Free Coins Guide

Mega Coins

Coin Search



About Good: a grading term for a coin that is so badly worn that you can barely recognize the type and date.

About Uncirculated: a grading term used to describe a coin that is nearly new.

abrasion: light friction, a shallow scrape, or a mark on the surface of a coin.

abrasive: a harsh cleaning agent that destroys the surface of a coin.

accumulation: a disorganized pile of coins just waiting for a numismatist’s touch to turn it into a coin collection.

adjustment mark: scratches made when a file is used to lower the weight of a planchet before striking.

AGW (Actual Gold Weight) This refers to the amount of pure gold in a coin, medal or bar. Any alloys are part of the gross weight of a gold coin, but not part of the AGW.

album: a holder designed to store and display coins.

album friction Similar to album slide marks, though the friction may be only slight rubbing on the high points.
album slide marks Lines, usually parallel, imparted to the surface of a coin by the plastic “slide” of an album.
alloy: a blend of different metals.

Almost Uncirculated: another way of saying About Uncirculated.

altered coin: a coin that has been changed in any way to make it appear more valuable.

American Numismatic Association: the leading organization for collectors of U.S. coins.

A.N.A.: abbreviation for the American Numismatic Association.

ANACS: a third-party grading service in Sidney, Ohio.

ancient: an old coin struck before Medieval times.

annealing: The heating of a die or planchet to soften the metal before preparation of the die or striking of the coin.

anvil die: The lower die, usually the reverse – 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.

appraisal: an estimate of a coin’s worth.

artificial toning: fake colors on a coin that usually hide flaws.

attribute: a special characteristic of a coin or the act of identifying a coin.

attribution: the variety of a coin according to specialized reference works.

AU: abbreviation for About (or Almost) Uncirculated.

auction: a method of offering and selling coins to the highest bidder.

authentication: determining whether a coin is real or not.


bag: the heavy cloth bag used by the Mint to ship coins.

bagmark: the nicks and dings caused when coins smack into each other.

Barber coinage: Dimes, Quarter Dollars, and Half Dollars designed by Charles Barber and issued from 1892 to 1916.

bas relief: raised design elements in a sunken area.

beaded border: a decorative, outer ring of tiny raised beads found on some coins.

bid: the wholesale buy price offered by coin dealers.

bidder: anyone who bids in an auction.

bidder number: the unique number assigned to you at an auction, used to properly record who bought what.

billon: an alloy containing a small amount of silver mixed with a base metal.

bit: one-eighth of a Spanish 8 Reales “Piece of Eight.  Two bits equal a quarter (hence, the cheer: …two bits, four bits, six bits, a Dollar)

blank: the disk of metal that is later stamped to make a coin.

blemishes: any defects on the surface of a coin.

Bluebook: a popular price guide used for buying coins.  Guess what color the cover is.

Bluesheet: a popular weekly price guide for certified coins.  Guess what color the paper is.

bourse: a coin show where dealers buy and sell among themselves and with the general public.

Braided Hair: a design type found on Half Cents and Large Cents dating from 1839 to 1857.

branch mint: any U.S. Mint other than the Philadelphia Mint (the “mother” of all mints).

brass: a yellow alloy of copper and zinc.

breast feathers: the feathers on the chest of the eagle, usually the highest point on the back of many U.S. coins, especially Morgan Dollars.

brilliant: used to describe the  flashy luster of a coin.

Brilliant Uncirculated: a “brand new” coin that is bright and flashy.

broadstrike: an error coin struck outside of its collar, resulting in an expanded planchet.

bronze: a reddish alloy of copper and a small amount of tin.

Brown: the color of copper coins that have toned down from their original, bright red color.

BU: abbreviation for Brilliant Uncirculated.

BU rolls: set quantities of coins that are Brilliant Uncirculated.  Example: a BU roll of Morgan Dollars has 20 coins, all Uncirculated.

Buffalo nickel: the popular 5 Cent piece with an Indian Head on the front and a buffalo on the back, issued from 1913 to 1938.

bulged die: a coin with wavy, concave or convex surfaces caused by a defective stamp.

bullion: raw metal, usually gold or silver in ingot form.

bullion coin: a coin that has no collector premium above the value of its metal.

burnishing: altering the surfaces of a coin to make it look better than it actually is.  Burnishing is a bit more aggressive than polishing.

business strike: a coin struck for use in circulation.

Bust dollar: the United States Silver Dollars issued from 1795 to 1804.

buyer’s fee: the premium charged to a successful bidder at auction, added to the hammer price (final bid) of each lot.  In recent years, the buyer’s fee has risen from zero percent to fifteen percent.


C: the mintmark of the U.S. Mint at Charlotte, North Carolina.

cabinet friction: faint rub on the highest points of coins, usually caused by sliding around in a tray.

cameo: a coin that has frosty devices and brilliant fields.

cameo contrast: a measure of how frosty the devices are versus how deeply mirrored the fields are.

Capped Bust: a design type used on American coins from 1807-1839. 

carbon spot: a small spot of corrosion or oxidation on a coin caused by a spot of moisture.  When you talk around coins - Say it, don’t spray it!

Carson City: official U.S. Mint in Carson City, Nevada that issued coins from 1870 to 1893.

cartwheel: the dazzling, swirling effect reflected when a coin is turned under a light source.  The more dazzling the “cartwheel,” the more desirable the coin.

cast counterfeit: a fake coin made by pouring melted metal into a mold.  These will usually fail the ring test.

catalog: the printed listings offered by coin dealers at auction or fixed prices.  These are often great sources of information and illustrations.

