PCGS Lingo Full Listing

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Full Listing

About Good
The grade AG-3. The grade of a coin that falls short of Good. Only the main features of the coin are present in this grade. Peripheral lettering, date, stars, etc. sometimes are partially worn away.
About Uncirculated
The grades AU50, 53, 55, and 58. A coin that on first glance appears Uncirculated but upon closer inspection has slight friction or rub.
Area(s) of a coin where a foreign object or another coin has displaced metal in an abraded fashion. Similar to a bag mark but usually on the high points or open fields and not as deep or acute as the former.
A miscellaneous grouping of coins, often as a monetary hoard. Opposite of a coin collection. A second use is as a grouping of a particular date, type, or series. (Example: an accumulation–of Bust Halves.)
adjustment marks
Pre-striking file marks seen mainly on gold and silver coins prior to 1840. These removed excess metal from overweight planchets. After 1840 these are seldom seen as the filing was on the rim and was usually obliterated by the striking process.
This is for "About Good" (the grade) and "3" (the corresponding numerical designation). Most of the lettering on the coin is readable, but there is moderately heavy wear into the rims. This grade is frequently found on Barber coins where the obverse is fully Good (or better) but the reverse is heavily worn.
AGW (Actual Gold Weight)
This refers to the amount of pure gold in a coin, medal or bar. Any alloys are part of the gross weight of a gold coin, but not part of the AGW.
album friction
Similar to album slide marks, though the friction may be only slight rubbing on the high points.
album slide marks
Lines, usually parallel, imparted to the surface of a coin by the plastic “slide” of an album.
A combination of two or more metals.
Almost Uncirculated
Alternate of About Uncirculated.
A coin that has a date, mint mark, or other feature that has been changed, added, or removed, usually to simulate a rarer issue.
American Eagle
In 1986, the U.S. Mint began selling silver bullion coins in the denomination of $1. The next year, they added a series of gold coins to the series, eventually expanding to 1/10, ¼, ½, and 1 ounce gold versions. Each coin features a family of eagles on the reverse, hence the name.
American Numismatic Association
A non-profit numismatic organization founded in 1888 for the advancement of numismatics.
Short for “American Numismatic Association.”
ANACS – (American Numismatic Association Certification Service)
Originally, only authentication was offered, grading was added later. The grading service and acronym were sold by the ANA and now operate under this name as a third party grading service.
ANACS certificate
A uniquely numbered opinion of authenticity and/or grade from the ANA Certification Service. The ANA now only authenticates, having sold the name and grading service.
General term for coins of the world struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 450 A.D.
The heating of a die or planchet to soften the metal before preparation of the die or striking of the coin.
Short for "American Numismatic Society."
anvil die
The lower die, usually the reverse – although on some issues with striking problems, the obverse was employed as the lower die. Because of the physics of minting, the fixed lower-die impression is slightly better struck than the upper-die impression.
Design element usually found in the left (viewer’s right) claw of the eagle seen on many United States coins. After 1807, there usually were three arrows while prior to that time the bundle consisted of numerous ones.
arrows and rays
Term referring to the quarters and half dollars of 1853. The rays were removed in 1854 because of striking difficulties presented by the busy design.
arrows at date
Term referring to the arrows to the left and right of the date, added to the dies to indicate a weight increase or decrease.
artificial toning
Coloring added to the surface of a coin by chemicals and/or heat. Many different methods have been employed over the years.
The selling quotation of a coin either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium.
To analyze and determine the purity of a metallic alloy.
The elements that make up a coin’s grade. The main ones are marks (hairlines for Proofs), luster, strike, and eye appeal.
This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "50" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-50." This is the lowest of the four AU grades, with the others being AU53, AU55, and AU58. Between 50% and 100% of the surfaces will exhibit luster disturbances, and perhaps the only luster still in evidence will be in the protected areas. The high points of the coin will have wear that is easily visible to the naked eye.
This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "53" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-53." There is obvious wear on the high points with light friction covering 50-75% of the fields. There are noticeable luster breaks, with most of the luster still intact in the protected areas.
This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "55" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-55." There is slight wear on the high points with minor friction in the fields. Luster can range from almost nonexistent to virtually full, but it will be missing from the high points. The grade of "Choice AU" equates to AU55.
This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "58" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-58." There is the slightest wear on the high points, even though it may be necessary to tilt the coin towards the light source to see the friction. In many cases the reverse of an AU58 coin will be fully Mint State. Less than 10% of the surface area will show luster breaks. The grade of "Borderline Unc" equates to AU58.
An offering of coins for sale where the buyer must bid against other potential buyers, as opposed to ordering from a catalog, price list, or advertisement at a set price.
The process of determining the genuineness of a coin or other numismatic item.
B number
Browning number describing a particular die marriage for early U.S. quarters. Named for Ard W. Browning who authored the seminal work in this field, The Early Quarter Dollars of the United States in 1925.
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.
bag mark
A generic term applied to a mark on a coin from another coin; it may, or may not, have been incurred in a bag.
bag toning
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.
Bank-wrapped rolls
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."
Barber coinage
Common name for the Charles Barber designed Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and half dollars struck from 1892 until 1916 (1915 for the half dollar).
basal state
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.
basal value
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.
base metal
A non-valuable metal used in creating medals or used as an alloy in producing coinage
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.
BD number
Bass-Dannreuther number describing a particular die marriage for U.S. gold coins, named for Harry Bass and John Dannreuther
beaded border
Small, round devices around the edge of a coin, often seen on early U.S. coins. These were replaced by dentils.
BG Gold
Term sometimes applied to California fractional gold coins as encompassed in the Breen-Gillio reference work titled California Pioneer Fraction Gold, including additional discoveries.
BG number
Breen-Gillio number describing a particular die marriage for California Gold Coins, named for Walter Breen and Ron Gillio, who together authored the book California Fractional Gold
Of or relating to 200 years. In numismatic terms, it relates to the Bicentennial Quarters, Half Dollars and Dollars of 1976.
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.
bidder number
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
body bag
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
bourse floor
The physical area where a coin show takes place
boy wonder
Slang name for a young coin dealer who bursts upon the numismatic scene and quickly becomes a top flight dealer.
Braided Hair
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.
branch mint
One of the various subsidiary government facilities that struck, or still strikes, coins.
breast feathers
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.
Breen Book
Slang for Walter Breen’s magnum opus, Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, published in 1988.
Breen letter
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.
Brilliant Uncirculated
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.
BU rolls
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.
buckled die
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.
Buffalo nickel
Slang for the Indian Head nickel struck from 1913 to 1938. The animal depicted is an American Bison.
bulged die
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.
bullet toning
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.
bullion coin
A legal tender coin that trades at a slight premium to it’s melt value.
burn mark
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.
burnishing lines
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.
business strike
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.
Bust dollar
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.)
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.
cabinet friction
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.
Canadian silver
Slang for the silver coins of Canada. (Mainly struck in 80% fineness.)
Cap Bust
Alternate form of Capped Bust
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.
capped die
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.
carbon spot
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.
cast blanks
Planchets made by a mold method, rather than being cut from strips of metal.
cast counterfeit
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.
Castaing machine
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."
Chain Cent
The popular name for the Flowing Hair Chain cent of 1793, the first coins struck in the newly occupied Mint building.
Chapman Proof
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.)
Charlotte Mint
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.
Cheerios Dollar
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.
Choice Unc
Short for Choice Uncirculated.
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.
circulation strike
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.
clad bag
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.
clash marks
The images of the dies seen on coins struck from clashed dies. The obverse will have images from the reverse and vice versa.
clashed dies
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.
Classic Era
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.)
Classic Head
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.
clogged die
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.
close collar
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.
Closed collar
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.
coin collection
A systematic grouping of coins assembled for fun or profit.
coin collector
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.
coin friction
Term applied to the area resulting when coins rub together in rolls or bags and small amounts of metal are displaced.
coin show
A bourse composed of coin dealers displaying their wares for sale and trade.
Coin Universe
– 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.
Coin World
Weekly numismatic periodical established in 1960.
The issuance of metallic money of a particular country.
Monthly numismatic magazine.
Coins 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.
commercial grade
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.
commercial strike
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.
common date
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.)
complete set
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.
Condition Census
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.
condition rarity
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.
consensus grading
The process of determining the condition of a coin by using multiple graders.
contact marks
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.
contemporary counterfeit
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.
Continental dollars
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.”
copper spot
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.
Copper-Nickel Cent
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.
copy dies
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.
Coronet Head
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."
A denomination used in pre-decimal English coinage, equal to twenty shillings or a quarter pound sterling
Short for copper-nickel, the elemental abbreviations for copper and nickel together. Many U.S. coins are made in copper-nickel.
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.
Mintmark used on gold coins of the Dahlonega, Georgia, Mint from 1838 to 1861 and on coins of all denominations struck at the Denver, Colorado, Mint from 1906 to the present.
Term used for the gold coinage struck at the branch Mint in Dahlonega, Georgia, from 1838 to 1861, and for the coinage struck at the branch Mint in Denver, Colorado, from 1906 to the present.
Dahlonega Mint
After the discovery of gold in the southern United States a new mint was constructed in Dahlonega, Georgia. The first coinage exited its doors in 1838 and it continued minting until it was closed due to the civil war in 1861. The 1861-D gold dollars were struck after the Mint was seized, the mintage figure for this rare issue is not listed in Mint records and has been estimated at 1,000 to 1,500 examples. The Dahlonega Mint struck only gold coins and used the “D” mintmark.
The numerals on a coin representing the year in which it was struck. Restrikes are made in years subsequent to the one that appears on them. Also, slang for a more valuable issue within a series.
Short for Deep Cameo.
Short for Deep Cameo.
An acronym for Doubled Die Obverse.
Someone whose occupation is buying, selling, and trading numismatic material.
Deep Cameo
The term applied to coins, usually Proofs and prooflike coins, that have deeply frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the fields - often called “black and white” cameos. Specifically applied to those 1950 and later Proofs that meet deep cameo standards (DCAM).
deep mirror prooflike
Any coin that has deeply reflective mirror-like fields, the term especially applicable for Morgan dollars. Those Morgan dollars that meet PCGS standards are designated deep mirror prooflike (DMPL).
The value assigned by a government to a specific coin.
The tooth-like devices around the rim seen on many coins. Originally these are somewhat irregular, later much more uniform - the result of better preparatory and striking machinery.
Short for denticles.
Denver Mint
The Denver Mint was established in 1906. It had formerly been an Assay Office since 1863. Today, this Mint manufactures coins of all denominations for general circulation, medals, coin dies, stores gold and silver bullion, manufactures uncirculated coin sets and commemorative coins. This mint uses the “D” mintmark.
A particular motif on a coin or other numismatic item. The Seated Liberty, Barber, Morgan, etc. are examples of designs.
design type
A specific motif placed upon coinage which may be used for several denominations and subtypes, e.g., the Liberty Seated design type used for silver coins from half dimes through dollars and various subtypes therein.
The individual responsible for a particular motif used for a numismatic series.
Any specific design element. Often refers to the principal design element, such as the head of Miss Liberty.
device punch
A steel rod with a raised device on the end used to punch the element into a working die. This technique was used before hubbed dies became the norm.
