Glossary

Beginner's Guide
Actual Metal Weight
The amount of pure metal (generally, precious metals) in a coin
Alloy
A mixture of two or more metals
Altered Date
A coin that has had its date altered by counterfeiters to simulate a rarer date
Ask Price
The minimum price for which a precious metals dealer is willing to sell a unit (typically 1 troy oz) of gold, silver, or platinum
Assay
The process of smelting a metal, or a sample taken from a metallic product, to evaluate it for its purity
Bag Marks
Light contact marks on coins from rubbing against one another in bags from the mint
Bar
An ingot of precious metal, usually rectangular.
Bid Price
The maximum price which a precious metals dealer is willing to pay for a unit (typically 1 troy oz) of gold, silver, or platinum
Billon
A low-grade alloy of silver and another metal
Blank
A circular piece of metal that is used to strike a coin or round
Bullion
A highly pure form of gold, silver, or platinum that is used as a commodity or investment product
Blank
A circular piece of metal that is used to strike a coin or round
Bullion
A highly pure form of gold, silver, or platinum that is used as a commodity or investment product
Bullion Coin
A coin made from highly pure precious metal content, produced by a government mint for the purpose of investment
Capital Gain
An increase in the value of a capital asset (investment or real estate) that gives it a higher worth than the purchase price.
Cast Coins
Coins which are produced by pouring molten metals into a mold and then cooled. Cast coins were particularly common in the far east prior to the 20th century.
Cent
A denomination that is equal to 1/100 of a dollar.
Certified
A coin that has been professionally evaluated for its authenticity and relative state of wear
Cherrypicking
The practice by coin collectors of searching through rolls or bags of common coins for valuable coins
Circulating Coins
Coins that are primarily intended for monetary use and not as a collector's item or investment tool
Clad Coinage
Modern coins that contain no precious metals, and are instead composed of a core of base metals (usually copper, nickel, and zinc) with an outer cupronickel layer
Coin
A monetary unit that is issued by a governing authority for the settlement of debts or the transfer of value
Collar
A metal ring used to hold a planchet in place as it is being struck into a coin. The collar also impresses the edge treatment into the rim of the coin.
Commemorative
A coin that is produced to honor a particular event, person, or organization
Commodity
A basic good used in commerce, often a raw material.
Contact Marks
Abrasions to a coin's surface
Countermark
A marking placed on a coin after circulation indicating it is authentic (i.e. contains precious metals)
Crackout
A coin that has been removed from its protective holder after being certified
Crown
22-karat (91.67% pure) gold, standardized by the British
Cud
Raised metal around the rim of a coin resulting from a broken die
Cupronickel
A copper-nickel alloy used to clad most modern circulating coinage
Designer
The artist who creates a coin design
Die
A mold which is used to impress an image onto either side of a blank planchet, creating a coin.
Die Crack
A defect imparted on a coin by a broken die, appearing as a raised line
Die Defect
Flaws on a coin resulting from a damaged die
Die Variety
A coin featuring minor alterations from the standard issue
Dipped
A coin that has been given a fresh layer of surface metal to hide contact marks and simulate Mint luster
Doubled Die
A coin produced from a die with two misaligned impressions, resulting in doubled devices; the die used to make such a coin
Double Eagle
A U.S. gold coin with a denomination of $20, produced between 1850-1933
Doubloon
Refers to Spanish gold coins found across the Atlantic world into the mid-19th century
Eagle
A U.S. gold coin with a denomination of $10, produced between 1795-1933
Edge
The surface area of a coin between the obverse and reverse
Electrotype
A replica or reproduction of a coin created using an electrodeposition process
Electrum
A naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver with approximately equal proportions of the two metals; used to make the first coins in Lydia around the 7th century B.C.E.
Encapsulated
A slabbed coin; see Slab
Engraver
The artist, often a sculptor, who creates the die used to produce a coin design
Error
A coin that was improperly struck or resulted from mistakes at the mint
Exergue
The portion of a coin’s design beneath the principal image, usually containing the date
Exonumia
Any money-like items (tokens, medallions) that are not legal tender
Face Value
The legal tender value that a coin or banknote is redeemable for
Field
The flat portion of a coin's surface
Filler
A coin that is not a particularly high grade, but is rare enough to “fill in” a collection
Filler
A coin that is not a particularly high grade, but is rare enough to “fill in” a collection
Fineness
The concentration of the precious metals found within a coin or bar
Flan
See Blank
Gem
An exceptionally high grade coin, usually MS-65 and above or Proof-63 and above
Gold
A yellow metal (Atomic Number 79).
Graded
See Certified
Half Eagle
A U.S. gold coin with a denomination of $5, produced between 1795-1929
Hub
A punch that impresses a positive image into a die used in coining
Incuse
An engraving technique that creates the image by impressing details into the coin's surface as opposed to having them raised above the surface (relief)
Inscription
Any letters or numbers in a coin's design
Inflation
The progressive rise in the general prices for good and services due to a fall in the purchasing power of the local currency
Intrinsic Value
The melt value of the component metals of a coin or bar
Investment-Grade
Describes a bullion product of very high purity (usually, .995+)
Junk Silver
Common U.S. silver coins, mostly from before 1965, that are not appealing to collectors due to wear but are still valued at their fine silver content
Key Date
A date of a coin that is rare within the series, typically due to low mintage
Laureate
A crown of laurel, in the style of Ancient Greco-Roman emperors, often found in coin designs
Legal Tender
Currency; redeemable for commercial transactions and satisfying debts
Legend
The principal inscription on one side of a coin
Lettered Edge
The decorative lettering along the edge of a coin
Liquidity
How easily an asset can be exchanged for equity
Luster
A bright, reflective (shiny) appearance.
