AlloyA mixture of two or more metals.
AlterationA coin that has a date, mint mark, or other feature that has been changed, added, or removed, usually to simulate a rarer issue.
Altered SurfacesA designation given to coins which cannot be certified due to any number of alterations to its surfaces after it left the mint. Such alterations include cleaning, tooling and artificial toning.
Anvil DieThe die upon which a planchet rests prior to striking.
ANA / American Numismatic AssociationA non-profit numismatic organization founded in 1888 for the advancement of numismatics.
AncientsGeneral term for coins of the world struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 450 A.D.
AssayA test undertaken to find the metallic content of a coin.
AT / Artificial ToningPatina applied to the surface of a coin, either by chemical or physical means, for the purpose of hiding hairlines and other flaws or to resemble the natural oxidation process that can increase a coin’s desirability.
AttributesThe elements that make up a coin’s grade. EG: marks, luster, strike, and eye appeal.
AuthenticationThe process of determining the genuineness of a coin or other numismatic item.
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.
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.
A metal not classified as a precious metal (i.e. copper, zinc).
The process of polishing a die to impart a mirrored surface or to remove clash marks or other injuries from the die.
The buying quotation of a coin either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium.
An alloy of gold or silver with a predominant base metal, e.g. 75% copper and 25% silver. Usually applies to mixture of silver and copper in which copper predominates.
A flat disc of metal intended to become a coin. (before it is struck by the dies)
A term applied to an element of a coin (design, date, lettering, etc.) that is worn into another element or the surrounding field.
The term used to refer to the lustrous appearance of a coin immediately after striking – caused by the clash of the metal die and planchet.
Short for Brown
Term referring to the removal of a coin from its certified slab for the purposes of re-submitting to the same or different certification service for a hoped-for-upgrade.
An alloy of copper and tin.
A legal tender coin that trades at a slight premium to it’s melt value.
Given a glossy surface by a buffing wheel. Proof dies were usually burnished prior to striking. A coin “burnished” after striking would be considered impaired.
A coin given only one strike from a die and intended for general circulation and commercial use.
Device including the head neck and partial shoulder of a portrait.
A term used to describe proof and proof-like coins in which the devices are in contrast to the fields. This occurs when the fields are mirrored and reflective and the devices are frosted, which will give the appearance of a dark background behind a light or white central portrait or device.
A spot seen mainly on copper and gold coins, though also occasionally found on 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 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.
Made by pouring molten metal directly into a mold. It is an older method used in counterfeiting coins.
CCE / Certified Coin Exchange
CCE is an online numismatic trading exchange for certified US rare coins by member firms. CCE has been an online exchange since 1990, as it is the principal dealer-to-dealer exchange in the United States.
Refers to the number of coins certified and graded in a specific grade by one (or more) of the grading services. See also: Population report.
Refers to a coin which has been authenticated and graded by one of the major grading and certification services.
To recognize and buy a rare variety as a common coin from an unsuspecting seller.
Term to describe coins with obvious signs of wear or damage due to being “circulated” in regular commerce or through mishandling.
Marks on the die caused during minting by dies striking each other without a planchet between them. Each die impresses reversed portions of its design on the other.
A systematic grouping of coins assembled for fun or profit.
An individual who accumulates coins in a systematic manner.
Term applied to the area resulting when coins rub together in rolls or bags and small amounts of metal are displaced.
The issuance of metallic money of a particular country.
Short for Commemorative Coin
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.
Refers to the most populous issues in a series of coins.
The five finest known examples of a particular date coin listed according to their condition.
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.
The process of determining the condition of a coin by using multiple graders.
Small red/orange areas of patina that occur on gold coins because of impurities in their alloy. Large, numerous and unattractive copper spots will cause the grade of a gold coin to be lowered, while small and unobtrusive spots are not usually considered when determining a coin’s grade.
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.
A stamp or impression placed on a coin after it has left the Mint of origin. The counterstamp leaves a permanent impression on the metal and may hurt/help the value of the coin.
A word that is used to describe a coin that graded the same at two different grading services.
British name for a five- shillings coin.
A term for a coin excessively worn or damaged.
Refers to cleaning, enhancing or improving a coin’s appearance through non-abrasive means and stabilizing its surfaces.
Money in any form when in actual use as a medium of exchange, especially circulating paper money
Refers to underweight coins or coins whose precious metal content is inferior to legal standards. “Debased” coins are not necessarily counterfiet.