CC: the mintmark of the U.S. Mint at Carson City, Nevada.

CCDN: abbreviation for the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter (also known as the “Blue Sheet”).

CCE: abbreviation for the Certified Coin Exchange.

CDN: abbreviation for the Coin Dealer Newsletter (also known as the “Grey Sheet”).

census: no, I don’t care who lives in your house!  This is a listing of coins, usually the best ones known for that date.  Specialists often refer to this as the “Condition Census.”

Cent: the U.S. coin valued at one-hundredth of a Dollar.  Commonly known as the Penny.

certified: authenticated and graded by any of the independent, third-party grading services.

Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter: a weekly publication that records dealer Bid and Ask prices for certified U.S. coins.

Certified Coin Exchange: an electronic system that allows dealers to trade in certified U.S. coins.

Chain Cent: issued in 1793, this coin had a chain of 13 links on the reverse that was supposed to represent the original American colonies.  However, some people thought the chain represented bondage, so it was quickly replaced with a wreath!

Charlotte: official U.S. Mint at Charlotte, North Carolina that issued coins from 1838-1861.  Mintmark “C.”

cherrypick: buying a coin at a price way below its true value.  This is where your knowledge can make you money!

choice: nice.  Usually used with other grading terms, for example, “Choice Very Fine” or “Choice Uncirculated.”

Choice Uncirculated: equal to Mint State 63 on a scale of 1 to 70.

chopmark: the small mark punched onto coins (usually Trade Dollars) by Asian merchants who “certified” the coins authenticity and value.

circulated: a coin that is worn and no longer Uncirculated.

circulation: anywhere a coin is used or where it might become worn.  This can include banks, your pocket, your piggy bank, gumball machines, the store…you name it.

circulation strike: a coin that was made to be used and spent.  The opposite are Proof coins that are made specially for collectors and are not meant to be spent.

clad: coins made of layers of metal.  Examples include our modern Dimes, Quarters, Half Dollars, and One Dollars that have centers of copper and outer layers of a copper-nickel alloy.

clash marks: the damage caused when dies smash into each other with no coin blank between them.  Clash marks can be minor, severe, or anything in-between.

Classic Head: design type used on U.S. Half Cents from 1809-1836 and gold coins from 1834 and 1839.

cleaned: a coin that has dirt or toning removed with a cleaning agent.  Cleaning ranges from light to severe, depending on what is used to clean the coin.  Cleaning may disqualify a coin from being certified.  TIP: leave cleaning to the professionals, as cleaning generally lowers the collector value of a coin.

clip: the missing portion of the edge of a coin caused when coin blanks are punched improperly out of metal strips.

clipped: a coin that has a portion missing out of the edge because the planchet was cut improperly or someone removed some of the metal.

clipping: cutting a small amount of silver or gold from the edge of a coin for personal gain.

coin: a round piece of metal to which designs have been applied and a value assigned.

coin collection: a carefully organized grouping of coins that have been identified, classified, and valued.

coin collector: a person, like you, who loves coins and wants to own as many as possible.

Coin Dealer Newsletter: a weekly publication popularly known as the “Greysheet” that lists dealer Bid and Ask prices for U.S. coins.

coin doctor: someone who attempts to improve the appearance of a coin by cleaning, repairing, plugging and/or any other deliberate alteration.

coin show: a gathering of coin dealers in a public place for the purpose of meeting and trading with collectors and other dealers.

Coin World: the weekly numismatic newspaper published by Amos Press of Sidney, Ohio.

COINage: the monthly numismatic magazine published by Miller Magazines, Inc.

Coins Magazine: the monthly numismatic magazine published by Krause Publications of Iola, Wisconsin.

collar: the edge die of a coin that prevents the coin from spreading out when it is struck.

collection: an organized accumulation of coins.

collector: anyone who accumulates coins in a systematic, organized manner.

colonial: a coin issued by, or used in, any of the American colonies.  Includes some foreign coins.

commemorative: a coin struck specially to honor a place, event, or person.  Commemorative coins are generally sold at a premium and are not meant to circulate.

common: a coin that is readily available and inexpensive.

common date: a coin that is readily available and inexpensive.

condition: the grade of a coin.

Condition Census: a listing of the top examples known of a given coin.  For instance, the Condition Census for Large Cents includes the best examples known of a particular variety.

condition rarity: a coin that is common in low grade but very rare in high grade.  For example, some coins are unknown in Uncirculated condition.

consignment: the coins that are given to an auction house or dealer to sell.

consignor: the person whose coins are sold at auction or by a dealer.

contact marks: any marks on a coin that occur from contact with another coin or foreign object.

contemporary counterfeit: a fake made close to the date that appears on the coin.

Continental Dollars: large coin struck in 1776, usually in Pewter, considered by many to be the first U.S. Silver Dollar.

copper spot: the reddish spots of color that occasionally appear on gold coins due to oxidation of the small amount of copper in the alloy.

copper-nickel: an alloy used on United States coins that mixes Copper and Nickel in varying amounts.

Copper-Nickel Cent: the Flying Eagle and Indian Head Cents struck from 1856 to 1864.

copy: a replica of a real coin, usually meant to deceive.

copy dies: dies made officially or illegally from either actual coinage dies or coins.

Coronet Head: design type of a head of Liberty with a crown-like ornament.  Used on U.S. copper coins from 1816-1857 and U.S. gold coins from 1838-1907.

corrosion: pitting or green oxidation that appears on the surfaces of coins.  Light corrosion is called “porosity,” moderate corrosion is called “granularity,” and heavy corrosion is called “pitting.” 

counterfeit: a fake coin.

cud: a raised area on a coin caused when a chip of metal falls off a die.

cull:  a coin worn almost completely smooth.

