Coin Collecting Terms You Need to Know

coin collecting terms

Coin collecting, also known as numismatics, is a fascinating hobby enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting out, understanding the terminology used in the world of coins is essential to building your knowledge and growing your collection.

This coin collecting glossary provides a comprehensive list of terms and definitions commonly used in the field of numismatics. From grading and authentication to minting and rarity, this glossary covers a wide range of topics to help you navigate the exciting and ever-changing world of coin collecting. Whether you’re interested in U.S. coins, world coins, or ancient coins, this has you covered.

Coin Collecting Glossary


The front side of a coin, typically featuring a portrait, symbol, or other design element.


The back side of a coin, typically featuring another design element, such as a date, denomination, or mint mark.

Mint mark

A small letter or symbol indicating the location where a coin was minted.


The face value of a coin, such as a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, or dollar.


The numerical or descriptive rating assigned to a coin based on its condition, with higher grades indicating better condition.


A coin struck with specially polished dies and planchets, resulting in a sharp, mirrored finish and crisp details.


A coin made from a precious metal, such as gold or silver, that is valued primarily for its metal content.


A coin with a mistake or anomaly in its production, such as a misprint or double strike.

Commemorative: A coin issued to commemorate a specific event or person, often in limited quantities.


A coin with a unique feature or variation in its design, such as a different date or mint mark.

Coin album 

A book or binder designed to hold and display a collection of coins.

Coin holder 

A protective holder designed to store and display an individual coin.

Grading service

An independent company that evaluates and assigns a grade to a coin, providing an objective assessment of its condition.


The study and collection of coins and currency.


The natural discoloration that can occur on a coin over time, often resulting in a colorful patina.


A coin that has never been used in commerce or handled by the public, and retains its original mint luster.


A coin that has been used in commerce and shows signs of wear or damage.


The act of stamping a coin with a die to create an impression.


A metal stamp used to impress a design onto a blank piece of metal to create a coin.

Blank or planchet 

A circular piece of metal that has not yet been stamped with a design or inscriptions to become a coin.


The outermost border of a coin, which can be plain, reeded, or decorated.


The raised lines on the edge of a coin, which are added for decoration and to prevent counterfeiting.


The total number of coins produced by a particular mint in a given year or for a specific design.


A coin that is difficult to find due to its limited mintage or unique characteristics.

Key date

A coin with a low mintage or high demand, making it particularly valuable and sought after by collectors.

FDC or First Day Cover

A commemorative envelope or postcard that bears a stamp and postmark issued on the first day of a new coin release.

Grading scale 

A system used to determine the condition of a coin, typically on a scale from 1 to 70, with 70 being the highest possible grade.

Red book

A popular reference book for U.S. coin collectors, also known as the Guide Book of United States Coins.

Blue book 

A popular reference book for U.S. coin collectors, also known as the Handbook of United States Coins.


A public sale of coins, often featuring rare or valuable pieces, where buyers bid against each other to purchase the coins.


The process of removing dirt, grime, or tarnish from a coin. Cleaning is generally 

discouraged in coin collecting as it can damage the coin’s surface and reduce its value.


A fake or fraudulent coin that is made to resemble a genuine coin in order to deceive collectors.


The process of verifying the authenticity of a coin using various methods, such as visual inspection, chemical testing, or micro-photography.

Numismatic value

The value of a coin based on its rarity, historical significance, and collector demand, as opposed to its face value or metal content.

Commemorative coin program

A series of coins issued by a mint to commemorate a particular event or theme, often spanning several years and including various denominations and designs.


A security feature added to some modern coins to prevent counterfeiting, consisting of a three-dimensional image that changes with the angle of view.

Slab or holder

A hard plastic case used to store and protect a coin, typically used by grading services to encapsulate graded coins.

TPG or Third-Party Grading

An independent company that evaluates, grades, and authenticates coins, providing a standardized and objective assessment of a coin’s condition and authenticity.

CAC or Certified Acceptance Corporation

A company that evaluates graded coins and affixes a green or gold sticker to coins that meet their strict standards for eye appeal and quality.

Numismatic literature

Books, magazines, catalogs, and other printed materials related to coin collecting, including reference books, auction catalogs, and price guides.

Strike doubling

A type of error that occurs when a coin is struck twice by the die, resulting in doubling of certain design elements.

Bag mark

A small scratch or indentation on a coin’s surface caused by contact with other coins during the minting or transportation process.


The raised border or lip that encircles the edge of a coin, which helps protect the coin’s design from wear and damage.

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