A steel rod that is engraved, punched, or hubbed with devices, lettering, the date, and other emblems.
die alignment
Term to indicate the relative position of the obverse and reverse dies. When the dies are out of alignment, several things can happen: If the dies are out of parallel, weakness may be noted in a quadrant of the coin's obverse and the corresponding part of the reverse; and if the dies are spaced improperly, the resultant coins may have overall weakness; if the dies are spaced too close together, the resultant coin may be well struck but the dies wear more quickly.
die break
An area of a coin that is the result of a broken die. This may be triangular or other geometric shape. Dies are made of steel and they crack from use and then, if not removed from service, eventually break. When the die totally breaks apart, the resultant break will result in a full, or retained, cud depending whether the broken piece falls from the die or not.
die clash
The result of the hammer and anvil dies coming together with no planchet in between. The dies mark each other, leaving remnants of each other’s design on the opposing die. Evidence of this is visible in coins minted using clashed dies as portions of the reverse design is visible on the obverse and portions of the obverse design can be seen on the reverse of the coin.
die crack
A raised, irregular line on a coin, ranging from very fine to very large, some quite irregular. These result when a hairline break occurs in a die.
die line
These are the raised lines on the coins that result from the polish lines on the die, which are incuse, resulting in the raised lines on the coins.
die rust
Rust that has accumulated on a die that was not stored properly. Often such rust was polished away, so that only the deeply recessed parts of the die still exhibited it. A few examples are known of coins that were struck with extremely rusted dies – the 1876-CC dime, for one.
die stage
There are two definitions for this term. One, many numismatists use it as a synonym for "die state." Two, some numismatists use the term "die stage" to refer to the specific status of a certain die state. For instance, in die state XYZ this coin exhibits a large cud at six o'clock, but in this particular die stage the cud isn't fully formed.
die state
A readily identified point in the life of a coinage die. Often dies clash and are polished, crack, break, etc., resulting in different stages of the die. These are called die states. Some coins have barely distinguishable die states, while others go through multiple distinctive ones.
die striations
Raised lines on coins that were struck with polished dies. As more coins are struck with such dies, the striations become fainter until most disappear.
die trial
A test striking of a particular die in a different metal.
die variety
A coin that can be linked to a given set of dies because of characteristics possessed by those dies and mparted to the coin at the time it was struck. In the early years of U.S. coinage history, when dies were made by hand engraving or punching, each die was slightly different. The coins from these unique dies are die varieties and are collected in every denomination. By the 1840's, when dies were made by hubbing and therefore were more uniform, die varieties resulted mainly from variances in the size, shape, and positioning of the date and mintmark.
die wear
Deterioration in a die caused by excessive use. This may evidence itself on coins produced with that die in a few indistinct letters or numerals or, in extreme cases, a loss of detail throughout the entire coin. Some coins, especially certain nickel issues, have a fuzzy, indistinct appearance even on Uncirculated examples.
The denomination, one tenth of a dollar, issued since 1796 by the United States.
Slang term for a small to medium size mark.
A term applied to a coin that has been placed in a commercial "dip" solution, a mild acid wash that removes the toning from most coins. Some dip solutions employ other chemicals, such as bases, to accomplish a similar result. The first few layers of metal are removed with every dip, so coins repeatedly dipped will lose luster, hence the term "overdipped".
dipping solution
Any of the commercial "dips" available on the market, usually acid-based.
The original spelling of dime, the s silent and thought to have been pronounced to rhyme with steam. (This variation was used in Mint documents until the 1830s and was officially changed by the Coinage Act of 1837.)
PCGS grading designation for deep mirror prooflike, also DMPL
PCGS grading designation for deep mirror prooflike, also DM
Did Not Cross (you will still be charged the grading fees)
Term used for a numismatic item that has been enhanced by chemical or other means. Usually, this is used in a derogatory way.
The denomination, consisting of one hundred cents, authorized by the Mint Act of 1792. This is the anglicized spelling of the European Thaler and was used because of the world-wide acceptance of the Thaler and the Spanish Milled dollar or piece-of-eight.
Double Eagle
Literally two eagles, or twenty dollars. A twenty-dollar U.S. gold coin issued from 1850 through 1932. One gold double eagle dated 1849 is known and is part of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Nearly half a million examples dated 1933 were struck by the U.S. Mint, but virtually all were melted when private gold ownership was outlawed that year. (Currently federal officials claim it is illegal to own any 1933-dated specimens that survive.)
Double Edge Lettering-Inverted
Is normally a coin sent through the edge lettering device a second time with one set of lettering upside down. It also includes doubling of any design element due to slippage of the edge lettering device, such as a P mintmark over the 9 of the date.
Double Edge Lettering-Overlap
Is normally a coin sent through the edge lettering device a second time with the lettering in the same direction. It also includes doubling of any design element due to slippage of the edge lettering device, such as a P mintmark over the 9 of the date.
double(d) die
A die that has been struck more than once by a hub in misaligned positions, resulting in doubling of design elements. Before the introduction of hubbing, the individual elements of a coin's design were either engraved or punched into the die, so any doubling was limited to a specific element. With hubbed dies, multiple impressions are needed from the hub to make a single die with adequate detail. When shifting occurs in the alignment between the hub and the die, the die ends up with some of its features doubled – then imparts this doubling to every coin it strikes. The coins struck from such dies are called doubled-die errors – the most famous being the 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln cent. PCGS uses doubled die as the designation.
Slang for the rare 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent variety.
A condition that results when a coin is not ejected from the dies and is struck a second time. Such a coin is said to be double-struck. Triple-struck coins and other multiple strikings also are known. Proofs are usually double-struck on purpose in order to sharpen their details; this is sometimes visible under magnification.
Short For Daily Price Guide, specifically the Coin Universe Daily Price Guide
Draped Bust
The design attributed to Mint engraver Robert Scot that features Miss Liberty with a drape across her bust. Scot presumably copied the design after a portrait by Gilbert Stuart.
drift mark
– An area on a coin, often rather long, that has a discolored, streaky look. This is the result of impurities or foreign matter in the dies. One theory is that burnt wood was rolled into the strips from which the planchets were cut, resulting in these black streaks.
Term for a numismatic item that is lack luster. This may be the result of cleaning, oxidation, or other environmental conditions.
Short for Early American Coppers
A gold coin with a face value of ten dollars. Along with the dollar, this was the basis of the U.S. currency system from 1792 until 1971. No U.S. gold coins were struck for circulation after 1933, and all gold coins issued prior to that time were recalled from circulation.
An area of certain coins that is important to the strike. (i.e. The hole in the ear of the Standing Liberty quarter is a necessary component of a Full Head designation.)
Early American Coppers (Club)
A club or society to advance the study of pre-1857 United States copper coinage including Colonials. Many members specialize collecting large cents by Sheldon numbers.
early strike
One of the first coins struck from a pair of dies. Such coins are generally fully struck, with no die flaws, and they are usually Prooflike and/or exhibit cameo contrast.
Short for environmental damage.
The third side of a coin. It may be plain, reeded, or ornamented – with lettering or other elements raised or incuse.
edge device
A group of letters or emblems on the edge of a coin. Examples would be the stars and lettering on the edge of Indian Head eagles and Saint-Gaudens double eagles.
This is for "Extremely Fine' (the grade) and "40" (the numerical designation of the grade). Also called XF-40. About 90% of the original detail is still evident and the devices are sharp and clear.
This is for "Extremely Fine" (the grade) and "45" (the numerical designation of the grade). Also called XF-45. About 95% of the original detail is still evident and the devices are sharp and clear.
A duplicate coin created by the electrolytic method, in which metal is deposited into a mold made from the original. The obverse and reverse metal shells are then filled with metal and fused together – after which the edges sometimes are filed to obscure the seam.
For numismatic condition purposes, the various components of grading. In other numismatic contexts, this term refers to the various devices and emblems seen on coins.
Short for Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. who was the only collector to assemble a complete collection of United States coins. Thus, the Eliasberg pedigree on a particular coin is held in the highest numismatic esteem.
emission sequence
The order in which die states are struck. Also, the die use sequence for a particular issue.
The person responsible for the design and/or punches used for a particular numismatic item.
envelope toning
A term applied to toning that results from storage mainly in 2 x 2 manila envelopes; most paper envelopes contain reactive chemicals.
environmental damage
Corrosion-effect seen on a coin that has been exposed to the elements. This may be minor, such as toning that is nearly black, to major - a coin found in the ground or water which has severely pitted surfaces. PCGS does not grade coins with environmental damage.
eroded die
Synonym for “worn die.”
A numismatic item that unintentionally varies from the norm. Ordinarily, overdates are not errors since they were done intentionally while other die-cutting “mistakes” are considered errors. Double dies, planchet clips, off-metal strikings, etc. also are errors.
Term for trial, pattern, and experimental strikings. The anglicized version is essay and literally means a test or trial.
A feature at the lower part of a coin, usually set off by a horizontal bar that displays the date or denomination.
A specialist in a particular numismatic area. (i.e. A copper expert, a gold expert, a paper money expert, a D-Mint expert, etc.)
Extra Fine
Alternate form of Extremely Fine.
Extremely Fine
The grades EF40 and 45. This grade has nearly full detail with only the high points worn, the fields rubbed often with luster still clinging in protected areas.
Extremely High Relief
The 1907 double eagle issue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens that had such medallic depth that multiple blows from a powerful press were required to fully bring up the detail. Because of this difficulty, the Mint engraver lowered the design resulting in the High Relief, which again was lowered to create the familiar Standing Liberty double eagle, or Saint, as to which they are commonly referred.
eye appeal
The element of a coin's grade that "grabs" the viewer. The overall look of a coin.
This is for "Fine" (the grade) and "12" (the numerical designation of the grade). The design detail is partially in evidence. The coin is still heavily worn. If there is any eye appeal in this grade it comes from the smooth surfaces associated with this grade, as any distracting marks have usually been worn off through circulation.
This is for "Fine" (the grade) and "15" (the numerical designation of the grade). Most of the letters in LIBERTY are visible, about 35-50% of the wing feathers are visible, or whatever applies to the coin in question. In other words, the coin is still in highly collectible shape.
face value
The stated value on a coin, at which it can be spent or exchanged. The face value is usually different from a coin’s numismatic or precious metal value.
The adjective corresponding to the grade FR-2. In this grade, there is heavy wear with the lettering, devices, and date partially visible.
Slang for a counterfeit or altered coin.
fantasy piece
A term applied to coins struck at the whim of Mint officials. Examples include the 1868 large cent Type of 1857 and the various 1865 Motto and 1866 No Motto coins.
Term to designate the Roman symbol of authority used as a motif on the reverse of Mercury (Winged Liberty Head) dimes. It consists of a bundle of rods wrapped around an ax with a protruding blade. The designation "full bands" refers to fasces on which there is complete separation in the central bands across the rods.
Fat head
Slang for the Small Size Capped Bust quarter and half eagles. (Mainly heard as “fat head fives.)
Fatman Dollar
A Chinese silver coin made from 1914 to 1921. It features Yuan Shih-kai (Emperor of China from Dec 1915 to March 1916) on the obverse. Due to its popularity, it is a heavily counterfeited issue.
Short for Full Bands.