Deep Mirror Proof-Like (DMPL or DPL)
Any coin that has deeply reflective mirror-like fields.
Declared not to be legal tender or removed from circulation.
Face value of a 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 striking machinery.
Any specific design element. Often refers to the principal design element.
A steel rod that is engraved, punched, or hubbed with devices, lettering, the date, and other emblems.
Raised irregular areas on a coin, the result of metal from the planchet being forced through a portion of the die which has broken and fallen out during the minting process.
Raised, irregular lines on a coin, the result of a die having cracked and metal being forced through those cracks at the time of striking.
An area of raised lines or highly reflective area of a coin, most often in the fields, that resulted from striking from dies that had been recently polished by the coiner.
A test striking of a particular die in a different metal.
A coin that can be linked to a given set of dies because of characteristics possessed by those dies and imparted to the coin at the time it was struck.
Refers to the use of a coin cleaning liquid (usually some sort of acid-based solution) to remove tarnish, natural toning or dirt from a coin.
Term used for a numismatic item that has been enhanced by chemical or other means. Usually, this is used in a derogatory way.
A die which was impressed twice from the HUB with a major or minor off-centering of the second impression. When this doubled die is used and area or the entire devices of one side of the coin appears doubled.
A coin which was struck twice by at least one die during the striking process.
One of the first coins struck from a pair of dies. Such coins are generally fully struck, with no die flaws, and they are usually Prooflike and/or exhibit cameo contrast.
Refers to the grading service’s practice of placing a certified coin in a sealed plastic holder. Once encapsulated, the coin is protected and bears the certified grade, guarantees, etc. before being returned to the submitter.
Engraving / Engraver
Term used in cutting or punching a design into a die or hub during the minting process.
An alteration of the coin caused by exposure to a corrosive chemical, gas or substance which has pitted, abraded or altered the coins surface, but, unlike in cleaning, unintentionally. Most environmentally damaged coins will not be encapsulated by the major grading services.
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.
The element of a coin’s grade that “grabs” the viewer. The overall look of a coin.
The stated value on a coin, at which it can be spent or exchanged. The face value is usually different from a coin’s numismatic or precious metal value.
Economic term for that which circulates because a government decrees it – without any reference to convertibility into precious metal.
Old numismatic term for a mint-error. It is an acronym for Freaks, Imperfections, Defects & Oddities.
The flat area of a coin.
A grading term indicating moderate to considerable wear. Otherwise bold with overall pleasing appearance. On the SHELDON SCALE, it corresponds to a numerical grade between 10-15.
The amount of precious metal in an alloy.
The best-known condition example of a particular numismatic item.
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 lackluster.
Refers to the clear, soft plastic holder most raw coins are stored in.
A white texture produced on the surface of a coin during the minting process. It is usually most prevalent on the earliest coins off the working dies.
A numismatic item that displays the full detail intended by the designer. Weak striking pressure, worn dies or improper planchets can sometimes prevent all the details from appearing, even on uncirculated specimens.
Used in a generic sense to describe a high-quality coin. In a more specific definition, “gem” refers to a coin GRADING 65 on the SHELDON SCALE.
The numerical or adjectival condition of a coin.
Aberrations on a coin’s surface, caused by oil or grease dropped onto a die during the minting process.
Thin scratches on a coin, usually in the fields or across the devices which are caused by rough or careless cleaning, wiping or drying of a coin.
The upper DIE which descends to STRIKE the PLANCHET in the coining chamber.
Refers to the auctioneer’s gavel when he pounds the podium to conclude the bidding on a certain item.
The area of deepest relief on a coin. That point which extends furthest out and is most prone to WEAR.
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 design.
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.
Design elements of a coin that are impressed rather than in raised relief.
An oblong piece of cast metal, usually of gold or silver, with weight and fineness specified used in the production of coins.
Words, numerals or abbreviations on a coin – other than dates, mintmarks or engraver’s signatures.
The value of the metal(s) contained in a numismatic item.
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. 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.”
A result of the minting process when a piece of extruding metal on the rim of a coin caused by metal forced between the die and collar – usually because the collar has stretched slightly over time. Knife Rim coins were objectionable because the did not eject properly from the dies and did not stack properly. Also known as Wired-Edge.
Name given to the bullion-gold coins produced by the South African Mint. This was the world’s first, government-backed gold coin produced. Long time favorite of collectors and investors.
