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Help Center: Numismatic Information

    NumisMedia Glossary of Numismatic Terms

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About Good The grade AG-3. The grade for a coin that is just below good. On an About Good coin, only the main features of it are present. Date, mintmark, peripheral lettering, or other features sometimes are partially worn away.
About Uncirculated Alternate term for Almost Uncirculated.
Abrasions Areas of a coin where another coin or a foreign object has displaced metal in an abraded fashion.
Accumulation 1. A grouping of a particular date, type, or series. Example: an accumulation of Morgan Dollars.
2. A random grouping of coins, often as a monetary hoard. Opposite of a coin collection.
Adjustment marks Scratches which appear mostly on pre-1807 silver and gold coinage. These scratches are actually file marks, made at the mint in order to reduce the weight of a coin so that its metal value wouldn't exceed its face value. As a rule, adjustment marks do not reduce the value of a coin nearly as much as a series of equally visible scratches, which were not “mint-applied”.
AG Acronym for About Good.
Album friction A less severe instance of album slide marks. Album friction shows as slight rubbing on the high points.
Album slide marks Lines (often parallel) imparted to the surface of a coin by the plastic “slide” of an album, mostly found on proof coins.
Alloy A combination of two or more metals.
Almost Uncirculated The grades AU50, 53, 55, and 58. These coins often look Uncirculated at first glance, but closer inspection will reveal slight friction or rub.
Altered surfaces Cleaning or other impairment that renders a coin less desirable to collectors.
Alteration A coin that has a date, mintmark, or other feature that has been altered, added, or removed, usually to simulate a rarer issue.
ANA American Numismatic Association, the world's largest organization of coin collectors and dealers. It is a non-profit organization, chartered by an Act of Congress in 1912. Membership is highly recommended. If you are not a member, you should be! Write to them at: 818 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80901.
ANACS certificate A uniquely numbered opinion of authenticity and/or grade from the ANA Certification Service.
ANACS American Numismatic Association Certification Service originated by offering authentication, and later provided grading services. The grading service and acronym were sold by the ANA and now operate under this name as a third-party grading service.
Ancients Term for coins of the world struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 450 A.D.
Annealing The heating (and cooling) of a die or planchet to soften the metal before preparation of the die or striking of the coin.
Anvil die The lower, stationary die. The reverse is usually the anvil die, 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.
Also see: Hammer die
Arrows Design element usually found in the left (viewer's right) claw of the eagle seen on many US coins.
Arrows and rays Term referring to 1853 quarters and half dollars. The rays were removed in 1854 because of striking difficulties created by the busy design.
Arrows at date Term referring to the arrows to the left and right of the date. These were added to the dies to indicate a weight increase or decrease.
Artificial toning Color added to the surface of a coin by heat and/or chemicals.
Ask The lowest current asking price of a particular coin issue and grade offered for sale. Also see: Bid
Attributes The elements that make up a coin's grade. The primary attributes include marks (hairlines for Proofs), luster, strike, and eye appeal.
AU Acronym for About (Almost) Uncirculated.
Auction An offering of coins or other items for sale where the buyer must bid against other potential buyers with no set price. This is in contrast with ordering from a catalog, price list, or advertisement at an advertised price.
Authentication The process of determining genuineness.
Bag A generic term for the cloth sacks used to transport and store coins. These came into use in the mid-nineteenth century and replaced wooden kegs. Also refers to the quantity of coins of a particular denomination found in a bag (such as 5000 cents or 1000 silver dollars).
Bag marks Abrasions which occur on coins that were shipped in mint bags. Most often this term applies to silver dollars, although virtually any coin can have bag marks. Bag marks in no way mean that a coin is not mint state. In fact, even a coin graded Mint State-67 or higher could have some bag marks.
Bag toning Coloring acquired from the bag while a coin was stored. Cloth coin bags contained sulfur and other metal-reactive chemicals. When stored in bags for extended periods, coins in close proximity to the cloth often acquire beautiful red, yellow, blue and other vibrant colors. Sometimes the weave of the cloth is visible in the toning. Some coins have crescent-shaped toning because another coin was covering part of the surface, thus preventing toning. Bag toning is seen most often on Morgan silver dollars.
Barber coinage Common name for the Charles Barber designed Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and half dollars struck during the 1890s and early 1900s.
Basal state The condition of a coin that is identifiable only as to date, mintmark (if present), and type; one-year-type coins may not have a date visible.
