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Glossary of Numismatic Terms

Frequently Used Terms

5FS - abbreviation for Five Full Steps designation

6FS - abbreviation for Six Full Steps designation

Alloy - a mixture of two or more metals

ANA - American Numismatic Association, the national organization for coin collectors

Assay - the testing of an ore sample to determine its precious metal value

Attribution - the designation of a coin's variety according to standard reference books

Authentication - the determination of a coin's genuineness

Base metal - a non-precious metal, such as copper, nickel or zinc

Blank - an unstruck coin disc, the same as "planchet"

Bourse - a popular term for the sales floor of a coin show

BN - abbreviation for Brown designation

Brass - an alloy of copper and zinc

Bronze - an alloy of copper and tin

Bullion - refined precious metal in non-coin form

CA - abbreviation for Cameo designation

Certification - the process of having a coin authenticated, graded and encapsulated

Clad - a laminated or sandwiched coin metal

Collar - a retaining ring which imparts a coin's edge, whether plain or reeded

Commemorative - a coin honoring an event, place or individual, usually of limited mintage

Condition census - a roster of the five or six finest known specimens of a particular coin

Contact marks - small nicks imparted by contact with other coins

Counterfeit - a non-genuine coin, whether made to circulate as money or to deceive collectors

Coronet - a crown or tiara frequently seen on the Liberty portrait of 19th Century U. S. coins

Currency - circulating money, used numismatically to denote a non-proof coin

DCAM - the abbreviation for Deep Cameo

Denomination - the face value of a coin, such as one cent, ten cents, etc.

Denticles - the toothlike projections seen on the borders of older U. S. coins

Device - a raised design element on a coin, such as a portrait or lettering

Die - a cylindrical shaft of steel that imparts one side of a coin's design (two are required)

Double eagle - a United States $20 gold coin, issued from 1850 to 1933

DPL - abbreviation for Deep Prooflike designation

Eagle - a U. S. $10 gold coin, issued from 1795 to 1933

Edge - the third side of a coin, it can be plain, reeded, lettered or starred

Encapsulated coin - one which has been sealed inside a plastic holder

ER - the abbreviation for Early Releases

Field - the flat surface area of a coin between the various devices

FB - abbreviation for Full Split Bands designation

FBL - abbreviation for Full Bell Lines designation

FH - abbreviation for Full Head designation

Fineness - the percentage or decimal proportion of precious metal in a coin

Flip - a flexible, transparent, plastic envelope having one pocket for a coin and one for its label

Frosted - describes a coin's surface which is textured rather than smooth or glassy

FS - the abbreviation for First Strike

FT - abbreviation for Full Torch designation

GAE - abbreviation for Gold American Eagle

Grade - the numerical value assigned to a coin's condition on a scale of 1 to 70

Hairlines - fine scratches on a coin's surface which may affect its grade

Half cent - a U. S. copper coin of that value, issued from 1793 to 1857

Half dime - a U. S. silver five-cent coin, issued from 1794 to 1873

Half eagle - a U. S. $5 gold coin, issued from 1795 to 1929

Hub - a steel cylinder bearing one side of a coin's design and used to produce dies

Intrinsic value - the value of a coin's metal, irrespective of its face or collector value

Legal tender - a coin declared by a government to be acceptable in the payment of all debts

Legend - an inscription which appears on a coin, such as LIBERTY

Lettered edge - the edge of a coin on which either raised or sunken letters appear

Luster - the reflected light from a coin as determined by its surface texture and quality

Matte - the purposely dulled surface of a coin, this style was used on certain U. S. proof coins

Minor coin - a base-metal coin of small value, such as a cent or nickel

Mint - the structure where coins are produced, or, the governmental body overseeing its work

Mint Error - coins with major mint errors as a result of human or mechanical error during manufacturing.

Mintmark - a small letter appearing on a coin to denote its city of manufacture

Mint State - describes an unworn coin and means the same as Uncirculated

Mirror - the brilliant surface of a coin, typically the fields of a proof or prooflike coin

MS - the abbreviation for Mint State, it's used with a numerical figure to grade unworn coins

NGC - the abbreviation for Numismatic Guarantee Corporation

Numismatics - the studying and collecting of coins

Numismatist - one who engages in numismatic activity for whatever end

Obverse - the front side of a coin ("heads")

OGP - the abbreviation for Original Government Packaging

Overdate - a coin variety in which one date is impressed over another

Pattern - an experimental coin made as a test of a new design, material or technology

PAE - abbreviation for Platinum American Eagle

PCGS - the abbreviation for Professional Coin Grading Service

PF - the abbreviation for Proof, it's used with a numerical figure to grade proof coins

PR - the abbreviation for Proof, it's used with a numerical figure to grade proof coins with PCGS Slabs

PL - abbreviation for Prooflike designation

Plain edge - the edge of a coin which is smooth and lacking any decoration

Planchet - a blank disc that will be stamped between dies to produce a coin

Press - a compression machine in which dies come together to stamp a coin

Proof - a high-quality coin for collectors made in small numbers from specially prepared dies

Prooflike - having the appearance of a proof coin, that is, mirrorlike fields

Quarter eagle - a U. S. $2.50 gold coin, issued from 1796 to 1929

R1, R2, R3, etc. - a scale of coin rarity ranging from R1 (very common) to R8 (unique)

RB - abbreviation for Red Brown designation

RD - abbreviation for Red designation

Red Book - the popular name for A Guide Book of United States Coins, by R. S. Yeoman

Reeded edge - the edge of a coin on which raised lines appear

Relief - the portion of a coin's design which is raised above the smooth surface or field

Restrike - a coin made years after the original edition but from the same dies

Reverse - the back side of a coin ("tails")

SAE - abbreviation for Silver American Eagle

Series - a continuous run of coins of the same type, such as the Buffalo Nickel series of 1913-38

Slab - a slang term for an encapsulated coin

SP - Specimen

Specie - coined money, as opposed to paper money or other store of wealth

Starred edge - the edge of a coin featuring either raised or sunken stars

Strike - the action of producing a coin, or, the quality of a coin's detail sharpness

TF - abbreviation for Tail Feathers on Morgan dollars containing 7 or 8 Tail Feathers

Trade dollar - a special type of silver dollar made from 1873 to 1885, primarily for export

Trime - a U. S. silver three-cent piece, issued from 1851 to 1873

Type collecting - assembling a collection of one of each coin denomination and design

UC - abbreviation for Ultra Cameo designation

Ultra Cameo - describes a Modern Proof Coin, it is the measure of the contrast between the frosted surface and the mirror-like surface. On Modern Proof Coins, Ultra Cameo can be expected but some proof coins may not have enough contrast to be an Ultra Cameo designation.

Uncirculated - describes an unworn coin and means the same as Mint State

Variety - a variety is a coin that differs from its basic design type in some distinctive way and is thus differentiated by collectors

Wire rim - a fine, raised line of metal around the rim of very sharply struck coins