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.
Legally valid currency that may be offered in payment of a debt and that a creditor must accept.
The inscription on a coin.
Lettering around the edge of a coin. See THE ANATOMY OF A COIN (Coin Basics section of website)
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.
A magnifying glass.
The brilliance or shine on a metal. Luster is considered to be one of the four most important factors in appraising the value and grade of a coin.
The main die produced from the master hub. Many working hubs are prepared from this single die.
A coin struck by dies which were specially treated to impart a textured or granular surface and finish to a coin.
A coin-like piece of metal made in honor of a person or event. Not authorized as legal tender nor intended to circulate. Not made to a recognized weight or fineness.
Slang term for the intrinsic value of a particular numismatic item.
Struck on planchets cut from rolled strips. Often wrongly used to denote the reeded edge of a coin.
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.
The total number of pieces of a specific date, type, denomination and mintmark originally struck for circulation.
A coin that is abnormal due to something which happened at the origin Mint during the minting process.
A set of coins issued the same year that has been especially assembled and issued directly from a Mint. These are uncirculated coins (BU) – as opposed to proofs.
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 (MS-70).
Uneven toning, usually characterized by splotchy areas of drab colors.
An inscription or phrase on a coin.
A coin struck from improperly matched dies.
Refers to a compromising method of grading a coin. For example, if a particular coins’s OBVERSE grades MS65 but it’s REVERSE only warrants a grade of MS63, then the dealer / grader might label the coin MS64. It may also refer to a coin which might otherwise grade MS65 but has been cleaned so it is “net-graded” MS62.
Specifically, the Sheldon 1-70 scale employed by grading companies.
NGC / Numismatic
Third-party grading service based in Parsipany, New Jersey.
The art, study or collection of coins, tokens, medals, paper money and similar objects.
A person who is knowledgeable in the history and collecting of rare coins, tokens, medals, paper money and similar objects. A dealer in rare coins would be considered a professional numismatist.
The front of a coin (heads). As opposed to a coin’s Reverse.
The dimple-textured fields seen on many Proof gold coins; their surfaces resemble those of an orange, hence the descriptive term
A naturally occurring solid material from which metals are mined.
A coin in which one or more digits of the date were visibly changed in the die. Traces of the original digit can still be seen.
A term usually used to describe lighter shades of toning.
Refers to a proposed coin design which was never adopted. Patterns often come in other than the proposed metals.
PCGS / Professional Coin Grading Service
One of the major third-party authentication and grading service based in Southern California.
A pedigree coin is a coin that has been part of an important numismatic collection. Pedigree is defined as a listing of a coins current owner plus all known previous owners. ‘Provenance’ is more correct terminology. NGC and PCGS recognise important pedigree and place this information on the certification holder. These coins often carry significant premiums in value. Some of the most notable pedigrees relating to South African rare coins are King Farouk, Pittman, Eliasberg and Eldon Serjeant. Pedigrees provide a confirmation of value and a direct link to the past.
Refers to the depressed surfaces of a damaged coin caused by various forms of abuse such as being buried in the ground for many years.
No lettering around the edge of a coin.
The blank metal disc with upset rims struck by dies to create a coin.
To fill in a hole on a coin with metal. Occasionally, one will come across a coin which had a hole drilled in it to wear it on a chain. Some will try to repair the coin by “plugging” the hole.
Pop / Population Report
A guide which outlines the number of coins certified in a given grade by one or more of the major grading services.
A description indicating a rough or granular surface.
Gold, Silver & Platinum. As opposed to base metal.
PQ / Premium Quality
Term given to coins which may be on the high-end of a certain grade. In other words, someone labeling a certain coin as MS-65 PQ is suggesting that the item is much nicer than an average piece in the same grade.
Coins minted with unusual care, often from new dies on carefully selected, prooflike blanks. Intended for visiting dignitaries and other VIP’s.
PR / Proof
Proof coins are struck using a special minting process and are distinguishable from other coins by its highly polished look. The fields or non raised part of the coin have a mirror-like finish and the raised parts have a frosted finish. All details on the coin are sharp. It is important to note that the term ‘proof’ refers to the way a coin was struck and NOT its grade.
Term to designate a coin that has mirror-like surfaces.
An original “proof set” is one which has been specially packaged and sold directly by the Mint. Assembled proof sets contain similar coins bought individually.