Short for Full Bell Lines.
Short for Full Head.
fiat currency
Coins and paper money that do not have metal value or are not backed up by metal value.
The portion of a coin where there is no design – generally the flat part (although on some issues, the field is slightly curved).
A PCGS grader who, before computers were used for this task, compared his own grade with those of other graders and determined the final grade. The verifier replaced the finalizer after PCGS began inputting the grades by computer.
The adjective corresponding to the grades F-12 and 15. In these grades, most of a coin's detail is worn away. Some detail is present in the recessed areas, but it is not sharp.
finest known
The best-known condition example of a particular numismatic item.
first shot
Slang for the opportunity to get the first opportunity to buy items from a particular numismatic deal or from a particular dealer.
First Strike (TM)
Beginning in 2004, PCGS began designating coins delivered by the U.S. Mint in the 30 day period following the release date of a new product as "First Strike". For instance, new American Silver Eagles typically are released by the Mint on January 1st, thus any coins delivered between January 1 and January 31 qualify for the First Strike (TM) designation.
Short for a five-dollar gold coin or half eagle.
Five Indian
Slang for the Indian Head half eagles struck from 1908 to 1929.
Five Lib
Slang for the Liberty Head half eagles struck from 1839 until 1908.
fixed price list
A dealer listing of items for sale at set prices.
flat edge
Term referring to the particular specimens of High Reliefs that do not have a wire edge.
flat luster
A subdued type of luster seen on coins struck from worn dies. Often these coins have a gray or otherwise dull color that makes the fields seem even more lackluster.
This has two meanings. First, it is the term for the plastic sleeve in which coins are stored. Also, it can mean to quickly sell a recently purchased coin, usually for a short profit. (The plastic flips used to submit coins to PCGS are not recommended for long term storage unless they do not contain PVC. Care should be used with the PVC-free flips as they are very brittle and can damage the delicate coin surfaces).
flip rub
Discoloration, often only slight, on the highest points of a coin resulting from contact with a flip. On occasion, highly desirable coins sold in auctions have acquired minor rub from being repeatedly examined by eager bidders. The shifting of the coin, although it may be slight, can cause this rub.
To sell a new purchase for a short profit.
flow lines
The lines, sometimes visible, resulting from the metal flowing outward from the center of a planchet as it is struck. The “cartwheel” luster is the result of light reflecting from these radial lines.
Flowing Hair
The design attributed to Mint engraver Robert Scot that features Miss Liberty with long, flowing hair.
Flying Eagle
Short for Flying Eagle Cent.
Flying Eagle Cent
The small cent, struck in 88% copper and 12% nickel, that replaced the large cent. This featured James Longacre’s reduction of the Gobrecht eagle used on the reverse of the silver dollars of 1836-1839.
focal area
The area of a coin to which a viewer's eye is drawn. An example is the cheek of a Morgan dollar.
Any numismatic item not from the United States
four-dollar gold piece
An experimental issue, also known as a stella, struck in 1879-1880 as a pattern. Often collected along with regular-issue gold coins, this was meant to be an international coin approximating the Swiss and French twenty-franc coins, the Italian twenty lira, etc.
Short for Fixed Price List.
This is for "Fair" (the grade) and "2" (the numerical designation that means Fair). A coin that is worn out. There will be some detail intact, the date will be discernible (if not fully readable) and there is almost always heavy wear into the rims and fields.
Short for Franklin half dollar.
Franklin half dollar
The John Sinnock designed half dollar struck from 1948 until 1963. This featured Ben Franklin on the obverse and the Liberty Bell on the reverse.
freedman's cap
Also known as a Liberty Cap or Phrygian Cap, a frequent design element on U.S. coins in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. See "Liberty Cap"
Slight wear on a coin's high points or in the fields.
A crystallized-metal effect seen in the recessed areas of a die, thus the raised parts of a coin struck with that die. This is imparted to dies by various techniques, such as sandblasting them or pickling them in acid, then polishing the fields, leaving the recessed areas with frost.
frosted devices
Raised elements on coins struck with treated dies that have frost in their recessed areas. Such coins have crystalline surfaces that resemble frost on a lawn.
frosty luster
The crystalline appearance of coins struck with dies that have frost in their recessed areas. Such coins show vibrant luster on their devices and/or surfaces; the amount of crystallization may vary. Also, this term is applied to coins whose entire surface his this look.
Short for Full Steps.
Fugio cents
These 1787-dated one-cent coins are considered by some to be the first regular issue United States coin. Authorized by the Continental Congress, this would seem to be a logical conclusion. However, the Mint Act was not passed by Congress until 1792, so the case for the half dismes of 1792 as the first regular issue is also valid. (Adam Eckfeldt, Chief Coiner from 1814 to 1839 worked for the fledgling Mint in 1792 and was present for the striking of the 1792 half dismes. He is quoted in the 1840s that he considered the half dismes patterns and that George Washington gave them out as presents. He was a very old man by then, so perhaps his memory was failing him, but debate continues as to which coin deserves the distinction as the first regular issue. If the half disme and the Fugio cent are not the first coins, then that title would go to the Chain cent, which was the first coin struck in the newly occupied Mint building. Although the building was likely occupied in late 1792, as records indicate, it appears that all the machinery was not fully operational as Chain cents were not struck until March, 1793.)
Full Bands
Term applied to Mercury (Winged Liberty Head) dimes when the central band is fully separated (FB). There can be no disturbance of the separation. Also applicable to Roosevelt dimes that display full separation in both the upper and lower pair of crossbands on the torch.
Full Bell Lines
Term applied to Franklin half dollars when the lower sets of bell lines are complete (FBL). Very slight disturbance of several lines is acceptable.
Full Head
Term applied to Standing Liberty quarters when the helmet of the head has full detail (FH). Both Type 1 and 2 coins are so designated but the criteria is different for both.
Full Steps
Term applied to a Jefferson five-cent example when at least 5 steps of Monticello are present.
Full strike
A numismatic item that displays the full detail intended by the designer. Weak striking pressure, worn dies or improper planchets can sometimes prevent all the details from appearing, even on uncirculated specimens.
FUN Show
The first coin show each year. This annual convention is sponsored by the Florida United Numismatists and is held in early January.
This is for "Good" (the grade) and "4" (the numerical designation of the grade). The major details of the coin will be worn flat. Minor wear into the rims is allowable, but the peripheral lettering will be nearly full.
This is for "Good" (the grade) and "6" (the numerical designation of the grade). A higher grade (i.e., less worn) than a G-4 coin. The rims will be complete and the peripheral lettering will be full.
The large metal relief used in the portrait lathe from which a positive reduction in steel, called a hub, is made.
Short for the Garrett family. The two main collectors, Thomas H. Garrett and John W. Garrett, formed this extensive collection from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Later, it was given to Johns Hopkins University and was sold in five auction sales. This provenance on a numismatic item is as coveted as an Eliasberg pedigree.
Adjectival description applied to Mint State and Proof-65 coins. It also is used for higher grades and as a generic term for a superb coin.
Gem BU
Short for Gem Brilliant Uncirculated.
Gem Unc
Short for Gem Uncirculated.
Gem Uncirculated
The adjectival equivalent of Mint State 65 or 66.
Christian Gobrecht, Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia from 1840 to 1844. Also, designer of the Gobrecht Dollar and Liberty Seated coinage. Also, short for "Gobrecht Dollar" (1836-1839).
Gobrecht dollar
The silver dollars dated 1836, 1838, and 1839 struck in those years and restruck later (some 1836-dated coins were struck in 1837). These are named for their designer, Christian Gobrecht, Chief Engraver from 1840 to 1844 but defacto engraver when William Kneass suffered his stroke in 1835.
Obviously, the precious metal. Also, slang for any United States gold issues.
Gold Buffalo
A gold bullion coin minted by the United States Mint from 2006 to date. Minted in $5, $10, $25 and $50 denominations. Made of pure 24-karat or .9999 fine gold.
gold commem
Short for gold commemorative.
gold commemorative
Any of the eleven commemorate coins struck in gold from 1903 until 1925. Also, any of the modern United States commemorative gold issues, sometimes called modern gold commems.
gold dollar
The small coins of one dollar denomination struck from 1849 until 1889.
The adjective corresponding to the grades G-4 and G-6. Coins in these grades usually have little detail but outlined major devices. On some coins, the rims may be worn to the tops of some letters.
This refers to the Grade Point Average of a PCGS Set Registry set. If a set is unweighted the GPA is figured by adding up the grades of each coin and dividing the sum by the number of coins in the set. If a set is weighted (and someday all of the sets will be weighted) then the rarity of the coins is also factored into the equation.
The numerical or adjectival condition of a coin.
An individual who evaluates the condition of coins.
The process of numerically quantifying the condition of a coin. Before the adoption of the Sheldon numerical system, coins were given descriptive grades such as Good, Very Good, Fine, and so forth.
Slang for Coin Dealer Newsletter.
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.
half cent
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.
half disme
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.
Half Dollar
The denomination first struck in 1794 that is still struck today.
Half Eagle
Literally, half the value of an Eagle. The Eagle was defined by the Mint Act of 1792 as equal to ten silver dollars.
Half rolls
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).
halogen light
A powerful light source that enables a viewer to examine coins closely. This type of light reveals even the tiniest imperfections.
hammer die
The upper die, usually the obverse – although on some issues with striking problems, the reverse was employed as the upper die.
Hand-made coinage. Blank planchets are placed between a hammer die (upper) and anvil die (lower). When the hammer die is stuck by hand with a hammer, the coin's design is imparted upon the planchet.
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.
Heraldic Eagle
Also called the large eagle, this emblem of Liberty resembles the eagles of heraldry, thus its acquired name.
high end
A term applied to any coin at the upper end of a particular grade.
High Relief
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.
hoard coin
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).
Hobo nickel
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.”
holder toning
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.
impaired Proof
A Proof coin that grades less than PR-60; a circulated Proof.
incandescent light
Direct light from a lamp, as opposed to indirect light such as that from a fluorescent bulb.
incomplete strike
A coin that is missing design detail because of a problem during the striking process. The incompleteness may be due to insufficient striking pressure or improperly spaced dies.
incuse design
The intaglio design used on Indian Head quarter eagles and half eagles. These coins were struck from dies which had fields recessed, so that the devices – the areas usually raised – were recessed on the coins themselves. This was an experiment to try to deter counterfeiting and improve wearing quality.
Indian cent
Common name for an Indian Head cent.
Indian Head cent
Those James Longacre design cents struck from 1859 until 1909. From 1859 until mid-1864, these were composed of copper-nickel alloy, while those struck mid-1864 to 1909 were struck in bronze.
Indian Head eagle
The Saint-Gaudens designed ten-dollar gold coin struck from 1907 until 1933.
Indian penny
Slang for an Indian Head cent.
Intrinsic value
The value of the metal(s) contained in a numismatic item. The United States issues contained their intrinsic value in metal until 1933 for gold coins and 1964 for silver coins. Today’s “sandwich” coins are termed fiat currency.
An individual who buys numismatic items strictly for profit, not caring to complete a set or particular collection.
A "glow" displayed by a coin, often gleaming through light pastel colors.
Jefferson nickel
The Felix Schlag designed five-cent coin first struck from 1938 to date.
