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Numismatic Glossary

Definitions to frequently used numismatic terms and abbreviations


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Abbreviations for Coin Grades

Fr. - Fair

AG - About Good

AVG. - Average Circulated

G - Good

VG - Very Good

F or Fine - Fine

VF - Very Fine

XF - Extremely Fine

EF - Extremely Fine or Extra Fine

AU - Almost or About Uncirculated

Unc. - Uncirculated

BU or B.U. - Brilliant Uncirculated

MS - Mint State, Uncirculated coins graded from 60-70

Pr. - Proof

Cr. Unc. - Crisp Uncirculated, a new piece of paper money which has not been in circulation.

The term "choice" in front of a given condition denotes a blemish free surface.
A combination of two conditions, such as VF/XF, (using the slash mark to separate the two grades) designates that the obverse is in Very Fine and the reverse is in Extremely Fine condition.

The combination like VF-XF (using the hyphen to separate the two grades) would indicate that the coin's overall average condition is between Very Fine and Extremely Fine condition.

Additional Numismatic Abbreviations

LD or L.D. - Large date

LL or L.L. - Large letters

NAY or N.A.Y. - Not available yet

NM - None Minted

POR or P.O.R. - Price on request

SD or S.D. - Small date

SL or S.L. - Small letters

SMS - Special Mint Set

T1 and T2 - Type one and Type two - (also expressed as Type I or T1 and Type II or T2) Used to denote a variation in the design on two coins with the same design.

V.D.B. - The designers initials (Victor David Brenner) which appear on the reverse of some of the 1909 Lincoln Head cents.

Abbreviations for Metals

AE - Copper

AR - Silver

AU or AV - Gold

B - Brass

BR - Bronze

C or Cu - Copper

C-N - Copper Nickel

N or Ni - Nickel

Definitions for Frequently Used Numismatic Terms

Alloy - Coin metal that is made from two or more different metals, blended together in the molten state. Other than United States Large Cents and Half Cents, which are pure copper, all U.S. coins have been alloyed. Copper, at a 1-to-9 ratio, is the usual alloy for gold and silver. There are several reasons for not using metals in their pure state. Gold for instance is too soft and subject to wear if not alloyed with a tougher substance. Sometimes alloying is done for economic reasons or to improve the appearance of a coin. The practice of coins being alloyed goes back to ancient times.

Altered Date - An altered coin is a coin that has been tampered with in some way after leaving the Mint, generally for the purpose of increasing its value to collectors. Typical altering can be the removal of a mintmark or installation of a spurious one. Altered is sometimes used in reference to cleaned coins.

A.N.A. - American Numismatic Association. An educational, nonprofit organization, that is the largest and most active numismatic body in the world. It invites and welcomes to membership all persons who have a sincere interest in numismatics, whether they collect coins, paper money, tokens or medals, whether advanced collectors or those only generally interested in the subject.

Anglo American Coins & Tokens - The term Anglo American is applied to issues, mostly private, that were struck in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries for use in the American colonies. Some of these coins and tokens were intended primarily or exclusively for British circulation but found their way to this country.

Annealing - The process of heating up coin planchets, just prior to striking in order to make them soft and thus receive a better impression of the design. This process today is now accomplished by advanced machinery. In ancient times the mint would anneal the planchets by holding them in a pair tongs over a charcoal fire.

A.N.S. - American Numismatic Society.

Attribution - The process of assigning a coin to a certain country, era, or ruler; or even to a particular year of issue. Most coins can be attributed without difficulty, either on sight or with the help of one of the standard reference guides. When a coin is described as being "attributed to" a given country, ruler, etc., this is an expression of opinion rather than an established fact. The opinion may be from an old reference book, which has never been sustained; on the other hand, neither has it been successfully refuted.

Average Circulated - A grade used to describe a coin based on its age. For example: A 1900 Barber quarter in "Average Circulated" most likely will grade About Good, whereas a 1955 Washington quarter in "Average Circulated" most likely will be in Fine or Very Fine condition.

Bag Marks - Can be scratches or minor abrasions caused by coins knocking against each other in bags. When coins are transported in bags, it is natural for uncirculated specimens to exhibit such injuries; scarcer date coins that have escaped bag marks are invariably sold at a big premium.

