet friction
- Slight disturbance seen on coins (usually on the obverse) that were stored in
wooden cabinets used by early collectors to house their specimens. Often a soft
cloth was used to wipe away dust, causing light hairlines or friction. Europeans in
the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries would do this regularly. Finding Gem British
coins are especially difficult because of this problem.
- Short for Cameo. Also, PCGS grading suffix used for 1950 and later Proofs that
meet cameo standards.
- The term applied to coins, usually Proofs and prooflike coins, that have frosted
devices and lettering that contrast with the fields. When this is deep the coins are
said to be "black and white" cameos. Occasionally frosty coins have "cameo"
devices though they obviously do not contrast as dramatically with the fields as
the cameo devices of Proofs do. Specifically applied by PCGS to those 1950 and
later Proofs that meet cameo standards (CAM).
- Slang for the coins and other numismatic items of Canada.
- Canadian silver
- Slang for the silver coins of Canada. (Mainly struck in 80% fineness.)
- Cap Bust
- Alternate form of Capped Bust
- Capped Bust
- A term describing any of the various incarnations of the head of Miss Liberty
represented on early U.S. coins by a bust with a floppy cap. This design is
credited to John Reich.
- capped die
- The term applied to an error in which a coin gets jammed in the coining press and
remains for successive strikes, eventually forming a "cap" either on the upper or
lower die. These are sometimes spectacular with the "cap" often many times taller
than a normal coin.
- carbon spot
- A spot seen mainly on copper and gold coins, though also occasionally found on
U.S. nickel coins (which are 75 percent copper) and silver coins (which are 10
percent copper). Carbon spots are brown to black spots of oxidation that range
from minor to severe -- some so large and far advanced that the coin is not graded
because of environmental damage. The natural oil from your hands, tiny spit that
gets sprayed when speaking around unprotected copper and nickel coins can
cause carbon spots. Be warned, be careful.
- Carson City
- The United States branch Mint located in Carson City, Nevada that struck coins
from 1870 until 1885 and again from 1889 until 1893. These are among the most
popular branch-mint issues.
- The pleasing effect seen on some coins when they are rotated in a good light
source. The luster rotates around like the spokes of a wagon wheel. A term
applied mainly to frosty Mint State coins, especially silver dollars, to describe
their luster. Also, a slang term for a silver dollar.
- cast blanks
- Planchets made by a mold method, rather than being cut from strips of metal.
- cast counterfeit
- A replication of a genuine coin usually created by making molds of the obverse
and reverse, then casting base metal in the molds. A seam is usually visible on the
edge unless it has been ground away. Large numbers of these coins have
originated in the middle-east. Their often gold knock off that are made of poor
quality gold and are designed to fool buyers of gold who are not knowledgable.
Very commonly found in coin jewelry.
- Castaing machine
- A device invented by French engineer Jean Castaing, which added the edge
lettering and devices to early U.S. coins before they were struck. This machine
was used until close collar dies were introduced which applied the edge device in
the striking process.
- A printed listing of coins for sale either by auction or private treaty. As a verb, to
write the description of the numismatic items offered.
- Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada branch Mint.
- Short for Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter
- Short for Certified Coin Exchange
- Short for Coin Dealer Newsletter
- A compilation of the known specimens of a particular numismatic item.
- A denomination valued at one-hundredth of a dollar, struck continuously by the
U.S. Mint since 1793 except for 1815. (Actually, some cents dated 1816 were
struck in December of 1815.)
- Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter
- The official name for the Bluesheet that lists bid/ask/market prices for third-party
- Certified Coin Exchange
- The bid/ask coin trading and quotation system owned by the American
- 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
- Those 1921 Morgan dollar Proofs supposedly struck for coin dealer Henry
Chapman. These have cameo devices and deeply mirrored surfaces like most
Morgan dollar Proofs. (George Morgan did bill Henry Chapman for 10 Proof
Morgan dollars in 1921. Possibly, more coins from these dies were struck for
others as there apparently more known than ten.)
- The United States branch Mint located in Charlotte, North Carolina that only
struck gold coins from 1838 until its seizure by the Confederacy in 1861. It did
not reopen as a mint after the Civil War, although it did serve as an official assay
office from 1867 until 1913.
- A method used by forgers to create a mint mark on a coin. It involves heating the
surfaces and moving the metal to form the mint mark.
- An adjectival description applied to coin's grade, e.g., choice Uncirculated, choice
Very Fine, etc. Used to describe an especially attractive example of a particular
- Choice Unc
- Short for Choice Uncirculated.
- Choice Uncirculated
- An Uncirculated coin grading MS-64.
- A term applied to a coin that has wear, ranging from slight rubbing to heavy wear.
- A term applied to coins that have been spent in commerce and have received
- circulation strike
- An alternate term for Business Strike or Regular Strike. A coin meant for
- A term used to describe any of the modern "sandwich" coins that have layers of
copper and nickel. (A pure copper core surrounded by a copper-nickel alloy.)
Also used for the 40-percent silver half dollars.
- clad bag
- Usually applied to a one-thousand dollar bag of 40-percent silver half dollars
although it also could apply to any bag of "sandwich" coins.
- clash marks
- The images of the dies seen on coins struck from clashed dies. The obverse will
have images from the reverse and vice versa.
- clashed dies
- Dies that have been damaged by striking each other without a planchet between
them. Typically, this imparts part of the obverse image to the reverse die and vice
- Classic Head
- A depiction of Miss Liberty that recalls the "classic" look of a Roman or Greek
athlete wearing a ribbon around the hair. The motif was first used on the John
Reich designed large cent struck from 1808 until 1814. The next year, the half
cent was changed to this design. This head was also copied by William Kneass for
the quarter eagle and half eagle designs first struck in 1834.
- A term applied to a coin whose original surface has been removed. The effects
may be slight or severe, depending on the method used.
Slang for a coin struck from a clipped planchet.
- A term for an irregularly cut planchet. A clip can be straight or curved, depending
upon where it was cut from the strip of metal.
- clogged die
- A die that has grease or some other contaminant lodged in the recessed areas.
Coins struck from such a die have diminished detail, sometimes completely
- close collar
- The edge device, sometimes called a collar die, that surrounds the lower die.
Actually open and close collars are both closed collars - as opposed to segmented
collars. The close collar imparts reeding or a smooth, plain edge.
- Closed collar
- Alternate form of close collar
- Metal formed into a disk of standardized weight and stamped with a standard
design to enable it to circulate as money authorized by a government body.
- coin collection
- A systematic grouping of coins assembled for fun or profit.
- coin collector
- An individual who accumulates coins in a systematic manner
- Coin Dealer Newsletter
- Weekly periodical, commonly called the Greysheet, listing bid and ask prices for
many United States coins.
- coin friction
- Term applied to the area resulting when coins rub together in rolls or bags and
small amounts of metal are displaced.
- coin show
- A bourse composed of coin dealers displaying their wares for sale and trade.
- Coin World
- Weekly numismatic periodical established in 1960.
- The issuance of metallic money of a particular country.
- Monthly numismatic magazine.
- Coins Magazine
- Monthly numismatic periodical
- Short for "coin collection."
- An individual who amasses a systematic group of coins or other numismatic
- Short for "commemorative."
- Coins issued to honor some person, place, or event and, in many instances, to
raise funds for activities related to the theme. Sometimes called NCLT (non-
circulating legal tender) commemoratives.
- commercial grade
- A grade that is usually one level higher than the market grade; refers to a coin that
is "pushed" a grade, such as an EF/AU coin (corresponding to 45+) sold as AU-
- commercial strike
- A synonym for regular strike or business strike.
- A numismatic issue that is readily available. Since this is a relative term, no firm
number can be used as a cut-off point between common and scarce.
- common date
- A particular issue within a series that is readily available. No exact number can be
used to determine which coins are common dates as this is relative to the mintage
of the series. (i.e. A 1799 eagle is a common date within its series just as an 1881-
S silver dollar is a common date within the Morgan series. Obviously, the 1799
eagle is rare compared to the 1881-S dollar.)
- complete set
- A term for all possible coins within a series, all types, or all coins from a
particular branch Mint. Examples would include a complete set of a series (The
three-dollar series can have but one complete set, that being the Harry Bass
Foundation set that includes the unique 1870-S. Yes, it is possible that the
cornerstone coin could appear someday and change the unique status; a complete
gold type set would include examples of all types from 1795 until 1933; a
complete set of Charlotte Mint gold dollars must include the 1849-C Open Wreath
example of which there are but four currently verified.)
- The state of preservation of a particular numismatic issue.
- Condition Census
- A listing of the finest known examples of a particular issue. There is no fixed
number of coins in a Condition Census with 5, 6, 10, and other totals used by
- condition rarity
- A term to indicate a common coin that is rare when found in high grades. Also,
the rarity level at a particular grade and higher.
- consensus grading
- The process of determining the condition of a coin by using multiple graders.
- contact marks
- Marks on a coin that are incurred through contact with another coin or a foreign
object. These are generally small, compared to other types of marks such as
- contemporary counterfeit
- A coin, usually base metal, struck from crudely engraved dies and made to pass
for face value at the time of its creation. Sometimes such counterfeits are
collected along with the genuine coins, especially in the case of American
- Continental dollars
- 1776 dated "dollars" struck in pewter (scarce), brass (rare), copper (extremely
rare) and silver (extremely rare). Although likely struck sometime later than 1776,
these saw extensive circulation. The design was inspired by certain Benjamin
Franklin sketches. Some of these were possibly struck as pattern "cents" instead
- copper spot
- A spot or stain commonly seen on gold coinage, indicating an area of copper
concentration that has oxidized. Copper spots or stains range from tiny dots to
large blotches. Commonly caused by miss-handling and miss-storage.
- The alloy (88% copper, 12% nickel) used for small cents from 1856 until mid-
- Copper-Nickel Cent
- The cents issued from 1859 until 1864 in the copper-nickel alloy. These were
called white cents by the citizens of the era because of their pale color compared
to the red cents of the past.
- Slang for half cents, large cents, and pre-Federal copper issues.
Any reproduction, fraudulent or otherwise, of a coin.
- copy dies
- Dies made at a later date, usually showing slight differences from the originals.
Examples include the reverse of 1804 Class II and III silver dollars and 1831 half
cents with the Type of 1840-57 reverse. Also used to denote counterfeit dies
copied directly from a genuine coin.
- Coronet Head
- Alternate name for Braided Hair design by Christian Gobrecht (also called
Liberty Head design).
- Damage that results when reactive chemicals act upon metal. When toning ceases
to be a "protective" coating and instead begins to damage a coin, corrosion is the
cause. Usually confined to copper, nickel and silver regular issues, although
patterns in aluminum, white metal, tin, etc., also are subject to this harmful
- The price paid for a numismatic item.
- Literally, a coin that is not genuine. There are cast and struck counterfeits and the
term is also applied to issues with added mint marks, altered dates, etc.
- counting machine mark
- A dense patch of lines caused by the rubber wheel of a counting machine where
the wheel was set with insufficient spacing for the selected coin. Many coins have
been subjected to counting machines -- among these are Mercury dimes, Buffalo
nickels, Walking Liberty half dollars, Morgan and Peace dollars, and Saint-
Gaudens double eagles.
- A word that is used to describe a coin that graded the same at two different
grading services. Also written as two words: cross over. "I was sure that the coin
wouldn't cross over, so I didn't buy it." or "That coin's definitely a crossover."
- An area of a coin struck by a die that has a complete break across part of its
surface. A cud may be either a retained cud, where the faulty piece of the die is
still in place, or a full cud, where the piece of the die has fallen away. Retained
cuds usually have dentil detail if on the edge, while full cuds do not.
- Any alloy of copper and nickel. Now usually used in reference to the modern
"sandwich" issues. The copper-nickel cents, three-cent nickel issues, and nicke
- Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch 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 its seizure by the Confederacy. (Those coins
struck in late 1837 were dated 1838.)
- Mintmark used on gold coins of the Dahlonega, Georgia, Mint from 1838 to 1861
and on coins of all denominations struck at the Denver, Colorado, Mint from 1906
to the present.