Basal value The value base on which Dr. William H. Sheldon's 70-point grade/price system started. The lowest-grade price was one dollar ($1) for the 1794 large cent - upon which he based his system.
Basining The process of polishing a die to create a mirrored surface or to remove clash marks or other damage from a die.
Beaded border Small round devices around the edge of a coin, often seen on early U.S. coins.
BG Gold Term sometimes applied to California fractional gold coins as documented in the Breen-Gillio reference work California Pioneer Fraction Gold.
Bid The highest price offered to buy a particular coin issue and grade either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium.
Also see: Ask
Bidder 1. A dealer issuing a quotation on an electronic trading system.
2. A participant in an auction.
Blank A flat disk of unstruck metal destined to be made into a coin.
Also see: Planchet
BN Short for Brown; refers to copper coins.
Body bag Slang term for a coin returned from a grading service in a plastic sleeve within a flip. The coin referred to is deemed a “no-grade” and is not graded or encapsulated. Coins are no-grades for a number of reasons, including questionable authenticity, polishing, cleaning, and/or repair.
Bourse The Paris stock exchange. This term has come to be 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 on. The hair is pulled back into a tight bun drawn with a braided hair cord.
Branch mint One of the various subsidiary government facilities that struck, or still strikes, coins.
Breast feathers The central feathers of eagle designs, particularly Morgan dollars. Fully struck coins typically command a premium and the breast feathers are usually the highest point of the reverse.
Breen The late Walter Breen.
Breen Book Slang for Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. It was published in 1988.
Breen letter A written or typed document by Walter Breen rendering his opinion on a particular numismatic item. Prior to 3rd party certification, this was a common method collectors and dealers used to authenticate a unique item.
Breen-Gillio Numbering system base on the book California Pioneer Fraction Gold by Walter Breen and Ron Gillio.
Brilliant Untoned. With no tarnish or oxidation, and with original cartwheel (frosty) or prooflike lustre. Copper coins are considered brilliant if they have full original red.
Brilliant Proof A particular type of proof coin that has a full mirror surface in the fields.
Brilliant Uncirculated A generic term for any coin that has not been in circulation.
Bronze An alloy of copper and tin; special types also contain other elements.
Brown The term applied to a copper coin that no longer has the red color of copper. It is abbreviated as BN when used as part of a grade or description.
BU Acronym for Brilliant Uncirculated.
BU rolls Wrapped coins (usually in paper) in specific quantities for each denomination. Cents are quantity 50, nickels quantity 40, dimes quantity 50, quarters quantity 40, half-dollars and dollars 20, etc.
Buckled die A warped or distorted die. Can be caused by excess clashing. Often produces coins which are slightly bent.
Buffalo nickel Slang for the Indian Head nickel, struck from 1913 to 1938. The animal depicted is an American Bison.
Bulged die A die with a small indentation, formed from clashing. Results in “bulged” coins.
Bullet toning See target toning.
Bullion Ingots, coins, or other issues that trade for their intrinsic metal value. Only precious metals (silver, gold, platinum, and palladium) are included as bullion. Copper could also technically be considered as bullion.
Bullion coin A legal tender coin that trades at a slight premium to its value as plain metal.
Burn mark See counting machine mark.
Burnishing A process in which the surfaces of a coin or a planchet are shined through rubbing or polishing. This term has both a positive and a negative context: In a positive sense, Proof planchets are burnished before they are struck. The procedure was done originally by rubbing wet sand across the surfaces to impart a mirror-like finish. In a negative sense, the surfaces on repaired or altered coins may be burnished by mechanical or chemical methods. For example, a high-speed drill with a wire brush attachment is used to achieve this effect.
Burnishing lines Lines resulting from burnishing. Typically seen on open-collar Proofs and almost never observed on close-collar Proofs.
Business strike A coin which was struck for use in general circulation, as opposed to a proof coin produced strictly for collector purposes.
Also see: Regular strike, Commercial strike
Bust The head and shoulders of the emblematic Liberty seen on many US issues.
Also see: Capped Bust, Draped Bust
Bust dollar Slang term for silver dollars struck from 1795 through 1803.
Buyer's Premium A “Buyer's Premium” is charged in addition to the successful bid according to the rate defined in our terms and conditions.
C Mintmark indicating coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch Mint.
C-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 it was seized by the Confederacy. (Coins struck in late 1837 were actually dated 1838.)