Key Coin

The major, or most important, coin in a particular series. The "key" coin is usually the lowest-mintage coin and/or the most expensive coin in a particular set. The 1916-D dime, for instance, is usually considered the key coin of the Mercury dime series. It is the lowest mintage coin of the set and the most expensive (in most grades). The 1919-D dime is the "condition rarity key" of the Mercury dime series, as it is the most expensive coin in top condition.

Most sets have more than one key coin. In Lincoln cents, for instance, the 1909-S V.D.B., the 1914-D, the 1922 Plain and 1955/55 Doubled Die are all considered to be key coins in most grades. In MS65RD the 1926-S is the rarest of the regular issues, so it is considered the "condition rarity key."

At times any scarce or rare coin is referred to a "key" coin. The terms "key to the set" or "key to the series" are also used as synonyms for "key coin."

Slang term for outstanding. (i.e. That 1880-S silver dollar has killer luster.)
The number one coin. The 1804 dollar was referred to as the "King of Coins" in an 1885 auction catalogue. Since then, the word "King" has come to mean the most important coin of a particular series.
KM number
Krause-Mishler number describing a world coin. Named for Chester Krause and Clifford Mishler.
knife edge
Slang for wire edge.
A thin piece of metal that has nearly become detached from the surface of a coin. If this breaks off, an irregular hole or planchet flaw is left.
large cent
A large copper U.S. coin, one-hundredth of a dollar, issued from 1793 until 1857, when it was replaced by a much smaller cent made from a copper-nickel alloy. The value of copper in a large cent had risen to more than one cent, requiring the reduction in weight.
large date
Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that a medium or small date exists for that coin or series.)
Large Eagle
Alternate form of Heraldic Eagle.
large letters
Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that medium or small letters exist for that coin or series.)
Large Motto
– Common short name for the particular variety of two-cent coin of 1864 with large letters in the motto. The inscription “IN GOD WE TRUST” was first used on the two-cent coinage of 1864. Congress mandated this inscription for all coinage and it has been used on nearly every coin since that time.
large size
A term referring to the particular diameter of a coin in a series. (Use of this term implies that there is a small size or diameter with the same motif. Examples are the Large and Small size Capped Bust quarters.)
Short for large date.
Legal Tender
Coins and currency issued by the government as official money that can be used to pay legal debts and obligations.
A phrase that appears on a coin – for instance, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
lettered edge
A coin edge that displays an inscription or other design elements, rather than being reeded or plain. The lettering can be either incuse (recessed below the surface) or raised. Incuse lettering is applied before a coin is struck; the Mint did this with a device called the Castaing machine. Raised lettering is found on coins struck with segmented collars; the lettering is raised during the minting process, and when the coin is ejected from the dies, the collar "falls" apart, preventing the lettering from being sheared away.
The alphabet characters used in creating legends, mottoes, and other inscriptions on a coin, whether on the obverse, reverse, or edge.
Slang for Liberty Head. (i.e. a twenty Lib, a Ten Lib, etc.)
Libertas Americana Medal
A medal created as thanks from the young United States of America to France in 1782. Designed by Benjamin Franklin and engraved by Augustin Dupré.
The symbolic figure used in many U.S. coin designs.
Liberty Cap
A type of Large Cent and Half Cent minted in Philadelphia in the late 18th Century. The obverse design features an image of Liberty with a pole behind her. Atop the pole is a Phrygian cap (also known as a freedman’s cap), a soft red wool cap worn on the head, bent forward. This cap symbolized the pursuit of freedom in Europe from the late 1500s onward. The cap is often seen on Liberty’s head or on a pole.
Liberty Head
The design used on most U.S. gold coins from 1838 until 1908. This design was first employed by Christian Gobrecht, with later modifications by Robert Ball Hughes and James Longacre. Morgan dollars and Barber coinage sometimes are referred to as Liberty Head coins.
Liberty nickel
Short for Liberty Head or “V” nickel struck from 1883 until 1912. (The coins dated 1913 were clandestinely struck and are not regular issues.)
Liberty Seated
The motif designed by Christian Gobrecht first used on the Gobrecht dollars of 1836-1839 featuring Miss Liberty seated on a rock. This design was used on nearly all regular issue silver coinage from 1837 until 1891. (1838-1891 for quarters, 1839-1891 for half dollars, and 1840-1873 for dollars.)
light line
The band of light seen on photographs of coins, especially Proofs. This band also is seen when a coin is examined under a light.
Slang for a Lincoln Head cent.
Lincoln cent
The Victor D. Brenner designed cent first struck in 1909 and continuing until today although the reverse was changed in 1959 to the Memorial Reverse. These were struck in bronze until 1982, except for 1943 when they were issued in steel with a zinc coating and 1945-1945 when melted shell casings were employed to produce planchets. Currently, the Lincoln cent is struck on planchets composed of a zinc core and a 5% copper coating.
Lincoln penny
Slang for Lincoln Head cent.
A coin that is on the cusp between two different grades. A 4/5 liner is a coin that is either a high-end MS/PR-64 or a minimum-standard MS/PR-65.
lint mark
A repeating depression on a coin, usually thin and curly, caused by a thread that adhered to a die during the coin's production. Lint marks are found primarily on Proofs. After dies are polished, they are wiped with a cloth, and these sometimes leave tiny threads.
Short for large letters.
Long Beach
Short for the Long Beach Coin and Stamp Exhibition held in Long Beach, California. This show is held three times a year, usually in February, June, and October. These are among the most popular commercial exhibitions each year.
The unique number assigned by the auction house to an item(s) to be sold in a particular sale. (i.e. The 1858 Seated dollar was lot 455 of the FUN 1999 sale.)
A magnifying glass used to examine coins. Loupes are found in varying strengths or "powers".
In numismatics, the amount and strength of light reflected from a coin’s surface or its original mint bloom. Luster is the result of light reflecting on the flow lines, whether visible or not.
Alternate form of luster.
A term used to describe coins that still have original mint bloom.
M number
Miller number describing a particular die marriage for Massachusetts Cents, named for X. Miller, numismatic cataloger
M number
Maris number describing a particular die marriage for New Jersey post-colonial copper coins, named for Dr. Edward Maris, who enumerated the varieties in his work "A Historical Sketch of the Coins of New Jersey"
mail bid sale
An auction sale where bidding is limited to bids by mail. (Today, that also may include by phone, fax, or email.)
major variety
A coin that is easily recognized as having a major difference from other coins of the same design, type, date, and mint.
market grading
A numerical grade that matches the grade at which a particular coin generally is traded in the marketplace. The grading standard used by PCGS.
Imperfections acquired after striking. These range from tiny to large hits and may be caused by other coins or foreign objects.
master die
The main die produced from the master hub. Many working hubs are prepared from this single die.
master hub
The original hub created by the portrait lathe. Master dies are created from this hub.
Matte Proof
An experimental Proof striking, produced by the U.S. Mint mainly from 1907 to 1916, which has sandblasted or acid-pickled surfaces. These textured surfaces represented a radical departure from brilliant Proofs, having even less reflectivity than business strikes.
Short for medium date.
A large celebratory piece, sometimes an award, sometimes created in commemoration. Usually made in high relief. Medals are typically minted in bronze, copper, silver, gold, and white medal.
medal press
A high-pressure coining press acquired by the U.S. Mint, circa 1854-1858, to strike medals, patterns, restrikes, and some regular-issue Proofs.
A small celebratory piece, similar to a medal but smaller
medium date
Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that a large or small date exists for that coin or series.)
medium letters
Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that large or small letters exist for that coin or series.)
Slang term for the intrinsic value of a particular numismatic item. (What’s the melt value of that ten Lib?)
The name for the style of one-cent coin made by the mint from 1959 to 2008. Named for the reverse image of the Lincoln Memorial. It was preceded by the Wheat Reverse Cent and has been superceded by the Lincoln Bicentennial Reverse Cents of 2009 and the Shield Reverse Cent for 2010 onwards.
Mercury dime
Common name for the Winged Liberty Head dime issued from 1916 until 1945. The A.A. Weinman motif was quickly compared to the Roman god Mercury and the name stuck with the public.
metal stress lines
Radial lines, sometimes visible, that result when the metal flows outward from the center of the planchet during the minting process.
Machine-made coinage. Planchets are typically fed through rollers that imprint and cut the coin to shape.
milling mark
A mark that results when the reeded edge of one coin hits the surface of another coin. Such contact may produce just one mark or a group of staccato-like marks.
minor variety
A coin that has a minor difference from other coins of the same design, type, date, and mint. This minor difference is barely discernible to the unaided eye. The difference between a major variety and a minor variety is a matter of degree.
A coining facility.
mint bloom
Original luster that is still visible on a coin.
mint error
mint mark
Variation of mintmark
mint set
A set of Uncirculated coins from a particular year comprising coins from each Mint. (Usually, this term refers to government issued Mint Sets, although for many years, it has been loosely used for any set of Uncirculated coins from a particular year. Also, the government Mint Sets issued from 1947 until 1958 were double sets.)
mint set toning
This term refers to the colors and patterns coins have acquired from years of storage in the cardboard holders in which Mint Sets were issued from 1947-1958. Since 1959, Mint Sets have been issued in plastic sleeves, thus they do not tone as spectacularly.
Mint State
The term corresponding to the numerical grades MS-60 through MS-70, used to denote a business strike coin that never has been in circulation. A Mint State coin can range from one that is covered with marks (MS-60) to a flawless example (MS-70).
The number of coins of a particular date struck at a given mint during a particular year. (This may not equal the “official” mintage for that calendar year, especially for pre-1840 coinage. The Mint reported coins struck in the calendar year, regardless of the date(s) on the issue. For instance, the 1804-dated dollar was included in Proof Sets struck in 1834 because the “official” mintage figures for 1804 included silver dollars although it is now known that these were dated 1803 or possibly even earlier.)
The tiny letter(s) stamped into the dies to denote the mint at which a particular coin was struck.
Term applied to the error coins that have striking irregularities.
mishandled Proof
A Proof coin that has been circulated, cleaned, or otherwise reduced to a level of preservation below PR-60.
Miss Liberty
Term applied to the various incarnations of the emblematic Liberty represented on United States coinage.
Missing Edge Lettering
Is a coin which does not display any of the intended design on the edge of the coin.
Short for medium letters.
Slang for an incredible coin, usually one that grades MS/PR-67 or higher. A secondary use is as an adjective, such as monster luster or monster color.
Slang for an incredible coin, usually one that grades MS/PR-67 or higher.
Short for “Morgan dollar.”
Morgan dollar
The common term used for the Liberty Head silver dollar struck from 1878 until 1904 and again in 1921. George Morgan was the assistant engraver but his design was selected over William Barber’s for the dollar. Morgan was passed over for the Chief Engraver’s job when William Barber died in 1879. Charles Barber, William’s son, received the job and Morgan remained an assistant until Charles died in 1918. Morgan was then elevated to position of Chief Engraver, which he held until his death in January, 1925.
mottled toning
Uneven toning, usually characterized by splotchy areas of drab colors.
An inscription or phrase on a coin.