Curated: a recently developed term to describe coins that have been cleaned, but where the cleaning has been so light and well done that it is impossible to tell.  Curation will not disqualify a coin from being certified.


D: the mintmark of the U.S. Mints at Denver, Colorado and Dahlonega, Georgia.

D-Mint: abbreviation for coins struck at the Denver or Dahlonega Mints.

Dahlonega: the official U.S. Mint at Dahlonega, Georgia that struck gold coins from 1838 to 1861.

damage: any defects or problems that affect a coin after it is struck.

date: the year in which a coin is struck.

dealer: a person who buys and sells coins, hopefully at a profit.

Deep Cameo: a coin that shows heavy contrast between the frosted devices and the mirrored fields.

Deep Mirror Prooflike: a coin struck for circulation that has extremely reflective surfaces.  You can see yourself in these impressive little beauties.

denomination: the face value of a coin, as stated on the coin.  Examples: denominations include Half Dollars, $2.50 gold, Three Cents, etc.

denticles: the tooth-like outer borders on some coins.

Denver: the official U.S. Mint at Denver, Colorado that struck coins from 1906 until today.

design: the art and lettering that appear on coins.

design type: the name given to the design on a particular U.S. coin.

designer: the person who creates the design of a coin.  He/she may also be the engraver.

device: any of the design elements on a coin.

die: the steel cylinder with a design on it used to strike one side of a coin.

die break: a fracture in a die that can range from a small crack to sinking of a major portion of the die.

die crack: fine lines of raised metal that are transferred to a coin when the die cracks under pressure.

die rust: dies are made of steel and occasionally rust, causing pits in the die and raised bumps of metal on the coins struck from those dies.

die state: the status of a die relative to wear, breaks, and condition.

die variety: every die is unique, especially early U.S. dies engraved by hand.  A die variety is a unique combination of obverse and reverse dies.  Some die varieties can be extremely rare.

Dime: U.S. coin with a face value of Ten Cents.

ding: a small mark on the surface or edge of a coin.

dip: to clean a coin in a chemical bath to remove toning.

disme: early spelling of “Dime,” pronunciation believed to be “Deem” (from the French).

DMPL: abbreviation for Deep Mirror Prooflike (used by PCGS).

doctored: a coin that has been cleaned, altered, repaired, or otherwise “improved” to make it more valuable.

dollar: an official U.S. denomination equal to 100 Cents or 1/10 of an Eagle.

Double Eagle: official name for a $20 gold piece.

doubled die: a die or coin on which the details appear doubled.

double-struck: a coin that has been struck twice from the dies. 

DPL: abbreviation for Deep Prooflike (used by NGC).

Draped Bust: design type used on many U.S. coins from 1795-1807.

dull: drab, usually referring to the lack of luster.


eagle: the bird that appears on the backs of most U.S. silver and gold coins.  Also, the official term for a U.S. $10 gold piece.

edge: known as the third side of a coin, this is the surface that encircles a coin.

edge device: any marking, lettering or ornamentation on the edge of a coin.

EF: abbreviation for Extra Fine or Extremely Fine.

electrotype: a well-made, deceptive copy of a coin created by joining two halves together over a lead center.  Only one electrotype can be made at a time.  Electrotypes will fail the ring test and close examination will reveal a seam along the edge.

electrum: a natural alloy of gold and silver, used to make some of the first coins.

elements: the various designs, lettering, and markings on a coin.

encapsulated: placed in a sealed plastic holder by any of the independent, third-party grading services.

engraver: the person who actually cuts the design of a coin into the die.

environmental damage: damage to a coin caused by the elements (pollution, moisture, and excess oxidation).

error: a coin that results from a mistake in the coining process.

estimate: a guess as to what a coin will sell for at auction, usually based on price guides and comparable sales.

exergue: a section of a coin, separated by a dividing line.

expert: anyone who knows as much as possible about a numismatic subject.  Expertise can be gained through study or examination of many coins.

Extra Fine: a well-preserved coin with a grade range from 40 to 49 on a grading scale of 1 to 70.

Extremely Fine: same as Extra Fine.

eye appeal: the visual aspects of a coin.  Coins with nice eye appeal are worth a premium.


face value: the value that is stated on a coin.  For example: the face value of a Dime is Ten Cents; the collector value of the same coins may be substantially higher.

Fair: a grading term for a coin that is so worn that it is barely identifiable as to type.

fake: a counterfeit coin meant to deceive.

fantasy: a coin that has nothing to do with reality.

fasces: the ax bound in a bundle of sticks that appears on the back of Mercury Head Dimes struck from 1916 to 1945.

field: the flat surfaces of a coin that surround the designs and legends.

Fine: a grade range from 11 to 19 on a grading scale of 1 to 70.

fineness: the percentage of metal in gold and silver coins.  Example: a 1964 Dime has a fineness of 90%.

finest known: the coin ranked as the best example known of a denomination, type, date, or variety.

first strike: the first coin, or one of the earliest coins, struck from a pair of dies.  These are usually Prooflike, well struck and nearly perfect.

fishscale: nickname for the silver Three-Cents issued from 1851-1873.

fixed price list: a published listing of a dealer’s inventory, priced for sale.

flan: planchet, the blank piece of metal on which a coin is struck.

flat edge: variety of 1907 $20 “High Relief” gold coins that has a flat border.  The edge on this coin is actually lettered!

flat luster: reduced brilliance due to dark toning, impaired surfaces, or cleaning.

flip: a coin holder (usually 2” x 2”) made of clear, soft plastic, with pockets on both sides.  Some contain the dreaded PVC!

flow lines: when a coin is struck, the metal flows outward from the center, resulting in microscopic lines that add to the luster of a coin.