- Term used for the gold coinage struck at the branch Mint in Dahlonega, Georgia,
from 1838 to 1861, and for the coinage struck at the branch Mint in Denver,
Colorado, from 1906 to the present.
- The branch Mint located in Dahlonega, Georgia that struck gold coins from 1838
until 1861 when it was seized by the Confederacy. The 1861-D gold dollars were
struck after the Mint was seized, the mintage figure for this rare issue is not listed
in Mint records and has been estimated at 1000 to 1,500 examples.
- The numerals on a coin representing the year in which it was struck. Restrikes are
made in years subsequent to the one that appears on them. Also, slang for a more
valuable issue within a series.
- Short for Deep Cameo.
- Someone whose occupation is buying, selling, and trading numismatic material.
- Deep Cameo
- The term applied to coins, usually Proofs and prooflike coins, that have deeply
frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the fields - often called "black and
white" cameos. Specifically applied to those 1950 and later Proofs that meet deep
cameo standards (DCAM).
- deep mirror prooflike
- Any coin that has deeply reflective mirror-like fields, the term especially
applicable for Morgan dollars. Those Morgan dollars that meet PCGS standards
are designated deep mirror prooflike (DMPL). Coins that meet this standard
graded by NGC are designated deep mirror prooflike (DPL).
- The value assigned by a government to a specific coin.
- The tooth-like devices around the rim seen on many coins. Originally these are
somewhat irregular, later much more uniform - the result of better preparatory and
- Short for denticles.
- A particular motif on a coin or other numismatic item. The Seated Liberty,
Barber, Morgan, etc. are examples of designs.
- design type
- A specific motif placed upon coinage which may be used for several
denominations and subtypes, e.g., the Liberty Seated design type used for silver
coins from half dimes through dollars and various subtypes therein.
- The individual responsible for a particular motif used for a numismatic series.
- Any specific design element. Often refers to the principal design element, such as
the head of Miss Liberty.
- 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 became the norm.
- A steel rod that is engraved, punched, or hubbed with devices, lettering, the date,
and other emblems.
- die alignment
- Term to indicate the relative position of the obverse and reverse dies. When the
dies are out of alignment, several things can happen: If the dies are out of parallel,
weakness may be noted in a quadrant of the coin's obverse and the corresponding
part of the reverse; and if the dies are spaced improperly, the resultant coins may
have overall weakness; if the dies are spaced too close together, the resultant coin
may be well struck but the dies wear more quickly.
- die break
- An area of a coin that is the result of a broken die. This may be triangular or other
geometric shape. Dies are made of steel and they crack from use and then, if not
removed from service, eventually break. When the die totally breaks apart, the
resultant break will result in a full, or retained, cud depending whether the broken
piece falls from the die or not.
- die crack
- A raised, irregular line on a coin, ranging from very fine to very large, some quite
irregular. These result when a hairline break occurs in a die.
- die line
- These are the raised lines on the coins that result from the polish lines on the die,
which are incuse, resulting in the raised lines on the coins.
- die rust
- Rust that has accumulated on a die that was not stored properly. Often such rust
was polished away, so that only the deeply recessed parts of the die still exhibited
it. A few examples are known of coins that were struck with extremely rusted dies
-- the 1876-CC dime, for one.
- die state
- A readily identified point in the life of a coinage die. Often dies clash and are
polished, crack, break, etc., resulting in different stages of the die. These are
called die states. Some coins have barely distinguishable die states, while others
go through multiple distinctive ones.
- die striations
- Raised lines on coins that were struck with polished dies. As more coins are
struck with such dies, the striations become fainter until most disappear.
- die trial
- A test striking of a particular die in a different metal.
- die variety
- A coin that can be linked to a given set of dies because of characteristics
possessed by those dies and mparted to the coin at the time it was struck. In the
early years of U.S. coinage history, when dies were made by hand engraving or
punching, each die was slightly different. The coins from these unique dies are die
varieties and are collected in every denomination. By the 1840's, when dies were
made by hubbing and therefore were more uniform, die varieties resulted mainly
from variances in the size, shape, and positioning of the date and mintmark.
- die wear
- Deterioration in a die caused by excessive use. This may evidence itself on coins
produced with that die in a few indistinct letters or numerals or, in extreme cases,
a loss of detail throughout the entire coin. Some coins, especially certain nickel
issues, have a fuzzy, indistinct appearance even on Uncirculated examples.
- The denomination, one tenth of a dollar, issued since 1796 by the United States.
- A term applied to a coin that has been placed in a commercial "dip" solution, a
mild acid wash that removes the toning from most coins. Some dip solutions
employ other chemicals, such as bases, to accomplish a similar result. The first
few layers of metal are removed with every dip, so coins repeatedly dipped will
lose luster, hence the term "overdipped".
- dipping solution
- Any of the commercial "dips" available on the market, usually acid-based.
- The original spelling of dime, the s silent and thought to have been pronounced to
rhyme with steam. (This variation was used in Mint documents until the 1830s
and was officially changed by the Coinage Act of 1837.)
- Short for deep mirror prooflike.
- Term used for a numismatic item that has been enhanced by chemical or other
means. Usually, this is used in a derogatory way.
- The denomination, consisting of one hundred cents, authorized by the Mint Act of
1792. This is the anglicized spelling of the European Thaler and was used because
of the world-wide acceptance of the Thaler and the Spanish Milled dollar or
- Double Eagle
- Literally two eagles, or twenty dollars. A twenty-dollar U.S. gold coin issued
from 1850 through 1932. One gold double eagle dated 1849 is known and is part
of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Nearly half
a million examples dated 1933 were struck by the U.S. Mint, but virtually all were
melted when private gold ownership was outlawed that year. (Recently the only
legal to own specimen of the 1933 $20 Double Eagles sold for $7.59 Million. It's
now considered the most famous rare coin in the world)
- double(d) die
- A die that has been struck more than once by a hub in misaligned positions,
resulting in doubling of design elements. Before the introduction of hubbing, the
individual elements of a coin's design were either engraved or punched into the
die, so any doubling was limited to a specific element. With hubbed dies, multiple
impressions are needed from the hub to make a single die with adequate detail.
When shifting occurs in the alignment between the hub and the die, the die ends
up with some of its features doubled -- then imparts this doubling to every coin it
strikes. The coins struck from such dies are called doubled-die errors -- the most
famous being the 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln cent. PCGS uses doubled die as the
- Slang for the rare 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent variety.
- A condition that results when a coin is not ejected from the dies and is struck a
second time. Such a coin is said to be double-struck. Triple-struck coins and other
multiple strikings also are known. Proofs are usually double-struck on purpose in
order to sharpen their details; this is sometimes visible under magnification.
- Short for deep mirror prooflike.
- Draped Bust
- The design attributed to Mint engraver Robert Scot that features Miss Liberty
with a drape across her bust. Scot presumably copied the design after a portrait by
- drift mark
- An area on a coin, often rather long, that has a discolored, streaky look. This is
the result of impurities or foreign matter in the dies. One theory is that burnt wood
was rolled into the strips from which the planchets were cut, resulting in these
- Term for a numismatic item that is lack luster. This may be the result of cleaning,
oxidation, or other environmental conditions.
- Short for Early American Coppers
- A gold coin with a face value of ten dollars. Along with the dollar, this was the
basis of the U.S. currency system from 1792 until 1971. No U.S. gold coins were
struck for circulation after 1933, and all gold coins issued prior to that time were
recalled from circulation.
- An area of certain coins that is important to the strike. (i.e. The hole in the ear of
the Standing Liberty quarter is a necessary component of a Full Head
- Early American Coppers (Club)
- A club or society to advance the study of pre-1857 United States copper coinage
including Colonials. Many members specialize collecting large cents by Sheldon
- Short for environmental damage.
- The third side of a coin. It may be plain, reeded, or ornamented -- with lettering or
other elements raised or incuse.
- edge device
- A group of letters or emblems on the edge of a coin. Examples would be the stars
and lettering on the edge of Indian Head eagles and Saint-Gaudens double eagles.
- This is for "Extremely Fine' (the grade) and "40" (the numerical designation of the
grade). Also called XF-40. About 90% of the original detail is still evident and the
devices are sharp and clear.
- This is for "Extremely Fine" (the grade) and "45" (the numerical designation of
the grade). Also called XF-45. About 95% of the original detail is still evident and
the devices are sharp and clear.
- A duplicate coin created by the electrolytic method, in which metal is deposited
into a mold made from the original. The obverse and reverse metal shells are then
filled with metal and fused together -- after which the edges sometimes are filed to
obscure the seam.
- For numismatic condition purposes, the various components of grading. In other
numismatic contexts, this term refers to the various devices and emblems seen on
- Short for Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. who was the only collector to assemble a
complete collection of United States coins. Thus, the Eliasberg pedigree on a
particular coin is held in the highest numismatic esteem.
- emission sequence
- The order in which die states are struck. Also, the die use sequence for a
- The person responsible for the design and/or punches used for a particular
- envelope toning
- A term applied to toning that results from storage mainly in 2 x 2 manila
envelopes; most paper envelopes contain reactive chemicals.
- environmental damage
- Corrosion-effect seen on a coin that has been exposed to the elements. This may
be minor, such as toning that is nearly black, to major - a coin found in the ground
or water which has severely pitted surfaces. PCGS does not grade coins with
- eroded die
- Synonym for "worn die."
- A numismatic item that unintentionally varies from the norm. Ordinarily,
overdates are not errors since they were done intentionally while other die-cutting
"mistakes" are considered errors. Double dies, planchet clips, off-metal strikings,
etc. also are errors.
- Term for trial, pattern, and experimental strikings. The anglicized version is essay
and literally means a test or trial.
- A specialist in a particular numismatic area. (i.e. A copper expert, a gold expert, a
paper money expert, a D-Mint expert, etc.)
- Extra Fine
- Alternate form of Extremely Fine.
- Extremely Fine
- The grades EF40 and 45. This grade has nearly full detail with only the high
points worn, the fields rubbed often with luster still clinging in protected areas.
- Extremely High Relief
- The 1907 double eagle issue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens that had such medallic
depth that multiple blows from a powerful press were required to fully bring up
the detail. Because of this difficulty, the Mint engraver lowered the design
resulting in the High Relief, which again was lowered to create the familiar
Standing Liberty double eagle, or Saint, as to which they are commonly referred.
- eye appeal
- The element of a coin's grade that "grabs" the viewer. The overall look of a coin.
- This is for "Fine" (the grade) and "12" (the numerical designation of the grade).
The design detail is partially in evidence. The coin is still heavily worn. If there is
any eye appeal in this grade it comes from the smooth surfaces associated with
this grade, as any distracting marks have usually been worn off through
- This is for "Fine" (the grade) and "15" (the numerical designation of the grade).
Most of the letters in LIBERTY are visible, about 35-50% of the wing feathers
are visible, or whatever applies to the coin in question. In other words, the coin is
still in highly collectible shape.
- The adjective corresponding to the grade FR-2. In this grade, there is heavy wear
with the lettering, devices, and date partially visible.
- Slang for a counterfeit or altered coin.
- fantasy piece
- A term applied to coins struck at the whim of Mint officials. Examples include the
1868 large cent Type of 1857 and the various 1865 Motto and 1866 No Motto
- Term to designate the Roman symbol of authority used as a motif on the reverse
of Mercury (Winged Liberty Head) dimes. It consists of a bundle of rods wrapped
around an ax with a protruding blade. The designation "full bands" refers to fasces
on which there is complete separation in the central bands across the rods.
- Fat head
- Slang for the Small Size Capped Bust quarter and half eagles. (Mainly heard as
"fat head fives.)
- Short for Full Bands.
- Short for Full Bell Lines.
- Short for Full Head.
- fiat currency
- Coins and paper money that do not have metal value or are not backed up by
- The portion of a coin where there is no design -- generally the flat part (although
on some issues, the field is slightly curved).
- A PCGS grader who, before computers were used for this task, compared his own
grade with those of other graders and determined the final grade. The verifier
replaced the finalizer after PCGS began inputting the grades by computer.
