Coin Collecting Terms You Need to Know – From A to Z

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

A

  • Alloy: A mixture of two or more metals.
  • American Numismatic Association (ANA): A nonprofit educational organization that encourages the study of money throughout the world.
  • Annealing: The process of heating blanks (planchets) in a furnace to soften the metal.
  • Assay: The analysis and determination of the purity of metal.
  • Auction: A public sale of coins, often featuring rare or valuable pieces, where buyers bid against each other to purchase the coins.
  • Authentication: The process of verifying the authenticity of a coin using various methods, such as visual inspection, chemical testing, or micro-photography.

B

  • Bag Mark: A mark on a coin from contact with other coins in a mint bag.
  • Bi-Metallic: A coin composed of two different metals, bonded together.
  • Blank: Another term for planchet, the blank piece of metal on which a coin design is stamped.
  • Blue book: A popular reference book for U.S. coin collectors, also known as the Handbook of United States Coins.
  • Bullion: A coin made from a precious metal, such as gold or silver, that is valued primarily for its metal content.
  • Bullion Coin: A precious metal coin traded at current bullion prices.
  • Business Strike: A coin produced for general circulation, as opposed to coins specifically made for collectors like proofs or uncirculated coins.
  • Bust: A portrait on a coin, usually including the head, neck, and upper shoulders.

C

  • 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.
  • Circulated: A coin that has been used in commerce and shows signs of wear or damage.
  • Clad Coinage: Coins with a core and outer layer made of different metals, commonly used in modern U.S. dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars.
  • Cleaning: 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.
  • Coin: A flat piece of metal issued by the government as money.
  • 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.
  • Collar: A metal piece that restrains the expanding metal of a planchet during striking.
  • Commemorative: A coin or medal issued to honor a significant person, place, or event, often in limited quantities.
  • 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.
  • Condition: The physical state of a coin.
  • Counterfeit: A fake coin or other piece of currency made to appear genuine.
  • Currency: Any kind of money – coins or paper money – used as a medium of exchange.

D

  • Denomination: The face value of a coin, such as a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, or dollar.
  • Designer: The artist who creates a coin’s design.
  • Die: An engraved stamp used for impressing a design on a blank piece of metal to make a coin.

E

  • Edge: The outer border of a coin, considered the “third side.”
  • Engraver: An artist who sculpts a clay model of a coin’s design in bas relief.
  • Error: A coin with a mistake or anomaly in its production, such as a misprint or double strike.

F

  • Face Value: The sum for which a coin can be spent or exchanged, as opposed to its collector or precious metal value.
  • 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.
  • Field: The portion of a coin’s surface not used for design or inscription.

G

  • Grade: The numerical or descriptive rating assigned to a coin based on its condition, with higher grades indicating better condition.
  • Grading service: An independent company that evaluates and assigns a grade to a coin, providing an objective assessment of its condition.
  • 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.

H

  • Hairlines: Tiny lines or scratches on coins, usually caused by cleaning or polishing.
  • Hologram: A security feature added to some modern coins to prevent counterfeiting, consisting of a three-dimensional image that changes with the angle of view.

I

  • Incuse: The part of a coin’s design that is pressed into the surface.
  • Ingot: Metal cast into a particular shape, used in making coins.
  • Inscription: Words stamped on a coin or medal.
  • Intrinsic Value (Bullion Value): The current market value of the precious metal in a coin.

K

  • Key Date: A scarce date required to complete a collection, often more difficult to find and afford.

L

  • Legal Tender: Coins, dollar bills, or other currency issued by a government as official money.
  • Legend: Principal lettering on a coin.

M

  • Medal: A metal object resembling a coin, issued to recognize an event, place, person, or group, with no stated value and not intended to circulate as money.
  • Medium of Exchange: Anything that people agree has a certain value.
  • Mint: A place where coins of a country are manufactured under government authority.
  • Mint Luster: The dull, frosty, or satiny shine found on uncirculated coins.
  • Mint Mark: A small letter on a coin identifying the mint that struck the coin.
  • Mint Set: A complete set of coins of each denomination produced by a particular mint.
  • Mint State: A term synonymous with uncirculated.
  • Mintage: The quantity of coins produced.
  • Motto: A word, sentence, or phrase inscribed on a coin to express a guiding national principle.

N

  • Numismatics: e study and collection of coins and currency.
  • Numismatic literature: Books, magazines, catalogs, and other printed materials related to coin collecting, including reference books, auction catalogs, and price guides.
  • 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.

O

  • Obsolete: A coin design or type that is no longer produced.
  • Obverse: The front side of a coin, typically featuring a portrait, symbol, or other design element.
  • Off-Center: Describes a coin that has received a misaligned strike from the coin press, with portions of its design missing.
  • Overstrike: A new coin produced with a previously struck coin used as the planchet.

P

  • Pattern: An experimental or trial piece, generally of a new design or metal.
  • Planchet: The blank piece of metal on which a coin design is stamped.
  • Proof: A coin struck with specially polished dies and planchets, resulting in a sharp, mirrored finish and crisp details.

R

  • Rarity: A coin that is difficult to find due to its limited mintage or unique characteristics, is considered rare.
  • Reeding: The raised lines on the edge of a coin, which are added for decoration and to prevent counterfeiting.
  • Red book: A popular reference book for U.S. coin collectors, also known as the Guide Book of United States Coins.
  • Relief: The part of a coin’s design that is raised above the surface.
  • Restrike: A coin minted using the original dies but at a later date.
  • Reverse: The back side of a coin, typically featuring another design element, such as a date, denomination, or mint mark.
  • Riddler: A machine that screens out blanks (planchets) that are the wrong size or shape.
  • Rim: The raised edge on both sides of a coin that helps protect the coin’s design from wear.
  • Roll: Coins packaged by banks, dealers, or the U.S. Mint.

S

  • Series: A collection of coins that contains all date and mint marks of a specific design and denomination.
  • Slab: Nickname for some protective coin encapsulation methods, especially those that are permanently sealed and rectangular.
  • Strike: The process of stamping a coin blank with a design.
  • Strike doubling: A type of error that occurs when a coin is struck twice by the die, resulting in doubling of certain design elements.

T

  • Toning: The natural discoloration that can occur on a coin over time, often resulting in a colorful patina.
  • 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.
  • Type Set: A collection of coins based on denomination.

U

  • Uncirculated: Refers to coins that have not been used in everyday commerce; also a term for a particular manufacturing process or a grade indicating the degree of preservation and quality of the strike.

V

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

This glossary is a comprehensive guide for coin collectors, combining and expanding upon the terms provided by Silverpicker and the U.S. Mint. It serves as a valuable resource for both novice and experienced collectors alike.

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