Coin Glossary: Most Important Coin Collecting Definitions
There are key terms you should know if you want to be successful in buying, selling, and collecting coins. Here are the 20 most important:
Bullion – Of or relating to precious metals such as silver, gold, platinum, and palladium. A “bullion” coin is one that is primarily sold based on its precious-metal value as opposed to its value as a collectible coin.
Circulated – A reference to a coin that has seen wear, usually resulting in the loss of surface details and original luster.
Cherrypicking – Something done by collectors who are knowledgeable about obscure, unusual attributes on a coin that may go unnoticed by someone selling it; successful cherrypickers know what to look for and often buy coins that are significantly more valuable than the prices for which they are being sold.
Dealer – A person who engages in the business of buying and selling coins; a dealer may be a full-time professional with a physical or online store or someone who buys and sells coins on a formal but part-time basis.
Die – A steel device with a (usually) incused design that strikes a blank coin (or planchet), imparting the image upon the coin.
Error – A coin that carries a mistake caused by a mishap either with the creation of the individual blank (or planchet) or upon being struck on the press. Examples of error coins are off-center strikes, clipped planchets, and double strikes.
Grading – The practice of evaluating a coin’s state of preservation based on the amount of wear it exhibits.
Junk silver – Circulated, common-date silver coins that are worth little to nothing over their intrinsic bullion value; such pieces are favored by silver investors who want to purchase bullion in monetized coin form.
Mintmark – A letter or symbol on a coin indicating which mint struck it; the lack of a mintmark can itself serve as a tool for identifying where a coin was minted (e.g. for most Lincoln cents, the absence of a mintmark under its date means it was struck at the Philadelphia Mint).
Numismatics – Relating to the study or collecting of coins or other forms of money; the term “numismatist” refers to someone who engages in those activities.
Obverse – The “heads side” or “front” of a coin.
Planchet – A blank piece of metal from which a coin is struck; in technical circles, a “blank” becomes a planchet after the piece of metal has been prepared for striking, usually by way of “upsetting” – forming a lip of metal around the perimeter of the coin where the rim will eventually be struck.
Pre-‘33 gold – A marketplace reference to United States gold coins that were struck for circulation prior to 1933, the year the U.S. government stopped producing coinage for this purpose.
Pre-’65 silver – This term refers to all U.S. silver coins struck before 1965, which is the year the U.S. government began debasing circulating coinage. It should be noted that while circulating 90% silver coinage ended in 1965, the U.S. Mint continued striking 40% silver half dollars through 1970. The U.S. Mint continues making silver coins today, though these are not distributed into circulation. Some collectors will encounter the term “pre-’64 silver,” though this jargon is a misnomer as the U.S. Mint struck billions of silver coins dated 1964.
Proof – A type of coin made with highly polished planchets and intentionally struck multiple times by specially prepared dies on high-tonnage presses to ensure that even minute details are fully struck; proof is a method of manufacture and not a grade.
Reverse – The “tails side” or “back” of a coin.
Spot price – The current monetary value of precious metal in a coin.
Third-party grading – Third-party grading refers to independent companies that grade coins; today, third-party grading firms authenticate and grade a coin before encapsulating it within a tamper-evident holder for added security.
Uncirculated – A grade that describes coins bearing no evidence of circulation-derived surface wear.
Variety – An intentional or unintentional alteration to the design of a coin as rendered into the die and translated onto struck coins, distinguishing them from typical examples.
Learn more about numismatics and the hobby of coin collecting from the experts at Gainesville Coins: