Glossary/Dictionary of Numismatic Terms
About Uncirculated (AU): The grades AU-50 to AU-58 on the American Numismatic Association grading chart indicating original mint luster with traces of wear at the highest points. Explanations of Coin Grades Used on this Site.
Alloy: Mixture of more than one metal, usually preceded by the name of the most predominate or most important metal in the mix, such as nickel alloy.
Authentication: Authoritative determination of the genuineness of a numismatic item.
Bag Marks: Minor abrasions on an otherwise uncirculated coin, caused by contact between coins in a mint bag.
Bit: A popular term for the Spanish-American one-reale piece which formally circulated in the United States. More often used in the plural, as two bits (25¢) or four bits (50¢).
Brilliant Uncirculated (BU): Original mint luster with no trace of wear and moderate bag marks (Our selection ranges from MS-60 to MS-62). Explanations of Coin Grades Used on this Site.
Bullion: Uncoined precious metal in the form of bars, plates, ingots, etc.
Choice: Select; desirable; superior; better than average.
Commemorative: A piece issued to mark, honor or observe an event, place or person, or to preserve its memory.
Copy: A reproduction or imitation of an original.
Date: The statement fixed to a numismatic item which specified the date of manufacture.
Denomination: The value assigned by a government to a specific coin.
Device: The principal element, such as a portrait, shield or heraldic emblem, of the design on a coin, token or medal.
Die: A hardened metal punch, the face of which carries an intaglio or incuse mirror-like image of the device to be impressed on one side of a planchet.
Error: A coin, token, medal or paper money item evidencing a mistake made in its manufacture.
Extra Fine (XF or EF): The grades EF-40 and 45 on the American Numismatic Association grading chart indicating all design details sharp, light wear at the highest point. Explanations of Coin Grades Used on this Site.
Face: The surface of a coin or token: referred to as either the obverse or the reverse.
Fasces: A bundle of rods containing an ax with the blade projecting, borne before Roman magistrates as an emblem of official power. Mercury dime…
Field: The flat part of a surface of a coin surrounding and between the head, legend or other designs.
Fine (F): The grades F-12 and 15 on the American Numismatic Association grading chart indicating moderate even wear, bold entire design with some weaknesses. Explanations of Coin Grades Used on this Site.
Gem: A flawless piece.
Good (G): The grades G-4 and 6 on the American Numismatic Association grading chart indicating heavily worn condition with major designs visible but with faintness in areas. Explanations of Coin Grades Used on this Site.
Grading: The process of determining the condition of a coin or numismatic item. Explanations of Coin Grades Used on this Site.
Hoard: Usually a deposit of coins, secreted at some time in the past, discovered accidentally. Hoards often give insights of value in archeological and historical research.
Hub: Piece of steel with a design on it used to make working dies; will be either incuse or in relief opposite to that of the working dies and the same as subsequent coins.
Incuse: Intaglio; the opposite of bas-relief; design is recessed rather than raised.
Inscription: The lettering in the field of a coin, medal, etc.
Intaglio: design sunk below the surface.
Legend: The inscription on a numismatic item.
Lettered Edge: Intaglio lettering milled onto the edge of a coin before striking, or raised lettering on the edge of a coin produced by the use of a segmented collar die at the time of striking.
Lustrous: Having luster; shining; luminous.
Mint: a place where coins, paper currency, special medals, etc., are produced under government authority.
Mintmark: A letter or other symbol indicating the mint of origin.
Mint Set: One coin of each denomination from a given mint in a given year.
Mint-State: The grades MS-60 to MS-70 on the American Numismatic Association grading chart indicating a coin with original mint luster with no trace of wear that was never used in circulation. Explanations of Coin Grades Used on this Site.
NGC: The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation coin grading service which provides third-party grading.
Numismatics: the study or collecting of coins, medals, paper money, etc.
Numismatist: A person knowledgeable in numismatics.
Obverse: the side of a numismatic item which bears the principal design or device, often as prescribed by the issuing authority.
PCGS: The Professional Coin Grading Service which provides third-party grading.
Planchet: The disc of metal or other material on which the dies of the coin, token or medal are impressed: also called blank, disc or flan.
Pristine: A mint-state coin in original condition showing no trace of wear.
Proof: A piece produced by a technique involving specially prepared dies and planchets and usually special striking, resulting in particular sharpness of detail and a virtually flawless surface, usually mirror-like or matte surface over the field at least, sometimes with “frosted” design. Explanations of Coin Grades Used on this Site.
Proof-like: Having a surface as flawless and brilliant, or nearly so, as a proof but struck from working dies and sold to collectors as above-average specimens.
Proof Set: A set of one proof coin of each current denomination issued by a recognized mint for a specific year.
Reeded Edge: The result of a minting process which creates vertical serrations on the edge of a coin.
Reverse: The side opposite to that on which the head or principal figure is impressed. The side opposite from the obverse.
Silver-Clad: A coin whose overall metal makeup is 40% silver and 60% copper.
Slab or Slabbed: The clear plastic holder used by third-party grading services to house a coin which has been graded.
Toning: The change in color on a coin’s surface due to the metal’s interaction exposure to outside elements.
Type Set: Collection comprising one coin of each desired series.
Uncirculated: A piece in new condition as issued by the mint. Explanations of Coin Grades Used on this Site.
Very Fine (VF): The grades VF-20 to VF-35 on the American Numismatic Association grading chart indicating general light wear, moderate wear at high points. Explanations of Coin Grades Used on this Site.
Very Good (VG): The grades VG-8 and 10 on the American Numismatic Association grading chart indicating well worn condition with bold major designs and the absence of fine detailing. Explanations of Coin Grades Used on this Site.