Flowing Hair: design type on most copper and silver U.S. coins struck from 1793-1795.

Flying Eagle: design type of U.S. Small Cents from 1856-1858; also the reverse of the 1836-1839 Gobrecht Dollars.

Flying Eagle Cent: the One Cent coin struck from 1856-1858.

flyspecks: microscopic carbon spots on the surface of a coin.

foreign: non-U.S.

four-dollar gold piece: a pattern coin issued in gold in 1879 and 1880, nicknamed “Stella.”

Franklin Half Dollar: the U.S. Half Dollars struck from 1948 to 1963 with the head of Benjamin Franklin on the front.

friction: the rub or wear on a coin.

frost: on Uncirculated coins, a crystalline luster.  On Proof coins, the slightly grainy finish that is given to the devices.

frosted devices: raised design elements that still have a white, slightly grainy finish.  Opposite: brilliant devices.

frosty luster: luster that is crisp, bright, and slightly crystalline in appearance.

Fugio cents: copper coins struck in 1787 by private minters under contract with the U.S. government.  Many of the design elements are credited to Benjamin Franklin.

Full Bands: Mercury Head Dimes that have fully defined bands on the fasces.  Only well struck coins will have these features.

Full Bell Lines: Franklin Half Dollars that have clearly defined horizontal lines on the bottom of the bell on the reverse.  Only well struck coins will have these features.

Full Head: Standing Liberty Quarter Dollars that have full details on Liberty’s head.  Only well struck coins will have these features.

Full Steps: a Jefferson Nickel with complete details on the steps leading up to Monticello, indicating a rare full strike.

full strike: a coin that has complete details thanks to a crisp, bold stamp from the dies.


Gem: an exceptionally beautiful and well struck coin.

Gem Uncirculated: a grade range of 65 to 66 on a scale of 1 to 70.

Gobrecht dollar: U.S. Silver Dollars designed by Christian Gobrecht and struck from 1836 to 1839.

gold: a soft, precious metal of yellow color.

gold commemorative: U.S. coins issued in gold, in a variety of denominations, to commemorate various events or important people in American history.

gold dollar: the U.S. $1 gold coins struck from 1849-1889.

Good: a grading term for a coin that is very worn but which has most of the devices outlined.

grade: the determination of the degree of wear (or lack thereof) on a coin.

grader: usually, an expert that determines the grade of a coin for an independent, third-party grading service.

grading: the art or skill of determining the condition of a coin.

Greysheet: nickname for the Coin Dealer Newsletter.


hairline: a fine, thin surface scratch that is usually caused by wiping a coin with a cloth.  Hairlines affect grades and values negatively, depending on how many are present.

Half Cent: the U.S. copper coins struck from 1793 to 1857 worth one-half of one Cent..

Half Dime: the U.S. silver coins struck from 1794 to 1873 worth five Cents..

Half Disme: the 1792 Half Dime (believed to be pronounced “Half Deem”, after the French).

Half Dollar: the Fifty Cents coins struck from 1794 until today.

Half Eagle: the official government term for a Five Dollars gold piece.

halogen light: an extremely bright light that is often used to grade coins.

haze: a light film on a coin caused by oxidation or PVC.

Heraldic Eagle: design type that shows an eagle with outspread wings and a shield on its chest.  Used on many U.S. coins from 1795 until today.

high points: the tops of the design elements on a coin, where wear is most likely to occur.

High Relief: variety of the 1907 $20 gold piece designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens on which the design elements are much higher than usual.

hoard: an accumulation of the same type or types of coins.

hoard coin: a coin that is known to have originated from a hoard.

hoarder: a person who builds a hoard.

Hobo nickel: a Buffalo Nickel with the Indian’s head re-engraved into amusing images.

holed: a coin that has a hole drilled through it, usually so that it can be worn as jewelry.

hub: a die with an incuse design, used to make dies for coining.


impaired Proof: a Proof coin that has been spent, cleaned, or otherwise damaged.

incandescent light: a normal light bulb, usually 75 Watts, used to grade coins.

incomplete strike: a coin that has parts of the design missing or weak.  This can be caused by poor pressure, mis-aligned dies, or foreign matter on the dies.

incuse: refers to designs or lettering that are impressed into a coin (instead of being raised).  The best examples of this are the $2.5 and $5 Indian gold pieces issued from 1908-1929.

Indian Head cent: the U.S. One Cent coins struck from 1859-1909.

Indian Head Eagle: the U.S. $10 gold coins struck from 1907-1933.

Indian Penny: the U.S. One Cent coins struck from 1859-1909.

inscription: the wording or legends on a coin.

intrinsic value: the metal or bullion value of a coin, regardless of the face or collector value.

investor: a person who buys or collects coins with the intent to make a profit.

iridescence: refers to the brightness or reflectivity of toning on a coin.


Jefferson nickel: the U.S. Five Cents coins struck from 1938 until today.


key: the coin in a series that is the hardest to obtain and generally the most valuable.

knife edge: the wire rim caused when metal squeezes between the die and the collar under extreme pressure.


lamination: a “peeling” defect in a planchet caused by air or impurities when the planchet strip is rolled out.

Large Cent: the U.S. One Cent coins struck from 1793 to 1857.

large date: the opposite of a small date.  This is a relative term.

legend: any of the wording or lettering on a coin.  A motto can be a legend.

lettered edge: an edge of a coin that has been imprinted with raised or incuse letters

lettering: any of the letters or words that appear on a coin or its edge.