Cabinet friction Slight friction seen on coins (usually the obverse) that were stored in wooden cabinets used by early collectors. To compound the problem, a soft cloth was often used to wipe dust away, causing light hairlines.
CAM Abbreviation for Cameo.
Cameo A proof, or prooflike coin with exceptional contrast between the fields and the devices. On a cameo coin, the fields are mirrorlike, while the devices give a frosty appearance.
Canadian Term for coins and other numismatic items of Canada. (as in, “Got any Canadian?”)
Canadian silver Slang term for the silver coins of Canada.
Cap Bust Alternate term for Capped Bust
Capped Bust A term describing any of the various representations of the head of Miss Liberty depicted on certain early 1807-1839 U.S. coins by a bust with a floppy cap. The design is attributed to John Reich.
Capped die An error in which a coin gets jammed in the coining press and remains for successive strikes. Eventually a “cap” is formed on either the upper or lower die. These are sometimes spectacular, with the cap often many times taller than a normal coin.
Carbon spot A dark discoloration on the surface of a coin. It is possible that this discoloration is caused by a planchet imperfection prior to striking, or it may be caused by improper storage of the coin. Regardless of the cause, carbon spots are often difficult, if not impossible, to remove without leaving pits in the coin's surface. If they are large enough, they may significantly lower the grade and value of a coin.
Also, see Copper spot.
Carson City The United States branch Mint located in Carson City, Nevada that struck coins from 1870 through 1885 and later from 1889 through 1893.
Cartwheel An effect caused by the natural lustre on most mint state, and on some proof coins. When the coin is tilted back and forth, beams of light seem to circle the central devices of the coin. Also a slang term for Silver Dollar.
Cast blanks Planchets that are molded, rather than cut from strips of metal.
Cast counterfeit A replica of a genuine coin 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 down.
Castaing machine A machine invented by French engineer Jean Castaing that added the edge lettering and devices to early U.S. coins before they were struck. Castaing machines were used until the introduction of close collar dies, which applied the edge device during the striking process.
CC Mintmark used to indicate coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada branch Mint.
Census A compilation of the known specimens of a particular numismatic item.
Cent A denomination valued at one-hundredth of a dollar, struck by the U.S. Mint.
CCE Certified Coin Exchange, the bid/ask real-time coin trading and quotation system owned by the American Teleprocessing Company.
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 1921 Morgan dollar Proofs supposedly struck for coin dealer Henry Chapman, having cameo devices and deeply mirrored surfaces like most Morgan dollar Proofs.
Charlotte 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 never reopened as a mint after the Civil War, although it did serve as an official assay office from 1867 until 1913.
Chasing A method used by forgers to create a mintmark on a coin. Chasing involves heating the surfaces and moving the metal to form a mintmark.
Choice An adjective which the A.N.A. applies to coins of MS-65 or Proof-65 grade. Many dealers apply the term to the MS/Proof-63 coins, and call MS/Proof-65 coins “Gem”.
Choice Unc Abbreviation for Choice Uncirculated.
Choice Uncirculated An Uncirculated coin in grade MS-63 or MS-64.
Circulated A term applied to a coin that has wear, ranging from slight rubbing to heavy wear.
Circulation A term applied to coins that have been spent in commerce.
Circulation strike A coin meant for commerce. An alternate term for Business Strike or Regular Strike.
Clad A term used to describe any of the modern “sandwich” coins that have layers of both copper and nickel.
Clad bag Usually applied to a $1,000 bag of 40% 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.
Clashed dies Extraneous design detail often appears on a die as a result of two dies coming together without a planchet between them during the minting process. Coins struck from such dies are said to be struck from clashed dies, or to have die clashes or clash marks.
Classic Era Term for the period from 1792 through 1964 when silver and gold coins of the United States were issued for circulation. (Gold coins were only minted until 1933.)
Classic Head An image of Miss Liberty that depicts the style of a Roman or Greek athlete wearing a ribbon around the hair.
Cleaned When a coin has been cleaned with baking soda or other mild abrasives, it may have a slightly washed out appearance. If the lustre or color of a coin appears even the slightest bit unnatural as a result of past cleaning, the coin is usually described as “cleaned” when catalogued for sale.
Clip Slang term for a coin struck from a clipped planchet.
Clipped Term for an irregularly cut planchet. A clip can be straight or curved, depending upon where it was cut.