- The adjective corresponding to the grades F-12 and 15. In these grades, most of a
coin's detail is worn away. Some detail is present in the recessed areas, but it is
- finest known
- The best-known condition example of a particular numismatic item. The best
source for information on the rare coin market, http://www.finestknown.com/
- first shot
- Slang for the opportunity to get the first opportunity to buy items from a particular
numismatic deal or from a particular dealer.
- first strike
- A coin struck early in the life of a die. First strikes sometimes are characterized by
striated or mirror-like fields if the die was polished. Almost always fully or well
struck, with crisp detail.
- Short for a five-dollar gold coin or half eagle.
- Five Indian
- Slang for the Indian Head half eagles struck from 1908 to 1929.
- Five Lib
- Slang for the Liberty Head half eagles struck from 1839 until 1908.
- fixed price list
- A dealer listing of items for sale at set prices.
- flat edge
- Term referring to the particular specimens of High Reliefs that do not have a wire
- flat luster
- A subdued type of luster seen on coins struck from worn dies. Often these coins
have a gray or otherwise dull color that makes the fields seem even more
- This has two meanings. First, it is the term for the plastic sleeve in which coins
are stored. Also, it can mean to quickly sell a recently purchased coin, usually for
a short profit. (The plastic flips used to submit coins to PCGS are not
recommended for long term storage unless they do not contain PVC. Care should
be used with the PVC-free flips as they are very brittle and can damage the
delicate coin surfaces).
- flip rub
- Discoloration, often only slight, on the highest points of a coin resulting from
contact with a flip. On occasion, highly desirable coins sold in auctions have
acquired minor rub from being repeatedly examined by eager bidders. The
shifting of the coin, although it may be slight, can cause this rub.
- To sell a new purchase for a short profit.
- flow lines
- The lines, sometimes visible, resulting from the metal flowing outward from the
center of a planchet as it is struck. The "cartwheel" luster is the result of light
reflecting from these radial lines.
- Flowing Hair
- The design attributed to Mint engraver Robert Scot that features Miss Liberty
with long, flowing hair.
- Flying Eagle
- Short for Flying Eagle Cent.
- Flying Eagle Cent
- The small cent, struck in 88% copper and 12% nickel, that replaced the large cent.
This featured James Longacre's reduction of the Gobrecht eagle used on the
reverse of the silver dollars of 1836-1839.
- focal area
- The area of a coin to which a viewer's eye is drawn. An example is the cheek of a
- Any 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.
Often collected along with regular-issue gold coins, this was meant to be an
international coin approximating the Swiss and French twenty-franc coins, the
Italian twenty lira, etc.
- Short for Fixed Price List.
- This is for "Fair" (the grade) and "2" (the numerical designation that means Fair).
A coin that is worn out. There will be some detail intact, the date will be
discernible (if not fully readable) and there is almost always heavy wear into the
rims and fields.
See Also -- Fair
- Short for Franklin half dollar.
- Franklin half dollar
- The John Sinnock designed half dollar struck from 1948 until 1963. This featured
Ben Franklin on the obverse and the Liberty Bell on the reverse.
- Slight wear on a coin's high points or in the fields.
- A crystallized-metal effect seen in the recessed areas of a die, thus the raised parts
of a coin struck with that die. This is imparted to dies by various techniques, such
as sandblasting them or pickling them in acid, then polishing the fields, leaving
the recessed areas with frost.
- frosted devices
- Raised elements on coins struck with treated dies that have frost in their recessed
areas. Such coins have crystalline surfaces that resemble frost on a lawn.
- frosty luster
- The crystalline appearance of coins struck with dies that have frost in their
recessed areas. Such coins show vibrant luster on their devices and/or surfaces;
the amount of crystallization may vary. Also, this term is applied to coins whose
entire surface his this look.
- Short for Full Steps.
- Fugio cents
- These 1787-dated one-cent coins are considered by some to be the first regular
issue United States coin. Authorized by the Continental Congress, this would
seem to be a logical conclusion. However, the Mint Act was not passed by
Congress until 1792, so the case for the half dismes of 1792 as the first regular
issue is also valid. (Adam Eckfeldt, Chief Coiner from 1814 to 1839 worked for
the fledgling Mint in 1792 and was present for the striking of the 1792 half
dismes. He is quoted in the 1840s that he considered the half dismes patterns and
that George Washington gave them out as presents. He was a very old man by
then, so perhaps his memory was failing him, but debate continues as to which
coin deserves the distinction as the first regular issue. If the half disme and the
Fugio cent are not the first coins, then that title would go to the Chain cent, which
was the first coin struck in the newly occupied Mint building. Although the
building was likely occupied in late 1792, as records indicate, it appears that all
the machinery was not fully operational as Chain cents were not struck until
- Full Bands
- Term applied to Mercury (Winged Liberty Head) dimes when the central band is
fully separated (FB). There can be no disturbance of the separation.
- Full Bell Lines
- Term applied to Franklin half dollars when the lower sets of bell lines are
complete (FBL). Very slight disturbance of several lines is acceptable.
- Full Head
- Term applied to Standing Liberty quarters when the helmet of the head has full
detail (FH). Both Type 1 and 2 coins are so designated but the criteria is different
- Full Steps
- Term applied to a Jefferson five-cent example when 5 steps of Monticello are
- Full strike
- A numismatic item that has full detail. The metal flows into all areas of the die.
- FUN Show
- The first coin show each year. This annual convention is sponsored by the Florida
United Numismatists and is held in early January.
- This is for "Good" (the grade) and "4" (the numerical designation of the grade).
The major details of the coin will be worn flat. Minor wear into the rims is
allowable, but the peripheral lettering will be nearly full.
- This is for "Good" (the grade) and "6" (the numerical designation of the grade). A
higher grade (i.e., less worn) than a G-4 coin. The rims will be complete and the
peripheral lettering will be full.
- The large metal relief used in the portrait lathe from which a positive reduction in
steel, called a hub, is made.
- Short for the Garrett family. The two main collectors, Thomas H. Garrett and
John W. Garrett, formed this extensive collection from the late 1800s through the
early 1900s. Later, it was given to Johns Hopkins University and was sold in five
auction sales. This provenance on a numismatic item is as coveted as an Eliasberg
- Adjectival description applied to Mint State and Proof-65 coins. It also is used for
higher grades and as a generic term for a superb coin.
- Gem BU
- Short for Gem Brilliant Uncirculated.
- Gem Unc
- Short for Gem Uncirculated.
- Gem Uncirculated
- The adjectival equivalent of Mint State 65 or 66.
- Short for "Gobrecht dollar."
- Gobrecht dollar
- The silver dollars dated 1836, 1838, and 1839 struck in those years and restruck
later (some 1836-dated coins were struck in 1837). These are named for their
designer, Christian Gobrecht, Chief Engraver from 1840 to 1844 but defacto
engraver when William Kneass suffered his stroke in 1835.
- Obviously, the precious metal. Also, slang for any United States gold issues.
- gold commem
- Short for gold commemorative.
- gold commemorative
- Any of the eleven commemorate coins struck in gold from 1903 until 1925. Also,
any of the modern United States commemorative gold issues, sometimes called
modern gold commems.
- gold dollar
- The small coins of one dollar denomination struck from 1849 until 1889.
- The adjective corresponding to the grades G-4 and G-6. Coins in these grades
usually have little detail but outlined major devices. On some coins, the rims may
be worn to the tops of some letters.
- A dealer-to-dealer or telemarketing term to describe the end result of someone
who has been overcharged dramatically for a rare coin or portfolio of rare coins.
Large telemarketing rooms that sell rare coins as investments are guilty of
gouging their clients.
- The numerical or adjectival condition of a coin.
- An individual who evaluates the condition of coins.
- The process of numerically quantifying the condition of a coin. Before the
adoption of the Sheldon numerical system, coins were given descriptive grades
such as Good, Very Good, Fine, and so forth.
- Slang for Coin Dealer Newsletter.
- The area of a coin that represents hair and may be an important grading aspect.
(i.e. The hair above the ear on a Morgan dollar is critical to the strike.)
- Fine cleaning lines found mainly in the fields of Proof coins, although they
sometimes are found across an entire Proof coin as well as on business strikes.
- Slang for half dollar.
- half cent
- The lowest-value coin denomination ever issued by the United States,
representing one-two hundredth of a dollar. Half cents were struck from 1793
until the series was discontinued in 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 with the newly
acquired Mint presses.
- Half Dollar
- The denomination first struck in 1794 that is still struck 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
- At times rolls were issued with one half the number of coins in a roll that we
consider to be normal today. For instance, Liberty nickels (1883-1912) were often
issued with 20 coins in the roll (face value one dollar).
- halogen light
- A powerful light source that enables a viewer to examine coins closely. This type
of light reveals even the tiniest imperfections.
- hammer die
- The upper die, usually the obverse -- although on some issues with striking
problems, the reverse was employed as the upper die.
- A cloudy film, original or added, seen on both business-strike coins and Proofs.
This film can range from a light, nearly clear covering with little effect on the
grade to a heavy, opaque layer that might prevent the coin from being graded.
- Heraldic Eagle
- Also called the large eagle, this emblem of Liberty resembles the eagles of
heraldry, thus its acquired name.
- high end
- A term applied to any coin at the upper end of a particular grade.
- High Relief
- The Saint-Gaudens inspired effort of Charles Barber to reduce the Extremely
High Relief down to a coin with acceptable striking qualities. After 11,250 coins,
this effort was abandoned. However, these were released and quickly became one
of the most popular coins of all time.
- A group of coins held for either numismatic or monetary reasons. A numismatic
hoard example would be the hoard of Little Orphan Annie dimes (1844). A
monetary hoard example would be the 100,000 plus coins in the Economite,
Pennsylvania hoard of the nineteenth century. That hoard consisted mainly of half
- 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, the superb group of 1857 quarters that surfaced in the 1970s,
and so on.
- An individual who amasses a quantity of a numismatic item(s).
- Hobo nickel
- An Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel which has been engraved with a 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 specific "hoboes."
- holder toning
- Any toning acquired by a coin as a result of storage in a holder. Mainly refers to
toning seen on coins stored in Wayte Raymond-type cardboard holders which
contained sulfur and other reactive chemicals. Sometimes vibrant, spectacular
reds, greens, blues, yellows, and other colors are seen on coins stored in these
- Minting term for the steel device from which a die is produced. The hub is
produced with the aid of a portrait lathe or reducing machine and bears a
"positive" image of the coin's design -- that is, it shows the design as it will appear
on the coin itself. The image on the die is "negative" -- a mirror image of the
- impaired Proof
- A Proof coin that grades less than PR-60; a circulated Proof.
- incandescent light
- Direct light from a lamp, as opposed to indirect light such as that from a
- incomplete strike
- A coin that is missing design detail because of a problem during the striking
process. The incompleteness may be due to insufficient striking pressure or
improperly spaced dies.
- incuse design
- The intaglio design used on Indian Head quarter eagles and half eagles. These
coins were struck from dies which had fields recessed, so that the devices -- the
areas usually raised -- were recessed on the coins themselves. This was an
experiment to try to deter counterfeiting and improve wearing quality.
- Indian cent
- Common name for an Indian Head cent.
- Indian Head cent
- Those James Longacre design cents struck from 1859 until 1909. From 1859 until
mid-1864, these were composed of copper-nickel alloy, while those struck mid-1864 to 1909 were struck in bronze.
- Indian Head eagle
- The Saint-Gaudens designed ten-dollar gold coin struck from 1907 until 1933.
- Indian penny
- Slang for an Indian Head cent.
- Intrinsic value
- The value of the metal(s) contained in a numismatic item. The United States
issues contained their intrinsic value in metal until 1933 for gold coins and 1964
for silver coins. Today's "sandwich" coins are termed fiat currency.
- An individual who buys numismatic items strictly for profit, not caring to
complete a set or particular collection.
- A "glow" displayed by a coin, often gleaming through light pastel colors.
- Jefferson nickel
- The Felix Schlag designed five-cent coin first struck from 1938 to date.
- Slang for the buyers fee charged at a rare coin auction.