Liberty: the female embodiment of the American concept of freedom and liberty.  Miss Liberty is a favorite subject on U.S. coins and she has appeared in a number of different forms.

Liberty Cap: design type of U.S. copper coins struck from 1793-1796.

Liberty Head: any of the anonymous female heads that have appeared on U.S. coins.

Liberty Nickel: the Five Cents coins struck from 1883 to 1913, with a head of Liberty on the front and a large V on the back.

Liberty Seated: design type used on U.S. silver coins struck from 1836 to 1891.

Lincoln Cent: the U.S. One Cent piece struck from 1909 until today.

loupe: a high-power magnifying glass used to examine coins.

luster: the shiny quality of new metal.  Luster decreases as wear increases.

lustrous: a coin that is bright and shiny.


mail bid sale: a type of auction that accepts bids only by mail, fax, phone, etc. and where no bids are accepted from the floor.

major variety: a design change that is obvious but not significant enough to warrant a change in the type.

marks: the defects caused when a coin is hit by foreign objects or other coins.

Matte Proof: a Proof coin with dull, slightly grainy surfaces.  Applies to Proof coins struck from 1908-1916, Peace Dollars 1921-1922, and some modern Jefferson Nickel Proofs.

medal: a circular piece of metal that looks like a coin but has no value stamped on it.

melt: the bullion or intrinsic value of a coin.

Mercury Dime: the U.S. Ten Cent pieces struck from 1916 to 1945.  The front of these coins has a head of Liberty wearing a winged cap, supposedly representing freedom of thought, and looking slightly like the Roman god Mercury.

milling mark: a contact mark on a coin caused by the reeded edge of another coin.

minor variety: a difference between two coins that is insignificant.

mint: the official government building where coins are struck.

mintage: the quantity made of a coin.

mint error: a coin that was improperly struck at the mint.  See: Error.

mint set: a specially packaged set of Uncirculated coins produced and sold by the U.S. Mint.

mint set toning: the sought-after, beautiful toning created by the paper holders of U.S. mint sets from 1947 to 1958.

Mint State: “brand new” or Uncirculated coins that range from 60 to 70 on a grading scale of 1 to 70.

mintage: the quantity struck by the Mint of a particular coin.

mintmark: a small letter (or letters) on a coin that identify the mint where the coin was struck.

mis-struck: a coin that was made improperly.  See: Error.

mishandled Proof: a Proof coin that has been spent, cleaned, or otherwise damaged.

Miss Liberty: the name for the anonymous lady that appears on many U.S. coins.

Morgan dollar: the silver U.S. One Dollar coins struck from 1878-1921.

mottled toning: uneven or mixed coloring on a coin.

Motto: legends like “IN GOD WE TRUST” or “E PLURIBUS UNUM” that appear on many U.S. coins.

MS: abbreviation for Mint State, a grading term, usually tied to a number (for example, MS-63, MS-70, etc.).

mule: an unintended pairing of two dies.

multiple-struck: a coin that was struck more than once.

mutilated: a severely damaged coin.


new: an everyday term for an Uncirculated or Mint State coin.

New Orleans: the official U.S. Mint at New Orleans, Louisiana that struck coins from 1838 to 1909.

NGC: abbreviation for the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (a third-party, independent grading service).

nick: a small contact mark on a coin.

Nickel: the hard metal used to make Five Cent pieces.  Also, the alloy on modern clad coins.

numerical grading: a system used to describe the condition of a coin.  The numerical system currently in use for American coins ranges from 1 to 70, with 70 indicating a perfect coin.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation: an independent, third-party grading and certification service located in Parsippany, New Jersey.

Numismatic News: the weekly numismatic newspaper published by Krause Publications.

numismatic: related to coins.

numismatics: the study of coins and coin collecting.

numismatist: the person who studies and collects coins.


obverse: the front of a coin, usually the side with the date or head.  When you flip a coin and call “Heads,” this is the side you want.

off-center: a coin that was not perfectly centered when it was struck.  Off-center strikes can range from minor to extreme.

original: a coin that has never been cleaned or impaired in any way.

original roll: a roll of coins that remains as fresh as the day the coins were first placed together.

original toning: natural color on a coin, as opposed to artificial toning.

over-mintmark: a coin with two mintmarks, one on top of the other.

over-dipped: a coin that has received one too many chemical baths in a mis-guided cleaning attempt.  In other words, someone blew it!

overdate: a coin with two dates (or parts of dates), one on top of the other.

over-grading: the deliberate or unintentional grading of a coin above its true grade.  This practice is sometimes used to sell coins for more than they are worth.

oxidation: tarnish or corrosion on a coin caused by chemical reaction with its surroundings.  Some tarnish is okay, any corrosion is bad.


patina: refers to the surface crust on an ancient coin or the color on a more modern coin.

pattern: a coin that tests a design to see how it appears in coin form and to determine if it strikes up properly.  By definition, a pattern is a design type that was never accepted for regular use.

PCGS: abbreviation for the Professional Coin Grading Service, Inc., one of the leading independent, third-party grading services.

PCGS Population Report: a monthly compilation of all coins graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service, Inc., broken down by date and grade.  A very useful tool for determining the rarity of various coins and grades.

Peace Dollar: the U.S. $1 coins struck from 1921 to 1935.

pedigree: the list of prior owners of a coin.

Penny: nickname for the U.S. One Cent.

peripheral toning: color that appears in the peripheries of a coin.

periphery: the outer areas on the front and back of a coin.