This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "60" (the numerical designation of that grade). This is the lowest of the eleven Mint State grades that range from MS60 through MS70. An MS60 coin will usually exhibit the maximum number of marks and/or hairlines. The luster may range from poor to full, but is usually on the "poor" side. Eye appeal is usually minimal.
This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "61" (the numerical designation of that grade). This grade meets the minimum requirements of Mint State plus includes some virtues not found on MS60 coins. For instance, there may be slightly fewer marks than on an MS60 coin, or better luster, or less negative eye appeal.
This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "62" (the numerical designation of that grade). This grade is nearly in the "choice" or MS63 category, but there is usually one thing that keeps it from a higher grader. Expect to find excessive marks or an extremely poor strike or dark and unattractive toning. Some MS62 coins will have clean surfaces and reasonably good eye appeal but exhibit many hairlines on the fields and devices.
This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "63" (the numerical designation of that grade). The equivalent of "choice" or "Choice BU" from the days before numerical grading was prevalent. This grade is usually found with clean fields and distracting marks or hairlines on the devices OR clean devices with distracting marks or hairlines in the fields. The strike and luster can range from mediocre to excellent.
This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "64" (the numerical designation of that grade). This grade is also called "Borderline Gem" at times, as well as "Very Choice BU." There will be no more than a couple of significant marks or, possibly, a number of light abrasions. The overall visual impact of the coin will be positive. The strike will range from average to full and the luster breaks will be minimal.
This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "65" (the numerical designation of that grade). This grade is also called "Gem" or "Gem Mint State" or "Gem BU." There may be scattered marks, hairlines or other defects, but they will be minor. Any spots on copper coins will also be minor. The coin must be well struck with positive (average or better) eye appeal. This is a NICE coin!
This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "66" (the numerical designation of that grade). This is not only a Gem-quality coin, but the eye appeal ranges from "above average" to "superb." The luster is usually far above average, and any toning can not impede the luster in any significant way. This is an extra-nice coin.
This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "67" (the numerical designation of that grade). A superb-quality coin! Any abrasions are extremely light and do not detract from the coin’s beauty in any way. The strike is extremely sharp (or full) and the luster is outstanding. This is a spectacular coin!
This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "68" (the numerical designation of that grade). A nearly perfect coin, with only minuscule imperfections visible to the naked eye. The strike will be exceptionally sharp and the luster will glow. This is an incredible coin.
This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "69" (the numerical designation of that grade). Virtually perfect in all departments, including wondrous surfaces, a 99% full strike (or better), full unbroken booming luster and show-stopping eye appeal. You may have to study this coin with a 5X glass to find the reason why it didn’t grade MS70.
This is for "Mint State" (the grade) and "70" (the numerical designation of that grade). There are no marks, hairlines or luster breaks in evidence upon close inspection. The luster is vibrant, the strike is razor-sharp, and the eye appeal is outstanding. Note: Minor die polish and light die breaks are not considered to be defects on circulation strike coins.
Mule Error
This is a rare Mint error where the obverse die is of one coin and the reverse die is of another coin. The most famous of the Mule errors is a Sacagawea dollar/Washington quarter Mule, where a Washington quarter obverse is paired with a Sacagawea reverse.
A term used to describe a coin that has been damaged to the point where it no longer can be graded.
N number
Newcomb number describing a particular die marriage for later U.S. large cents (1816-1857) , named for Howard R. Newcomb, who authored United States Copper Cents 1816-1857 in 1944.
N number
Newman number describing a particular die marriage for Fugio Cents, named for Eric Newman, numismatic cataloger
A term for a coin that never has been in circulation.
New Orleans
The branch Mint established in 1838 in New Orleans, Louisiana. It struck coins for the United States until its seizure in 1861 by the Confederacy. (Some 1861-O half dollars were struck after the seizure.) It reopened in 1879 and struck coins until 1909 (actually closed in 1910). Now this facility is a museum.
New Orleans Mint
The New Orleans opened its doors in 1838 and minted gold and silver coins until 1861, when the Confederates took over operations for a short time. Minting resumed in 1879 minting and continued until 1909. The New Orleans facility served as an assay office from 1909-1942 when it was permanently closed. This mint uses the “O” mintmark.
Short for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.
An obsolete term for copper-nickel Flying Eagle (1856-1858) or copper-nickel Indian Cents (1859-1864)
Popular term for a five-cent piece struck in cupro-nickel alloy (actually 75% copper, 25% nickel).
No “CENTS” nickel
Those Liberty Head or “V” nickels struck in 1883 without a denomination. This was very confusing to the public and led to the “racketeer” nickel scandal in which gold-plated No "CENTS" nickels were passed off as $5 gold pieces.
No Arrows
Term applied to coins without arrows by their dates during years when other coins had arrows by the date. (Example: the 1853 No Arrows half dime and 1853 Arrows half dime.)
No Motto
Coins struck without the motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST.” This motto was mandated by an act of Congress and appeared on nearly every United States coin since the 1860s. (Teddy Roosevelt felt this was sacrilegious and had it removed from the newly redesigned 1907 eagles and double eagles. Citizen protests soon were overwhelming and it was restored in 1908.) This also refers to coins struck before the motto was added in the 1860s.
No Stars
Term applying to the Christian Gobrecht designed Liberty Seated coins without stars.
Term applied to a coin returned from a third-party grading service that was not encapsulated because of varying reasons. (This could be for cleaning, damage, questionable authenticity, etc.)
numerical grading
Specifically, the Sheldon 1-70 scale employed by PCGS and others.
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation
Third-party grading service based in Sarasota, Florida
Numismatic News
Weekly numismatic periodical established in 1952.
The science of money; coins, paper money, tokens, inscribed bars, and all related items are included.
One who studies or collects money or substitutes thereof.
Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the New Orleans, Louisiana branch Mint.
O number
Overton number describing a particular die marriage for early U.S. half dollars, named for Al C. Overton, who in 1967 authored the book, Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794-1836
Term used for the coinage of the branch Mint in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The front, or heads side, of a coin. Usually the date side.
Short for octagonal (Pan-Pac octagonal commemorative fifty-dollar coin).
off center
A coin struck on a blank that was not properly centered over the anvil, or lower, die. Coins that are 5 percent, or less, off center are graded by PCGS as a regular coin. Those struck off center more than 5 percent are graded as error coins. There will be an “E” before the coin number to designate an error specimen and the amount struck off center will be listed, rounded to the nearest 5 percent.
Short for "over-mintmark"
open collar
Its name notwithstanding, a closed collar that surrounded the anvil (or lower) die used in striking early U.S. coins on planchets whose edges already had been lettered or reeded. An open collar was a restraining, or positioning, collar that made it easier to position a planchet atop the lower die, and also sometimes kept the planchet from expanding too far.
orange-peel surfaces
The dimple-textured fields seen on many Proof gold coins; their surfaces resemble those of an orange, hence the descriptive term. Some Mint State gold dollars and three-dollar gold coins exhibit this effect to some degree.
A term used to describe a coin that never has been dipped or cleaned, or a coin struck from original dies in the year whose date it bears.
original roll
Coins in fixed quantities wrapped in paper and stored at the time of their issuance. The quantities vary by denomination, but typically include 50 one-cent pieces, 40 nickels, 50 dimes, 40 quarters, 20 half dollars and 20 silver dollars. U.S. coins were first shipped to banks in kegs, later in cloth bags, and still later in rolls. Silver and gold coins stored in such rolls often have peripheral toning and untoned centers. Obviously, coins stored in rolls suffered fewer marks than those in kegs or bags.
Original rolls
Rolls of coins that have been together since the day they were removed from their storage bags. Also, rolls of Mint State coins that have never been searched or "picked over."
original toning
Term for the color acquired naturally by a coin that never has never been cleaned or dipped. Original toning ranges from the palest yellow to extremely dark blues, grays, browns, and finally black.
over -mintmark
A coin struck with a die on which one mintmark is engraved over a different mintmark. In rare instances, branch mints returned dies that already had mintmarks punched into them; on occasion, these were then sent to different branch mints and the new mint punched its mintmark over the old one. Examples include the 1938-D/S Buffalo nickel and the 1900-O/CC Morgan dollar.
over dipped
A coin that has become dull from too many baths in a dipping solution.
A coin struck from a die with a date that has one year punched over a different year. Save a few exceptions, the die overdated is an unused die from a previous year. Sometimes an effort was made to polish away evidence of the previous date. PCGS requires the overdate to be visible to be recognized.
Mintmark used by the main mint located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Term applied to the coins struck at the main Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Short for Panama-Pacific Exhibition.
Pan-Pac slug
Slang for either of the 1915-dated Panama-Pacific fifty-dollar commemorative coins, the octagonal or the round.
Panama-Pacific Exhibition
A 1915 exhibition held in San Francisco, California to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal.
paper money
Term used among collectors for notes of the entire field of currency, no matter what medium on which they may be printed.
Partial Edge Lettering
Have at least one complete letter or star missing. Note: This variety will not be recognized if part of the edge design was caused by damage.
Synonym for toning.
A test striking of a coin produced to demonstrate a proposed design, size, or composition (whether adopted or not). Patterns often are made in metals other than the one proposed; examples of this include aluminum and copper patterns of the silver Trade dollar. Off-metal strikes such as this also are referred to as die trials of a pattern.
Short for “Professional Coin Grading Service”.
PCGS Population Report
Quarterly publication by PCGS listing the number of coins graded and their grade. Totals are for coins graded by PCGS since its inception in 1986. Also published weekly on the PCGS website at www.pcgs.com/popreport.
Peace dollar
Common name for the silver dollar struck from 1921 to 1935. Designed by Anthony Francisci to commemorate the peace following World War I, the first year featured another coin designated High Relief. In 1922, the relief was lowered resulting in the Regular Relief type that continued until 1935.
A listing of a coin’s current owner plus all known previous owners.
From English coinage, plural for penny. Historically, there were 240 pence to the pound sterling. After decimalization in 1971, the exchange became 100 pence to the pound.
In American numismatics, slang for a one-cent coin.
peripheral toning
Light, medium, or dark coloring around the edge of a coin.
Philadelphia Mint
The “mother” Mint, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. First established in 1792, the Philadelphia Mint has occupied four different locations. Currently, it is located in Independence Square, within sight of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The Philadelphia mint engraves all U.S. coins and medals, manufactures coin and medal dies, manufactures coins of all denominations for general circulation, manufactures commemorative coins, and produces medals. This mint currently uses the “P” mintmark but coins produced prior to 1980 have no mintmark.
Phrygian cap
Also known as a Liberty Cap or freedman's cap
pick off
Slang for a coin bought at a bargain price.
picked off
Term to describe the dealer who sells a pick off.
A term that means "double thick," it usually refers to French coins that were made in a double thickness to signify double value. Sometimes spelled Piefort.
Pioneer gold
Those privately-issued gold coins struck prior to 1861. These include coins struck in Georgia and North Carolina although no “pioneers” were responsible for the gold mined in those states. Generally associated with the private issues from California and the other post-1848 finds in Nevada, Oregon, and Colorado.
Short for prooflike.
plain edge
A flat, smooth edge seen mainly on a small-denomination coinage.