Bar Cent - A token that was struck in this country shortly after the War of Independence, it is so called because it carries a series of bars on the reverse side. On the obverse of the coin is the lettering "U.S.A." in script, without any further design or date.

Barber Dime, Quarter, Half Dollar - Coins of these denominations were designed by Charles Barber, who was the chief engraver at the Mint in the late 19th century.

Basemetal - Any metal other than silver, gold of platinum.

Bath Metal - Metal made from an alloy of zinc and copper. This metal was in Britain in the 18th century for tokens and sometimes for medals.

Bid Sheet - (1) A page in an auction catalogue, that is usually perforated at the inner edge for easy removal, on which the customer can record his bids. This sheet is then mailed in or given to the auctioneer. (2) Weekly, monthly, and quarterly wholesale sheets used by coin dealers are sometimes referred to as bid sheets.

Bilingual - Referring to the inscription on a coin that is in two languages.

Billion - A very low grade silver, which contains more than 50% copper alloy. Billion has been used for coinage since very early times, usually for debased coins.

Bit - The old Mexican 8 reales silver coins, which circulated extensively in America in the 1700's and 1800's, was sometimes divided into sections. A "bit" was one eight of the coin, "two bits" was one fourth. This is how our quarter dollar came to be known as Two Bits.

Black Book - An annually revised guide to values for U.S. coins, published in a softcover format.

Blank - This is another term for planchet or flan: the circular piece of metal, of the size and weight of the finished coin, prior to its striking. Blanks are now stamped out by machine whereas in early times they were customarily cut with special shears from a cob of metal.

Booby Head - A variety of the Large Cent for the year 1839, in which the portrait of Liberty is amateurishly engraved and has a very clownish appearance.

Bourse - The term used for a gathering of coin dealers at a show or convention, generally at tables or booths, where selections from their stock are offered for examination and purchase.

Branch Mint - Any federal coining facility except the Philadelphia Mint.

Bracteate - A very thin medieval European coin with the design impressed on one side showing through to the other side.

Broadstrike - A coin of a larger than normal diameter. This is actually not an oversize planchet but a striking error. The coin is struck without the protective collar and thereby is spread, by impact, beyond its normal dimensions.

Brockage - A misstruck coin, generally one showing the normal design on one side and a mirror image design on the other side.

Broken Bank Note - Privately issued paper money of the nineteenth century. Most firms or individuals issuing such currency went "broke," therefore the term broken bank note.

Bronze - An alloy of copper, zinc, and tin with a composition of (generally) 95 % copper, 4% zin, 1% zinc. Bronze has been used for coinage since since ancient times. The exact formula has varied in different places and eras.

Bugs Bunny - A variety of Franklin half dollars, that were struck in 1955, which have a die defect resulting in the portrait of Benjamin Franklin appearing to have protruding teeth like Bugs Bunny.

Bullion - Uncoined gold or silver in the form of bars, ingots or plate.

Business Strike - A coin given only one blow from the dies, intended for normal circulation or commercial use; same as a production coin, opposite of proof.

Bust - Device including head, neck, and some part of shoulder or chest.

Cabinet Friction - Sometimes called "cabinet wear" or "cabinet rub" is wear to the higher portions of a coin's design, caused by being kept in an unlined wooden cabinet drawer over a long period of time. Wooden cabinets for coin storage were extensively used by collectors from about 1600 to the late 1800's.

Cameo - Devices in relief or embossed. Cartwheel - large coin, generally of silver dollar size or larger.

Cartwheel - A two-penny coin issued in England in 1797 by George lll, and bearing his likeness. The coin was made of copper and weighed two ounces, it was extremely thick had raised rims on both sides like a wagon wheel, and well deserved the "cartwheel" designation it received.

Cash - A copper coin of China with a square hole for stringing.

Cast Coins - Coins which are made not in the usual manner of striking with dies, but by pouring molten metal into a mold.

Cent - One one-hundredth of the standard monetary unit. Also called Centesimo in Italy, Centime in France and Switzerland, Centavo in Mexico and some Central and South American countries, and Centimo in Spain and Venezuela, etc.

Cherrypick - To recognize and buy a rarer variety which had been offered as common.

Chop Mark - Merchant's test mark (usually Chinese) punched into a coin to verify its weight.

Circulated - Released to the general public. Showing signs of wear from being passed from hand to hand.

