Glossary of Numismatic Terms

Definitions of words and terms related to coins, medals, bullion and notes.



- Light rubbing or scuffing from friction. Not the same as hairlines or bag marks.

Adjustment Marks

- Small striations or file marks found on early United States coins. Caused during planchet preparation (before striking) by drawing a file across the coins to remove excess metal so as to reduce the planchet to its proper weight. The result is a series of parallel grooves.


- A combination of two or more metals.


- The tampering with a feature of a coin's surface such as the date. mint mark, etc. to give it the appearance of being another date, mint mark or variety. An illegal practice.

Altered Date

- A false date on a coin-a date altered to make a coin appear to be one of a rarer or more valuable issue.


Bag Mark

- A surface mark, usually in the form of a nick, acquired by a coin when it came in contact with others in a mint bag. Bag marks are most common on large and heavy silver and gold coins.


- Minor nicks, marks, flaws or spots of discoloration that mar the surface of a coin.


- A mis-struck coin, generally one showing the normal design on one side and an incuse mirror image of this design on the other side.


- An alloy of copper, zinc, and tin.


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

Business Strike

- A coin intended for circulation in the channels of commerce (as opposed to a proof coin specifically struck for collectors).


- An adjective used to describe an especially select specimen of a given grade. Thus, Choice EF-45 represents an especially select Extremely Fine coin (normal or typical Extremely Fine being EF-40).


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.

Clash Marks

- Impressions of the reverse design on the obverse of a coin or the obverse design on the reverse of a coin due to die damage caused when the striking dies impacted each other with great force and without an intervening planchet.


- Refers to removing dirt or otherwise altering the appearance of a coin through the use of chemical or abrasive materials that damage or scratch the surface in a detectable fashion. Cleaning is different than whizzing or mechanical alteration of the surface. A gentle cleaning in water or solvent that leaves no marks or residue is usually not considered harmful. Cleaning by either mechanical or chemical means that are detectable will generally result in lowering the grade and value of a coin.


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


- A design, group of letters, or other mark stamped on 1 coin for special identification or advertising purposes. Counterstamped coins are graded the way regular (uncounterstamped) coins are, but the nature and condition of the counterstamp must also be described.


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


- Small features and fine lines in a coin design. Particularly those seen in hair, leaves, wreaths and feathers.


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

Die Defect

- An imperfection in a coin caused by a defective die.

Die Variety

- A variation of a design attributed to a particular die. For example, among United States cents of 1793 over a dozen different dies were used, all hand-cut, and each a different die variety.


- Refers to removing tarnish, surface dirt or changing the coloration of a coin by applying chemicals, or otherwise artificially treating it with liquids.



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

Double Eagle

- A United States $20.00 gold coin.



- A United States $10.00 gold coin. Name also applied to gold bullion coins.


- A counterfeit coin made by the electroplating process.


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



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

Fillet Head

- The head of Liberty oil United States coins with hair tied with a band, generally on the forehead.


- Purity of gold or silver, normally expressed in terms of one thousand parts.

First Strike

- An unofficial term referring to a coin struck shortly after a new die is put into use. Such coins often have prooffike surfaces and resemble proof, in certain (but not all) characteristics. Resurfaced previously-used dies sometimes also have these characteristics.


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


- Minute oxidation spots often seen on the surfaces of coins, particularly higher grade copper and nickel coins. caused by exposure to small drops of moisture.



- The condition or amount of wear that a coin has received. Generally, the less wear a coin has received, the more valuable it is. In this reference, coins are graded on the ANA numerical system from About Good-3 to Perfect Uncirculated-70.



- A series of minute lines or scratches, usually visible in the field of a coin, caused by cleaning or polishing.

Half Eagle

- A United States $5.00 gold coin.

High Points

- Areas of highest relief in a coin design. The first small parts to show evidence of wear or abrasion, and also the last areas to strike up fully.


