GLOSSARY OF NUMISMATIC TERMS
Posted on 6/10/2011
Adjectival Grade - a term, such as “Good” or “Uncirculated,” used to describe a coin’s condition. Numbers were later added by Dr. William Sheldon in the late 1940s
Adjustment Mark - these are striations that appear on some pre-19th century silver and gold coinage. They are the result of mint workers filing excess silver or gold from overweight planchets prior to striking. These marks are sometimes still visible after striking and should not be confused with damage.
Alloy - a mixture of two or more metals
Almost Good - a grade equal to 3 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale
Almost Uncirculated - the adjectival term that equates to a numeric grade of 50, 53, 55, or 58
ANA - American Numismatic Association, the national organization for coin collectors
ANS - American Numismatic Society, a coin collecting organization founded in 1858
Assay - the testing of an ore sample to determine its precious metal value
Attribution - the designation of a coin's variety according to standard reference books
Authentication - the determination of a coin's genuineness
Base metal - a non-precious metal, such as copper, nickel or zinc
Blank - an unstruck coin disc, the same as "planchet"
BN - abbreviation for Brown, a designation used to describe the color of a copper coin. Related terms: RB (Red Brown) and RD (Red).
Bourse - a popular term for the sales floor of a coin show
Brass - an alloy of copper and zinc
Brilliant Uncirculated - an adjectival grade which NGC defines as being MS 60 or higher
Bronze - an alloy of copper and tin
Bullion - refined precious metal in any form, including bars, rounds or coins
CA - abbreviation for Cameo designation
Cartwheel - an old slang term for American Silver Dollars
Cartwheel Luster - luster that rotates like a windmill when a coin is turned in the light. Often associated with Morgan Dollars.
Certification - the process of having a coin authenticated, graded and encapsulated
Choice Uncirculated - an adjectival grade which NGC defines as being MS 63 or higher.
Clad - a laminated or sandwiched coin metal
Collar - a retaining ring which imparts a coin's edge, whether plain or reeded
Commemorative - a coin honoring an event, place or individual, usually of limited mintage
Condition census - a roster of the five or six finest known specimens of a particular coin
Contact marks - small nicks imparted by contact with other coins
Contemporary Counterfeit - a counterfeit coin that was made at the same time that the genuine issue was being made.
Coronet - a crown or tiara frequently seen on the Liberty portrait of 19th Century US coins
Counterfeit - a non-genuine coin, whether made to circulate as money or to deceive collectors
Cud - a raised, unstruck area on a coin that is created when the planchet is struck by a broken die and the planchet metal fills the die break.
Currency - circulating money, used numismatically to denote a non-proof coin
Denomination - the face value of a coin, such as one cent, ten cents, etc.
Denticles - the toothlike projections seen on the borders of older US coins
Device - a raised design element on a coin, such as a portrait or lettering
Die - a cylindrical shaft of steel that imparts one side of a coin's design (two are required)
Die Break - a term used to describe the void of a die that is created when a piece of that die breaks and becomes detached. A die break forms a “cud” when the planchet is struck.
Die Clash - a term for the image that appears on a coin that is struck from two dies that had clashed together without a planchet in between. This clash results in each die having an imprint of the opposite die, which is then imparted on the coin when struck.
Double eagle - a United States $20 gold coin, issued from 1850 to 1933
DPL - abbreviation for Deep Prooflike designation
Eagle - a US $10 gold coin, issued from 1795 to 1933
Edge - the third side of a coin, it can be plain, reeded, lettered or starred
Encapsulated coin - one which has been sealed inside a plastic holder
Extremely Fine (also known as “Extra Fine”) - the adjectival term for a grade of either 40 or 45 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale.
Fair - a grade equal to 2 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale.
FB - abbreviation for Full Split Bands designation
FBL - abbreviation for Full Bell Lines designation
FH - abbreviation for Full Head designation
Field - the flat surface area of a coin between the various devices
Fine - the adjectival term for a grade of either 12 or 15 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale.
Fineness - the percentage or decimal proportion of precious metal in a coin
Flip - a flexible, transparent, plastic envelope having one pocket for a coin and one for its label
Frosted - describes a coin's surface which is textured rather than smooth or glassy
FT - abbreviation for Full Torch designation
Gem Uncirculated - an adjectival grade which NGC defines as being MS 65 or higher.
Good - the adjectival term for a grade of either 4 or 6 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale.
Grade - the numerical value assigned to a coin's condition on a scale of 1 to 70
GSA - acronym for the General Services Administration, which sold millions of surplus Morgan and Peace dollars in the 1970s.
