As with most industries, rare coin collecting is not without its fair share of jargon, and when you first start out it can be confusing trying to follow what other collectors are talking about. If you want to make the most of your hobby, you’ll want to be able to converse on forums and chat-sites, comment on articles and blog posts, and generally interact on an intelligent level with fellow numismatists and hobbyist collectors.
I’m sure you’re familiar with some of the more common coin terms, so we thought we’d look at a few of the more unusual ones. Sure, they might not come up in conversation every day, but they’re still good to know.
When a coin is manufactured it is struck using two dies, one for the obverse and one for the reverse. The anvil die is the bottom die. The term originated from the time when a die was put on an anvil with the coin blank on top. The hammer die was then placed on top of the coin and struck with a hammer.
This is the method/analysis used to determine the purity of the metal content by scientific means. For coins, jewellery and works of art, this is done using x-ray fluorescent (XRF). The most precise assay method is fire assay or cupellation, which is better suited for gold bullion or stocks as it is a more ‘destructive’ method.
These are marks that occur during the manufacturing process and are a result of coins knocking against each other when they are bagged at the mint. It’s important to note that even if a coin has a significant bag mark, it can still be uncirculated.
(Mainly a US term) Refers to 1/8th of a dollar. This term has an interesting story in that during one stage of the country’s history the Spanish Milled Dollar was circulated. At that time there was also a shortage of low denomination coins and dollars were cut into pieces shaped like pizza slices. One piece equalled 1/8th of a dollar and became known as a ‘piece of eight’ or a ‘bit’. The well-known nursery rhyme ‘two bits, four bits, 6 bits a dollar’ was coined (so to speak) during this time.
This process was commonly used to manufacture counterfeit coins. It’s done by pouring metal into a mould or cast, and not by striking a die, as is the official method.
These are Oriental marks or symbols that have been stamped into coins. They stem from a time when coins were predominantly used for trading and an assayer would test the coin to determine its metal content. If approved, the coin would be stamped. These days, some collectors make a point of collecting specimens that have been ‘chop marked’.
This refers to a below-grade, worn or defective coin, and the expression ‘to cull it’ means to remove the coin from the roll or pack.
No, not THAT kind of cud! In numismatics, cud refers to an extra piece of metal on the surface of a coin that remains when a coin has been struck by a broken die.
(AKA flan.) This a round piece of metal which a coin is struck from.
Refer to silver pieces that are shaped like coins. Although they are not official legal tender, they are often accurate in bullion weight.
This is the difference in price between the cost of minting a coin and what the mint is paid for it. For example, if it costs 10c to manufacture a R1 coin, then the mint makes a profit of 90c. This profit is called the seigniorage.
If a coin is defective or highly worn, the mint runs them through a ‘waffling’ machine, which as you might imagine gives it a waffle appearance and effectively cancels its value. Waffled coins are often sold in bulk for scrap metal.
South Cape Coins has an extensive coin glossary which includes common terms and a few more uncommon terms that you might not be familiar with.