- Slang that refers to when an auctioneer raises the bid against you and there's
really no one bidding against you. This can happen in the heat of the moment in a
- Key Coin
- The major, or most important, coin in a particular series. The "key" coin is usually
the lowest-mintage coin and/or the most expensive coin in a particular set. The
1916-D dime, for instance, is usually considered the key coin of the Mercury
dime series. It is the lowest mintage coin of the set and the most expensive (in
most grades). The 1919-D dime is the "condition rarity key" of the Mercury dime
series, as it is the most expensive coin in top condition.
Most sets have more than one key coin. In Lincoln cents, for instance, the 1909-S
V.D.B., the 1914-D, the 1922 Plain and 1955/55 Doubled Die are all considered
to be key coins in most grades. In MS65RD the 1926-S is the rarest of the regular
issues, so it is considered the "condition rarity key."
At times any scarce or rare coin is referred to a "key" coin. The terms "key to the
set" or "key to the series" are also used as synonyms for "key coin."
- Slang term for outstanding. (i.e. That 1880-S silver dollar has killer luster.)
- knife edge
- Slang for wire edge.
- A thin piece of metal that has nearly become detached from the surface of a coin.
If this breaks off, an irregular hole or planchet flaw is left.
- large cent
- A large copper U.S. coin, one-hundredth of a dollar, issued from 1793 until 1857,
when it was replaced by a much smaller cent made from a copper-nickel alloy.
The value of copper in a large cent had risen to more than one cent, requiring the
reduction in weight.
- large date
- Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term
implies that a medium or small date exists for that coin or series.)
- Large Eagle
- Alternate form of Heraldic Eagle.
- large letters
- Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term
implies that medium or small letters exist for that coin or series.)
- Large Motto
- Common short name for the particular variety of two-cent coin of 1864 with
large letters in the motto. The inscription "IN GOD WE TRUST" was first used
on the two-cent coinage of 1864. Congress mandated this inscription for all
coinage and it has been used on nearly every coin since that time.
- large size
- A term referring to the particular diameter of a coin in a series. (Use of this term
implies that there is a small size or diameter with the same motif. Examples are
the Large and Small size Capped Bust quarters.)
- Short for large date.
- A phrase that appears on a coin -- for instance, UNITED STATES OF
- lettered edge
- A coin edge that displays an inscription or other design elements, rather than
being reeded or plain. The lettering can be either incuse (recessed below the
surface) or raised. Incuse lettering is applied before a coin is struck; the Mint did
this with a device called the Castaing machine. Raised lettering is found on coins
struck with segmented collars; the lettering is raised during the minting process,
and when the coin is ejected from the dies, the collar "falls" apart, preventing the
lettering from being sheared away.
- The alphabet characters used in creating legends, mottoes, and other inscriptions
on a coin, whether on the obverse, reverse, or edge.
- Slang for Liberty Head. (i.e. a twenty Lib, a Ten Lib, etc.)
- The symbolic figure used in many U.S. coin designs.
- Liberty Cap
- The head of Miss Liberty, with a cap on a pole by her head, 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. This design was
first employed by Christian Gobrecht, with later modifications by Robert Ball
Hughes and James Longacre. Morgan dollars and Barber coinage sometimes are
referred to as Liberty Head coins.
- Liberty nickel
- Short for Liberty Head or "V" nickel struck from 1883 until 1912. (The coins
dated 1913 were clandestinely struck and are not regular issues.)
- Liberty Seated
- The motif designed by Christian Gobrecht first used on the Gobrecht dollars of
1836-1839 featuring Miss Liberty seated on a rock. This design was used on
nearly all regular issue silver coinage from 1837 until 1891. (1838-1891 for
quarters, 1839-1891 for half dollars, and 1840-1873 for dollars.)
- light line
- The band of light seen on photographs of coins, especially Proofs. This band also
is seen when a coin is examined under a light.
- Slang for a Lincoln Head cent.
- Lincoln cent
- The Victor D. Brenner designed cent first struck in 1909 and continuing until
today although the reverse was changed in 1959 to the Memorial Reverse. These
were struck in bronze until 1982, except for 1943 when they were issued in steel
with a zinc coating and 1945-1945 when melted shell casings were employed to
produce planchets. Currently, the Lincoln cent is struck on planchets composed of
a zinc core and a 5% copper coating.
- Lincoln penny
- Slang for Lincoln Head cent.
- A coin that is on the cusp between two different grades. A 4/5 liner is a coin that
is either a high-end MS/PR-64 or a minimum-standard MS/PR-65.
- lint mark
- A repeating depression on a coin, usually thin and curly, caused by a thread that
adhered to a die during the coin's production. Lint marks are found primarily on
Proofs. After dies are polished, they are wiped with a cloth, and these sometimes
leave tiny threads.
- Short for large letters.
- Long Beach
- Short for the Long Beach Coin and Stamp Exhibition held in Long Beach,
California. This show is held three times a year, usually in February, June, and
October. These are among the most popular commercial exhibitions each year.
- The unique number assigned by the auction house to an item(s) to be sold in a
particular sale. (i.e. The 1858 Seated dollar was lot 455 of the FUN 1999 sale.)
- A magnifying glass used to examine coins. Loupes are found in varying strengths
- In numismatics, the amount and strength of light reflected from a coin's surface or
its original mint bloom. Luster is the result of light reflecting on the flow lines,
whether visible or not.
- Alternate form of luster.
- A term used to describe coins that still have original mint bloom.
- mail bid sale
- An auction sale where bidding is limited to bids by mail. (Today, that also may
include by phone, fax, or email.)
- major variety
- A coin that is easily recognized as having a major difference from other coins of
the same design, type, date, and mint.
- market grading
- A numerical grade that matches the grade at which a particular coin generally is
traded in the marketplace. The grading standard used by PCGS.
- Imperfections acquired after striking. These range from tiny to large hits and may
be caused by other coins or foreign objects.
- 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
- Matte Proof
- An experimental Proof striking, produced by the U.S. Mint mainly from 1907 to
1916, which has sandblasted or acid-pickled surfaces. These textured surfaces
represented a radical departure from brilliant Proofs, having even less reflectivity
than business strikes.
- Short for medium date.
- medal press
- A high-pressure coining press acquired by the U.S. Mint, circa 1854-1858, to
strike medals, patterns, restrikes, and some regular-issue Proofs.
- medium date
- Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term
implies that a large or small date exists for that coin or series.)
- medium letters
- Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term
implies that large or small letters exist for that coin or series.)
- Slang term for the intrinsic value of a particular numismatic item. (What's the
melt value of that ten Lib?)
- Mercury dime
- Common name for the Winged Liberty Head dime issued from 1916 until 1945.
The A.A. Weinman motif was quickly compared to the Roman god Mercury and
the name stuck with the public.
- metal stress lines
- Radial lines, sometimes visible, that result when the metal flows outward from the
center of the planchet during the minting process.
- 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 staccato-like marks.
- minor variety
- A coin that has a minor difference from other coins of the same design, type, date,
and mint. This minor difference is barely discernible to the unaided eye. The
difference between a major variety and a minor variety is a matter of degree.
- A coining facility.
- mint bloom
- Original luster that is still visible on a coin.
- mint error
- An error made by the mint that produced the coin.
- mint mark
- Variation of mintmark
- mint set
- A set of Uncirculated coins from a particular year comprising coins from each
Mint. (Usually, this term refers to government issued Mint Sets, although for
many years, it has been loosely used for any set of Uncirculated coins from a
particular year. Also, the government Mint Sets issued from 1947 until 1958 were
- mint set toning
- This term refers to the colors and patterns coins have acquired from years of
storage in the cardboard holders in which Mint Sets were issued from 1947-1958.
Since 1959, Mint Sets have been issued in plastic sleeves, thus they do not tone as
- The term corresponding to the numerical grades MS-60 through MS-70, used to
denote a business strike coin that never has been in circulation. A Mint State coin
can range from one that is covered with marks (MS-60) to a flawless example
- The number of coins of a particular date struck at a given mint during a particular
year. (This may not equal the "official" mintage for that calendar year, especially
for pre-1840 coinage. The Mint reported coins struck in the calendar year,
regardless of the date(s) on the issue. For instance, the 1804-dated dollar was
included in Proof Sets struck in 1834 because the "official" mintage figures for
1804 included silver dollars although it is now known that these were dated 1803
or possibly even earlier.)
- The tiny letter(s) stamped into the dies to denote the mint at which a particular
coin was struck.
- Term applied to the error coins that have striking irregularities.
- mishandled Proof
- A Proof coin that has been circulated, cleaned, or otherwise reduced to a level of
preservation below PR-60.
- Miss Liberty
- Term applied to the various incarnations of the emblematic Liberty represented on
United States coinage.
- Short for medium letters.
- Slang for an incredible coin, usually one that grades MS/PR-67 or higher. A
secondary use is as an adjective, such as monster luster or monster color.
- Slang for an incredible coin, usually one that grades MS/PR-67 or higher.
- Short for "Morgan dollar."
- Morgan dollar
- The common term used for the Liberty Head silver dollar struck from 1878 until
1904 and again in 1921. George Morgan was the assistant engraver but his design
was selected over William Barber's for the dollar. Morgan was passed over for
the Chief Engraver's job when William Barber died in 1879. Charles Barber,
William's son, received the job and Morgan remained an assistant until Charles
died in 1918. Morgan was then elevated to position of Chief Engraver, which he
held until his death in January, 1925.
- mottled toning
- Uneven toning, usually characterized by splotchy areas of drab colors.
- An inscription on a coin -- especially IN GOD WE TRUST, which first appeared
on the 1864 two-cent piece andnow is required on all U.S. coinage.
- This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "60" (the numerical designation of that
grade). This is the lowest of the eleven Mint State grades that range from MS60
through MS70. An MS60 coin will usually exhibit the maximum number of
marks and/or hairlines. The luster may range from poor to full, but is usually on
the "poor" side. Eye appeal is usually minimal.
- This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "61" (the numerical designation of that
grade). This grade meets the minimum requirements of Mint State plus includes
some virtues not found on MS60 coins. For instance, there may be slightly fewer
marks than on an MS60 coin, or better luster, or less negative eye appeal.
- This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "62" (the numerical designation of that
grade). This grade is nearly in the "choice" or MS63 category, but there is usually
one thing that keeps it from a higher grader. Expect to find excessive marks or an
extremely poor strike or dark and unattractive toning. Some MS62 coins will have
clean surfaces and reasonably good eye appeal but exhibit many hairlines on the
fields and devices.
- This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "63" (the numerical designation of that
grade). The equivalent of "choice" or "Choice BU" from the days before
numerical grading was prevalent. This grade is usually found with clean fields
and distracting marks or hairlines on the devices OR clean devices with
distracting marks or hairlines in the fields. The strike and luster can range from
mediocre to excellent.
- This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "64" (the numerical designation of that
grade). This grade is also called "Borderline Gem" at times, as well as "Very
Choice BU." There will be no more than a couple of significant marks or,
possibly, a number of light abrasions. The overall visual impact of the coin will be
positive. The strike will range from average to full and the luster breaks will be
- This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "65" (the numerical designation of that
grade). This grade is also called "Gem" or "Gem Mint State" or "Gem BU." There
may be scattered marks, hairlines or other defects, but they will be minor. Any
spots on copper coins will also be minor. The coin must be well struck with
positive (average or better) eye appeal. This is a NICE coin!
- This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "66" (the numerical designation of that
grade). This is not only a Gem-quality coin, but the eye appeal ranges from
"above average" to "superb." The luster is usually far above average, and any
toning can not impede the luster in any significant way. This is an extra-nice coin.
- This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "67" (the numerical designation of that
grade). A superb-quality coin! Any abrasions are extremely light and do not
detract from the coin's beauty in any way. The strike is extremely sharp (or full)
and the luster is outstanding. This is a spectacular coin!
- This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "68" (the numerical designation of that
grade). A nearly perfect coin, with only minuscule imperfections visible to the
naked eye. The strike will be exceptionally sharp and the luster will glow. This is
an incredible coin.
- This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "69" (the numerical designation of that
grade). Virtually perfect in all departments, including wondrous surfaces, a 99%
full strike (or better), full unbroken booming luster and show-stopping eye appeal.