Impaired Proof

- A proof which has been damaged either by careless handling or circulation.


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


- The legend or lettering on a coin.



- The principal inscription on a coin.

Lettered Edge

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


- Small incuse or incised marks on the surface of a Proof or Uncirculated coin caused by stray hairs, threads, and the like adhering to the die after it was wiped with an oil rag.


- The glossy mint bloom on the surface of an Uncirculated coin. Although normally brilliant, with time luster may become dull, frosty, spotted or discolored.


Matte Proof

- A special type of' proof finish used at the Philadelphia Mint prior to World War 1, This method was first employed by the Paris Mint and was later adopted for a limited time during the 1908-1916 years for certain (but not all) issues by the Philadelphia Mint. The surface is prepared by a special process which gives it a grainy appearance.


- Very small or microscopic.

Milled Edge

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

Mint Error

- A misstruck or defective coin produced by a mint.

Mint Luster

- The "frost" on the surface of a Mint State or nearly Mint State coin. Caused by a series of microscopic lines formed during the striking process

Mint Mark

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


- A minor alteration in the basic design of a coin.


- A word or phrase used on a coin.


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



- A small mark on a coin caused by another coin bumping against it or by contact with a rough or sharp object.


- A student or collector of coins, medals or related items.



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


- The date made by superimposing one or more different numbers on a previously dated die.


- Giving a coin a higher grading description than it merits.


- An impression made with different dies on a previously struck coin


- The formation of oxides or tarnish on the surface of a coin from exposure to air, dampness, industrial fumes, or other elements.



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


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


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


- A term describing the mistreatment of a coin by wire brushing, acid dipping, or otherwise abrading or eroding the surface in an effort to make it appear in a higher grade than it actually is. Processed coins must be specifically described as such.


- Coins struck for collectors and using specially polished or otherwise prepared dies.


- Describes an Uncirculated coin with a mirrorlike reflective surface but lacking the full characteristics of a proof.


Quarter Eagle

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


Reeded Edge

- The edge of a coin with grooved lines that run vertically around its perimeter. The edge found on all current United States coins other than cents and nickels.


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


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


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

Ribs or Ribbing

- The fine vein lines on the surface of a leaf.


- The raised portion of a coin encircling the obverse and reverse which protects the designs of the coin from wear.

Roman Finish Proof

- A special finish on proof coins minted at Philadelphia 1909-1910


Sandblast Proof

- Special type of proof coin produced at the Philadelphia Mint for certain issues circa 1908-I915. Made by blowing fine particles of sand against the coin's surface. Similar in appearance to a matte proof (see Matte Proof).


- A deep line or groove in a coin caused by contact with a sharp or rough object.


- One coin of each year issued from each mint of a specific design and denomination, e.g., Buffalo Nickels 1913-1938.


- Thin, light raised lines on the surface of a coin, caused by excessive polishing of the die.


- Refers to the process by which a coin is minted. Also refers to the sharpness of design details. A sharp strike or strong strike is one with all of the details struck very sharply; a weak strike has the details lightly impressed at the time of coining.



- Natural patination or discoloration of a coin's surface caused by the atmosphere over a long period of time. Toning is often very attractive, and many collectors prefer coins with this feature.


- The sharply cut off bottom edge of a bust.


- A coin's basic distinguishing design.



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



- A minor change from the basic type design of a coin.


Weak Strike

- A coin with certain of its details (in the areas of high relief) not fully formed because of the hardness of alloy, insufficient striking pressure or improper die spacing.


- The abrasion of metal from a coin's surface caused by normal handling and circulation.


- The alteration of a coin's appearance by use of a rotating bristled (wire or other material) brush to move or remove metal from the surface. This process generally gives a coin the artificial appearance of being in a higher grade than it actually is. Areas of a whizzed coin usually show a series of minute scratches or surface disruptions simulating artificial luster, and the buildup of metal ridges on raised letters or other design features.

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