Glossary of Numismatic Terms

Written by Chuck D'Ambra, Mike Locke, Michael Caver, Andrew Andison, Mike Marotta, Andrew Tumber, John Muchow, Tony Clayton, Clint Cummins, Lou Coles, Mike Dworetsky and Rita Laws.  Last updated 17 December 2010.  Copyright Notice
Web page maintained and hosted by clint cummins

adjustment marks
Marks caused by filing a planchet before striking to reduce its weight to the standard, as was sometimes done for early U.S. coinage
A book-like holder with slots for storing coins
Intentionally modified after the minting process, such as by changing the date or by adding or removing a mintmark, usually in an attempt to deceive collectors (example: 1944-D Lincoln cent altered to appear to be a much more valuable 1914-D)
A coin produced prior to about 500 A.D.
artificial toning
coloration added to a coin by treatment with chemicals or other "doctoring"
n. A characteristic of a coin; 
v. To identify a coin by determining the country of origin, denomination, series, date, mintmark and (if applicable) variety
An offering to sell an individual item or group of items in which the price is determined by the highest bidder, sometimes with a reserve (minimum) price
An original, non-counterfeit coin; determination by an expert on whether or not a coin is authentic

bag marks
Small scratches and nicks resulting from movement of coins in the same bag (also known as contact marks or keg marks)
bank note
Paper money issued by a bank
A non-numismatic form of precious metal bullion
bas relief
Design elements are raised within depressions in the field
An alloy of silver and another metal, usually copper, which is less than 50% silver
A coin or coin-like object combining parts composed of two different metal alloys, such as the Canadian two dollar coin.
Pieces of eight were physically cut into eighths; each piece is one bit
A piece of metal being prepared for coinage before the rims have been raised by passing through the upsetting mill
A location where dealers buy and sell coins with each other and the public, such as at a coin show
A coin struck without a firmly seated collar, resulting in "spreading" outwards, but still showing all design details
A mirror image of the design from one side of a coin impressed on the opposite side - occasionally, a newly struck coin "sticks" to a die, causing the next coin struck to have a First Strike Mirror Brockage of the coin stuck to the die; by the second strike the mirror is distorted, and later strikes are termed Struck Through A Capped Die
A coin or other object composed primarily of a precious metal, with little or no value beyond that of the metal
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
An agency of the U.S. Treasury Department responsible for production of paper money
business strike
A coin struck for circulation

