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].
Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch Mint.
Term applied to the gold coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch Mint. This Mint only struck gold coins from its opening in late 1837 until its seizure by the Confederacy. (Those coins struck in late 1837 were dated 1838.)
Short for Cameo.
Slight disturbance seen on coins (usually on the obverse) that were stored in wooden cabinets used by early collectors to house their specimens. Often a soft cloth was used to wipe away dust, causing light hairlines or friction.
Short for Cameo. Also, PCGS grading suffix used for 1950 and later Proofs that meet cameo standards.
The term applied to coins, usually Proofs and prooflike coins, that have frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the fields. When this is deep the coins are said to be “black and white” cameos. Occasionally frosty coins have “cameo” devices though they obviously do not contrast as dramatically with the fields as the cameo devices of Proofs do. Specifically applied by PCGS to those 1950 and later Proofs that meet cameo standards (CAM).
Slang for the coins and other numismatic items of the Canada.
Slang for the silver coins of Canada. (Mainly struck in 80% fineness.)
Alternate form of Capped Bust
A term describing any of the various incarnations of the head of Miss Liberty represented on early U.S. coins by a bust with a floppy cap. This design is credited to John Reich.
The term applied to an error in which a coin gets jammed in the coining press and remains for successive strikes, eventually forming a “cap” either on the upper or lower die. These are sometimes spectacular with the “cap” often many times taller than a normal coin.
A spot seen mainly on copper and gold coins, though also occasionally found on U.S. nickel coins (which are 75 percent copper) and silver coins (which are 10 percent copper). Carbon spots are brown to black spots of oxidation that range from minor to severe – some so large and far advanced that the coin is not graded because of environmental damage.
Carson City Mint
Located in Nevada, this mint produced gold and silver coins from 1870-1893. It was closed from 1885-1889 due to a lack of funding. In 1893 the mint was permanently closed due to internal corruption. In 1895 it was found that several employees and prominent community officials were stealing bullion from the mint and this dashed all hopes of the mint ever reopening. Coins minted in Carson City are among the most popular branch-mint issues. This mint uses the “CC” mintmark.
The pleasing effect seen on some coins when they are rotated in a good light source. The luster rotates around like the spokes of a wagon wheel. A term applied mainly to frosty Mint State coins, especially silver dollars, to describe their luster. Also, a slang term for a silver dollar.
Planchets made by a mold method, rather than being cut from strips of metal.
A replication of a genuine coin usually created by making molds of the obverse and reverse, then casting base metal in the molds. A seam is usually visible on the edge unless it has been ground away.
A device invented by French engineer Jean Castaing, which added the edge lettering and devices to early U.S. coins before they were struck. This machine was used until close collar dies were introduced which applied the edge device in the striking process.
A printed listing of coins for sale either by auction or private treaty. As a verb, to write the description of the numismatic items offered.
Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada branch Mint.
Term applied to coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada branch Mint.
Short for Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter
Short for Certified Coin Exchange
Short for Coin Dealer Newsletter
A compilation of the known specimens of a particular numismatic item.
A denomination valued at one-hundredth of a dollar, struck continuously by the U.S. Mint since 1793 except for 1815. (Actually, some cents dated 1816 were struck in December of 1815.)
Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter
The official name for the Bluesheet that lists bid/ask/market prices for third-party certified coins.
Certified Coin Exchange
The bid/ask coin trading and quotation system owned by the American Teleprocessing Company. Certified Assets Exchange, a Collectors Universe company.
An abbreviation for "Choice."
The popular name for the Flowing Hair Chain cent of 1793, the first coins struck in the newly occupied Mint building.
Those 1921 Morgan dollar Proofs supposedly struck for coin dealer Henry Chapman. These have cameo devices and deeply mirrored surfaces like most Morgan dollar Proofs. (George Morgan did bill Henry Chapman for 10 Proof Morgan dollars in 1921. Possibly, more coins from these dies were struck for others as there apparently more known than ten.)
Located in North Carolina, the branch Mint at Charlotte operated from 1838-1861 and was closed due to the Civil War. The Charlotte mint struck only gold coins (mostly from local, native ore), all of which bear the “C” mintmark.
A method used by forgers to create a mint mark on a coin. It involves heating the surfaces and moving the metal to form the mint mark.