An acronym for polyvinylchloride, a chemical which is found in many FLIPS. If a coin is kept in such a holder for a long period of time, PVC will produce a residue which will turns a coin’s surfaces green.
Used primarily in PATTERN coinage, it is used to estimate the surviving POPULATION of a coin. Specifically:
Refers to an non-CERTIFIED coin.
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.
The vertical indentation around the edge of a coin (part of the minting process).
Degree to which the devices on a coin protrude outward from the fields.
Any coin struck after the original striking date or the date appearing on the coin.
A coin which has been toned through any artificial means.
The back of a coin (tails).
Rim Dig, Gouge or Nick
Various terms used to describe damage to the outer edge of a coin.
Flattening metal ingots to produce a long strip of proper thickness from which planchets will be cut during the minting process.
Term for slight wear, often referring just to the high points or the fields.
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.
Semi – Key
Refers to a coin which is not the rarest issue in a series—but one of the most difficult dates to acquire nonetheless.
Refers to coin(s) whose current value is determined by a combination of NUMISMATIC and BULLION criteria.
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 process whereby someone fraudulently removed minor amounts of shaves & slivers of precious metal from the edge of a coin – reducing its weight but making it “passable” and then profit from the absconded metal.
A 70-point scale created by the late Dr. William H. Sheldon and adopted by the numismatic industry for coin GRADING purposes:
Usually used in conjunction with a BID or offer to buy a certain coin(s) on the condition that the buyer can see (and approve) the actual coin before confirming the trade price.
As opposed to SIGHT-SEEN. This term is usually used in conjunction with making a bid for a certain certified coin—without needing or wanting to see the actual item first.
Slang term referring to the plastic holder used by the grading services that encapsulates a certified coin.
Refers to a coin which appears undervalued when compared to it’s peers.
For many years, collectors used to store their coins in cardboard albums. To keep the coins in place – and at the same time visible, clear plastic slides covered the top and bottom holes. In order to remove a coin from the album, you had to slide the plastic cover across the face of the item. The friction of the plastic against the coin’s devices sometimes caused un-removable lines to appear.
Until the mid-1980’s it was common practice to assign a separate grade to both the obverse and reverse of a coin. For example, if the front of a coin graded 65 but the reverse only graded 63 then it would be assigned a grade of 65/63.
Lines on the surfaces of a coin caused by defective planchets used during the minting process.
The process of impressing an image onto a planchet during the minting process. Strike plays an important role in the grading of a coin.
A replica of a particular coin made from dies not necessarily meant to deceive.
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.
The type of grading which only relies on certain “technical merits” of a coin such as strike and marks. As opposed to aesthetic merits such as luster, toning and overall eye-appeal. For example, a coin may be “technically” awesome but receive a more modest certified grade because the toning is just too dark and unattractive.
An older method of hiding a surface disorder by using one’s thumb to place a film on the surface of a coin.
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 film or coloring on the surface of a coin caused by a chemical reaction between the coin’s metal and some other substance such as the sulfur from older cardboard books, flips or envelopes. Rainbow-colored, original toning is often a desirable characteristic for a coin.
Term used in reference to the engraving of a coin, usually outside the Mint, in an effort to artificially enhance a coin’s appearance and value.
A die created by sacrificing a coin for a model.
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.
A variation in design, size, or metallic content of a specific coin design.
UNC / Uncirculated
Generalized term that refers to a coin which shows no signs of circulated wear or mishandling.
Refers to a coin with a design on only one side, the other side blank.
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.”
Refers to a coin being resubmitted to one of the third-party CERTIFICATION SERVICES and being returned in a higher grade. As the certified grade of a coin plays such a large role in determining its value, a one-point “upgrade” on the SHELDON scale could mean a significant increase in value.
Upsetter / Upset Mill
A machine that raises the outer rim on a planchet prior to striking. Upsetting ensures that the rims are properly formed during striking.
Any coin recognizably different in dies from another of the same design, type, date and mint.
Want List/Wish List
Term used in reference to a list of coins that a particular collector, investor or dealer wishes to acquire.
The loss of metal on a coins devices caused by handling in circulation. The amount of wear on a coin is a key factor in determining its grade.
A term used to describe a coin that does not show intended detail because of improper striking pressure or improperly aligned dies.
A small circular scratch on the surface of a coin caused by a coin counting machine. Wheel marks are considered damaged, and coins so marked cannot be encapsulated.
A die actually used to strike the coins.