Numismatics of post confederation Canada
A coin, usually struck as a Proof, with a frosted or satiny central device surrounded by a mirrorlike field
- The pattern of light reflected by flow lines of mint state coins, resembling spokes of a wheel; 
- Name given to the British pennies and twopences of 1797 due to their unusually broad rims
- A U.S. silver dollar
certified coin
A coin authenticated and graded by a professional service
To find and purchase a coin worth a premium over the seller's asking price (generally a rare die variety priced as a more common variety)
chop mark
A symbol added to money by someone other than the government which issued it to indicate authenticity
circulating commemorative
A commemorative coin (see below) issued through the usual distribution channels as regular money, e.g. each of four U.S. five cent coin designs issued during 2004 and 2005. Non-circulating commemoratives are not released into circulation, but rather sold directly to collectors
Denotes money that is no longer in mint state, generally as a result of normal handling and exchange
Composed of more than one layer, such as the copper-nickel over copper composition of U.S. dimes, quarters, and halves minted presently
clash mark(s)
Outlines and/or traces of designs from the opposite side of a coin resulting from die clash
any process that removes foreign substances, corrosion or toning, e.g. application of solvents, dipping, and rubbing with abrasive materials or substances
cleaned coin
while any coin subjected to a cleaning process could technically be considered cleaned, this term most commonly refers to those which have been abrasively cleaned (a coin which has been abrasively cleaned generally has a lower numismatic value than an otherwise comparable uncleaned specimen)
A coin, planchet or blank missing a portion of metal, caused by an error during blank production; types of clips include curved (most common), ragged, straight, eliptical, bowtie, disk and assay
Deliberate shearing or shaving from the edge of gold and silver coins; patterns and mottos are included on edges to discourage the practice
A piece of metal with a distinctive stamp and of a fixed value and weight issued by a government and used as money (source: Webster's New World Dictionary)
coin show
An event where numismatic items are bought, sold, traded and often exhibited
A device present in a coining press to restrict the outward flow of metal during striking and to put the design, if any, on the edge of the coin
The numismatic holdings of an individual in total or of a particular type
- In general, a coin or token used in a colony
- In the United States, the term refers to coins and tokens struck during the colonial era by some of the colonies and by private manufacturers, as well as by the states during the first several years following the Declaration of Independence
indicates that paint, enamel or a color sticker has been applied after the minting process
A coin with a design honoring or as a reminder of a specific person, place or event. Commemorative coins are normally struck for a limited period of time (several weeks to several years).
condition census
A list of the finest known specimens of a particular coin date and/or variety
contact marks
Small surface scratches or nicks resulting from movement of coins in the same bag or bin
- An imitation of a coin or note made to circulate as if actually money; 
- An altered or non-genuine coin made to deceive collectors, usually a more valuable date or variety
A raised lump of metal on a coin. Results from metal flow during striking into the space created when a piece of a die has broken off
A coin that is extremely worn and/or damaged
cupro-nickel (or copper-nickel)
Composed of an alloy of copper and nickel, as for example U.S. 5 cent coins (other than half dimes) and Canadian 5 cent coins produced since 1982.
Money in general, but commonly paper money in particular

Physical change to a numismatic item, such as a scratch, nick, ding, cleaning, hole or pitting
The year(s) shown on a coin, usually the same as the year it was minted
A person or company that regularly buys and sells numismatic collectibles
deep mirror prooflike (DMPL)
Having highly reflective mirrorlike fields, similar to a coin struck as a Proof
Metal missing or retained but peeling from the surface due to incomplete bonding or impurities in the planchet
An ancient Roman silver coin weighing about 3 grams, roughly the same size as a U.S. dime but thicker
The face value of a coin
Tooth like raised features just inside the rim of some coins (also known as dentils)
The devices, lettering, etc. appearing on a coin and their arrangement with respect to each other
The creator of a coin design
A major design element, such as the bust of a person
A usually cylindrical piece of steel bearing at one end the incuse design of one side of a coin (except for coins with incuse detail, where the die details are in relief)
die chip
A small fragment broken off from a die; metal flowing into the resulting hole during striking results in a small raised lump on the surface of the coin
die clash
Upper and lower dies coming together in a coin press without a planchet between them; design details may be partially impressed in the opposite dies and subsequently as mirror images on coins struck from the clashed dies.
die crack
A narrow fissure in the surface of a die; coins struck with such a die have a narrow raised line corresponding to the crack
die erosion
Wear on a die from use in the minting process
die flow lines
see flow lines
die state
The condition of a die at a particular point in its life
die polish
Small raised lines in the field of a coin resulting from polishing of a die to remove chips, clash marks, etc.
Cleaning by immersion in a liquid capable of removing molecules from the surface, such as a solution containing thiourea
The original spelling of dime, 1/10 of a dollar
double denomination
A rare error in which a previously struck coin is restruck by the die pair of another denomination
double die
A dubious term sometimes intended to mean a doubled die coin and sometimes indicating machine doubling (because there is often a substantial difference in value between the two, a savvy buyer will be sure to determine which case is true for any coin described as such)
doubled die
- A die with doubled device details, letters and/or numerals resulting from any of several possible differences between the multiple hub impressions during its manufacture
- A coin struck from such a die
double eagle
A U.S. gold coin with a face value of $20, first minted in 1849 and last minted in 1933
An ancient Greek silver coin weighing about 3 grams, roughly the same size as U.S. dime but thicker

