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].
Term to describe the toning often seen on commemorative coins which were sold in cardboard holders with a round tab. Coins toned in these holders have a circle in the center and are said to have tab toning.
Term used for coins with circles of color, similar to an archery target, with deeper colors on the periphery often fading to white or cream color at the center.
Slang for J-1776, the unique gold striking of the 1907 Indian Head double eagle. This was the first design submitted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the personal request of then President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. He had requested that the famous sculptor revamp the “mundane” United States coinage along classical Greek and Roman styles.
A coin merchant who sells coins over the telephone. These firms often employ numerous salespersons who usually work from leads.
A sale of coins in which the bids are placed via telephone. This may be accomplished by punching the buttons on a touch-tone phone to indicate the auction, lot number, and bid or by verbal confirmation with an employee of the auction firm.
Slang for an eagle or ten-dollar gold coin.
Common name for an Indian Head eagle.
Common name for a Liberty Head eagle.
A small, direct light source used by many numismatists to examine and grade coins.
Those coins and bars privately struck during the various gold rushes. These include coins not struck in territories. (Georgia and North Carolina were states when Templeton Reid and the Bechtlers struck their coins, but the term is applied to these issues. California also was a state when most issuers struck their coins.)
The Germanic spelling of the silver-dollar size coins from Europe. Our word dollar derives from this word.
Monthly periodical of the American Numismatic Association.
Common name for the Indian Head three-dollar gold coin.
Three Cent Nickel
The 75% copper and 25% nickel three-cent coins with Liberty Head motif struck from 1865 to 1889. The design by James Longacre was copied from the Liberty Head motif by Christian Gobrecht.
Three Cent Silver
The three-cent coin with a star motif struck in silver alloy. (The first type of the series was the first United States regular issue struck in debased silver – 75% silver and 25% copper. The other two types were struck in the normal 90% silver and 10% copper alloy.)
A term used to describe a coin that has been doctored in a specific way to cover marks, hairlines, or other disturbances. Often associated with silver dollars, it actually is used on many issues, mainly business strikes. The thumb is rubbed lightly over the disturbances, and the oils in the skin help to disguise any problems.
Color, often vibrant, acquired by coins stored in original Mint paper. Originally, this was fairly heavy paper; later, very delicate tissue. Sometime during the nineteenth century, the Mint began wrapping Proof coins, and occasionally business strikes, in this paper. The paper contained sulfur; as a result, the coins stored in it for long periods of time acquired blues, reds, yellows, and other attractive colors.
A substitute for a coin. These have been issued in the past and are still currently issued in huge quantities. Older ones generally were issued by stores and may not have been accepted at other establishments. The same is true today for most tokens, such as the gaming tokens issued by casinos, these being valid only at that particular establishment (or other casinos affiliated with the same owners).
The term for the color seen on many coins. There are infinite shades, hues, and pattern variations seen, the result of how, where, and how long a coin is stored. Every coin begins to tone as it leaves the die, as all United States coins contain reactive metals in varying degrees.
A line, usually small and fine, found on both genuine and counterfeit coins. On genuine coins, such lines result when Mint workmen touch up dies to remove remnants of an overdate or other unwanted area. On counterfeits, they often appear in areas where the die was flawed and the counterfeiter has attempted to “fix” the problem.
This term means the same as "Pop-top." It refers to a coin that is at the TOP of the POPulation Report (in other words, the finest graded).
A U.S. silver coin, issued from 1873 until 1885, slightly heavier than the regular silver dollar and specifically intended to facilitate trade in the Far East-hence its name. Trade dollars were made with this marginally higher silver content than standard silver dollars in an effort to gain acceptance for them in commerce throughout the world.
A die created by sacrificing a coin for a model.
Short for transitional issue.
A coin struck after a series ends, such as the 1866 No Motto issues. A coin struck before a series starts, such as the 1865 Motto issues. A coin struck with either the obverse or the reverse of a discontinued series, an example being the 1860 half dime With Stars. A coin struck with the obverse or reverse of a yet-to-be-issued series, an example being the 1859 Stars half dime with the Legend-type reverse.
A coin known to have come a shipwreck or from a buried or hidden source.
trial strike or striking
Term used for a three-cent piece.
A method of weighing gold and silver and the coins made from those metals. There are 480 grains (or 20 pennyweights) in a troy ounce. There are twelve troy ounces in a troy pound.
Synonymous With Draped Bust.
Common term for double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.
Common name for Liberty Head double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.
Two and a Half
Common name for a quarter eagle or two-and-one-half dollar gold coin.
Term commonly used for the Shield two-cent coin struck from 1864 until 1873. This James Longacre designed coin was the first to feature a shield as a stand-alone motif.
A variation in design, size, or metallic content of a specific coin design. Examples include the Small and Heraldic Eagle types of Draped Bust coinage, Large-Size and Small-Size Capped Bust quarters, and the 1943 Lincoln cent struck in zinc-coated steel.
A representative coin, usually a common date, from a particular issue of a specific design, size, or metallic content.
Term for any coin from the first Type within a Series.
Type One Buffalo
A 1913-dated Indian Head five-cent coin with the reverse buffalo (bison) on a raised mound.
Type One gold dollar
The Liberty Head design gold dollar struck from 1849 until mid-1854 in Philadelphia and for the full year in Dahlonega and San Francisco.
Type One nickel
The Jefferson Head five-cent coin struck from 1938 until mid-1942 and from 1946 until the present day.
Type One quarter
The Standing Liberty quarter struck from 1916 to mid-1917. This design features a bare-breasted Miss Liberty, a simple head detail, and no stars under the reverse eagle.
Type One twenty
Those Liberty Head double eagles struck from 1850 until mid-1866. These coins did not have a motto on the reverse and had “TWENTY D.” for the denomination.
Term for any coin from the third Type within a Series.
Type Three gold dollar
The Small Indian Head design struck from 1856 until the series ended in 1889. San Francisco did not receive the Type Three dies in time to strike the new design in 1856, those coins from that Mint being the Type Two style.
Type Three twenty
Those Liberty Head double eagles struck from 1877 until the series ended in 1907. These coins have the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the reverse and had “TWENTY DOLLARS” for the denomination.
Term for any coin from the second Type within a Series.
Type Two Buffalo
An Indian Head nickel with the reverse buffalo (bison) on level ground. These were struck from mid-1913 until the series ended in 1938.
Type Two gold dollar
The Large Indian Head design gold dollar struck from mid-1854 until 1855 in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans while San Francisco did not receive the new dies before the end of 1856 and struck Type Two coins during that year.
Type Two nickel
The Jefferson Head five-cent coin struck from mid-1942 until 1945. These are designated by a large mintmark above Monticello on the reverse and are composed of silver, manganese, and copper. These are the first U.S. coins to have a “P” mintmark to indicate their being struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
Type Two quarter
The Standing Liberty quarter struck from mid-1917 until the end of the series in 1930. This design features a covered-breast Miss Liberty, a more intricate head design, and three stars under the reverse eagle.
Type Two twenty
Those Liberty Head double eagles struck from mid-1866 until 1876. These coins have the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the reverse and had “TWENTY DOL.” for the denomination.