Clogged die A die that has a contaminant lodged in the recessed areas. Coins struck from a clogged die will have diminished or even missing detail.
Close collar An edge device sometimes called a collar die that surrounds the lower die. The close collar imparts reeding (see Reeded edge) or a smooth, plain edge.
Closed collar Alternate term for close collar
Cohen variety A die variety for half cents, denoted as C-1, C-2a, etc. Also see: Die Variety
Coin 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 grouping of coins assembled for fun or profit.
Coin collector An individual who accumulates coins in a methodical manner.
Coin friction Term applied to the area resulting when coins rub together in rolls or bags and small amounts of metal are displaced.
Also, see Roll friction.
Coin show An exchange composed of coin dealers displaying their items for sale and trade.
Coinage The issuance of metallic money of a particular country.
Commem Synonym for “commemorative.”
Commemorative Coins issued to honor some person (D. Boone), place (Mount Rushmore), or event (Special Olympics) and, in many instances, to raise funds for activities related to the theme. Sometimes called NCLT (non-circulating legal tender) commemoratives.
Commercial grade A synonym for Market Grade.
Commercial strike A synonym for regular strike or business strike.
Common A numismatic issue that is readily available. Since this is a relative term, no firm number can be used as an exact 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.
Complete set A term for all possible coins within a series, all types (see Type), or all coins from a particular branch Mint. For example, a complete gold type set would include examples of all types from 1795 until 1933.
Condition The state of preservation of a particular numismatic item.
Condition Census A listing of the finest known examples of a particular issue. There is no fixed number of coins in a Condition Census.
Condition rarity A term to indicate a common coin that is rare when found in high grades.
Consensus grading The process of evaluating the condition of a coin by using multiple graders.
Conserved Numismatic conservation involves examination, scientific analysis, and a reliance upon an extensive base of numismatic knowledge to determine the nature of a coin's state of preservation and the extent of any damage. Conservation also encompasses appropriate procedures to protect the coin's original appearance and to guard against future deterioration to whatever extent possible.
Professional conservation should not be confused with “Coin Doctoring”, in which an attempt is made to improve the appearance and grade of a coin through deceptive means such as artificial toning and where unaccepted or unorthodox methods are employed. Also not qualifying as conservation is restoration where mechanical repairs are made such as filling holes, smoothing out scratches, and re-engraving of detail.
Contact marks Marks on a coin that are caused by contact with another coin or a foreign object. These are generally small, compared to other types of marks such as gouges.
Also, see Bag mark.
Contemporary counterfeit A coin, usually base metal, struck from crude dies and made to pass for legal tender at the time of creation. Sometimes such counterfeits are collected along with the genuine coins, particularly in the case of American Colonial issues.
Continental dollars “Dollars” struck in pewter (scarce), brass (rare), copper (extremely rare) and silver (extremely rare) that are dated 1776, but likely struck sometime later. Certain Benjamin Franklin sketches inspired the design.
Copper spot A spot or stain seen on gold coinage, indicating an area of copper concentration that has oxidized. Copper spots or stains can range from tiny dots to large blotches.
Copper-nickel The alloy (copper 88%, nickel 12%) used for small cents from 1856 through mid-1864.
Copper-Nickel Cent Cents issued from 1856 through 1864 in the copper-nickel alloy. These were called white cents during the period because of their pale color compared to the earlier red cents.
Coppers Slang for pre-Federal copper, half cents, and large cents, minted through 1857.
Copy Any reproduction, fraudulent or otherwise, of a coin.
Copy dies Dies made at a later date, usually showing slight differences from the originals. Also used to denote counterfeit dies copied directly from a genuine coin.
Coronet Head Alternate name for Braided Hair design by Christian Gobrecht. This is sometimes also called the Liberty Head design.
Corrosion Damage which occurs on the surface of some coins, generally due to improper storage. Corrosion is caused when a chemical reaction, such as rust, actually eats into the metal.
Cost The price paid for a numismatic item.
Counterfeit Literally, a coin that is not genuine. The term is applied to cast and struck counterfeits as well as issues with altered dates or added mintmarks.
Counting machine mark A dense patch of lines caused by the rubber wheel of a counting machine. Caused when the wheel spacing was insufficient for the selected coin.
Cud An area of a coin struck by a die that has a complete break across part of its surface. A cud may be either retained, where the faulty piece of the die is still in place, or full, where the piece of the die has fallen away.
Cupro-nickel Any alloy of copper and nickel.



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