GLOSSARY OF NUMISMATIC TERMS

FAQs | 

Jump to a letter: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 

5FS - abbreviation for Five Full Steps designation

6FS - abbreviation for Six Full Steps designation

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

 


Articles List