Civil War Token - Unofficial pieces made to approximate size of current U.S. cents and pressed into circulation during the Civil War because of a scarcity of small change.

Clad Coinage - Issues of United States dimes, quarters, halves, and dollars made since 1965. Each coin has a center core, and a layer of copper-nickel or silver on both sides of the coin.

Clash Marks - Impressions of part of a device or legend of one die onto the field of the die facing it in the press. Caused by the dies striking each other at normal coining force without a planchet between them.

Cob Money - Crude irregular silver coins of Spain, Central and South America.

Coiner - The mint official in charge of stamping planchets into money.

Colonials - Generic term for coins made in or for America before the federal Mint began regular operations.

Commemorative - A coin issued to mark a special event or to honor an outstanding person.

Coppers - Generic late 18th century term for copper coins.

Counterfeit - Unauthorized imitation of a coin.

Countermark - Or sometimes called counterstamp is a stamp or mark impressed on a coin to verify its use by another government, or to indicate revaluation.

Crown - A dollar-size silver coin, specifically one of Great Britain.

Cud - Lump on a coin struck from a die which a piece has broken off.

Cull - A coin in defective condition. Used not only of coins in circulation but those withheld from release by the Mint, because of manufacturing flaws. These are sent back for remelting.

Date Set - A single example of each coin minted in a coin series.

Denarius - The standard Roman silver coin.

Designer - The artist who creates a coin's design. The engraver is the person who cuts a design into a coinage die.

Device - Principal design element.

Die - A piece of metal engraved with a design for use in stamping coins.

Die Crack - A fine raised line on a coin caused by a broken die.

Die Defect - An imperfection on a coin caused by a damaged die.

Die Variety - Any minor alteration in the basic design of a coin.

Disme - One tenth of a dollar. An early spelling of the word "dime."

Double Eagle - A United States $20.00 gold coin.

Double Struck - Said of any coin which has received two impressions from the working dies in accidentally imperfect alignment.

Double Die - A die that received one of its several blows from a hub or device punch in accidentally imperfect alignment.

Doubloon - A Spanish-American gold coin originally valued at $16.00.

Drachma - The standard Greek monetary unit. A small silver coin approximately equal to the Roman denarius.

Ducat - A popular gold coin used by several European countries. Originally an Italian coin of the twelfth century.

Eagle - A United States $10.00 gold coin.

Electrotype - A counterfeit coin made by the electroplating process.

Electrum - A natural mixture of gold and silver.

Exergue - That portion of a coin beneath the main design generally separated by an exergual line.

Field - That portion of a coin's surface not used for a design or inscription.

Fillet Head - A head on coins showing the hair tied with a band, generally on the forehead.

Fineness - The purity of gold or silver, always expressed in terms of one thousand parts.

Flan - A blank piece of metal in the size and shape of a coin. Also called planchet.

Fractional Currency - Paper money in denominations less than one dollar issues for regular circulation by the United States during and after the Civil War. Specific issues dates range from 1862 to 1875.

Gem - Applied to an Uncirculated or Proof coin, denotes "flawless" and suggest "high aesthetic quality."

Half Eagle - A United States $5.00 gold coin.

Hard Times Tokens - Pieces either of a political or advertising nature, privately made and used as money during most of Andrew Jackson's presidency (1834-1841). These were the approximate size of the then current U.S. large cent.

Hub - A specialized die used not for striking coins but for imparting designs to working dies.

Incuse - The design of a coin which has been impressed below the coin's surface. When the design is raised above the coins surface it is said to be in relief.

Inscription - The legend or lettering on a coin.

Jeton - A small medal, counter, or token.

Laureate - Head crowned with laurel wreath.

Legend - The principal inscription on a coin.

Lettered Edge - The narrow edge of a coin bearing an inscription, found on some foreign and older United States coins.

Maundy Money - Small English silver coins specially struck for distribution by the reigning monarch on Holy Thursday.

Micro - Very small or microscopic.

Milled Edge - A raised rim around the outer surface of a coin. Not to be confused with the reeded or serrated narrow edge of the coin.

Mint Error - A mis-struck or defective coin produced by a mint.

Mint Luster - The "frost" on the surface of an Uncirculated or "Mint State" coin.

Mint Set - Group of Uncirculated coins of one date, as sold by the mint in the year of issue.

Mint State - Same as Uncirculated. A coin free of any trace of wear.

