Like any specialized hobby or discipline, the field of coin collecting has a setof vocabulary all its own. For new collectors, all these special terms can be abit daunting. But with a few basics, anyone can be well on the way to enjoying coincollection. Below is a glossary of frequently used coin collecting terms.

Types of coins

Despite the seemingly endless number of coins available to collectors, all coinsfall into one of three broad categories.

  • Business Strike Coins: These are coins that are minted to be used as currency.Because they are circulated, business strike coins are usually made from metal alloys.Although these alloys are more resistant to wear, business strike coins usuallyappear quite worn after only a few years.

  • Commemoratives: Designed and produced entirely for collection, commemorative coinsare generally highly detailed and artistic. Commemorative coins are usually mintedfrom precious metals, so they are popular not only among numismatists, but alsoinvestors.

  • Error Coins: These coins contain errors or flaws from the minting process. Errorcoins can occur in either business strike or commemorative coins. The relative rarityof error coins can make them extremely valuable to collectors.

  • Proof Coins: Similar in design to business strikes, these coins are struck multipletimes during the minting process, and usually at slower speeds with a higher strikingpressure, which produces a very sharp and detailed mirror-like look.

The Parts of a Coin

Collectors use special names to describe the different parts of a coin. This vocabularymakes it possible for people worldwide to discuss coins using the same terminology.

  • Obverse: This is considered the “front” side of the coin. It is the side that hasthe name of the country on it. In many countries, the obverse also features a bustof a government leader.

  • Reverse: This is the “back” of the coin. For commemorative coins, the specialdesign is generally on the reverse side.

  • Rim: The narrow raised edge that runs around both faces of the coin, the rim makesstacking coins easier and protects the design from wear.

  • Inscription: The writing on a coin that includes important information like countryof origin, denomination, and mint location. Sometimes also called a legend, an inscriptionmight also include a motto.

  • Relief: Any area that is raised with part of a coin’s design is part of its relief.In contrast, the flat areas, without design, are known as fields. Some coins arespecially minted in Ultra High Relief, for added dimension and detail.

Factors That Influence A Coin’s Price

Two primary factors influence the price of coins: grade and rarity. Although somecollectors confuse the two, they are independent of one another.

  • Grade: A coin’s grade is based on its condition. The higher a coin’s grade, themore it will be worth. Coins are graded from Poor (no visible details except thedate and lettering) to Proof (nearly flawless). Sometimes also called “Mint State,”Proof coins have fine details and no wear.

Find out more about a coin's grade by following the link.

  • Rarity: When fewer coins are minted, each coin becomes more valuable, simply becausethe coin is scarcer. Coins that are more difficult to find, or that were mintedin limited numbers generally fetch a higher price from collectors.

The shared terminology of coin collecting allows gold and silver coin collectors to communicate about theirhobby with people all over the world. With a little practice, new collectors canmaster the vocabulary of this challenging and rewarding discipline.

This information is provided for general reference purposes and does not constituteprofessional advice. For detailed coin collecting or investing information, pleaseconsult with a professional expert.

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