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].
A generic term for the cloth sacks in which coin are stored and transported. These came into use in the mid-nineteenth century and replaced wooden kegs for this purpose.
A generic term applied to a mark on a coin from another coin; it may, or may not, have been incurred in a bag.
Coloring acquired from the bag in which a coin was stored. The cloth bags in which coins were transported contained sulfur and other reactive chemicals. When stored in such bags for extended periods, the coins near and in contact with the cloth often acquired beautiful red, blue, yellow and other vibrant colors. Sometimes the pattern of the cloth is visible in the toning; other times, coins have crescent-shaped toning because another coin was covering part of the surface, preventing toning. Bag toning is seen mainly on Morgan silver dollars, though occasionally on other series.
Rolls of coins that were wrapped at a Federal Reserve Bank from original Mint bags. Such rolls are often desirable to collectors because they have not been searched or "picked" by collectors or dealers. Sometimes abbreviated as OBW, for "original bank wrapped."
Common name for the Charles Barber designed Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and half dollars struck from 1892 until 1916 (1915 for the half dollar).
The condition of a coin that is identifiable only as to date mint mark (if present), and type; one-year-type coins may not have a date visible.
The value base from which Dr. William H. Sheldon's 70-point grade/price system started; this lowest-grade price was one dollar for the 1794 large cent upon which he based his system.
baseball cap coin
Slang for a Pan-Pac commemorative gold dollar coin. The figure wears a cap similar to a baseball cap.
The process of polishing a die to impart a mirrored surface or to remove clash marks or other injuries from the die.
Small, round devices around the edge of a coin, often seen on early U.S. coins. These were replaced by dentils.
Term sometimes applied to California fractional gold coins as encompassed in the Breen-Gillio reference work titled California Pioneer Fraction Gold, including additional discoveries.
The buying quotation of a coin either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium.
Either the dealer issuing a quotation on one of the electronic trading systems or a participant in an auction.
The number assigned by auction houses to the various participants in their auction. In the past, codes or nom de plumes were also commonplace at sales.
The flat disk of metal before it is struck by the dies and made into a coin.
A term applied to an element of a coin (design, date, lettering, etc.) that is worn into another element or the surrounding field.
A blue-cover, wholesale pricing book for United States coins issued on a yearly basis.
Slang for the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter.
The designation BM refers to "Branch Mint," meaning any US Mint other than Philadelphia. You will usually find this designation used to describe Branch Mint Proof coins, such as the 1879-O BM Proof Morgan dollar, 1893-CC BM Proof Morgan dollar, etc.
Short for Brown
Slang term for a coin returned from a grading service in a plastic sleeve within a flip. The coin referred to is a no-grade example and was not graded or encapsulated. Coins are no-grades for a number of reasons, such as questionable authenticity, cleaning, polishing, damage, repair, and so on.
Term synonymous with coin show
The physical area where a coin show takes place
Slang name for a young coin dealer who bursts upon the numismatic scene and quickly becomes a top flight dealer.
Style of hair on half cents and large cents from 1840 onward consisting of hair pull back into a tight bun with a braided hair cord.
One of the various subsidiary government facilities that struck, or still strikes, coins.
The central feathers seen on numerous eagle designs. Fully struck coins usually command a premium and the breast feathers are usually the highest point of the reverse. (They are the most deeply recessed area of the die, so metal sometimes does not completely fill the breast feather area, usually because of insufficient striking pressure. Incorrectly spaced or lapped dies will also cause “striking” weakness.)
Slang for the late Walter Breen. Often heard in context of Breen letter, Breen said, Breen wrote, and so on. A controversial personal life has dimmed the impact Breen had on numismatics.
Slang for Walter Breen’s magnum opus, Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, published in 1988.
A document, usually one page, written or typed by Walter Breen giving his opinion on a particular numismatic item. Before certification, this was the usual method employed by collectors and dealers desiring to sell an esoteric item such as a branch-mint Proof, early Proof, and so on.
Numbering system base on the book on California fraction gold coins by Walter Breen and Ron Gillio titled California Pioneer Fraction Gold.
A coin with full luster, unimpeded by toning, or impeded only by extremely light toning.
A generic term applied to any coin that has not been in circulation. It often is applied to coins with little "brilliance" left, which properly should be described as simply Uncirculated.
A brockage is a Mint error, an early capped die impression where a sharp incused image has been left on the next coin fed into the coining chamber. Most brockages are partial; full brockages are rare and the most desirable form of the error.
An alloy of copper, tin and zinc, with copper the principal metal.
The term applied to a copper coin that no longer has the red color of copper. There are many "shades" of brown color – mahogany, chocolate, etc. (abbreviated as BN when used as part of a grade).
Short for Brilliant Uncirculated.
Wrapped coins (usually in paper) in specific quantities for each denomination. Fifty for cents, forty for nickels, fifty for dimes, forty for quarters, and so on.
A die that has "warped" in some way, possibly from excess clashing, and that produces coins which are slightly "bent." This may be more apparent on one side and occasionally apparent only on one side.
Slang for the Indian Head nickel struck from 1913 to 1938. The animal depicted is an American Bison.
A die that has clashed so many times that a small indentation is formed in it. Coins struck from this die have a "bulged" area.
Slang for coins, ingots, private issue, and so on that trade below, at, or slightly above their intrinsic metal value. Only the precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, and palladium) are included as bullion. Copper cents could also technically be classed as bullion.
A legal tender coin that trades at a slight premium to it’s melt value.
This word has two distinct meanings in the world of numismatics, so you have to consider the context in order to discern the correct meaning. The word "burnished" can refer to specially prepared planchets (usually 18th century) that were used for specimen coins or other special coins of the era. These planchets were burnished at the Mint prior to the striking of the coin. As a second meaning, "burnished" can refer to any coin that was abrasively cleaned after it left the Mint, and the word is often used as a synonym for "whizzed" (the worst kind of cleaning, where the metal is actually moved around).
A process by which the surfaces of a planchet or a coin are made to shine through rubbing or polishing. This term is used in two contexts – one positive, one negative. In a positive sense, Proof planchets are burnished before they are struck – a procedure done originally by rubbing wet sand across the surfaces to impart a mirror like finish. In a negative sense, the surfaces on repaired and altered coins sometimes are burnished by various methods. In some instances, a high-speed drill with some type of wire brush attachment is used to achieve this effect.
Lines resulting from burnishing, seen mainly on open-collar Proofs and almost never found on close-collar Proofs. These lines are incuse in the fields and go under lettering and devices.
Slang for a coin that has been over-dipped to the point were the surfaces are dull and lackluster.
A regular issue coin, struck on regular planchets by dies given normal preparation. These are the coins struck for commerce that the Mint places into circulation.
The head and shoulders of the emblematic Liberty seen on many United States issues.
Slang for silver dollars struck from 1795-1803. (Those dated 1804 were first struck in 1834 for inclusion in Proof sets. Those Proofs dated 1801, 1802, and 1803 were also struck at dates later than indicated.)