You may have to study this coin with a 5X glass to find the reason why it didn't
- This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "70" (the numerical designation of that
grade). A perfect coin! Even with 5X magnification there are no marks, hairlines
or luster breaks in evidence. The luster is vibrant, the strike is razor-sharp, and the
eye appeal is the ultimate. Note: Minor die polish and light die breaks are not
considered to be defects on circulation strike coins.
- Mule Error
- This is a rare Mint error where the obverse die is of one coin and the reverse die is
of another coin. The most famous of the Mule errors is a Sacagawea
dollar/Washington quarter Mule, where a Washington quarter obverse is paired
with a Sacagawea reverse.
- A coin struck more than once by the dies at the mint. This happens when the there
- is a machine malfunction or the mint employee supervising the striking of coins is
- A term used to describe a coin that has been damaged to the point where it no
longer can be graded.
- A term for a coin that never has been in circulation.
- New Orleans
- The branch Mint established in 1838 in New Orleans, Louisiana. It struck coins
for the United States until its seizure in 1861 by the Confederacy. (Some 1861-O
half dollars were struck after the seizure.) It reopened in 1879 and struck coins
until 1909 (actually closed in 1910). Now this facility is a museum.
- Short for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.
- Popular term for a five-cent piece struck in cupro-nickel alloy (actually 75%
copper, 25% nickel).
- No Arrows
- Term applied to coins without arrows by their dates during years when other coins
had arrows by the date. (Example: the 1853 No Arrows half dime and 1853
Arrows half dime.)
- No Motto
- Coins struck without the motto, "IN GOD WE TRUST." This motto was
mandated by an act of Congress and appeared on nearly every United States coin
since the 1860s. (Teddy Roosevelt felt this was sacrilegious and had it removed
from the newly redesigned 1907 eagles and double eagles. Citizen protests soon
were overwhelming and it was restored in 1908.) This also refers to coins struck
before the motto was added in the 1860s.
- No Stars
- Term applying to the Christian Gobrecht designed Liberty Seated coins without
- No "CENTS" nickel
- Those Liberty Head or "V" nickels struck in 1883 without a denomination. This
was very confusing to the public and led to the "racketeer" nickel scandal.
See Also -- Racketeer nickel
- Term applied to a coin returned from a third-party grading service that was not
encapsulated because of varying reasons. (This could be for cleaning, damage,
questionable authenticity, etc.)
- numerical grading
- Specifically, the Sheldon 1-70 scale employed by PCGS and others.
- Numismatic Guaranty Corporation
- Third-party grading service based in Sarasota, Florida.
- Numismatic News
- Weekly numismatic periodical established in 1952.
- The science of money; coins, paper money, tokens, inscribed bars, and all related
items are included.
- One who studies or collects money or substitutes thereof.
- Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the New Orleans, Louisiana branch Mint.
- Term used for the coinage of the branch Mint in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- The front, or heads side, of a coin. Usually the date side.
- Short for octagonal (Pan-Pac octagonal commemorative fifty-dollar coin).
- off center
- A coin struck on a blank that was not properly centered over the anvil, or lower,
die. Coins that are 5 percent, or less, off center are graded by PCGS as a regular
coin. Those struck off center more than 5 percent are graded as error coins. There
will be an "E" before the coin number to designate an error specimen and the
amount struck off center will be listed, rounded to the nearest 5 percent.
- open collar
- Its name notwithstanding, a closed collar that surrounded the anvil (or lower) die
used in striking early U.S. coins on planchets whose edges already had been
lettered or reeded. An open collar was a restraining, or positioning, collar that
made it easier to position a planchet atop the lower die, and also sometimes kept
the planchet from expanding too far.
- orange-peel surfaces
- The dimple-textured fields seen on many Proof gold coins; their surfaces
resemble those of an orange, hence the descriptive term. Some Mint State gold
dollars and three-dollar gold coins exhibit this effect to some degree.
- A term used to describe 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.
The quantities vary by denomination, but typically include 50 one-cent pieces, 40
nickels, 50 dimes, 40 quarters, 20 half dollars and 20 silver dollars. U.S. coins
were first shipped to banks in kegs, later in cloth bags, and still later in rolls.
Silver and gold coins stored in such rolls often have peripheral toning and
untoned centers. Obviously, coins stored in rolls suffered fewer marks than those
in kegs or bags.
- Original rolls
- Rolls of coins that have been together since the day they were removed from their
storage bags. Also, rolls of Mint State coins that have never been searched or
- Original skin
- All coins come with an original surface. On the day they are struck at the mint
they are fresh, vibrant and undisturbed by harsh abrasions, handling or storage
lines. Coins that have been cleaned or miss-handled lose their original skin.
Uncirculated coins are the only coins that can have their original skin. Bagmarks
do not necessarily mean that a rare coin doesn't have its original skin.
- original toning
- Term for the color acquired naturally by a coin that never has never been cleaned
or dipped. Original toning ranges from the palest yellow to extremely dark blues,
grays, browns, and finally black.
- over -mintmark
- A coin struck with a die on which one mintmark is engraved over a different
mintmark. In rare instances, branch mints returned dies that already had
mintmarks punched into them; on occasion, these were then sent to different
branch mints and the new mint punched its mintmark over the old one. Examples
include the 1938-D/S Buffalo nickel and the 1900-O/CC Morgan dollar.
- over dipped
- A coin that has become dull from too many baths in a dipping solution.
- A coin struck from a die with a date that has one year punched over a different
year. Save a few exceptions, the die overdated is an unused die from a previous
year. Sometimes an effort was made to polish away evidence of the previous date.
PCGS requires the overdate to be visible to be recognized.
- Term applied to the coins struck at the main Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- Short for Panama-Pacific Exhibition.
- Pan-Pac slug
- Slang for either of the 1915-dated Panama-Pacific fifty-dollar commemorative
coins, the octagonal or the round.
- Panama-Pacific Exhibition
- A 1915 exhibition held in San Francisco, California to celebrate the completion of
the Panama Canal.
- paper money
- Term used among collectors for notes of the entire field of currency, no matter
what medium on which they may be printed.
- Synonym for toning.
- A test striking of a coin produced to demonstrate a proposed design, size, or
composition (whether adopted or not). Patterns often are made in metals other
than the one proposed; examples of this include aluminum and copper patterns of
the silver Trade dollar. Off-metal strikes such as this also are referred to as die
trials of a pattern.
- Short for "Professional Coin Grading Service".
- PCGS Population Report
- Monthly publication by PCGS listing the number of coins graded and their grade.
Totals are for coins graded by PCGS since its inception in 1986.
- Peace dollar
- Common name for the silver dollar struck from 1921 to 1935. Designed by
Anthony Francisci to commemorate the peace following World War I, the first
year featured another coin designated High Relief. In 1922, the relief was lowered
resulting in the Regular Relief type that continued until 1935.
- A listing of a coin's current owner plus all known previous owners.
- In American numismatics, slang for a one-cent coin.
- peripheral toning
- Light, medium, or dark coloring around the edge of a coin.
- The mother Mint, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. First established in 1792,
the Philadelphia Mint has occupied 4 different locations, currently, it is in
- pick off
- Slang for a coin bought at a bargain price.
- picked off
- Term to describe the dealer who sells a pick off.
- Pioneer gold
- Those privately-issued gold coins struck prior to 1861. These include coins struck
in Georgia and North Carolina although no "pioneers" were responsible for the
gold mined in those states. Generally associated with the private issues from
California and the other post-1848 finds in Nevada, Oregon, and Colorado.
- Short for prooflike.
- plain edge
- A flat, smooth edge seen mainly on a small-denomination coinage.
- The blank disk of metal before it is struck by a coining press which transforms it
into a coin. Type I planchets are flat. Type II planchets have upset rims from the
milling machine, these to facilitate easier striking in close collars.
- planchet defects
- Any of the various abnormalities found on coin blanks. These include drift marks,
laminations, clips, and so forth.
- planchet flaw
- An irregular hole in a coin blank, sometimes the result of a lamination that has
- planchet striations
- Fine, incuse lines found on some Proof coins, though rarely on business strikes,
usually the result of polishing blanks to impart mirrorlike surfaces prior to
- A term used to describe a coin to which a thin layer of metal has been applied-for
example, gold-plated copper strikings of certain U.S. pattern coins.
- Precious metal sometimes used for coinage. The only United States issues struck
in platinum are the pattern half dollars of 1814 and the modern platinum Eagles.
- 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.
- Short for Professional Numismatists Guild.
- PNG certificate
- Before third-party certification was started by PCGS in 1986, these certificates
were the best available protection for the coin buyer. Each PNG dealer could issue
a certificate, one copy given to the buyer and one copy sent to the PNG main
office. This provided not only a guarantee of authenticity, but also provided a
space for a description that could be useful in cases of stolen collections.
- This is for "Poor" (the grade) and "1" (the numerical designation that means
Poor). A coin of this grade is basically uncollectible due to its terrible condition,
but coins of great rarity (such as an 1802 half dime) are still of considerable value
and in demand in this grade. In order to "reach" this grade a coin must be
identifiable as to date and type and not be horribly damaged (such as holes).
- polished die
- A die that has been basined to remove clash marks or other die injury. In a
positive sense, Proof dies were basined to impart mirrorlike surfaces, resulting in
coins with reflective field.
- polyvinyl chloride
- A chemical used in coin flips to make them pliable.
- The grade PO-1. A coin with readable date and mint mark (if present), but little
more, barely identifiable as to type. (One-year type coins do not require a
readable date to qualify for this grade.)
- Pop Report
- Short for "PCGS Population Report."
- Short for premium quality.
- Short for Proof.
- premium quality
- A term applied to coins that are the best examples within a particular grade.
- presentation striking
- A coin, often a Proof or an exceptionally sharp business strike, specially struck
and given to a dignitary or other person.
- Any of the various coining machines. Examples include the screw press and the
steam-powered knuckle-action press.
- The asking quotation for a particular numismatic item. "What's the price?" is a
common phrase on the bourse floor.
- price guide
- A periodical, whether electronic or paper, listing approximate prices for
numismatic items, whether wholesale or retail.
- price list
- A list put out by a rare coin dealer offering his rare coin invesntory.
- A term applied to coins in original, unimpaired condition. These coins typically
are graded MS/PR-67 and higher.
- Professional Coin Grading Service
- Established in 1985, this was the first third-party grading service to grade,
encapsulate, and guarantee the authenticity for numismatic material. Based in
Newport Beach, California.
- Professional Numismatists Guild
A dealer organization begun in 1955. The membership according the PNG
is restricted by financial and longevity requirements. Itís considered
the most prestigious dealer organization and adheres to a code of
- A coin usually struck from a specially prepared coin die on a specially prepared
planchet. Proofs are usually given more than one blow from the dies and are
usually struck with presses operating at slower speeds and higher striking
pressure. Because of this extra care, Proofs usually exhibit much sharper detail
than regular, or business, strikes. PCGS recognizes Proofs (PR) as those struck in
1817 and later. Those coins struck prior to 1817 are recognized as Specimen
- Proof set
- A coin set containing Proof issues from particular year. A few sets contain
anomalies such as the 1804 dollar and eagle in 1834 presentation Proof sets.
- Proof dies
- Specially prepared dies, often sandblasted or acid-picked, that are used to strike
Proof coins. Often, the fields are highly polished to a mirrorlike finish, while the
recessed areas are left "rough"; on coins struck with such dies, the devices are
frosted and contrast with highly reflective fields. Matte, Roman, and Satin Proof
dies are not polished to a mirror-like finish.
- Proof-only issue
- A coin struck only in Proof, with no business-strike counterpart.
- Term to designate a coin that has mirror-like surfaces, the term especially
applicable to Morgan dollars. Those Morgan dollars that meet PCGS prooflike
standards are designated PL.
- Term synonymous with pedigree.
- A steel rod with a device, lettering, date, star, or some other symbol on the end
which was sunk into a working die by hammering on the opposite end of the rod.
- put-together roll
- Term applied to a roll of coins that is not original, usually the best condition coins
have been removed and replaced with lesser quality coins. (It is not unusual to
find slightly circulated coins in such rolls.)
