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 gold-plated 1883 No “CENTS” Liberty Head five-cent coin (“V” nickel). The story goes that a deaf-mute gold-plated these unfamiliar coins and would buy something for a nickel or less. Sometimes, he was given change for a five-dollar gold piece since the V on the reverse could be interpreted as either five cents or five dollars! (They have also been gold-plated since that time to sell to collectors.)
Term for toning which is usually seen on silver dollars stored in bags. The “colors of the rainbow” are represented, stating with pale yellow, to green, to red, to blue, and sometimes fading to black.
A relative term indicating that a coin within a series is very difficult to find. Also, a coin with only a few examples known. A rare Lincoln cent may have thousands known while a relatively common pattern may only have a few dozen known.
The number of specimens extant of any particular numismatic item. This can be the total number of extant specimens or the number of examples in a particular grade and higher. (This is referred to as condition rarity.)
A term referring to a numerical-rating system such as the Universal Rarity Scale.
Numismatic slang for a coin or other numismatic item that has not been encapsulated by a grading service.
Term for the lines that represent sun rays on coins. First used on Continental dollars and Fugio cents, they were also used on some 1853-dated quarters and half dollars as well as 1866 and some 1867 five-cent coins.
Short for red and brown or Red-Brown.
Short for Red.
Numismatic slang for genuine coin.
This term is used interchangeably with "repunched date." PCGS prefers the term "repunched date" as it is more accurate. See "repunched date" for a full definition.
Term used for a copper coin that still retains 95 percent or more of its original mint bloom or color. PCGS allows only slight mellowing of color for this designation (RD).
A copper coin that has from 5 to 95 percent of its original mint color remaining (RB).
First issued in 1947, this yearly price guide has been the “bible” of printed numismatic retail price guides.
Term for the grooved notches on the edge of some coins. These were first imparted by the Mint’s edge machine, later in the minting process by the use of close collars - these sometimes called the third die or collar die.
A mark or marks caused when the reeded edge of one coin hits the surface of another coin. The contact may leave just one mark or a series of staccato-like marks.
Term for the coins struck for commerce. These may be both Regular and Proof strikes of a regular issue. In addition, there can be die trials of regular issues.
Term to denote coins struck with normal coining methods on ordinarily prepared planchets. Synonymous with business strike.
The height of the devices of a particular coin design, expressed in relation to the fields.
A copy, or reproduction, of a particular coin.
If a date was punched into the die and then punched in again in a different position it is considered to be a repunched date. A dramatic example of the repunched date is the 1894/94 Indian cent, where the two dates are clear, bold and well separated. Most repunched dates are more subtle, such as the 1887/6 Morgan dollar. Such coins as the 1909/8 $20 gold piece or the 1942/1 Mercury dime are not repunched dates, but Doubled Dies, where the changes were made to the working die from a differently-dated working hub.
A coin struck later than indicated by its date, often with different dies. Occasionally, a different reverse design is used, as in the case of restrike 1831 half cents made with the reverse type used from 1840-1857.
A term used to describe a coin that has been dipped or cleaned and then has reacquired color, whether naturally or artificially.
The back, or tails side, of a coin. Usually opposite the date side.
A machine used by mints that screens out planchets of the wrong size and shape prior to striking.
The raised area around the edges of the obverse and reverse of a coin. Pronounced rims resulted from the introduction of the close collar, first used in 1828 for Capped Bust dimes. (The Mint had experimented with close-collar strikings as early as 1820.)
Slang for rim nick.
Term for a mark or indentation on the rim of a coin or other metallic numismatic item.
A test used to determine whether a coin was struck or is an electrotype or cast copy. The coin in question is balanced on a finger and gently tapped with a metal object- a pen, another coin, and so on. Struck coins have a high-pitched ring or tone, while electrotypes and cast copies have little or none. This test is not infallible; some struck coins do not ring because of planchet defects such as cracks or gas occlusions; also, some cast copies have been filled with glass (or other substances) and do ring.
A numismatic purchase that is bought substantially below the price for which it can be resold.
A set number of coins “rolled up” in a coin wrapper. In old times, a roll meant the coins were rolled up in a paper wrapper, today they are likely to be slid into a plastic coin tube. Groups of nineteenth century coins are sometimes referred to as rolls when they exist in sufficient quantities even when they might not have come in rolls during their years of issue nor or are they currently in a roll! (Cents are 50 to a roll, nickels 40 to a roll, dimes 50 to a roll, quarters 40 to a roll, half dollars 20 to a roll, and dollars 20 to a roll. Gold coins are sometimes seen in rolls but the number of coins vary. Rolls of five dollar and twenty dollar coins have been rolled 20, 40, and 50 to a roll – other variations are certainly possible. Gold dollars, quarter eagles, three-dollar coins, and eagles have also be seen in rolls of varying quantities.)
Minor displacement of metal, mainly on the high points, seen on coins stored in rolls.
Term synonymous with rim (the raised edge around a coin). This has become part of the vernacular because of the Rolled Edge Indian Head eagle.
Rolled Edge Ten
Common name for the Indian Head eagle struck as a regular issue with a mintage reported by some as 20,000, but according to official Mint correspondence the figure was 31,550. However, some have considered it a pattern because all but 42 coins were reportedly melted. It is occasionally seen circulated but the average coin is Mint State 63 or higher.
Term to describe the mostly parallel incuse lines seen on some coins after striking. These were originally thought to be lines resulting from debris “scoring” the metal strips before the blanks were cut. However, new research has pointed to the final step of strip preparation, the draw bar. To reduce the strips to proper thickness, the final step was to pass them through the draw bar. It certainly seems logical that debris in the draw bar may cause these lines, if so, then draw-bar marks or lines would be a more appropriate term.
An experimental Proof surface used mainly on U.S. gold coins of 1909 and 1910. This is a hybrid surface with more reflectivity than Matte surfaces but less than brilliant Proofs. The surface is slightly scaly, similar to that of Satin Proofs.
Short for a Pan-Pac commemorative fifty-dollar coin.
Term for slight wear, often referring just to the high points or the fields.