The blank disk of metal before it is struck by a coining press which transforms it into a coin. Type I planchets are flat. Type II planchets have upset rims from the milling machine, these to facilitate easier striking in close collars.
planchet defects
Any of the various abnormalities found on coin blanks. These include drift marks, laminations, clips, and so forth.
planchet flaw
An irregular hole in a coin blank, sometimes the result of a lamination that has broken away.
planchet striations
Fine, incuse lines found on some Proof coins, though rarely on business strikes, usually the result of polishing blanks to impart mirrorlike surfaces prior to striking.
A term used to describe a coin to which a thin layer of metal has been applied-for example, gold-plated copper strikings of certain U.S. pattern coins.
Precious metal sometimes used for coinage. The only United States issues struck in platinum are the pattern half dollars of 1814 and the modern platinum Eagles.
A term used to describe a coin that has had a hole filled, often so expertly that it can only be discerned only under magnification.
Short for Professional Numismatists Guild. PNG's web site can be viewed at: www.PNGdealers.com
PNG certificate
Before third-party certification was started by PCGS in 1986, these certificates were the best available protection for the coin buyer. Each PNG dealer could issue a certificate, one copy given to the buyer and one copy sent to the PNG main office. This provided not only a guarantee of authenticity, but also provided a space for a description that could be useful in cases of stolen collections.
This is for "Poor" (the grade) and "1" (the numerical designation that means Poor). A coin of this grade is basically uncollectible due to its terrible condition, but coins of great rarity (such as an 1802 half dime) are still of considerable value and in demand in this grade. In order to "reach" this grade a coin must be identifiable as to date and type and not be horribly damaged (such as holes).
polished die
A die that has been basined to remove clash marks or other die injury. In a positive sense, Proof dies were basined to impart mirrorlike surfaces, resulting in coins with reflective field.
polyvinyl chloride
A chemical used in coin flips to make them pliable.
The grade PO-1. A coin with readable date and mint mark (if present), but little more, barely identifiable as to type. (One-year type coins do not require a readable date to qualify for this grade.)
Pop Report
Short for “PCGS Population Report.”
Pop Top
A coin that is on top of the Population Report and scores the maximum number of points on the PCGS Set Registry.
A description indicating a rough or granular surface, typically seen on pre-1816 copper coins.
Short for premium quality.
Short for Proof.
premium quality
A term applied to coins that are the best examples within a particular grade.
presentation striking
A coin, often a Proof or an exceptionally sharp business strike, specially struck and given to a dignitary or other person.
Presidential Dollar
A copper-nickel coin with a gold-colored appearance made from 2007 through 2016 depicting past (deceased) U.S. Presidents. The coins were minted in business strike and proof strike versions although the coins have not been made for circulation since 2012. Each year since 2007, the Mint introduced four Presidential Dollars in presidential term order, of a President from United States history.
Any of the various coining machines. Examples include the screw press and the steam-powered knuckle-action press.
A type of coinage made using a manual screw coin press. Planchets are placed between two dies, and the top die is pushed down into the bottom die as a large screw attached to the top die is rotated down, forcing the metal into the bottom die and imparting the design.
The asking quotation for a particular numismatic item. “What’s the price?” is a common phrase on the bourse floor.
price guide
A periodical, whether electronic or paper, listing approximate prices for numismatic items, whether wholesale or retail.
price list
A term applied to coins in original, unimpaired condition. These coins typically are graded MS/PR-67 and higher.
Professional Coin Grading Service
Established in 1985, this was the first third-party grading service to grade, encapsulate, and guarantee the authenticity for numismatic material. Based in Newport Beach, California.
Professional Numismatists Guild
A dealer organization begun in 1955. The membership is restricted by financial and longevity requirements.
A coin usually struck from a specially prepared coin die on a specially prepared planchet. Proofs are usually given more than one blow from the dies and are usually struck with presses operating at slower speeds and higher striking pressure. Because of this extra care, Proofs usually exhibit much sharper detail than regular, or business, strikes. PCGS recognizes Proofs (PR) as those struck in 1817 and later. Those coins struck prior to 1817 are recognized as Specimen strikes (SP).
Proof set
A coin set containing Proof issues from particular year. A few sets contain anomalies such as the 1804 dollar and eagle in 1834 presentation Proof sets.
Proof dies
Specially prepared dies, often sandblasted or acid-picked, that are used to strike Proof coins. Often, the fields are highly polished to a mirrorlike finish, while the recessed areas are left “rough”; on coins struck with such dies, the devices are frosted and contrast with highly reflective fields. Matte, Roman, and Satin Proof dies are not polished to a mirror-like finish.
Proof-only issue
A coin struck only in Proof, with no business-strike counterpart.
Term to designate a coin that has mirror-like surfaces, the term especially applicable to Morgan dollars. Those Morgan dollars that meet PCGS prooflike standards are designated PL.
Term synonymous with pedigree.
A steel rod with a device, lettering, date, star, or some other symbol on the end which was sunk into a working die by hammering on the opposite end of the rod.
put-together roll
Term applied to a roll of coins that is not original, usually the best condition coins have been removed and replaced with lesser quality coins. (It is not unusual to find slightly circulated coins in such rolls.)
Short for polyvinyl chloride.
PVC damage
A film, usually green, left on a coin after storage in flips that contain PVC. During the early stage, this film may be clear and sticky.
PVC flip
Any of the various soft coin flips that contain PVC.
Short for a coin of the quarter dollar denomination.
Quarter Eagle
Correct terminology for a two-and-one-half dollar gold coin. This denomination, two and one half dollars or one fourth of an eagle, was first struck in 1796, struck sporadically thereafter, and discontinued in 1929.
questionable toning
Term to describe the color on a coin that may not be original. After a coin is dipped or cleaned, any subsequent toning, whether acquired naturally or induced artificially, will look different than original toning. PCGS will not grade coins with questionable color.
Racketeer nickel
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.)
rainbow toning
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.)
rarity scale
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.
recut date
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).
Nickname for "A Guidebook of United States Coins" published annually by Whitman Publishing Company since 1947. Originally authored by R.S. Yeoman, subsequent editors have included Kenneth Bressett and Jeff Garrett.
reeded edge
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.
reeding mark(s)
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.
regular issue
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.
regular strike
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.
repunched date
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.
reverse proof
Contrary to popular believe this is not a coin struck from Proof dies only on the "tails" side of the coin. It is a type of proof coin made for collectors where the fields are a matte finish and the devices are brilliant, the opposite of standard proof coinage. It might more accurately be referred to as an "Inverted Proof". The U.S. Mint began minting reverse proof silver eagles in 2006 and has created a few other reverse proof commemoratives since.
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.)
rim ding
Slang for rim nick.
rim nick
Term for a mark or indentation on the rim of a coin or other metallic numismatic item.
ring test
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.)
roll friction
Minor displacement of metal, mainly on the high points, seen on coins stored in rolls.
rolled edge
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.
roller marks
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.
Roman finish
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.
Mintmark used by the San Francisco, California branch mint.
S number
Sheldon number describing a particular die marriage for early U.S. large cents (1793-1814), named for Dr. William H. Sheldon, author of Early American Cents (1949); later renamed Penny Whimsy (1958)
S number
Snow number describing a particular die marriage for Flying Eagle and Indian Cents, named for Rick Snow, author of Flying Eagle and Indian Cent Attribution Guide (2000).
Short for 1909-S VDB Lincoln Head cent.
Term applied to the coins struck at the San Francisco, California branch Mint.
Short for Sacagawea Dollar.
Sacagawea Dollar
The Sacagawea dollar is a one dollar value circulating coin that was introduced in the year 2000. It is also called the "golden dollar" in the non-numismatic community because of its color. The coin honors Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian woman who was a guide and interpreter for the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804. Glenna Goodacre designed the obverse of the coin and Thomas D. Rogers created the reverse. Sacagawea dollars are struck for circulation at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints, while Proofs are struck in San Francisco.
Slang for the Saint-Gaudens inspired double eagle struck from 1907 until 1933. (The 1933 issue is currently considered illegal to own as the government insists that none of this date were legally released.) This low relief copy of the Extremely High Relief and High Relief designs was the work of Chief Engraver Charles Barber.
Last name of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the preeminent sculptor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. At the request of President Teddy Roosevelt, he redesigned the eagle and double eagle in 1907 although he died mid-production. Also, slang for the Liberty Head double eagle or Saint.
saltwater Unc
A very deceptive term. Generally, a term to describe coins with a finely pitted surface, however, recent discoveries of coins that have been exposed to saltwater for over a hundred years has made this term inaccurate, if not obsolete. The sand, not the saltwater, likely does the pitting on gold and silver coins in the ocean. A better term for these coins would be sandblasted Uncs or sand-damaged Uncs.
San Francisco Mint
The United States branch Mint located in San Francisco, California that struck coins from 1854 until 1955. After closing as a Mint, it served as an assay office until it reopened as a coinage facility in 1965. This facility manufactures annual proof coin sets, manufactures silver proof coin sets and manufactures commemorative coins. This mint uses the “S” mintmark.
satin finish
Another of the experimental Proof surfaces used on U.S. gold coins after 1907. The dies were treated in some manner to create the silky surfaces imparted to the coins.
satin luster
Fine, silky luster seen on many business strike coins, especially copper and nickel issues. Almost no “cartwheel” effect is seen on coins with this type of luster.
SBA Dollar
A copper-nickel dollar coin featuring the bust of suffragist Susan B. Anthony on the obverse and an eagle alighting on the moon on its reverse. Made at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints from 1979 to 1981, and again at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints in 1999.
A detracting line that is more severe than a hairline. The size of a coin determines the point at which a line ceases to be viewed as a hairline and instead is regarded a scratch; the larger the coin, the greater the tolerance. A heavy scratch may result in a coin not being graded by PCGS.
screw press
The first type of coining press used at the U.S. Mint. Invented by Italian craftsman Donato Bramante, this press had a fixed anvil (or lower) die, with the hammer (or upper) die being attached to a rod with screw-like threads. When weighted arms attached to the rod were rotated, the screw mechanism quickly moved the rod with the die downward, striking the planchet placed into the lower die. The struck coin then was ejected and the process was repeated.
Short for small date.
sea salvage coin
A coin retrieved from the ocean, usually from a ship wreck. The conception that these coin will have pitted surface has been exploded by the recent Brother Jonathon and Central America recoveries. These coins do not have pitted surfaces! The action of the shifting tides evidently causes sand to “blast” the surface of some coins, while others protected from this action retain nearly intact Mint luster.
Short for Liberty Seated.
Seated coinage
Term commonly used for Liberty Seated coinage.
second toning
Any toning, natural or artificial, that results after a coin is dipped or cleaned. This second toning is seldom as attractive as original toning, although some coins “take” second toning better than others.
The profit generated from the printing or coining of currency. This word also has many other related meanings, most often associated with taxes created through inflation.
Term to denote coins that are neither scarce nor common. An example would be Uncirculated 1903 Morgan dollars.
Term indicating a coin that has a significant bullion value and some numismatic value. The most recognized examples are Liberty Head and Saint-Gaudens double eagles.
A term used to describe a coin that has some mirror-like surface mixed with satin or frosty luster. Reflectivity is obscured on such a specimen, unlike the reflectivity on prooflike and deep mirror prooflike coins.
A particular design or motif used over a period of time. This can used for a single denomination, or in some cases, used for several denominations. The Liberty Seated series encompasses five denominations, the Barber series three, etc.