Mintage - The process of striking coins. Quantity coined.

Mintmark - A symbol, usually a small letter, used to indicate at which mint a coin was struck.

Listing of Mint Marks

(P or No Mint Mark ) Philadelphia, 1793 to date---circulating coinage, most pre-1968 proof strikes, Silver American Eagles, Uncirculated and Proof Modern Commemoratives.

(D) Denver, 1906 to date---circulating coinage, Modern Commemoratives.

(S) San Francisco, 1854---proof strikes and Modern Commemoratives..

(W) West Point, 1984 to date---Bullion issues and Modern Commemoratives..

Past U.S. Mints include:

(C) Charlotte, North Carolina, 1838 to 1861---gold coins.

(CC) Carson City, Nevada 1870 to 1893.

(D) Dahlonega, Georgia, 1838 to 1861---gold coins.

(O) New Orleans, Louisiana, 1838 to 1909.

Moneyer - An authorized mint master or coiner.

Motto - An inspirational word or phrase used on a coin.

Mule - A coin struck from dies not originally intended to be used together.

Noltgeld - Emergency money, including coins and paper. Usually, that issued by Germany during the World War I inflationary period.

Obverse - The front or face side of a coin, generally the side with the date and the principal design.

Off Center - Said of a coin only partly resting within the coining chamber at striking.

Overdate - A date made by superimposing one more numbers on a previously dated die.

Overmintmark - Variety in which a Mintmark is overpunched in the die with a different one.

Overstrike - An impression made with new dies on a previously struck coin.

Patina - A green or brown surface film found on ancient copper and bronze coins caused by oxidation over a long period of time.

Pattern - An experimental or trial coin, generally of a newer design, denomination or metal.

Piece of Eight - Spanish-American silver dollar-size coin used extensively in trade throughout the world during the seventeenth and eighteen centuries. The forerunner of the American silver dollar.

Planchet - The blank piece of metal on which a coin design is stamped.

Prooflike - An exceptional production coin, struck from brilliantly polished dies on a blank which may or may not also have been polished before striking.

Proofs - Coins struck for collectors using specially polished dies.

Proof Set - Group of proof coins of one date, as sold by the mint in the year of issue.

Quarter Eagle - A United States two and a half dollar gold coin.

Rare - Said of a coin of which only a limited number exist in collectors' hands.

Reeded Edge - The edge of a coin with grooved lines that run vertically around its perimeter. The edge found on all modern United States silver coins.

Relief - Any part of a coin's design that is raised above the coin's surface is said to be in relief. The opposite of relief is incuse.

Restrike - A coin struck from a genuine die at a date later than the original issue.

Reverse - The side of a coin carrying the design of lesser importance. Opposite of the obverse side.

Scarce - In short supply, but with more survivors accessible than of a coin labeled rare.

Rim - The raised portion of a coin which protects the design from wear.

Script - Paper money other than regular government currency.

Siege Pieces - Emergency coins struck during battle, also called obsidional coins or money of necessity.

Series - One coin of each year issued from each mint of a specific design and denomination, e.g. Morgan dollars from 1878-1921.

Shinplaster - Slang term for early United States paper money and fractional currency.

Slider - Current slang for a coin objectively Extremely Fine or About Uncirculated but salable as Mint State, particularly after cleaning and possibly recoloring.

Special Mint Sets - Substitute for proof sets, minted 1965-67.

Token - A privately issued piece with an exchange value, but not an official government coin.

Trade Dollar - Silver dollar issued especially for trade with a foreign country. In the United States, trade dollars were first issued in 1873 to stimulate trade with the Orient. Other countries have also issued trade dollars.

Truncation - The sharply cut off bottom edge of a bust.

Type - A coin's basic distinguishing design.

Uncirculated - A Mint State coin free of any trace of wear.

Unique - An item of which one specimen only is known to exist.

Variety - Any coin recognizably different in dies from another of the same design, type, date and mint.

Wartime Silver - Coinage metal for 5¢ pieces, October 1942 to December 1945, consisting of 35% silver, 56% copper, 9% manganese.

Whizzing - Giving a coin a false surface fraudulently simulating mint bloom, generally by wire brush or the like.

Year Set - A coin of each demonination issued in a year. Example: Cent, Nickel, Dime, Quarter and Half Dollar all 1990.






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