One of 5,500 2000-P Sacagawea Dollars placed along with a 2000-P Lincoln Cent in boxes of Cheerios cereal to promote the new Dollar coin. Some design details on the "Cheerios" Dollars are different from later strikes, causing some experts to propose the "Cheerios" Dollar as a pattern coin.
An adjectival description applied to coin's grade, e.g., choice Uncirculated, choice Very Fine, etc. Used to describe an especially attractive example of a particular grade.
Short for Choice Uncirculated.
An Uncirculated coin grading MS-63 or MS-64.
A term applied to a coin that has wear, ranging from slight rubbing to heavy wear.
A term applied to coins that have been spent in commerce and have received wear.
An alternate term for Business Strike or Regular Strike. A coin meant for commerce.
A term used to describe any of the modern “sandwich” coins that have layers of copper and nickel. (A pure copper core surrounded by a copper-nickel alloy.) Also used for the 40-percent silver half dollars.
Usually applied to a one-thousand dollar bag of 40-percent silver half dollars although it also could apply to any bag of “sandwich” coins.
The images of the dies seen on coins struck from clashed dies. The obverse will have images from the reverse and vice versa.
Dies that have been damaged by striking each other without a planchet between them. Typically, this imparts part of the obverse image to the reverse die and vice versa.
The term describing the period from 1792 until 1964 when silver and gold coins of the United States were issued. (Gold coins, of course, were not minted after 1933.)
A depiction of Miss Liberty that recalls the “classic” look of a Roman or Greek athlete wearing a ribbon around the hair. The motif was first used on the John Reich designed large cent struck from 1808 until 1814. The next year, the half cent was changed to this design. This head was also copied by William Kneass for the quarter eagle and half eagle designs first struck in 1834.
A term applied to a coin whose original surface has been removed. The effects may be slight or severe, depending on the method used.
Slang for a coin struck from a clipped planchet.
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.
A die that has grease or some other contaminant lodged in the recessed areas. Coins struck from such a die have diminished detail, sometimes completely missing.
The edge device, sometimes called a collar die, that surrounds the lower die. Actually open and close collars are both closed collars - as opposed to segmented collars. The close collar imparts reeding or a smooth, plain edge.
Alternate form of close collar
Metal formed into a disk of standardized weight and stamped with a standard design to enable it to circulate as money authorized by a government body.
A systematic grouping of coins assembled for fun or profit.
An individual who accumulates coins in a systematic manner
Coin Dealer Newsletter
Weekly periodical, commonly called the Greysheet, listing bid and ask prices for many United States coins.
Term applied to the area resulting when coins rub together in rolls or bags and small amounts of metal are displaced.
A bourse composed of coin dealers displaying their wares for sale and trade.
– Internet site established in 1994 for the trading of numismatic items
Coin Universe 3000
An index of 3000 prices of the most important United States rare coins in the most collectible grades.
Coin Universe Daily Price Guide
A price guide available on the internet listing approximate selling prices for PCGS graded coins of nearly every United States issue in multiple grades. These prices are compiled from electronic networks, auctions, price lists, coin shows, and so on.
Coin Universe Hall of Fame
A listing of famous numismatists, past and present, available on the internet through the Coin Universe portal.
Weekly numismatic periodical established in 1960.
The issuance of metallic money of a particular country.
Monthly numismatic magazine.
Monthly numismatic periodical
A metal piece that either positions a planchet beneath the dies and/or restrains the expanding metal of a coin during striking. Collars are considered the “third” die and, today, are used to impart the edge markings to a coin. Collars can be merely a hole in a flat piece of metal or a set of segments that pull away from the coin after it is struck.
Short for “coin collection.”
An individual who amasses a systematic group of coins or other numismatic items.
Short for “commemorative.”
Coins issued to honor some person, place, or event and, in many instances, to raise funds for activities related to the theme. Sometimes called NCLT (non-circulating legal tender) commemoratives.
A grade that is usually one level higher than the market grade; refers to a coin that is "pushed" a grade, such as an EF/AU coin (corresponding to 45+) sold as AU-50.
A synonym for regular strike or business strike.
A numismatic issue that is readily available. Since this is a relative term, no firm number can be used as a cut-off point between common and scarce.