A term indicating a collection of coins in a series, a collection of types, or a collection from a particular Mint. Examples include a complete series set (Lincoln cents from 1909 to date); a type set of gold coins (8 or 12 piece sets are the most common); a set of branch mint quarter eagles (Dahlonega quarter eagles from 1838 to 1859)
Set Registry
Listing of registered PCGS graded sets of coins. These include Morgan dollar sets, Proof Barber quarter sets, Mercury dime sets, etc.
Specifically, Dr. William Sheldon who wrote the seminal work on 1793 to 1814 large cents.
Sheldon Book
The large cent book, first published in 1949 as Early American Cents with only Dr. Sheldon listed, updated in 1958 with Walter Breen and Dorothy Paschal also listed as authors with the new name, Penny Whimsy.
Sheldon number
The reference number for 1793 to 1814 large cents per the Sheldon books, Early American Cents and Penny Whimsy. When certain Sheldon numbers are mentioned among large cent aficionados, an immediate hush is observed until all the facts of that particular specimen are disseminated.
Sheldon scale
The rarity scale introduced in 1949 in Early American Cents.
The emblem used on certain issues that has horizontal and vertical lines in a shield shape. These are first found in the center of the heraldic eagle and on each succeeding eagle until the end of the Barber quarter series in 1916. They shield as a single motif first appeared on the two-cent coins of 1864, later also used on the nickels of 1866. Starting in 1860, Indian Head cents used the shield motif at the top of the wreath on the reverse.
Shield nickel
Common name for the Shield five-cent coin struck from 1866 until 1883. The 1866 and some 1867 coins have rays between the stars on the reverse and are referred to as Rays type (or With Rays type). Those 1867 through 1883 coins without the rays are called No Rays type.
A denomination from pre-decimal English coinage which first appeared in the mid 16th century. One shilling equaled twelve pence. Twenty shillings comprise a pound sterling. The denomination was also used in some of the British colonies as well as a few other European locations such as Austria, and several Scandinavian countries.
shiny spots
Areas on Matte, Roman, and Satin Proofs where the surface has been disturbed. On brilliant Proofs, dull spots appear where there are disturbances; on textured-surface coins such as Matte, Roman, and Satin Proofs, these disturbances create “shiny” spots.
Shotgun rolls
This term has two definitions. The first refers to rolls of coins that contain double the normal amount of coins in a roll. For instance, a shotgun roll of silver dollars contains 40 coins. The name derives from the length of the rolls being similar to the length of a shotgun shell. These double rolls were common and popular during the great roll boom of the 1960s. The second definition of "shotgun roll" refers to a paper-wrapped roll that is machine-crimped like the end of a shotgun shell.
Common term for a bourse or coin show. Example: the ANA show was great!
sight seen
A term to indicate that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular grade wants to view the coin before he buys it. He may have a customer who wants an untoned coin – or a toned coin, or some other specific requirement.
sight unseen
A term to indicate that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular grade will pay a certain price without examining the item.
Term to indicate coins struck in silver (generally 90% silver and 10% copper but there are a few exceptions).
silver commem
Short for silver commemorative coins.
silver commemoratives
Originally, those commemorative coins struck from 1892 until 1954, although not in every year. These are all struck in 90% silver and 10% copper alloy. Of course, those post-1982 silver commemorative issues also could technically be so called.
silver dollar
A coin of the one dollar denomination that is struck in a composition of 90% silver (or so) and 10% copper. The silver dollar was introduced in 1794 and was issued for circulation in intermittent years through 1935. The most frequently seen silver dollars are the Morgan design (1878-1921) and the Peace design (1921-35). These coins remained in circulation until the 1960s, mostly in the western US. Modern dollar coins are sometimes called "silver dollars" as well, even though the pieces struck for circulation contain no silver.
Silver nickel
Slang for Wartime nickel.
Silver Plug
On certain early American coins, a silver plug was inserted into a hole in the center of the coin, which was then flattened out when the coin was struck. The purpose of the plug was to add weight or value to the coin to bring it into proper specifications. Examples include the 1792 Silver-Center Cent, a Specimen 1794 Silver Dollar, and several varieties of 1795 Silver Dollars.
silver wash
A light coating or painting of silver. When the Roman denarius was heavily debased in the middle of the 3rd century, a silver wash was used to coat a bronze core.
Term to indicate a Kennedy half dollar struck from 1965 to 1970, whose overall content is 40 percent silver and 60 percent copper. These are commonly referred to as silver-clad halves because two outer layers containing primarily silver (80%) are bonded to a core made primarily of copper (79%).
skirt lines
The lines representing the folds on Miss Liberty’s flowing gown on Walking Liberty half dollars. The early issues (1916-1918 and some coins through the entire series) are particularly weak in this feature. Well struck coins with full skirt lines often bring substantial premiums over those that are weakly struck.
Short for small letters.
Numismatic slang for the holder in which a coin is encapsulated by a grading service. The coin contained therein is said to be slabbed.
The process of sending a coin to a third-party grading service to have it authenticated, graded, and encapsulated in a sonically sealed holder.
A term used to describe an AU coin that looks, or can be sold as, Uncirculated. Occasionally used as a reference to another grade; a slider EF coin, for example, would be a VF/EF coin that is nearly EF.
Slang for the octagonal and round fifty-dollar gold coins struck during the California gold rush. Allegedly, their name came from the fact that criminals used the two-and-one-half ounce coins wrapped in a handkerchief and slugged their victims on the head with this “weapon.” This could be a myth, as their massive size also could be construed to be a “slug” of gold. The 1915 Pan-Pac fifty-dollar commemorative issues are also referred to a slugs.
small cent
Those cents of reduced size, replacing the large cent in 1857. The 1856 small cents technically are patterns, but have been so widely collected with the regular issues that their acceptance is universal.
small date
Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that a large or medium date exists for that coin or series.)
Small Eagle
The plain eagle on a perch first used on the 1794 half dime and half dollar, although the 1795 half eagle is the first coin to use the term to denote a type coin.
small letters
Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that large or medium letters exist for that coin or series.)
Small Motto
Common short name for the particular variety of two-cent coin of 1864 with small letters in the motto. The inscription “IN GOD WE TRUST” was first used as a motto on the two-cent coinage of 1864.
small size
A term referring to the particular diameter of a coin in a series. (Use of this term implies that there is a large size or diameter with the same motif. Examples are the Large and Small size Capped Bust quarters.)
Short for Special Mint Set
Short for Specimen Strike.
spark-erosion die
A die made by an electrolytic deposition method. The surfaces of such a die are very rough, so they usually are extensively polished to remove the “pimples.” The recessed areas of the die, and the relief areas of any coin struck with the die, still have rustlike surfaces with tiny micro pimples.
spark-erosion strike
A coin made from spark-erosion dies. These are characterized by the telltale “pimples” noted mainly on the areas in relief.
Special Mint Set
A set of special coins-neither business strikes nor Proofs-first struck in limited quantities in 1965 and officially released in 1966-1967- to replace Proof sets, which were discontinued as part of the U.S. Mint’s efforts to stop coin hoarding. The quality of many of the 1965 coins was not much better than that of business strikes-but by 1967, some Special Mint Set (SMS) coins resembled Proofs. In fact, the government admitted as much when it revealed how the 1967 issues were struck. In 1968, Proof coinage resume. There have been similar issues since; the 1994 and 1997 Matte-finish Jefferson nickels, for example, are frosted SMS-type coins. There also are a few known 1964 SMS coins, these likely struck as tests in late 1964 for the new 1965 SMS strikings.
Term used to indicate special coins struck at the Mint from 1792-1816 that display many characteristics of the later Proof coinage. Prior to 1817, the minting equipment and technology was limited, so these coins do not have the “watery” surfaces of later Proofs nor the evenness of strike of the close collar Proofs. PCGS designates these coins SP.
Specimen Strike
splotchy toning
Color that is uneven, both in shade and composition.
A discolored area on a coin. This can be a small dot of copper staining on a gold coin or a large, dark “tar” spot on a copper coin. The spot(s) can have a small or large effect on the grade of a coin depending on the severity, size, placement, number, and so on.
See “spot.”
St. Gaudens
Short for Augustus Saint-Gaudens or slang for the Standing Liberty double eagle or Saint.
standard silver
The official composition of U.S. silver coinage, set by the Mint Act of 1792 at approximately 89 percent silver and 11 percent copper, later changed to 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper-the composition seen in most U.S. silver coins.
Standing Liberty
Motif with Miss Liberty in a upright front-facing position. The design was used in 1907 on the Saint-Gaudens double eagles and later on the Hermon A. MacNeil quarter first struck in 1917.
Standing Liberty quarter
Common name of the Hermon MacNeil designed quarter dollar struck from 1917 until 1930.
staple scratch
A line on a coin resulting from its improper removal from a holder, usually one of the two-by-two inch cardboard type. Staples should be completely removed from any holder before the coin is removed!
A term for the five-pointed and six-pointed devices used on many U.S. coins. On the earliest U.S. coins, thirteen stars were depicted, representing the thirteen original colonies/states. As new states were admitted into the Union, more stars were added; up to sixteen appeared on some coins. Adding stars for each state was impractical, however, so the number was reduced to the original thirteen. Exception include the forty-six stars, later forty-eight stars, around the periphery of Saint-Gaudens double eagles, reflecting the number of states in the Union at the time those coins were issued. Also, as a single motif, the star was used on the obverse of the three-cent silver issue from 1851 until 1873.
State quarter
One of the 1999 and later Washington quarters struck with unique reverse designs for each state, issued in the order of admittance to the United States. (The order for the original 13 colonies was determined by the date which each state ratified the Constitution.)
steam-powered press
A coining press driven by a steam-powered engine. This type of press, more powerful than its predecessors, was installed in the United States Mint in 1836, replacing the hand and horse-powered screw presses except for most Proof strikings and die hubbing.
steel cent
Common name for the 1943 cents (and certain 1944 cents struck on left-over steel blanks) struck in steel and plated with zinc. Hundreds of millions were minted in the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints.
Slang for 1943 steel cents.
A term applied to the experimental four-dollar gold coins struck by the U.S. Mint in 1879-1880. So named for the large star on the coins’ reverse.
Sterling Silver
Sterling silver is a composition of 925 parts pure silver with 75 parts of copper. This is usually defined as .925 fine silver. Sterling silver is used to make jewelry and some household items, most notably silverware (knives, forks, etc.).
stock edge
A counterfeit edge collar used for various-dated fakes. These have the same repeating characteristics.
store cards
Merchant tokens, usually composed of copper, which helped alleviate the small change shortage during the nineteenth century. These were widely accepted in their immediate areas.
stress lines
Alternate form of “flow lines.”
Term for the incuse polish lines on the die which result in raised lines on coins. These are usually fine, parallel lines though on some coins they are swirling, still others with criss-cross lines. Planchet striations are burnishing lines not struck away by the minting process and are incuse on the coins.
strike – n.
Term to indicate the completeness, or incompleteness, of a coin’s intended detail. v. The act of minting a coin.
The flat metal, rolled to proper thickness, from which planchets are cut.