- Short for polyvinyl chloride.
- PVC damage
- A film, usually green, left on a coin after storage in flips that contain PVC. During
the early stage, this film may be clear and sticky.
- PVC flip
- Any of the various soft coin flips that contain PVC.
- Short for a coin of the quarter dollar denomination.
- Quarter Eagle
- Correct terminology for a two-and-one-half dollar gold coin. This denomination,
two and one half dollars or one fourth of an eagle, was first struck in 1796, struck
sporadically thereafter, and discontinued in 1929.
- questionable toning
- Term to describe the color on a coin that may not be original. After a coin is
dipped or cleaned, any subsequent toning, whether acquired naturally or induced
artificially, will look different than original toning. PCGS will not grade coins
with questionable color.
- Racketeer nickel
- A gold-plated 1883 No "CENTS" Liberty Head five-cent coin ("V" nickel). The
story goes that a deaf-mute gold-plated these unfamiliar coins and would buy
something for a nickel or less. 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 which is usually seen on silver dollars stored in bags. The "colors
of the rainbow" are represented, stating with pale yellow, to green, to red, to blue,
and sometimes fading to black.
- A relative term indicating that a coin within a series is very difficult to find. Also,
a coin with only a few examples known. A rare Lincoln cent may have thousands
known while a relatively common pattern may only have a few dozen known.
- The number of specimens extant of any particular numismatic item. This can be
the total number of extant specimens or the number of examples in a particular
grade and higher. (This is referred to as condition rarity.)
- rarity scale
- A term referring to a numerical-rating system such as the Universal Rarity Scale.
- Numismatic slang for a coin or other numismatic item that has not been
encapsulated by a grading service.
- Term for the lines that represent sun rays on coins. First used on Continental
dollars and Fugio cents, they were also used on some 1853-dated quarters and half
dollars as well as 1866 and some 1867 five-cent coins.
- Short for red and brown or Red-Brown.
- Short for Red.
- Numismatic slang for genuine coin.
- recut date
- This term is used interchangeably with "repunched date." PCGS prefers the term
"repunched date" as it is more accurate. See "repunched date" for a full definition.
- Term used for a copper coin that still retains 95 percent or more of its original
mint bloom or color. PCGS allows only slight mellowing of color for this
- A copper coin that has from 5 to 95 percent of its original mint color remaining
- First issued in 1947, this yearly price guide has been the "bible" of printed
numismatic retail price guides.
- reeded edge
- Term for the grooved notches on the edge of some coins. These were first
imparted by the Mint's edge machine, later in the minting process by the use of
close collars - these sometimes called the third die or collar die.
- reeding mark(s)
- A mark or marks caused when the reeded edge of one coin hits the surface of
another coin. The contact may leave just one mark or a series of staccato-like
- regular issue
- Term for the coins struck for commerce. These may be both Regular and Proof
strikes of a regular issue. In addition, there can be die trials of regular issues.
- regular strike
- Term to denote coins struck with normal coining methods on ordinarily prepared
planchets. Synonymous with business strike.
- The height of the devices of a particular coin design, expressed in relation to the
- A copy, or reproduction, of a particular coin.
- repunched date
- If a date was punched into the die and then punched in again in a different
position it is considered to be a repunched date. A dramatic example of the
repunched date is the 1894/94 Indian cent, where the two dates are clear, bold and
well separated. Most repunched dates are more subtle, such as the 1887/6 Morgan
dollar. Such coins as the 1909/8 $20 gold piece or the 1942/1 Mercury dime are
not repunched dates, but Doubled Dies, where the changes were made to the
working die from a differently-dated working hub.
- A coin struck later than indicated by its date, often with different dies.
Occasionally, a different reverse design is used, as in the case of restrike 1831
half cents made with the reverse type used from 1840-1857.
- A term used to describe a coin that has been dipped or cleaned and then has
reacquired color, whether naturally or artificially.
- The back, or tails side, of a coin. Usually opposite the date side.
- The raised area around the edges of the obverse and reverse of a coin. Pronounced
rims resulted from the introduction of the close collar, first used in 1828 for
Capped Bust dimes. (The Mint had experimented with close-collar strikings as
early as 1820.)
- rim ding
- Slang for rim nick.
- rim nick
- Term for a mark or indentation on the rim of a coin or other metallic numismatic
- ring test
- A test used to determine whether a coin was struck or is an electrotype or cast
copy. The coin in question is balanced on a finger and gently tapped with a metal
object- a pen, another coin, and so on. Struck coins have a high-pitched ring or
tone, while electrotypes and cast copies have little or none. This test is not
infallible; some struck coins do not ring because of planchet defects such as
cracks or gas occlusions; also, some cast copies have been filled with glass (or
other substances) and do ring.
- A numismatic purchase that is bought substantially below the price for which it
can be resold.
- A set number of coins "rolled up" in a coin wrapper. In old times, a roll meant the
coins were rolled up in a paper wrapper, today they are likely to be slid into a
plastic coin tube. Groups of nineteenth century coins are sometimes referred to as
rolls when they exist in sufficient quantities even when they might not have come
in rolls during their years of issue nor or are they currently in a roll! (Cents are 50
to a roll, nickels 40 to a roll, dimes 50 to a roll, quarters 40 to a roll, half dollars
20 to a roll, and dollars 20 to a roll. Gold coins are sometimes seen in rolls but the
number of coins vary. Rolls of five dollar and twenty dollar coins have been
rolled 20, 40, and 50 to a roll -- other variations are certainly possible. Gold
dollars, quarter eagles, three-dollar coins, and eagles have also be seen in rolls of
- roll friction
- Minor displacement of metal, mainly on the high points, seen on coins stored in
- rolled edge
- Term synonymous with rim (the raised edge around a coin). This has become part
of the vernacular because of the Rolled Edge Indian Head eagle.
- Rolled Edge Ten
- Common name for the Indian Head eagle struck as a regular issue with a mintage
reported by some as 20,000, but according to official Mint correspondence the
figure was 31,550. However, some have considered it a pattern because all but 42
coins were reportedly melted. It is occasionally seen circulated but the average
coin is Mint State 63 or higher.
- roller marks
- Term to describe the mostly parallel incuse lines seen on some coins after
striking. These were originally thought to be lines resulting from debris "scoring"
the metal strips before the blanks were cut. However, new research has pointed to
the final step of strip preparation, the draw bar. To reduce the strips to proper
thickness, the final step was to pass them through the draw bar. It certainly seems
logical that debris in the draw bar may cause these lines, if so, then draw-bar
marks or lines would be a more appropriate term.
- Roman finish
- An experimental Proof surface used mainly on U.S. gold coins of 1909 and 1910.
This is a hybrid surface with more reflectivity than Matte surfaces but less than
brilliant Proofs. The surface is slightly scaly, similar to that of Satin Proofs.
- Short for a Pan-Pac commemorative fifty-dollar coin.
- Term for slight wear, often referring just to the high points or the fields.
- S VDB
- Short for 1909-S VDB Lincoln Head cent.
- Term applied to the coins struck at the San Francisco, California branch Mint.
- Short for Sacagawea Dollar.
- Sacagawea Dollar
- The Sacagawea dollar is a one dollar value circulating coin that was introduced in
the year 2000. It is also called the "golden dollar" in the non-numismatic
community because of its color. The coin honors Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian
woman who was a guide and interpreter for the Lewis and Clark expedition of
1804. Glenna Goodacre designed the obverse of the coin and Thomas D. Rogers
created the reverse. Sacagawea dollars are struck for circulation at the
Philadelphia and Denver Mints, while Proofs are struck in San Francisco.
- Slang for the Saint-Gaudens inspired double eagle struck from 1907 until 1933.
(The 1933 issue is currently considered illegal to own as the government insists
that none of this date were legally released.) This low relief copy of the Extremely
High Relief and High Relief designs was the work of Chief Engraver Charles
- Last name of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the preeminent sculptor of the late
nineteenth and early twentieth century. At the request of President Teddy
Roosevelt, he redesigned the eagle and double eagle in 1907 although he died
mid-production. Also, slang for the Liberty Head double eagle or Saint.
- saltwater Unc
- A very deceptive term. Generally, a term to describe coins with a finely pitted
surface, however, recent discoveries of coins that have been exposed to saltwater
for over a hundred years has made this term inaccurate, if not obsolete. The sand,
not the saltwater, likely does the pitting on gold and silver coins in the ocean. A
better term for these coins would be sandblasted Uncs or sand-damaged Uncs.
- San Francisco
- The United States branch Mint located in San Francisco, California that struck
coins from 1854 until 1955. After its closing as a Mint, it served as an assay office
until it reopened as a coinage facility in 1965.
- satin finish
- Another of the experimental Proof surfaces used on U.S. gold coins after 1907.
The dies were treated in some manner to create the silky surfaces imparted to the
- satin luster
- Fine, silky luster seen on many business strike coins, especially copper and nickel
issues. Almost no "cartwheel" effect is seen on coins with this type of luster.
- A detracting line that is more severe than a hairline.
The size of a coin determines the point at which a line ceases to
be viewed as a hairline and instead is regarded a scratch; the
larger the coin, the greater the tolerance. A heavy scratch may
result in a coin not being graded by PCGS.
- screw press
- The first
type of coining press used at the U.S. Mint. Invented by Italian
craftsman Donato Bramante, this press had a fixed anvil (or
lower) die, with the hammer (or upper) die being attached to a
rod with screw-like threads. When weighted arms attached to the
rod were rotated, the screw mechanism quickly moved the rod with
the die downward, striking the planchet placed into the lower
die. The struck coin then was ejected and the process was
- Short for small date.
- sea salvage coin
- A coin
retrieved from the ocean, usually from a ship wreck. The
conception that these coin will have pitted surface has been
exploded by the recent Brother Jonathon and Central America
recoveries. These coins do not have pitted surfaces! The action
of the shifting tides evidently causes sand to "blast" the
surface of some coins, while others protected from this action
retain nearly intact Mint luster.
- Short for Liberty Seated.
- Seated coinage
- Term commonly used for Liberty Seated
- second toning
- Any toning, natural or artificial, that
results after a coin is dipped or cleaned. This second toning is
seldom as attractive as original toning, although some coins
"take" second toning better than others.
- Term to denote coins that are neither scarce nor common. An example would
be Uncirculated 1903 Morgan dollars.
indicating a coin that has a significant bullion value and some
numismatic value. The most recognized examples are Liberty Head
and Saint-Gaudens double eagles.
- A term used to
describe a coin that has some mirror-like surface mixed with
satin or frosty luster. Reflectivity is obscured on such a
specimen, unlike the reflectivity on prooflike and deep mirror
- A particular design or motif used over a
period of time. This can used for a single denomination, or in
some cases, used for several denominations. The Liberty Seated
series encompasses five denominations, the Barber series three,
- A term indicating a collection of coins in a series, a
collection of types, or a collection from a particular Mint.
Examples include a complete series set (Lincoln cents from 1909
to date); a type set of gold coins (8 or 12 piece sets are the
most common); a set of branch mint quarter eagles (Dahlonega
quarter eagles from 1838 to 1859)
- Set Registry
- Listing of registered PCGS graded sets of coins. These include Morgan dollar
sets, Proof Barber quarter sets, Mercury dime sets, etc.
- Specifically, Dr. William Sheldon who wrote the seminal work on 1793 to 1814
- Sheldon Book
- The large cent book, first published in 1949 as Early American Cents with only
Dr. Sheldon listed, updated in 1958 with Walter Breen and Dorothy Paschal also
listed as authors with the new name, Penny Whimsy.
- Sheldon number
- The reference number for 1793 to 1814 large cents per the Sheldon books, Early
American Cents and Penny Whimsy. When certain Sheldon numbers are
mentioned among large cent aficionados, an immediate hush is observed until all
the facts of that particular specimen are disseminated.
- Sheldon scale
- The rarity scale introduced in 1949 in Early American Cents.
- The emblem used on certain issues that has horizontal and vertical lines in a
shield shape. These are first found in the center of the heraldic eagle and on each
succeeding eagle until the end of the Barber quarter series in 1916. They shield as
a single motif first appeared on the two-cent coins of 1864, later also used on the
nickels of 1866. Starting in 1860, Indian Head cents used the shield motif at the
top of the wreath on the reverse.