Philadelphia: the “mother” of all U.S. Mints, located at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Early coins from Philadelphia had no mintmark; more modern issues bear the letter “P.”

Pioneer gold: privately issued gold coins struck by a variety of minters anywhere in America where gold was discovered.

pitted: a coin that has tiny pockmarks of missing metal caused by corrosion.

plain edge: an edge of a coin that has no marking, reedings, or lettering of any kind.

planchet: the blank piece of metal upon which a coin is struck.

planchet defects: flaws on a coin that are believed to have been in the metal before the coin was struck.  These are not treated as harshly as circulation marks or defects, if at all.

planchet flaw: same as a planchet defect.

planchet striations: defects in a blank planchet, caused by impurities in the metal, that are not obliterated when the coin is struck.

plated: a coin to which an extra layer of metal was applied chemically or electronically (usually gold or silver).

platinum: a precious metal used primarily in bullion coins.

plugged: a coin that once had a hole drilled through it, but now the hole has been filled or “plugged” to bring the coin back to its original appearance and full value.

plus: used with grading terms to indicate an above-average coin.  Example – Very Fine plus.

PNG: abbreviation for the Professional Numismatists Guild.

polished die: before they are used for the first time, or after they have become worn, dies are often polished to make the surfaces nice and smooth.  Polished dies may be highly reflective or may have die polishing marks.

polyvinyl chloride: a chemical used to soften the plastic in some coin holders and albums.  Also known as PVC, this chemical can damage the surfaces of coins.

Poor: a grading term for a coin that is so badly worn that you can barely recognize the type and date.  See “About Good.”

porous: slightly pitted due to cleaning or chemical action.

PQ: abbreviation for Premium Quality.

premium quality: a coin that is above-average for the grade.

presentation striking: a coin struck for a special occasion.  These may or may not have been struck as Proofs, but they are generally prepared under special circumstances.

press: the machinery used to strike coins.

Prestige Set: a special set of Proof U.S. coins that includes the normal denominations, plus one or more of the Proof commemorative coins issued that year.

price guide: any number of publications that list wholesale and/or resale prices for coins, often in a number of different grades or categories.

price list: a published listing of a dealer’s inventory, priced for sale.

price realized: the price that a coin sold for at auction.  This usually includes the buyer’s fee.

pristine: perfect and absolutely original.

Professional Coin Grading Service: an independent, third-party grading service located in Newport Beach, CA.

Professional Numismatists Guild: an association of professional coin dealers.

Proof : a special process for producing coins of exceptional quality and brilliance.  Proof coins will exhibit a full strike, mirrored surfaces, and sometimes a cameo effect.

Proof set: the specially packaged set of Proof coins produced and sold by the U.S. Mint each year.

Proof dies: the dies used to strike Proof coins.  Modern Proof dies are specially prepared, with frosted devices and deeply mirrored fields.

Proof-only issue: coins that were struck only as Proofs.

Prooflike: a circulation strike that mimics the deeply reflective appearance of a Proof coin.

provenance: a fancy word for pedigree.  Be sure to raise your nose in the air whenever you say this word.

PVC: see polyvinyl chloride, the chemical plasticizer that can damage coins.

PVC damage: the damage caused to a coin by polyvinyl chloride.


Quarter: abbreviated name for a Quarter Dollar or Twenty-Five Cent piece.

Quarter Eagle: the official name for a $2.5 gold piece.

questionable toning: color on a coin that is suspected of being artificial.


Racketeer nickel: in 1883, the first of the new Liberty Nickels were struck without the word “CENTS.”  Con men applied reeding to the edges, gold-plated some of them, then passed them off as $5 gold pieces!

rainbow toning: color on a coin that includes many of the hues of a rainbow.

rare: not common.

rarity: the determination of how common or rare a coin is.

rarity scale: a system used to rate the rarity of a coin, usually from 1 to 10, with 1 being common and 10 being unique.

raw: a coin that has not been certified.  Warning: there could be a reason why!

rays: refers to the lines radiating on the backs of the Quarter Dollars and Half Dollars in 1853 to indicate a change in their weights.

Red: describes a copper coin that has full, original red color.

Red-Brown: an indication that a copper coin is partially brown yet still contains some of the original mint red color.

Redbook: popular name for “The Guidebook of United States Coins.”  Guess what color the cover is.

reeded edge: an edge with raised vertical or diagonal marks designed to make it obvious if anyone has removed any metal from the edges.  This was important when coins were valued for their full weight in precious or semi-precious metal.

reeding mark(s): contact marks caused by the edge reeding of another coin.  See: Milling mark.

regular issue: a coin that was meant to be used in general circulation.  See: Circulation strike.

relief: the raised portions of a coin, usually the design elements.

replica: a copy of a coin.

restrike: a coin from genuine dies, struck later than the year indicated on the coin, usually to satisfy collectors.

retoned: a coin that was stripped of color, then artificially toned to make it look original.

reverse: the back of a coin, usually the side without a date or a head.  When you flip a coin and call “Tails,” this is the side you want.

rim: the point where the periphery meets the edge of a coin.

rim bruise: a flattened area on the rim of a coin, usually caused when the coin is dropped.

rim ding: a contact mark on the rim of a coin.

rim nick: same as a rim ding.

ring test: a method of determining if a coin is a cast counterfeit by tapping it with a pen or pencil.  A genuine coin has a nice ring to it, like a tuning fork.  A cast fake will give a dull thud.

roll: a set quantity of coins that banks “roll up” in paper wrappers.  Example: a roll of Quarters has forty coins.

rolled edge: describes the rounded rim on a rare variety of 1907 Indian Head $10 gold pieces.

roller marks: parallel lines caused when metal strips are flattened between two rollers.  Roller marks are most often seen on the high points of Silver Dollars, especially those that were struck softly.

rub: friction.