A term used to describe a coin produced from dies and a coining press.
struck copy
A replica of a particular coin made from dies not necessarily meant to deceive.
struck counterfeit
A fake coin produced from false dies.
struck thru
An error caused by a foreign object that got between the dies and the planchet when a coin was struck. A common Struck Thru error is a piece of wire that leaves an indentation that is usually mistaken for a scratch.
successful bidder
The buyer of a particular lot from an auction, whether it is a mail-bid, internet, or a “normal” in-person auction.
surface preservation
The condition of the surface of a coin. On weakly struck coins, this is a better indicator grade than is the coins’ detail.
The entire obverse and reverse of a coin, although often used to mean just the field areas.
A procedure in which coins are placed in a bag and shaken vigorously to knock off small pieces of metal. Later these bits of metal are gathered and sold, producing a profit as the coins are returned to circulation at face value. Mainly employed with gold coins, leaving their surfaces peppered with tiny nicks.
tab toning
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.
target 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.
Teddy’s Coin
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.
telephone auction
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.
Ten Indian
Common name for an Indian Head eagle.
Ten Lib
Common name for a Liberty Head eagle.
tensor light
A small, direct light source used by many numismatists to examine and grade coins.
Territorial Gold
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.
The Numismatist
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.
A non-precious metal that is mostly non-reactive. Tin has been used to alloy metals in U.S. coinage.
tissue toning
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.
tooling mark
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).
Trade dollar
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.
transfer die
A die created by sacrificing a coin for a model.
Short for transitional issue.
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.
treasure coin
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.
Troy weight
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.
Turban Head
Synonymous With Draped Bust.
Common term for double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.
Twenty Lib
Common name for Liberty Head double eagle or twenty-dollar gold coin.
twenty-cent piece
A 90% silver U.S. coin made for circulation from 1875 to 1876 in in proof from 1875 to 1878. Circulation strikes were minted in Philadelphia, San Fransisco, and Carson City. Proofs were minted only in Philadelphia. Due to its similarity in size and design to the quarter, it proved unpopular and was quickly discontinued.
Two and a Half
Common name for a quarter eagle or two-and-one-half dollar gold coin.
two-cent piece
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.
type coin
A representative coin, usually a common date, from a particular issue of a specific design, size, or metallic content.
Type One
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.
Type Three
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.
Type Two
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.
Ultra Cameo
Another term for Deep Cameo. Cameo refers to the devices standing out in finish from the fields of a coin. Most often seen in modern proof coinage. That is, the design elements appear to have a white color (or "Frosted" appearance) while the fields appear mirrored.
Ultra High Relief
Alternate name for the Extremely High Relief.
ultra rarity
Term used for a coin or other numismatic item that is represented by only a few examples.
Short for uncirculated.
Term to indicate a coin or numismatic item that has never been in circulation, a coin without wear. See “Brilliant Uncirculated,” “Mint State,” and “new.”
The individual or entity that executed the bid preceding the winning bid. Close, but no cigar.
Universal Rarity Scale
A collectibles rarity information scale developed in 1998 by 21 major collectibles experts in order to both define rarity within their individual markets and allow collectors and dealers from different collectibles markets to more easily communicate with one another. The Universal Rarity Scale is a 10 point scale. The least rare collectible items are those where more than 10,000 examples are estimated to exist. These items are designated “UR1” and are described as “readily available.” The rarest items are those where only one example is known to exist. These rarities are designated “UR10” and are described as “unique.”
Upsetting Mill
A machine that raises the outer rim on a planchet prior to striking. Upsetting ensures that the rims are properly formed during striking.
Short for Universal Rarity Scale.
term to describe a coin that has light to heavy wear or circulation.
Common name for the Liberty Head five-cent coins struck from 1883 through 1912. (The 1913 was struck clandestinely and is not listed in Mint reports.)
VAM number
Unique number assigned to each die combination of Morgan and Peace dollar known to the authors of The Complete Catalog and Encyclopedia of United States Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars. Called VAM because of the authors Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis.
Van Allen-Mallis
The Morgan and Peace dollar variety book authors. First published in 1971, it was updated and reprinted in 1998.
A coin of the same date and basic design as another but with slight differences. PCGS recognizes all major varieties while there are thousands of minor varieties, most of which have significance only to specialists of the particular series. After hubbed dies, introduced in the 1840s, varieties are mainly variations in date and mintmark size and placement.
Short for 1909 VDB Lincoln Head cent. Controversy arose over having a non-Mint engraver’s initials on a coin, so Victor D. Brenner’s initials were removed. This was likely a jealous complaint from the Chief Engraver Charles Barber as the tiny B on the Barber series had generated no outcry. This is a similar situation to the complaint lodged, again probably by the Chief Engraver of the time William Kneass, against the name-below-base Gobrecht dollars. This overt signing was moved to a less obvious position on the base of the rock of the Gobrecht dollar while, in 1918, the VDB was returned to the Lincoln Head cent albeit in a less conspicuous place on the slanted area at the bottom of Lincoln’s shoulder.
The grader at PCGS who looks at graded coins and decides whether the indicated grade is correct. He may tag a coin to be looked at again by the graders.
Very Fine
The term corresponding to the grades VF-20, 25, 30, and 35. This has the broadest range of any circulated grade, with nearly full detail on some VF-35 coins and less than half on some VF-20 specimens.
Very Good
The term corresponding to the grades VG-8 and VG-10. In these grades, between Good and Fine, a coin has slightly more detail than in Good, usually with full rims except on certain series such as Buffalo nickels.
vest pocket dealer
A part-time coin merchant. The term originated with those individuals who roamed the bourse floor ready to whip out of their vests a small plastic coin binder containing coins in two-by-two cardboard holders. Today, not one-in-a-thousand individuals wears a vest, but the moniker stuck.
This is for "Very Fine" (the grade) and "20" (the numerical designation of the grade). Wing feathers show most of their detail, lettering is readable but sometimes indistinct and some minor detail is sometimes separate but usually blended.
This is for "Very Fine" (the grade) and "25" (the numerical designation of the grade). In this grade about 60% of the original detail is evident, with the major devices being clear and distinct.
This is for "Very Fine" (the grade) and "30" (the numerical designation of the grade). The devices are sharp with only a small amount of blending. Up to 75% of the original detail is evident.
This is for "Very Fine" (the grade) and "35" (the numerical designation of the grade). This grade used to be called VF/EF (or VF/XF) before numerical grading was accepted throughout the hobby. Devices are sharp and clear and up to 80% of the detail is in evidence.
This is for "Very Good" (the grade) and "10" (the numerical designation of the grade). A higher grade (less worn) than the VG-8 coin. Design detail is still heavily worn but the major devices and lettering are clear.
This is for "Very Good" (the grade) and "8" (the numerical designation of the grade). A slight amount of design detail is still showing on the coin, such as a couple of letters in the word LIBERTY.
Mintmark used by the West Point, New York branch mint.
Term applied to the coins struck at the West Point, New York branch mint.
Slang for a Walking Liberty half dollar.
Walking Liberty
Common name for a Walking Liberty half dollar.
Walking Liberty half dollar
Those half dollars struck from 1916 until 1947. The Walking Liberty design by A.A. Weinman undoubtedly was inspired by the popular Saint-Gaudens/Charles Barber Liberty Standing double eagle then current.
War nickel
Short for Wartime nickel.
Wartime nickel
Those five-cent coins struck during World War II comprised of 35% silver, 9% manganese, and 56% copper. Tradition has been that nickel was needed for the war effort, hence the metallic change. However, recent research has shown that the boost to morale by having an intrinsic-value small denomination coin may have played an important part in the issuance of the Wartime nickel.
Washington quarter
Short for Washington quarter dollar.
Washington quarter dollar
The John Flanagan designed quarter dollar first struck in 1932 as a circulating commemorative coin. (This was to celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of George Washington’s birth.) It became a continuing series in 1934 and has been struck every year to 1998, albeit with a different reverse in 1976. In 1999, the obverse was redesigned and the State quarter series began to be struck. Each of the 50 State quarters will have a different reverse design with 5 new issues per year for 10 years.
watery look
A look seen on the surfaces of most close-collar Proof coins. Highly polished planchets and dies give the surfaces an almost “wavy” look-hence the term.
Weak Edge Lettering
Indicates the edge lettering is weaker than normal and has a portion of a letter/star or inscription missing. The missing part could be the serif of an "S" or "T" or part of a star. Note: This variety will not be recognized if part of the edge design was caused by damage. This variety will also not be recognized if the overall strength of the edge lettering is strong and the missing element is caused by a die chip.
weak strike
A term used to describe a coin that does not show intended detail because of improper striking pressure or improperly aligned dies.
An individual who is obsessed with a particular series or group of series. Examples are copper weenies, bust half weenies, etc.
West Point Mint
The West Point Mint was originally opened in 1937 as a bullion depository and was officially designated by Congress as a Mint on March 31, 1988. This mint manufactures American Eagle uncirculated and proof coins, manufactures all sizes of the proof and uncirculated silver, gold and platinum American Eagle coins, manufactures commemorative coins that Congress mandates, and stores platinum, gold and silver bullion. This mint uses the “W” mintmark.
wheel mark
Synonymous with “counting machine mark.”
Term to describe the process of mechanically moving the metal of a lightly circulated coin to simulate luster. Usually accomplished by using a wire brush attachment on a high-speed drill.
wire edge
The thin, knife-like projection seen on some rims created when metal flows between the collar and the dies. Also, slang for the Wire Edge Indian Head eagle of 1907.
Wire Edge eagle
The 1907 Indian Head eagle for which only 500 coins were struck. Technically, a pattern, this design featured a fine wire rim and surfaces unlike any other United States issue. The fields and the devices of the die were heavily polished leaving myriad die striations that transferred to the struck coins. With a combination of satiny and striated surfaces, these rare coins have a look of their own. Often, unknowledgeable numismatists will look at one of these specimens and declare it hairlined or harshly cleaned.
Wire Edge Ten
Common name for the 1907-dated Wire Edge Indian Head eagle.
wire rim
Alternate form of wire edge.
with arrows
Alternate form of arrows at date.
with arrows and rays
Alternate form of arrows and rays.
with motto
Alternate form of motto.
with rays
Alternate for of rays.
wonder coin
Slang for a coin whose condition is particularly superb.
working die
A die prepared from a working hub and used to strike coins.
working hub
A hub created from a master die and used to create the many working dies required for coinage.
World Coins
Term applied to coins from countries other than the United States.
worn die
A die that has lost detail from extended use. Dies were often used until they wore out or were excessively cracked or broke apart. Coins struck from worn dies often appear to be weakly struck but no amount of striking pressure will produce detail that does not exist.
Wreath cent
Common name for the second large cent type of 1793. Complaints about the Chain cent led to the redesign resulting in the Flowing Hair with wreath reverse type.
Short for EF-40
Short for EF-45
Zerbe Proof
Those 1921 Morgan dollars specially struck for numismatist and Mint friend Farran Zerbe. These Proofs are not of the same quality as the other Proof Morgan dollars. The devices on these specimens usually are not frosted while the fields lack the depth of mirror normally associated with Proofs. In fact, the fields are characterized by heavy die polish, the planchets likely not burnished before striking. (Both Philadelphia and San Francisco examples are known.)

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