- A U.S. gold coin with a face value of $10, first minted in 1795 and last minted in 1933
- The U.S. $50 face value gold bullion coin minted from 1986 to present.
The "third side" of a coin, encompassing the perimeter
E Pluribus Unum
"Out of many, one"; the motto on many U.S. coins
a person responsible for creating dies with specific designs
- Any unintentional deviation in the minting process resulting in one or more coins with different characteristics than intended
- A coin produced by such an unintentional deviation
The lower part of a coin or medal, usually divided from the field by a line and often containing the date, mintmark or engraver's initial(s).
Tokens, medals and other non-monetary coin-like objects
eye appeal
Overall attractiveness (beauty is in the eye of the beholder)

face value
The ordinary monetary worth of a coin or note at the time of issue
The flat background on a coin, medal or token
- Canadian 5 cents silver; 
- U.S. 3 cent silver coin
British term for a planchet
A pliable clear plastic holder normally used for a single coin
flow lines
Microscopic lines in the surface of a coin resulting from the outward flow of metal during striking
fiat money
Money that is not backed by specie and is legal tender by decree
fractional currency
Paper money with a face value of less than one dollar
fugio cent
The first coin issued by authority of the United States, produced by contractors in 1787

An epoxy coated plaster relief model of a coin, token or medal created by electrodeposition (much larger than the dies later created from it)
A term summarizing the overall condition of a coin or other numismatic item
The process of evaluation leading to assignment of a grade (also see FAQ paragraph 7)
the Coin Dealer Newsletter, a price guide for U.S. coins reflecting typical market prices for dealer-to-dealer sight seen transactions

Light scratches in the surface of a coin
half cent
A U.S. coin with a face value of 1/200th of a dollar first minted in 1793 and last minted in 1857
half dime
A U.S. coin with a face value of 5 cents issued with dates between 1794 and 1873; originally called a half disme
half eagle
A U.S. gold coin with a face value of $5 first minted in 1795 and last minted in 1929
hobo nickel
A coin (usually a U.S. Buffalo nickel) carved or otherwise modified into a substantially different design
Having a hole drilled or punched through it, often so that it may be used for jewelry
Any device designed for storage and sometimes display of numismatic items
A steel bar used to make dies having the same raised design on one end as one side of the coins ultimately produced

impaired proof
A proof coin with wear or damage resulting from circulation or other handling
The opposite of relief -- design elements are impressed into the surface
Indian Peace Medals
Medals presented to native Americans by European governments, fur trading companies, Quakers, and, later, by US government representatives, as a show of friendship and peace.

key date
Among the scarcest (and therefore most expensive) members of a coin series, e.g. the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent or 1916-D Mercury dime
A numismatic publishing company (Krause Publications); this company's Standard Catalog of World Coins

lamination flaw
See delamination
large cent
- A U.S. coin with a value of 1 cent, minted from 1793 to 1857, composed primarily of copper and larger in diameter than the current U.S. quarter
- A similar Canadian coin issued 1858-1920
legal tender
Money that may be legally offered in payment of an obligation and that a creditor must accept (source: Webster's New World Dictionary)
Lettering on a coin other than the denomination or nation which issued it
Popular name for the Canadian loon dollar coin first issued in 1987
A type of magnifying glass used by numismatists and jewelers
The brilliance of a coin, resulting from reflection of light off die flow lines