- Shield nickel
- Common name for the Shield five-cent coin struck from 1866 until 1883. The
1866 and some 1867 coins have rays between the stars on the reverse and are
referred to as Rays type (or With Rays type). Those 1867 through 1883 coins
without the rays are called No Rays type.
- shiny spots
- Areas on Matte, Roman, and Satin Proofs where the surface has been disturbed.
On brilliant Proofs, dull spots appear where there are disturbances; on textured-
surface coins such as Matte, Roman, and Satin Proofs, these disturbances create
- Shotgun rolls
- Rolls of coins that contain double the normal amount of coins in a roll. For
instance, a shotgun roll of silver dollars contains 40 coins. The name derives from
the length of the rolls being similar to the length of a shotgun barrel.
- Common term for a bourse or coin show. Example: the ANA show was great!
- sight seen
- A term to indicate that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular
grade wants to view the coin before he buys it. He may have a customer who
wants an untoned coin -- or a toned coin, or some other specific requirement.
- sight unseen
- A term to indicate that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular
grade will pay a certain price without examining the item.
- Term to indicate coins struck in silver (generally 90% silver and 10% copper but
there are a few exceptions).
- silver commem
- Short for silver commemorative coins.
- silver commemoratives
- Originally, those commemorative coins struck from 1892 until 1954, although not
in every year. These are all struck in 90% silver and 10% copper alloy. Of course,
those post-1982 silver commemorative issues also could technically be so called.
- silver dollar
- A coin of the one dollar denomination that is struck in a composition of 90%
silver (or so) and 10% copper. The silver dollar was introduced in 1794 and was
issued for circulation in intermittent years through 1935. The most frequently seen
silver dollars are the Morgan design (1878-1921) and the Peace design (1921-35).
These coins remained in circulation until the 1960s, mostly in the western US.
Modern dollar coins are sometimes called "silver dollars" as well, even though the
pieces struck for circulation contain no silver.
- Silver nickel
- Slang for Wartime nickel.
- Term to indicate a Kennedy half dollar struck from 1965 to 1970, whose overall
content is 40 percent silver and 60 percent copper. These are commonly referred
to as silver-clad halves because two outer layers containing primarily silver (80%)
are bonded to a core made primarily of copper (79%).
- skirt lines
- The lines representing the folds on Miss Liberty's flowing gown on Walking
Liberty half dollars. The early issues (1916-1918 and some coins through the
entire series) are particularly weak in this feature. Well struck coins with full skirt
lines often bring substantial premiums over those that are weakly struck.
- Short for small letters.
- Numismatic slang for the holder in which a coin is encapsulated by a grading
service. The coin contained therein is said to be slabbed.
- The process of sending a coin to a third-party grading service to have it
authenticated, graded, and encapsulated in a sonically sealed holder.
- A term used to describe an AU coin that looks, or can be sold as, Uncirculated.
Occasionally used as a reference to another grade; a slider EF coin, for example,
would be a VF/EF coin that is nearly EF.
- Slang for the octagonal and round fifty-dollar gold coins struck during the
California gold rush. Allegedly, their name came from the fact that criminals used
the two-and-one-half ounce coins wrapped in a handkerchief and slugged their
victims on the head with this "weapon." This could be a myth, as their massive
size also could be construed to be a "slug" of gold. The 1915 Pan-Pac fifty-dollar
commemorative issues are also referred to a slugs.
- small cent
- Those cents of reduced size, replacing the large cent in 1857. The 1856 small
cents technically are patterns, but have been so widely collected with the regular
issues that their acceptance is universal.
- small date
- Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term
implies that a large or medium date exists for that coin or series.)
- Small Eagle
- The plain eagle on a perch first used on the 1794 half dime and half dollar,
although the 1795 half eagle is the first coin to use the term to denote a type coin.
- small letters
- Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term
implies that large or medium letters exist for that coin or series.)
- Small Motto
- Common short name for the particular variety of two-cent coin of 1864 with small
letters in the motto. The inscription "IN GOD WE TRUST" was first used as a
motto on the two-cent coinage of 1864.
See Also -- Large Motto
- small size
- A term referring to the particular diameter of a coin in a series. (Use of this term
implies that there is a large size or diameter with the same motif. Examples are
the Large and Small size Capped Bust quarters.)
- Short for Special Mint Set. Struck by the U.S. Mint in 1965, 1966 and 1967
- Short for Specimen Strike.
- spark-erosion die
- A die made by an electrolytic deposition method. The surfaces of such a die are
very rough, so they usually are extensively polished to remove the "pimples." The
recessed areas of the die, and the relief areas of any coin struck with the die, still
have rustlike surfaces with tiny micro pimples.
- spark-erosion strike
- A coin made from spark-erosion dies. These are characterized by the telltale
"pimples" noted mainly on the areas in relief.
- Special Mint Set
- A set of special coins-neither business strikes nor Proofs-first struck in limited
quantities in 1965 and officially released in 1966-1967- to replace Proof sets,
which were discontinued as part of the U.S. Mint's efforts to stop coin hoarding.
The quality of many of the 1965 coins was not much better than that of business
strikes-but by 1967, some Special Mint Set (SMS) coins resembled Proofs. In
fact, the government admitted as much when it revealed how the 1967 issues were
struck. In 1968, Proof coinage resumed. There have been similar issues since; the
1994 and 1997 Matte-finish Jefferson nickels, for example, are frosted SMS-type
coins. There also are a few known 1964 SMS coins, these likely struck as tests in
late 1964 for the new 1965 SMS strikings.
- Term used to indicate special coins struck at the Mint from 1792-1816 that
display many characteristics of the later Proof coinage. Prior to 1817, the minting
equipment and technology was limited, so these coins do not have the "watery"
surfaces of later Proofs nor the evenness of strike of the close collar Proofs. PCGS
designates these coins SP.
- Specimen Strike
- See Also -- Specimen
- splotchy toning
- Color that is uneven, both in shade and composition.
- A discolored area on a coin. This can be a small dot of copper staining on a gold
coin or a large, dark "tar" spot on a copper coin. The spot(s) can have a small or
large effect on the grade of a coin depending on the severity, size, placement,
number, and so on.
- See "spot."
- St. Gaudens
- Short for Augustus Saint-Gaudens or slang for the Standing Liberty double eagle
- standard silver
- The official composition of U.S. silver coinage, set by the Mint Act of 1792 at
approximately 89 percent silver and 11 percent copper, later changed to 90
percent silver and 10 percent copper-the composition seen in most U.S. silver
- Standing Liberty
- Motif with Miss Liberty in a upright front-facing position. The design was used in
1907 on the Saint-Gaudens double eagles and later on the Hermon A. MacNeil
quarter first struck in 1917.
- Standing Liberty quarter
- Common name of the Hermon MacNeil designed quarter dollar struck from 1917
- staple scratch
- A line on a coin resulting from its improper removal from a holder, usually one of
the two-by-two inch cardboard type. Staples should be completely removed from
any holder before the coin is removed!
- A term for the five-pointed and six-pointed devices used on many U.S. coins. On
the earliest U.S. coins, thirteen stars were depicted, representing the thirteen
original colonies/states. As new states were admitted into the Union, more stars
were added; up to sixteen appeared on some coins. Adding stars for each state
was impractical, however, so the number was reduced to the original thirteen.
Exception include the forty-six stars, later forty-eight stars, around the periphery
of Saint-Gaudens double eagles, reflecting the number of states in the Union at
the time those coins were issued. Also, as a single motif, the star was used on the
obverse of the three-cent silver issue from 1851 until 1873.
- State quarter
- One of the 1999 and later Washington quarters struck with unique reverse designs
for each state, 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
- steam-powered press
- A coining press driven by a steam-powered engine. This type of press, more
powerful than its predecessors, was installed in the United States Mint in 1836,
replacing the hand and horse-powered screw presses except for most Proof
strikings and die hubbing.
- steel cent
- Common name for the 1943 cents (and certain 1944 cents struck on left-over steel
blanks) struck in steel and plated with zinc.
- Slang for 1943 steel cents.
- A term applied to the experimental four-dollar gold coins struck by the U.S. Mint
in 1879-1880. So named for the large star on the coins' reverse.
- Sterling Silver
- Sterling silver is a composition of 925 parts pure silver with 75 parts of copper.
This is usually defined as .925 fine silver. Sterling silver is used to make jewelry
and some household items, most notably silverware (knives, forks, etc.).
- stock edge
- A counterfeit edge collar used for various-dated fakes. These have the same
- store cards
- Merchant tokens, usually composed of copper, which helped alleviate the small
change shortage during the nineteenth century. These were widely accepted in
their immediate areas.
- stress lines
- Alternate form of "flow lines."
- Term for the incuse polish lines on the die which result in raised lines on coins.
These are usually fine, parallel lines though on some coins they are swirling, still
others with criss-cross lines. Planchet striations are burnishing lines not struck
away by the minting process and are incuse on the coins.
- strike -- n.
- Term to indicate the completeness, or incompleteness, of a coin's intended detail.
v. The act of minting a coin.
- The flat metal, rolled to proper thickness, from which planchets are cut.
- A term used to describe a coin produced from dies and a coining press.
- struck copy
- A replica of a particular coin made from dies not necessarily meant to deceive.
- struck counterfeit
- A fake coin produced from false dies.
- successful bidder
- The buyer of a particular lot from an auction, whether it is a mail-bid, internet, or
a "normal" in-person auction.
- surface preservation
- The condition of the surface of a coin. On weakly struck coins, this is a better
indicator grade than is the coins' detail.
- The entire obverse and reverse of a coin, although often used to mean just the
- A procedure in which coins are placed in a bag and shaken vigorously to knock
off small pieces of metal. Later these bits of metal are gathered and sold,
producing a profit as the coins are returned to circulation at face value. Mainly
employed with gold coins, leaving their surfaces peppered with tiny nicks.
- tab toning
- Term to describe the toning often seen on commemorative coins which were sold
in cardboard holders with a round tab. Coins toned in these holders have a circle
in the center and are said to have tab toning.
- target toning
- Term used for coins with circles of color, similar to an archery target, with deeper
colors on the periphery often fading to white or cream color at the center.
- Teddy's Coin
- Slang for J-1776, the unique gold striking of the 1907 Indian Head double eagle.
This was the first design submitted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the personal
request of then President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. He had requested that the
famous sculptor revamp the "mundane" United States coinage along classical
Greek and Roman styles.
- A coin merchant who sells coins over the telephone. These firms often employ
numerous salespersons who usually know little or nothing about rare coins.
Beware! Question: How can you tell if a telemarketer is lying. Answer: His lips
- telephone auction
- A sale of coins in which the bids are placed via telephone. This may be
accomplished by punching the buttons on a touch-tone phone to indicate the
auction, lot number, and bid or by verbal confirmation with an employee of the
- Slang for an eagle or ten-dollar gold coin.
- Ten Indian
- Common name for an Indian Head eagle.
- Ten Lib
- Common name for a Liberty Head eagle.
- tensor light
- A small, direct light source used by many numismatists to examine and grade
- Territorial Gold
- Those coins and bars privately struck during the various gold rushes. These
include coins not struck in territories. (Georgia and North Carolina were states
when Templeton Reid and the Bechtlers struck their coins, but the term is applied
to these issues. California also was a state when most issuers struck their coins.)
- The Germanic spelling of the silver-dollar size coins from Europe. Our word
dollar derives from this word.
- The Numismatist
- Monthly periodical of the American Numismatic Association.
- Common name for the Indian Head three-dollar gold coin.
- Three Cent Nickel
- The 75% copper and 25% nickel three-cent coins with Liberty Head motif struck
from 1865 to 1889. The design by James Longacre was copied from the Liberty
Head motif by Christian Gobrecht.
- Three Cent Silver
- The three-cent coin with a star motif struck in silver alloy. (The first type of the
series was the first United States regular issue struck in debased silver -- 75%
silver and 25% copper. The other two types were struck in the normal 90% silver
and 10% copper alloy.)