S: the mintmark of the U.S. Mint at San Francsico, California.

Saint-Gaudens: last name of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the designer of the impressive $10 and $20 gold coins struck by the United States from 1907 to 1933.  The $20 versions are known as “Saints.”

saltwater Unc.: an otherwise Uncirculated coin that has been immersed in the ocean for many years, resulting in slightly grainy surfaces.

San Francisco: the official U.S. Mint at San Francisco, California that struck coins from 1854 until today.  Mintmark “S.”

satin finish: a special, matte-like finish on some Proof U.S. gold coins struck from 1907 to 1915 and on 1936 Buffalo Nickels.

satin luster: a soft, mellow brilliance on the surface of a coin.

scratch: the long mark left when a foreign object is dragged across the surface of a coin.

screw press: old-style machinery used to strike coins.  Weighted arms are rotated quickly to propel a large screw that slams the dies together.

sea salvage coin: a coin recovered from a shipwreck.

Seated coinage: a shortened term for coins with the Liberty Seated design type.

seller’s fee: the commission charged to the consignors in an auction.  Tip: these fees are negotiable depending on the value of the consignment.

semi-prooflike: a coin that has mirrored surfaces that aren’t quite strong enough to be called Prooflike.

series: the complete listing of all dates and mints struck of a denomination or design type.

set: a complete collection of all dates and mints struck of a denomination or design type.

Sheldon scale: the grading scale developed by Dr. William Sheldon that ranks coins on a scale of 1 to 70, with 70 representing perfection.

shield: a popular design element on U.S. coins that is really a flag in the shape of a shield.

Shield nickel: the U.S. Five Cents pieces struck from 1866 to 1883.

show: a numismatic convention.  See: Bourse.

sight seen: an offer for a coin subject to verification and acceptance of the grade.

sigh unseen: an offer for a coin that requires no verification of the grade.

silver: a semi-precious metal with a white luster used to strike many U.S. coins from 1794 to 1964 (plus a few modern commemoratives and bullion coins.

silver commemoratives: special silver coins struck to honor people, places, or events.  Commemoratives are often used to raise funds and their mintages are usually limited.

silver dollar: the $1 coins struck by the U.S. from 1794 to 1935 (plus a few modern commemoratives).

silver Eagle: a bullion coin containing one ounce of silver and a face value of $1, first produced by the U.S. Mint in 1986.

slab: the plastic cases used by grading and certification services.  Also, a coin that has been slabbed.

slabbed: the act of sealing a coin in a protective plastic case, usually performed by grading and certification services.

slider: a slightly worn coin that is so nice that many people would call it Uncirculated.  Ranks 58 on the grading scale of 1 to 70.

slug: nickname for the heavy $50 gold pieces issued privately and officially following the Gold Rush in California.

small cent: as opposed to the Large Cent, these are the smaller-sized copper One Cent pieces struck from 1856 until today.

small date: the opposite of “large date.”  Likewise, date size is relative.

Small Eagle: the scrawny eagle design used on U.S. gold and silver coins struck from 1794 to 1798.

small letters: some coins and varieties may have Small Letters, Medium Letters, or Large Letters.

Small Motto: refers to a scarce 1864 Two Cents variety that has a small “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the obverse.

small size: a variety or type struck on a smaller diameter planchet.  Compare with: Large Size.

spark-erosion die: used to strike counterfeit coins, these dies are made by placing a steel cylinder close to an actual coin, then arcing electricity between the two to create a nearly perfect duplicate (in reverse) of the coin.

Special Mint Set: official Mint Sets issued by the U.S. government in 1965, 1966, and 1967.  The quality of the coins was better than normal Mint Set coins, but not as nice as Proof coins.

Specimen: a coin specially prepared for presentation purposes.  Specimens may or may not be Proofs.

split grade: describes a coin that is better than one grade but not quite as good as another.  Example – VF-EF (Very Fine to Extremely Fine).

splotchy toning: color on a coin that is original but mottled and unattractive.

spot: a tiny area of discoloration or corrosion on the surface of a coin.

spread: the difference between buy and sell (or Bid and Ask) offers.

St. Gaudens: last name of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the designer of the impressive $10 and $20 gold coins struck by the United States from 1907 to 1933.  The $20 versions are known as “Saints.”

Standing Liberty quarter: the U.S. Quarter Dollars struck from 1916 to 1930.

staple scratch: some types of coin holders are stapled shut.  Sometimes (rarely, I hope) a coin can be scratched by the staple as the coin is removed from the holder.

star: until the early 1900’s, small stars appeared on most American coins.  Usually thirteen in number, the stars represented the original American Colonies.

State Quarter: any of the new Quarter Dollars issued under the U.S. Mints “50 States Quartersä” Program beginning in 1999.

steel cent: the 1943 Lincoln Cents struck of zinc-coated steel as an emergency replacement for the usual bronze.