Hairlines - fine scratches on a coin's surface that may affect its grade
Half cent - a US copper coin of that value, issued from 1793 to 1857
Half dime - a US silver five-cent coin, issued from 1794 to 1873
Half eagle - a US $5 gold coin, issued from 1795 to 1929
Hoard - in numismatics, a large accumulation of coins, often of the same or similar type.
Hub - a steel cylinder bearing one side of a coin's design and used to produce dies
Intrinsic value - the value of a coin's metal, irrespective of its face or collector value
Legal tender - a coin declared by a government to be acceptable in the payment of all debts
Legend - an inscription which appears on a coin, such as LIBERTY
Lettered edge - the edge of a coin on which either raised or sunken letters appear
Luster - the reflected light from a coin as determined by its surface texture and quality
Matte - the purposely dulled surface of a coin, this style was used on certain US proof coins
Minor coin - a base-metal coin of small value, such as a cent or nickel
Mint - the structure where coins are produced, or the governmental body overseeing its work
Mint Error - coins with major mint errors as a result of human or mechanical error during manufacturing
Mintmark - a small letter appearing on a coin to denote its city of manufacture
Mint State - describes an unworn coin; this means the same as Uncirculated
Mirror - the brilliant surface of a coin, typically the fields of a proof or prooflike coin
MS - the abbreviation for Mint State, it's used with a numerical figure to grade unworn coins
Numismatics - the studying and collecting of coins
Numismatist - one who engages in numismatic activity for whatever end
Obverse - the front side of a coin ("heads")
Overdate - a coin variety in which one date is impressed over another
Pattern - an experimental coin made as a test of a new design, material or technology
Pedigree - typically, a coin’s past or present ownership. For more details on NGC’s pedigree attributions, click here.
PF - the abbreviation for Proof, it's used with a numerical figure to grade proof coins
Plus (+): - awarded by NGC to coins at the high end of their assigned grade, approaching the quality requirements for the next grade. Learn more >
PL - abbreviation for Prooflike designation
Plain edge - the edge of a coin which is smooth and lacking any decoration
Planchet - a blank disc that will be stamped between dies to produce a coin
Poor - a grade equal to 1 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale
Press - a compression machine in which dies come together to stamp a coin
Proof - a high-quality coin for collectors made in small numbers from specially prepared dies
Prooflike - having the appearance of a proof coin — that is, mirrorlike fields
Quarter eagle - a US $2.50 gold coin, issued from 1796 to 1929
R1, R2, R3, etc. - a scale of coin rarity ranging from R1 (very common) to R8 (unique)
RB - abbreviation for Red Brown, a designation used to describe the color of a copper coin. Related terms: BN (Brown) and RD (Red).
RD - abbreviation for Red, a designation used to describe the color of a copper coin. Related terms: BN (Brown) and RB (Red Brown).
Red Book - the popular name for "A Guide Book of United States Coins," by R.S. Yeoman
Redfield Hoard - a very famous hoard of silver dollars collected by LaVere Redfield in the 1940s and 1950s. Approximately 400 bags, or some 400,000 coins, were in the hoard.
Reeded edge - the edge of a coin on which raised lines appear
Releases Designation - a special designation used to recognize a coin received for certification within a specified timeframe or at a particular event. Examples include Early Releases and First Releases. Learn more >
Relief - the portion of a coin's design which is raised above the smooth surface or field
Restrike - a coin made years after the original edition but from the same dies
Reverse - the back side of a coin ("tails")
Series - a continuous run of coins of the same type, such as the Buffalo Nickel series of 1913-38
Sheldon Grading Scale - the grading scale popularized by Dr. William Sheldon in the late 1940s that grades coin on a scale from 1-70. Still used by most major grading companies today, including NGC.
Slab - a slang term for an encapsulated coin
SP - Specimen
Specie - coined money, as opposed to paper money or other store of wealth
Star () - awarded by NGC to a coin with superior eye appeal. Learn more >
Starred edge - the edge of a coin featuring either raised or sunken stars
Strike - the action of producing a coin, or the quality of a coin's detail sharpness
Trade dollar - a special type of US silver dollar made from 1873 to 1885, primarily for export
Trime - a US silver three-cent piece, issued from 1851 to 1873
Type collecting - assembling a collection of one of each coin denomination and design
UC - abbreviation for Ultra Cameo designation
Uncirculated - describes an unworn coin; this means the same as Mint State
Variety - a coin that differs from its basic design type in some distinctive way and is thus differentiated by collectors
Very Fine - The adjectival term for a grade of 20, 25, 30, or 35 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale.
Very Good - The adjectival term for a grade of either 8 or 10 on the 70-point Sheldon Grading Scale
Wheel Mark - a concentrated area of hairlines which are caused when a coin gets stuck in the rubber wheel of a coin counting machine.
Wire rim - a fine, raised line of metal around the rim of very sharply struck coins