Coin Glossary

Here's a list of numismatic terms that have been used frequently by coin collectors over the years. We hope that the coin knowledge we provide will help you make the best choice in selecting the coins for your collection.

 Alloy  Combination of two or more metals.
 Altered Date  False date altered on a coin to make it appear more valuable.
 Aesthetic Appeal  The artistic appeal a coin has for the viewer and it can be a combination of attractive toning or luster, attractive planchet, and other attributes.
 Arrows  Design element usually found in the left (viewer’s right) claw of the eagle seen on many United States coins.
 Arrows and Rays  Term referring to the quarters and half dollars of 1853. The rays were removed in 1854 because of difficulties presented by the busy design.
 Arrows at Date  Term referring to the arrows to the left and right of the date, added to the dies to indicate a weight increase or decrease.
 Artificial Toning  Surface coloration, oxidation, toning applied to a coin artificially using chemicals, heat or fumes.
 Attributes  Elements that make up a coin’s grade. The main ones are marks (hairlines for Proofs), luster, strike, and eye appeal.
 Authentic  As represented; genuine.
 Bag Mark  Surface mark (nick, abrasion, scuff) acquired by a coin through contact with other coins in a mint bag.
 Barber Coinage  Common name for the Charles Barber designed Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and half dollars struck from 1892 until 1916.
 Beaded Border  A circle of beads around the rim of a coin, serving as decorative or protective border.
 Billon  Low grade silver (less than 50%) mixed with another metal.
 Brilliant Proof  Coin with mirrorlike fields and brilliant surfaces.
 Bronze  Alloy of copper, zinc and tin.
 Bullion  Precious metal (gold or silver) in form of bars or plate.
 Burnished  Polished, usually with an engraving tool to remove portions of a coin’s surface, to remove scratches, initials, or other marks, sometimes leaving a depression in the coin.
 Business Strike  Refers to a coin minted for circulation and commerce; opposite of Proof.
 Cameo  The central device or portrait of a coin is frosted; coin with satin or mirror-like surface, and which is set against a field which is Proof, thus highlighting the central portrait.
 Carbon Spot  Oxidation spot or area which usually forms on the surface on a copper, bronze, or nickel coin as a result of moisture.
 Cartwheel luster  Frosty mint luster or brilliance as found on a business strike coin, which, when held at an angle to the light and turned slowly, gives a moving "cartwheel" effect.
 Cent  One one-hundredth of the standard monetary unit.
 Certified Coin  A coin examined, graded and authenticated by an independent grading service; usually encapsulated in plastic.
 Choice  Signifies that a coin is one of the better examples of its class (ex. Choice Proof).
 Circulation Strike  Uncirculated coin intended for eventual use in commerce, as opposed to a Proof coin.
 Clash Mark  Outlines and traces of designs seen in the field of a coin caused by damage occurring when two dies come together without an intervening planchet. This causes certain obverse die designs to be transferred to the reverse die, and vice versa.
 Cleaning  The process of treating a coin to remove dirt, verdigris, and sediment from the surfaces. Also, the application of a chemical or of abrasive agents to a coin to remove toning or to change the coloration or the surface.
 Clipped  A term for an irregularly cut planchet. A clip can be straight or curved, depending upon where it was cut from the strip of metal.
 Coinage  The issuance of metallic money of a particular country.
 Commemorative  Coins issued to honor some person, place, or event and, in many instances, to raise funds for activities related to the theme.
 Copper-Nickel  The alloy (88% copper, 12% nickel) used for small cents from 1856 until mid-1864.
 Coronet Head  Alternate name for Braided Hair design by Christian Gobrecht (also called Liberty Head design).
 Corrosion  Damage that results when reactive chemicals act upon metal. When toning ceases to be a "protective" coating and instead begins to damage a coin, corrosion is the cause.
 Counterfeit  False coin, imitation of a genuine piece.
 Countermark / Counterstamp  Stamp or mark impressed on a coin to verify its use by another government or to indicate revaluation.
 Cud  An area of raised metal at the rim of a coin where a portion of the die crack broke off, leaving a void in the design.
 Designer  Artist who created a coin's design.
 Die  A piece of metal engraved with a design and used for stamping coins.
 Die Crack  A fine, raised line of a coin, caused by a broken die.
 Dipped Coin  Refers to a coin that has been cleaned chemically to remove oxidation or foreign matter.
 Double Eagle  The United States twenty-dollar coin.
 Double Die  Coin struck from a die that has been given two misaligned impressions from a hub.
 Eagle  U.S. ten-dollar gold coin.
 Engraver  The person who cuts the design into a coinage die.
 Field  The background portion of a coin's surface not used for a design or inscription.
 Filler  A coin in rare condition but rare enough to be included in a collection.
 Fineness  Purity of gold, silver or other precious metals, expressed in terms of one thousand parts. 90% pure gold =.900 fine.

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