Stella: nickname for the $4 gold patterns struck in 1879 and 1880.

storecards: any token on which one or both sides contains a merchant’s advertisement.

striations: fine lines that appear on dies or planchets.  Striations are natural and should not be confused with: Hairlines.

strike: the degree to which metal flows into the recesses of the dies when a coin is struck.  The strike of a coin is usually referred to as weak, soft, bold, or full.

strip: the flattened sheet of metal from which blank planchets are punched.

struck: a coin created in a press by stamping a blank piece of metal with a pair of dies.

struck copy: a counterfeit made using dies in a press.

struck counterfeit: a fake coin that is struck using dies in a press.

successful bidder: the winner in an auction.

surface preservation: how well the surfaces of a coin have survived intact.

surface: the outer layers of metal on all sides of a coin.

switch: the substitution of one coin for another, usually in an attempt to deceive or defraud.


telemarketer: a person or company whose primary business is to sell coins over the telephone.

teletype: an electronic system that allows coin dealers to communicate and trade with each other.

tensor light: a special bulb used to grade coins.  Tensor bulbs are usually brighter than incandescent but not as blinding as halogen.

Territorial Gold: privately issued gold coins of the mid 1800’s.  See: Pioneer Gold.

Thaler: any of the silver European coins, usually the size of a U.S. Silver Dollar.  The “Th” is pronounced as “t.”  Try it out and guess where we got the word “Dollar” from!

The Numismatist: official, monthly publication of the American Numismatic Association.

Three Cents - Nickel: a small coin made of Nickel with a value of Three Cents, issued between 1865 and 1889.

Three Cents -  Silver: a teensy, tiny silver coin issued between 1851 and 1873 with a value of Three Cents.  Also known as a “Fishscale” or “Trime.”

thumbing: applying a foreign substance to the surface of a coin with your thumb, usually to cover a flaw, hairline, or small defect.

token: a small coin with no stated value.  These are usually made for commemorative or advertising purposes.

toning: the color changes that occur on coins as a result of oxidation or contamination.  Sometimes toning can be ugly; often it can be quite beautiful.  Beware of artificial toning.

Trade dollar: a special Silver Dollar made from 1873 to 1885 that was sent to Asia to compete with silver bullion coins of other countries.  Many of these have interesting chopmarks.

treasure coin: a coin found as part of buried or sunken treasure.

trial strike: a test striking of a die, usually to see how the final coin would look or to see how the mint machinery would work.

trime: nickname for the Three Cents silver pieces struck from 1851-1873

Turban Head: design type used on U.S. gold coins from 1795 to 1807.

Twenty: nickname for a U.S. $20 gold piece.

Twenty Lib: nickname for the U.S. $20 gold pieces with a head of Liberty on the front, struck from 1849 to 1907.

Two and a Half: nickname for U.S. $2.50 gold pieces.

Two Cents piece: the copper U.S. Two Cent pieces struck from 1864 to 1873.

type: any particular design or denomination.

type coin: the most common example of the type, and the most affordable.


Ultra High Relief: an extremely rare variety of the 1907 $20 St. Gaudens gold piece that has extremely high relief and wire rims.

ultra rarity: a coin of which there is only a few known.

under-bidder: the person with the second-highest bid in an auction.  Also known as the Loser.

under-grading: the grading of a coin below its true grade.  This practice is sometimes used to purchase coins below what they are really worth.

unique: one-of-a-kind.


VAM: the designation given to Morgan and Peace Dollar varieties listed by Leroy Van Allen and George Mallis.

V-Nickel: nickname for the Liberty Head Nickels struck from 1883 to 1913.

variety: changes in design elements or placement.  See: Minor Variety and Major Variety.

VDB: the initials of Victor David Brenner, designer of the Lincoln Cent.  These appear on some of the 1909 Cents, often increasing their value dramatically.

Very Fine: a grade range of 20 to 39 on a grading scale of 1 to 70.

Very Good: a grade range of 7 to 11 on a grading scale of 1 to 70.

vest pocket dealer: a person who deals in coins on a casual basis and who normally does not operate a coin shop or take tables at coin shows.

VF: abbreviation for Very Fine.

VG: abbreviation for Very Good.


Walking Liberty Half Dollar: the U.S. Half Dollars struck from 1916 to 1945.

want list: a list of the coins you need to complete your collection.

Wartime nickel: the U.S. Five Cents pieces struck from 1942 to 1945 in which silver and manganese was substituted for Nickel.

Washington Quarter Dollar: the U.S. Quarter Dollars struck from 1932 until today.

weak strike: a coin that did not receive a full impression from the dies.

wear: friction on the surface of a coin.

well struck: a coin that has complete details thanks to a crisp, bold stamp from the dies.

West Point: the official U.S. Mint at West Point, New York that struck coins from 1984 until today.

whizzing: the application of a high-speed rotating brush to the surface of a coin with the intent to create an artificial luster.

wire edge: a variety of the 1907 $20 High Relief gold coin that has a partial or full wire rim.  The other variety is the Flat Edge.

wire rim: the knife edge caused when metal squeezes between the die and the collar under extreme pressure.

with arrows: silver coins of 1853-1855 and 1873-1874 that have arrowheads on either side of the date to indicate changes in their weight.

with arrows and rays: silver Quarter Dollars and Half Dollars of 1853 that have arrowheads on either side of the date and radiating rays on the reverse to indicate changes in their weight.

With Motto: refers to the U.S. silver and gold coins struck between 1866 and 1907 that had the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” added to the design on the back.

with rays: silver Quarter Dollars and Half Dollars of 1853 that have arrowheads on either side of the date and sun rays on the reverse to indicate changes in their weight.

World Coins: any coin issued by countries other than the United States.

worn die: a die that has been used for so long that the details have begun to wear down, resulting in a coin with less than adequate details.

Wreath cent: the type of 1793 Cents with a wreath on the reverse that replaced the 1793 Chain Cent.


XF: abbreviation for Extra Fine or Extremely Fine.


year set: a collection of all denominations produced in a given year.

© 1992-2017 DC2NET™, Inc. All Rights Reserved