A particular issue within a series that is readily available. No exact number can be used to determine which coins are common dates as this is relative to the mintage of the series. (i.e. A 1799 eagle is a common date within its series just as an 1881-S silver dollar is a common date within the Morgan series. Obviously, the 1799 eagle is rare compared to the 1881-S dollar.)
A term for all possible coins within a series, all types, or all coins from a particular branch Mint. Examples would include a complete set of a series (The three-dollar series can have but one complete set, that being the Harry Bass Foundation set that includes the unique 1870-S. Yes, it is possible that the cornerstone coin could appear someday and change the unique status; a complete gold type set would include examples of all types from 1795 until 1933; a complete set of Charlotte Mint gold dollars must include the 1849-C Open Wreath example of which there are but four currently verified.)
The state of preservation of a particular numismatic issue.
A listing of the finest known examples of a particular issue. There is no fixed number of coins in a Condition Census with 5, 6, 10, and other totals used by different surveyors.
A term to indicate a common coin that is rare when found in high grades. Also, the rarity level at a particular grade and higher.
The process of determining the condition of a coin by using multiple graders.
Marks on a coin that are incurred through contact with another coin or a foreign object. These are generally small, compared to other types of marks such as gouges.
A coin, usually base metal, struck from crudely engraved dies and made to pass for face value at the time of its creation. Sometimes such counterfeits are collected along with the genuine coins, especially in the case of American Colonial issues.
1776 dated “dollars” struck in pewter (scarce), brass (rare), copper (extremely rare) and silver (extremely rare). Although likely struck sometime later than 1776, these saw extensive circulation. The design was inspired by certain Benjamin Franklin sketches. Some of these were possibly struck as pattern “cents” instead of “dollars.”
A spot or stain commonly seen on gold coinage, indicating an area of copper concentration that has oxidized. Copper spots or stains range from tiny dots to large blotches.
The alloy (88% copper, 12% nickel) used for small cents from 1856 until mid-1864.
The cents issued from 1859 until 1864 in the copper-nickel alloy. These were called white cents by the citizens of the era because of their pale color compared to the red cents of the past.
Slang for half cents, large cents, and pre-Federal copper issues.
Any reproduction, fraudulent or otherwise, of a coin.
Dies made at a later date, usually showing slight differences from the originals. Examples include the reverse of 1804 Class II and III silver dollars and 1831 half cents with the Type of 1840-57 reverse. Also used to denote counterfeit dies copied directly from a genuine coin.
Alternate name for Braided Hair design by Christian Gobrecht (also called Liberty Head design).
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. Usually confined to copper, nickel and silver regular issues, although patterns in aluminum, white metal, tin, etc., also are subject to this harmful process.
The price paid for a numismatic item.
Literally, a coin that is not genuine. There are cast and struck counterfeits and the term is also applied to issues with added mint marks, altered dates, etc.
A stamp or impression placed on a coin after it has left the Mint of origin. Counterstamps were frequently used as advertising gimmicks on Large Cents and other coins. The counterstamp leaves a permanent impression on the metal and may hurt the value of the coin. It may also help the value, as in the case of an Ephriam Brasher counterstamp.
counting machine mark
A dense patch of lines caused by the rubber wheel of a counting machine where the wheel was set with insufficient spacing for the selected coin. Many coins have been subjected to counting machines – among these are Mercury dimes, Buffalo nickels, Walking Liberty half dollars, Morgan and Peace dollars, and Saint-Gaudens double eagles.
A word that is used to describe a coin that graded the same at two different grading services. Also written as two words: cross over. "I was sure that the coin wouldn't cross over, so I didn't buy it." or "That coin's definitely a crossover."
Short for Coin Universe 3000
An area of a coin struck by a die that has a complete break across part of its surface. A cud may be either a retained cud, where the faulty piece of the die is still in place, or a full cud, where the piece of the die has fallen away. Retained cuds usually have dentil detail if on the edge, while full cuds do not.
A coin that is basically non-collectible due to its extremely bad condition. A coin that will not even qualify for a grade of Poor-1, usually because of extensive environmental damage or other post-striking damage.
Any alloy of copper and nickel. Now usually used in reference to the modern “sandwich” issues. The copper-nickel cents, three-cent nickel issues, and nickel issues are also cupro-nickel.