machine doubling
Doubling of details resulting from loose dies during the minting process (generally considered to have no numismatic value)
mail bid
An auction format in which bids are submitted by mail; the highest offer for each lot received by the closing date wins the lot (several other rules usually apply)
matte proof
A proof coin with a granular (rather than mirrorlike) surface produced by dies treated to obtain a minutely etched surface
A coin-like object struck to honor one or more persons or events depicted or mentioned in its design; an object awarded to persons in recognition of service or other accomplishment
melt/melt value
The worth of precious metal in a coin, determined by multiplying the amount of the metal it contains by the spot price of the metal
A facility for manufacturing coins
The quantity of a denomination of coins produced at a mint during a period of time (usually one year)
mint bloom
The original surface of a newly minted coin
A letter or symbol designating the mint which produced the item bearing it
mint set
A specially packaged group of uncirculated coins from one or more mints of the same nation containing at least one coin for most or all of the denominations issued during a particular year
mint state
In the same condition as when delivered from the mint (natural toning excepted); uncirculated
misplaced date
One or more digits of a date punched away from the intended location, such as in the denticles or in the central design
A phrase imprinted on a coin, for most U.S. coins "E PLURIBUS UNUM"
A coin struck from two dies not intended to be used together
multiple strike
A coin struck more than once as a result of not being properly ejected from the coining press

natural toning
Coloration resulting from chemical change on the surface during normal environmental exposure over a prolonged period
net price
A term signifying that the seller is unwilling to sell for less than the price marked
The collection and study of coins, tokens, medals, paper money and other objects exchanged for goods and services or manufactured by similar methods (also see FAQ paragraph 2)
A person who collects and/or studies numismatic items

A small silver coin of ancient Greece, originally a day's wages for a rower on a galley or a citizen on jury duty.
The front or "heads" side of a coin, often bearing a portrait and date
off center
Incorrectly centered during striking, resulting in part of the design missing (off the edge)
original/original toning
Having natural surfaces resulting from long exposure to ordinary environmental conditions; uncleaned
A coin struck from a die with at least one digit of the date repunched over a different digit, e.g. 1809/6 or 1942/1.
Designated with a higher grade than merited
over mintmark
One mintmark on top of a different mintmark, such as a 'D' over an 'S' (denoted D/S)

paper money
Paper notes with standardized characteristics issued as money
British term for exonumia
A thin layer of naturally oxidized metal on the surface of a coin acquired with age
A test piece for a new design, sometimes without a date
pick up point
An area where a feature, such as die doubling, is most evident
piece of eight
A former Spanish coin with a face value of eight reales; the U.S. dollar was originally valued at and tied to eight reales
Having a rough surface due to loss of metal by corrosion
A piece of metal prepared for coinage with raised rims but as yet unstruck
Denotes that a holed coin has been filled
Having a granular surface as the result of oxidation, most frequently found with older copper coins
prestige set
A set of coins produced by the U.S. Mint from 1983-84 and 1986-97 containing one or more proof commemorative coins released in the same year, as well as a proof cent, nickel, dime, quarter and half
problem coin
Any coin that has been cleaned or damaged or has other undesirable characteristics
A coin specially manufactured to have extra sharp detail, mirrorlike fields and sometimes frosted or "cameo" devices, produced for sale to collectors at a premium or for exhibition or presentation
Having mirrorlike fields, similar to a coin struck as a Proof
proof like
A coin specially manufactured by the Royal Canadian Mint with mirror fields
proof set
A specially packaged group of coins containing at least one of most or all of the denominations of proof coins struck by a nation in a particular year

quarter eagle
A U.S. gold coin with a face value of $2.50 first minted in 1796 and last minted in 1929

- An infrequently encountered or available item
- The number of known surviving specimens of a particular issue, as may be indicated by a rarity scale index
rarity scale
A system for designating the relative number of specimens known to exist. The two most commonly used in numismatics are Sheldon's scale (ranging from R1 for common pieces to R8 for those that are unique or nearly so) and the Universal Rarity Scale developed by Q. David Bowers (with the lower designations, such as URS1, indicating greater rarity and higher numbers for more common items).
Not certified as authentic, graded and encapsulated in a sealed hard plastic holder by an independent service
A former basic monetary unit of Spain and Spanish colonies in the Americas
Red Book
A Guide Book of U.S. Coins, a retail price guide for U.S. coins published annually, originally written by R.S. Yeoman
reeded edge
An edge with raised parallel lines, a.k.a. milled or grained
Features rising above the field
repunched date
A date with one or more of the digits punched more than once in different locations and/or orientations
repunched mintmark (RPM)
A mintmark punched more than once in different locations and/or orientations
A coin struck with authentic dies later than the date it bears
The back or "tails" side of a coin
The outer edge of a coin, often raised to avoid premature wear
A disc shaped piece of precious metal bullion

