Coin

Like all collectibles, the rare coin market has its own terms and slang. The following is a brief definition and explanation of the most frequently used coin collecting terms.

NOTE:This is a work in progress and we would love to hear your comments and suggestions. Send your thoughts to [email protected].

Lingo for "A"

 
About Good
The grade AG-3. The grade of a coin that falls short of Good. Only the main features of the coin are present in this grade. Peripheral lettering, date, stars, etc. sometimes are partially worn away.
About Uncirculated
The grades AU50, 53, 55, and 58. A coin that on first glance appears Uncirculated but upon closer inspection has slight friction or rub.
abrasions
Area(s) of a coin where a foreign object or another coin has displaced metal in an abraded fashion. Similar to a bag mark but usually on the high points or open fields and not as deep or acute as the former.
accumulation
A miscellaneous grouping of coins, often as a monetary hoard. Opposite of a coin collection. A second use is as a grouping of a particular date, type, or series. (Example: an accumulation–of Bust Halves.)
adjustment marks
Pre-striking file marks seen mainly on gold and silver coins prior to 1840. These removed excess metal from overweight planchets. After 1840 these are seldom seen as the filing was on the rim and was usually obliterated by the striking process.
AG-3
This is for "About Good" (the grade) and "3" (the corresponding numerical designation). Most of the lettering on the coin is readable, but there is moderately heavy wear into the rims. This grade is frequently found on Barber coins where the obverse is fully Good (or better) but the reverse is heavily worn.
AGW (Actual Gold Weight)
This refers to the amount of pure gold in a coin, medal or bar. Any alloys are part of the gross weight of a gold coin, but not part of the AGW.
album friction
Similar to album slide marks, though the friction may be only slight rubbing on the high points.
album slide marks
Lines, usually parallel, imparted to the surface of a coin by the plastic “slide” of an album.
alloy
A combination of two or more metals.
Almost Uncirculated
Alternate of About Uncirculated.
alteration
A coin that has a date, mint mark, or other feature that has been changed, added, or removed, usually to simulate a rarer issue.
American Eagle
In 1986, the U.S. Mint began selling silver bullion coins in the denomination of $1. The next year, they added a series of gold coins to the series, eventually expanding to 1/10, ¼, ½, and 1 ounce gold versions. Each coin features a family of eagles on the reverse, hence the name.
American Numismatic Association
A non-profit numismatic organization founded in 1888 for the advancement of numismatics.
ANA
Short for “American Numismatic Association.”
ANACS – (American Numismatic Association Certification Service)
Originally, only authentication was offered, grading was added later. The grading service and acronym were sold by the ANA and now operate under this name as a third party grading service.
ANACS certificate
A uniquely numbered opinion of authenticity and/or grade from the ANA Certification Service. The ANA now only authenticates, having sold the name and grading service.
ancients
General term for coins of the world struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 450 A.D.
annealing
The heating of a die or planchet to soften the metal before preparation of the die or striking of the coin.
ANS
Short for "American Numismatic Society."
anvil die
The lower die, usually the reverse – although on some issues with striking problems, the obverse was employed as the lower die. Because of the physics of minting, the fixed lower-die impression is slightly better struck than the upper-die impression.
arrows
Design element usually found in the left (viewer’s right) claw of the eagle seen on many United States coins. After 1807, there usually were three arrows while prior to that time the bundle consisted of numerous ones.
arrows and rays
Term referring to the quarters and half dollars of 1853. The rays were removed in 1854 because of striking 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
Coloring added to the surface of a coin by chemicals and/or heat. Many different methods have been employed over the years.
ask
The selling quotation of a coin either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium.
assay
To analyze and determine the purity of a metallic alloy.
attributes
The elements that make up a coin’s grade. The main ones are marks (hairlines for Proofs), luster, strike, and eye appeal.
AU-50
This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "50" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-50." This is the lowest of the four AU grades, with the others being AU53, AU55, and AU58. Between 50% and 100% of the surfaces will exhibit luster disturbances, and perhaps the only luster still in evidence will be in the protected areas. The high points of the coin will have wear that is easily visible to the naked eye.
AU-53
This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "53" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-53." There is obvious wear on the high points with light friction covering 50-75% of the fields. There are noticeable luster breaks, with most of the luster still intact in the protected areas.
AU-55
This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "55" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-55." There is slight wear on the high points with minor friction in the fields. Luster can range from almost nonexistent to virtually full, but it will be missing from the high points. The grade of "Choice AU" equates to AU55.
AU-58
This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "58" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-58." There is the slightest wear on the high points, even though it may be necessary to tilt the coin towards the light source to see the friction. In many cases the reverse of an AU58 coin will be fully Mint State. Less than 10% of the surface area will show luster breaks. The grade of "Borderline Unc" equates to AU58.
auction
An offering of coins for sale where the buyer must bid against other potential buyers, as opposed to ordering from a catalog, price list, or advertisement at a set price.
authentication
The process of determining the genuineness of a coin or other numismatic item.