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.
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The area of a coin that represents hair and may be an important grading aspect. (i.e. The hair above the ear on a Morgan dollar is critical to the strike.)
Fine cleaning lines found mainly in the fields of Proof coins, although they sometimes are found across an entire Proof coin as well as on business strikes.
Slang for half dollar.
The lowest-value coin denomination ever issued by the United States, representing one-two hundredth of a dollar. Half cents were struck from 1793 until the series was discontinued in 1857.
The original spelling of half dime. The first United States regular issue was the 1792 half disme supposedly struck in John Harper’s basement with the newly acquired Mint presses.
The denomination first struck in 1794 that is still struck today.
Literally, half the value of an Eagle. The Eagle was defined by the Mint Act of 1792 as equal to ten silver dollars.
At times rolls were issued with one half the number of coins in a roll that we consider to be normal today. For instance, Liberty nickels (1883-1912) were often issued with 20 coins in the roll (face value one dollar).
A powerful light source that enables a viewer to examine coins closely. This type of light reveals even the tiniest imperfections.
The upper die, usually the obverse – although on some issues with striking problems, the reverse was employed as the upper die.
A cloudy film, original or added, seen on both business-strike coins and Proofs. This film can range from a light, nearly clear covering with little effect on the grade to a heavy, opaque layer that might prevent the coin from being graded.
Also called the large eagle, this emblem of Liberty resembles the eagles of heraldry, thus its acquired name.
A term applied to any coin at the upper end of a particular grade.
The Saint-Gaudens inspired effort of Charles Barber to reduce the Extremely High Relief down to a coin with acceptable striking qualities. After 11,250 coins, this effort was abandoned. However, these were released and quickly became one of the most popular coins of all time.
A group of coins held for either numismatic or monetary reasons. A numismatic hoard example would be the hoard of Little Orphan Annie dimes (1844). A monetary hoard example would be the 100,000 plus coins in the Economite, Pennsylvania hoard of the nineteen century. That hoard consisted mainly of half dollars.
A coin that exists, or existed, in a quantity held by an individual, organization, etc. Examples include Stone Mountain half dollars still held by the Daughters of the Confederacy, the superb group of 1857 quarters that surfaced in the 1970s, and so on.
An individual who amasses a quantity of a numismatic item(s).
An Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel which has been engraved with a portrait of a hobo or other character, often by a hobo. These are popular with some collectors and some are so distinctive that they have been attributed to specific “hoboes.”
Any toning acquired by a coin as a result of storage in a holder. Mainly refers to toning seen on coins stored in Wayte Raymond-type cardboard holders which contained sulfur and other reactive chemicals. Sometimes vibrant, spectacular reds, greens, blues, yellows, and other colors are seen on coins stored in these holders.
Minting term for the steel device from which a die is produced. The hub is produced with the aid of a portrait lathe or reducing machine and bears a "positive" image of the coin's design – that is, it shows the design as it will appear on the coin itself. The image on the die is "negative" – a mirror image of the design.