A note issued by and redeemable at a merchant or group of merchants
Coins of the same major design and denomination, including every combination of date and mintmark minted, e.g. Morgan dollars
Sheldon scale
A numerical grading system ranging from 1 to 70 created by Dr. William H. Sheldon to denote proportional values of large cents minted from 1793 to 1814 and subsequently adaped as a general grading scale
Canadian fractional banknotes
sight seen
Available for examination to a potential buyer before a purchase decision is made
sight unseen
Not available for examination to a potential buyer before a purchase decision is made, as is usually the case with mail order transactions
silver certificate
A note (paper money) once redeemable for its face value in silver
silver clad
A clad coin with one layer containing silver, such as U.S. halves struck from 1965 to 1970
silver eagle
A coin produced by the U.S. mint beginning in 1986 containing one ounce of silver and having a nominal face value of $1 (not released for circulation)
A coin certified by a professional grading service as authentic and encapsulated in a sealed hard plastic holder also containing a label bearing the service's opinion of its grade and other information (also see FAQ paragraph 23)
A coin with very slight traces of wear, such that it almost passes for an uncirculated specimen
Precious metal (usually gold and silver)
split grade
Different grades for the obverse and reverse sides
- Short for spot price; 
- A small area of corrosion or foreign substance
spot price
The market price for immediate delivery of a commodity, such as a precious metal
- The difference between buy and sell prices for the same item(s) of a dealer, broker, etc. 
- The extent of separation between impressions on a doubled die.
A U.S. gold coin pattern with a face value of $4 minted in 1879 and 1880
Incuse marks caused by rolling bars during planchet production
- The process of impressing the design from a die into a planchet to make a coin, token or medal
- The degree to which details are transfered during this process (as in weak strike, full strike, etc.)
strike doubling
See machine doubling

territorial gold coins
pieces of various shapes, denominations and intrinsic worth privately struck in the general area of recently discovered gold deposits for the needs of local commerce
An ancient Greek silver coin weighing about 13 to 17 grams, roughly the same size as a U.S. quarter but three times thicker
The rubbing of skin oil onto a coin in an attempt to hide contact marks
- A coin-like object redeemable for a particular product or service, such as transportation on a bus or subway
- An unofficial coin issued by a business or local government to be used as small change, e.g., in 17th-19th century Britain, and in France during the 20th century
Color acquired from chemical change on the surface
trade dollar
- A U.S. coin with a face value of $1 minted from 1873 through 1885 specifically for commerce in the Orient
- A U.K. coin with a face value of $1 minted from 1895 through 1935 specifically for commerce in the Orient
A U.S. coin with a face value of 3 cents minted in predominantly silver alloys from 1851-1873
A plastic container designed for storing a roll or other quantity of coins of the same size
type coin
Any coin of a particular design and denomination, usually one of the more common dates
type set
A collection of coins of various designs; rather than try to complete the series, the goal of the type collector is to obtain at least one example of several different types

Never circulated; without any wear

Any variety of U.S. silver dollar described in the book Morgan and Peace Dollars by Van Allen and Mallis.
Any coin struck from a die pair that differs from others with the same date and mintmark, such as one exhibiting die doubling, different style letters or numerals, or a repunched mintmark

want list
A tabulation of collectibles sought by a collector, often including requirements for condition and/or price
water mark
A design put into paper at the manufacuring stage by pressing it while wet between rollers bearing the design
Metal lost during handling and contact with other objects
Alteration by mechanical polishing to produce a shiny surface
world coins
Coins issued by various nations, as in a collection comprised of coins thereof