Medal
An object made of metal that resembles a coin. Often medals are made or given to recognize a person, place, or occasion.
Melt Value
The value of the metal content of a precious metal object, regardless of workmanship or rarity. The raw value of an object if it were melted down. Metal value is usually only calculated on the precious metal content of an item. For example, the melt value of a sterling silver coin only takes into account the 92.5% silver content of the coin, and ignores the 7.5% copper content.
Milled Edge
The raised rim around the perimeter of a coin’s surface
Mintage
The total number of a coin type produced by a minting facility in a given amount of time, usually per year
Mint Error
A defective coin that reaches circulation with a flaw that occurred during the minting process
Mintmark
A small letter engraved on a coin that designates the location where the coin was produced
Mint Set
A set of all the different coin denominations produced by a mint for a given year, often sold directly to collectors
Mint State
A coin that has no discernible wear to any portion of its design, abbreviated MS
Monogram
An artist, engraver, or designer's identifying mark placed on a coin
Motto
A phrase, usually a national slogan, inscribed on a coin
Mule
A coin resulting from mismatched obverse and reverse dies from two different coin designs (i.e. a coin with a Washington quarter obverse with a Sacagawea dollar reverse)
NGC
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, an industry-leading third-party coin grading and certification service
Numismatics
The study and collection of coins and paper money
Numismatic Premium
The value of a coin above its intrinsic value
Obverse
The side of a coin that is considered the “heads” or front side; the opposite of the reverse
Overstrike
Impressions on a coin that has been previously struck
Palladium
A silvery white metal of the platinum group (Atomic Number 46).
Patina
A thin layer of coating that forms on the surface of coins over time, imparting color and tone
Pattern
A prototype coin used in the making of dies that may be used to mass produce coins of the same design
PCGS
Professional Coin Grading Service, an industry-leading third-party coin grading and certification service
Pedigree
The history of a coin's previous ownership or origination; if noteworthy, it often adds to the value of a rare coin
Planchet
See Blank
Platinum
A grayish white metal of the platinum group (Atomic Number 78).
Platinum Group
A group of six metals (ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum) that have similar physical and chemical properties and tend to co-occur in the same mineral deposits.
Portfolio
An individual's total and current collection of assets that have accrued through investment.
Pre-1933 Gold
U.S. gold coins produced before 1933, when gold specie in the country was removed from circulation
Precious Metal
A metal that is considered highly rare and valuable (i.e. gold, silver, platinum)
Premium
The markup above the spot price for a coin or bullion product that represents the costs of manufacture and distribution.
Proof
Coins that are specially produced for collectors and are not intended for circulation
Proof Set
A set of coins, in Proof finish, that includes all the denominations released during that year. Typically offered each year from a national mint.
Purity
See Fineness
Quarter Eagle
A U.S. gold coin with a denomination of $2.50, produced between 1796-1929
Raw
A coin that has not been professionally graded
Reeded Edge
The serrations along the edge of a coin
Relief
The raised details of a coin's design above its field or background
Reverse
The “tails” or back side of a coin; the opposite of the obverse. The back side of a coin, often times referred to as the “tails” side of a coin
Restrike
A coin struck at a later date than indicated on the coin
Rim
The perimeter of a coin that rises above its field or background
Round
A circular piece of gold or silver bullion that is not a legal tender coin; sometimes, a medal
Semi-numismatic
A bullion coin that has a value that rises substantially above its intrinsic value
Series
A set of related coins that are released at regular time intervals
Silver
A white metal (Atomic Number 47).
Slab
The protective, hard plastic holder in which a certified coin is encapsulated
Spot Price
The current market price at a given time and place for a commodity
Spread
The difference between a dealer's Bid and Ask prices
Strike
The action of a die coming into contact with a planchet that produces the design of a coin; sometimes, the quality of this process (i.e. “a coin with a weak strike”)
Token
A coin-like object with no monetary value outside of its intended use (i.e. bus token)
Toning
The presence of coloration or darkening on a coin's surface
Trade Dollar
Coins struck by the US Mint during the latter half of the the 19th century for use in international transactions.
Truncation
The abrupt cut-off of a bust at the bottom of the neck
Type
A distinct coin design shared across a specific denomination (i.e. Lincoln penny)
Type Coins
Coins which are representative of a Type (i.e. Washington quarter)
Uncirculated
See Mint State
Unique
A one-of-a-kind coin
Variety
A version of a coin that differs slightly in design from the standard issue
Wheaties
Colloquial term for Wheat pennies—Lincoln cents with wheat ears in the reverse design, produced between 1909-1958
Whizzed
See Dipped