- A term used to describe a coin that has been doctored in a specific way to cover
marks, hairlines, or other disturbances. Often associated with silver dollars, it
actually is used on many issues, mainly business strikes. The thumb is rubbed
lightly over the disturbances, and the oils in the skin help to disguise any
- tissue toning
- Color, often vibrant, acquired by coins stored in original Mint paper. Originally,
this was fairly heavy paper; later, very delicate tissue. Sometime during the
nineteenth century, the Mint began wrapping Proof coins, and occasionally
business strikes, in this paper. The paper contained sulfur; as a result, the coins
stored in it for long periods of time acquired blues, reds, yellows, and other
- A substitute for a coin. These have been issued in the past and are still currently
issued in huge quantities. Older ones generally were issued by stores and may not
have been accepted at other establishments. The same is true today for most
tokens, such as the gaming tokens issued by casinos, these being valid only at that
particular establishment (or other casinos affiliated with the same owners).
- 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 U.S. silver coin, issued from 1873 until 1885, slightly heavier than the regular
silver dollar and specifically intended to facilitate trade in the Far East-hence its
name. Trade dollars were made with this marginally higher silver content than
standard silver dollars in an effort to gain acceptance for them in commerce
throughout the world.
- transfer die
- A die created by sacrificing a coin for a model.
- Short for transitional issue.
- transitional issue
- A coin struck after a series ends, such as the 1866 No Motto issues. A coin struck
before a series starts, such as the 1865 Motto issues. A coin struck with either the
obverse or the reverse of a discontinued series, an example being the 1860 half
dime With Stars. A coin struck with the obverse or reverse of a yet-to-be-issued
series, an example being the 1859 Stars half dime with the Legend-type reverse.
- treasure coin
- A coin known to have come a shipwreck or from a buried or hidden source.
- Term used for a three-cent piece.
- 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.
- Turban Head
- Synonymous With Draped Bust.
- Common term for double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.
- Twenty Lib
- Common name for Liberty Head double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.
- Two and a Half
- Common name for a quarter eagle or two-and-one-half dollar gold coin.
- two-cent piece
- Term commonly used for the Shield two-cent coin struck from 1864 until 1873.
This James Longacre designed coin was the first to feature a shield as a stand-alone motif.
- A variation in design, size, or metallic content of a specific coin design. Examples
include the Small and Heraldic Eagle types of Draped Bust coinage, Large-Size
and Small-Size Capped Bust quarters, and the 1943 Lincoln cent struck in zinc-
- type coin
- A representative coin, usually a common date, from a particular issue of a specific
design, size, or metallic content.
- Type One
- Term for any coin from the first Type within a Series.
- Type One Buffalo
- A 1913-dated Indian Head five-cent coin with the reverse buffalo (bison) on a
- Type One gold dollar
- The Liberty Head design gold dollar struck from 1849 until mid-1854 in
Philadelphia and for the full year in Dahlonega and San Francisco.
- Type One nickel
- The Jefferson Head five-cent coin struck from 1938 until mid-1942 and from
1946 until the present day.
- Type One quarter
- The Standing Liberty quarter struck from 1916 to mid-1917. This design features
a bare-breasted Miss Liberty, a simple head detail, and no stars under the reverse
- Type One twenty
- Those Liberty Head double eagles struck from 1850 until mid-1866. These coins
did not have a motto on the reverse and had "TWENTY D." for the denomination.
- Type Three
- Term for any coin from the third Type within a Series.
- Type Three gold dollar
- The Small Indian Head design struck from 1856 until the series ended in 1889.
San Francisco did not receive the Type Three dies in time to strike the new design
in 1856, those coins from that Mint being the Type Two style.
- Type Three twenty
- Those Liberty Head double eagles struck from 1877 until the series ended in
1907. These coins have the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" on the reverse and had
"TWENTY DOLLARS" for the denomination.
- Type Two
- Term for any coin from the second Type within a Series.
- Type Two Buffalo
- An Indian Head nickel with the reverse buffalo (bison) on level ground. These
were struck from mid-1913 until the series ended in 1938.
- Type Two gold dollar
- The Large Indian Head design gold dollar struck from mid-1854 until 1855 in
Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans while San Francisco did not
receive the new dies before the end of 1856 and struck Type Two coins during
- Type Two nickel
- The Jefferson Head five-cent coin struck from mid-1942 until 1945. These are
designated by a large mintmark above Monticello on the reverse and are
composed of silver, manganese, and copper. These are the first U.S. coins to have
a "P" mintmark to indicate their being struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
- Type Two quarter
- The Standing Liberty quarter struck from mid-1917 until the end of the series in
1930. This design features a covered-breast Miss Liberty, a more intricate head
design, and three stars under the reverse eagle.
- Type Two twenty
- Those Liberty Head double eagles struck from mid-1866 until 1876. These coins
have the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" on the reverse and had "TWENTY DOL."
for the denomination.
- Ultra High Relief
- Alternate name for the Extremely High Relief.
- ultra rarity
- Term used for a coin or other numismatic item that is represented by only a few
- Term to indicate a coin or numismatic item that has never been in circulation, a
coin without wear. See "Brilliant Uncirculated," "Mint State," and "new."
- The individual or entity that executed the bid preceding the winning bid. Close,
but no cigar.
- Universal Rarity Scale
- A collectibles rarity information scale developed in 1998 by 21 major collectibles
experts in order to both define rarity within their individual markets and allow
collectors and dealers from different collectibles markets to more easily
communicate with one another. The Universal Rarity Scale is a 10 point scale.
The least rare collectible items are those where more than 10,000 examples are
estimated to exist. These items are designated "UR1" and are described as
"readily available." The rarest items are those where only one example is known
to exist. These rarities are designated "UR10" and are described as "unique."
- Short for Universal Rarity Scale.
- term to describe a coin that has light to heavy wear or circulation.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Van Allen-Mallis
- The Morgan and Peace dollar variety book authors. First published in 1971, it was
updated and reprinted in 1998.
- A coin of the same date and basic design as another but with slight differences.
PCGS recognizes all major varieties while there are thousands of minor varieties,
most of which have significance only to specialists of the particular series. After
hubbed dies, introduced in the 1840s, varieties are mainly variations in date and
mintmark size and placement.
- Short for 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.
This was likely a jealous complaint from the Chief Engraver Charles Barber as
the tiny B on the Barber series had generated no outcry. This is a similar situation
to the complaint lodged, again probably by the Chief Engraver of the time
William Kneass, against the name-below-base Gobrecht dollars. This overt
signing was moved to a less obvious position on the base of the rock of the
Gobrecht dollar while, in 1918, the VDB was returned to the Lincoln Head cent
albeit in a less conspicuous place on the slanted area at the bottom of Lincoln's
- The grader at PCGS who looks at graded coins and decides whether the indicated
grade is correct. He may tag a coin to be looked at again by the graders.
- Very Fine
- The term corresponding to the grades VF-20, 25, 30, and 35. This has the broadest
range of any circulated grade, with nearly full detail on some VF-35 coins and
less than half on some VF-20 specimens.
- Very Good
- The term corresponding to the grades VG-8 and VG-10. In these grades, between
Good and Fine, a coin has slightly more detail than in Good, usually with full
rims except on certain series such as Buffalo nickels.
- vest pocket dealer
- A part-time coin merchant. The term originated with those individuals who
roamed the bourse floor ready to whip out of their vests a small plastic coin
binder containing coins in two-by-two cardboard holders. Today, not one-in-a-
thousand individuals wears a vest, but the moniker stuck.
- This is for "Very Fine" (the grade) and "20" (the numerical designation of the
grade). Wing feathers show most of their detail, lettering is readable but
sometimes indistinct and some minor detail is sometimes separate but usually
- This is for "Very Fine" (the grade) and "25" (the numerical designation of the
grade). In this grade about 60% of the original detail is evident, with the major
devices being clear and distinct.
- This is for "Very Fine" (the grade) and "30" (the numerical designation of the
grade). The devices are sharp with only a small amount of blending. Up to 75% of
the original detail is evident.
- This is for "Very Fine" (the grade) and "35" (the numerical designation of the
grade). This grade used to be called VF/EF (or VF/XF) before numerical grading
was accepted throughout the hobby. Devices are sharp and clear and up to 80% of
the detail is in evidence.
- This is for "Very Good" (the grade) and "10" (the numerical designation of the
grade). A higher grade (less worn) than the VG-8 coin. Design detail is still
heavily worn but the major devices and lettering are clear.
- This is for "Very Good" (the grade) and "8" (the numerical designation of the
grade). A slight amount of design detail is still showing on the coin, such as a
couple of letters in the word LIBERTY.
- Slang for a Walking Liberty half dollar.
- Walking Liberty
- Common name for a Walking Liberty half dollar.
- Walking Liberty half dollar
- Those half dollars struck from 1916 until 1947. The Walking Liberty design by
A.A. Weinman undoubtedly was inspired by the popular Saint-Gaudens/Charles
Barber Liberty Standing double eagle then current.
- War nickel
- Short for Wartime nickel.
- Wartime nickel
- Those five-cent coins struck during World War II comprised of 35% silver, 9%
manganese, and 56% copper. Tradition has been that nickel was needed for the
war effort, hence the metallic change. However, recent research has shown 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
- Short for Washington quarter dollar.
- Washington quarter dollar
- The John Flanagan designed quarter dollar first struck in 1932 as a circulating
commemorative coin. (This was to celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of
George Washington's birth.) It became a continuing series in 1934 and has been
struck every year to 1998, albeit with a different reverse in 1976. In 1999, the
obverse was redesigned and the State quarter series began to be struck. Each of
the 50 State quarters will have a different reverse design with 5 new issues per
year for 10 years.
- watery look
- A look seen on the surfaces of most close-collar Proof coins. Highly polished
planchets and dies give the surfaces an almost "wavy" look-hence the term.
- weak strike
- A term used to describe a coin that does not show intended detail because of
improper striking pressure or improperly aligned dies.
- An individual who is obsessed with a particular series or group of series.
Examples are copper weenies, bust half weenies, etc.
- wheel mark
- Synonymous with "counting machine mark."
- 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 edge
- The thin, knife-like projection seen on some rims created when metal flows
between the collar and the dies. Also, slang for the Wire Edge Indian Head eagle
See Also -- knife edge wire rim
- Wire Edge eagle
- The 1907 Indian Head eagle for which only 500 coins were struck. Technically, a
pattern, this design featured a fine wire rim and surfaces unlike any other United
States issue. The fields and the devices of the die were heavily polished leaving
myriad die striations that transferred to the struck coins. With a combination of
satiny and striated surfaces, these rare coins have a look of their own. Often,
unknowledgeable numismatists will look at one of these specimens and declare it
hairlined or harshly cleaned.
- Wire Edge Ten
- Common name for the 1907-dated Wire Edge Indian Head eagle.
- wire rim
- Alternate form of wire edge.
- with arrows
- Alternate form of arrows at date.
- with arrows and rays
- Alternate form of arrows and rays.
- with motto
- Alternate form of motto.
- with rays
- Alternate for of rays.
- wonder coin
- Slang for a coin whose condition is particularly superb.
- working die
- A die prepared from a working hub and used to strike coins.
- working hub
- A hub created from a master die and used to create the many working dies
required for coinage.
- World Coins
- Term applied to coins from countries other than the United States.
- worn die
- A die that has lost detail from extended use. Dies were often used until they wore
out or were excessively cracked or broke apart. Coins struck from worn dies often
appear to be weakly struck but no amount of striking pressure will produce detail
that does not exist.
- Wreath cent
- Common name for the second large cent type of 1793. Complaints about the
Chain cent led to the redesign resulting in the Flowing Hair with wreath reverse
- Short for EF-40
- Short for EF-45
- Zerbe Proof
- Those 1921 Morgan dollars specially struck for numismatist and Mint friend
Farran Zerbe. These Proofs are not of the same quality as the other Proof Morgan
dollars. The devices on these specimens usually are not frosted while the fields
lack the depth of mirror normally associated with Proofs. In fact, the fields are
characterized by heavy die polish, the planchets likely not burnished before
striking. (Both Philadelphia and San Francisco examples are known.)