This is a fairly thorough list of coin acronyms and abbreviations. But if you still have a term you can’t figure our, then please contact us or one of our coin experts for further information.
About Good – A grading term describing a coin that is less than Good. Only the main features on the surfaces are visible. Typically, peripheral lettering, date, stars, or other features are partially worn away. Abbreviated as AG and numerically assigned the number 3.
About Uncirculated – A grading term describing a coin that initially appears to be Uncirculated, but upon closer inspection a little rub or friction can be seen. Abbreviated as AU. Numerical equivalents associated with About Uncirculated are: AU-50, 53, 55, and 58, with AU-50 being the lowest grade and AU-58 being borderline Uncirculated.
Abrasion(s) – Area(s) of a coin where a foreign object or another coin has displaced metal in an abraded fashion. Not the same as hairlines or bag marks.
Accolated – Overlapped impression, as with two or more portraits on the face of a coin. Example: The 1900 Lafayette commemorative silver dollar bears the accolated portraits of Washington and Lafayette.
Accumulation – A group of miscellaneous and random coins, often a monetary hoard, not a coin collection. This term may also refer to a grouping of a particular series, date or type such as an accumulation of Walking Liberty half dollars.
Ace – Numismatic nickname for a $1 bill, particularly a $1 National Bank Note of the Original Series or the Series of 1875.
Adjectival Grading; Adjectival Grading System – The traditional grading system employed until superseded by the numerical grading system. Coins in grades from the most worn (Poor) were described adjectivally in these progressive steps: Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, Fine, Very Fine, Extremely Fine, About Uncirculated, and Uncirculated. Modifiers such as “choice” and “gem” were sometimes used to indicate an especially nice specimen within a grade level, such as Choice Extremely Fine or Gem Uncirculated.
Adjustment Marks – Small, straight (never curved) striations or file marks found on early United States coins. Caused during planchet preparation (before striking) by drawing a file across the coins to remove excess metal so as to reduce the planchet to its proper weight. The result is a series of parallel grooves.
Aesthetic Appeal – Term used to indicate the artistic or visual desirability of a coin in addition to its numerical or technical grade. Synonym: eye appeal.
AG, AG-3 – Designation for About Good.
Agricultural Wreath – A wreath motif created by James B. Longacre and used on the 1854 Type II gold dollar, 1854 $3 gold coin, 1856 Flying Eagle cent, and other issues. Wreath of corn (most prominent), wheat, cotton, and tobacco—called a cereal wreath by Mint Director Snowden in his 1860 book, A Description of Ancient and Modern Coins in the Cabinet Collection of the Mint of the United States. Called tobacco wreath by Edgar H. Adams, The Numismatist, July 1912, pp. 246-247.
AGW (Actual Gold Weight) – An infrequently used term for the weight of pure gold that is in a coin, medal or bar. In contrast, the gross weight of a gold coin includes the weight of alloys.
Album Friction – Evidenced by a slight rubbing on a coin’s high points, similar to but not as severe as album slide marks. When repeatedly removed and inserted into albums with clear slides, the slides can impart horizontal scratches if they touch the coin’s surface. To prevent this, carefully push the coin well into the hole so the slide does not touch it.
Album Slide Marks – Lines on the surface of a coin, usually parallel, caused by the plastic “slide” of a coin album.
Alchemy – The transmutation of base metals such as lead and mercury into gold; practiced in historic times by various chemists, pretenders, etc.
Alloy – Copper and sometimes silver are mixed with gold to add strength and durability to a coin, and the resulting metal is called an alloy. Coins made of pure gold are very soft, and easily scratched, worn and damaged.
All-Seeing Eye – Eye motif, usually surrounded by resplendent rays. Used on certain copper coins of the 1780s such as the 1783-1786 Nova Constellatio coinage, the 1783 Nova Constellatio silver patterns, the 1785-1786 Landscape-type Vermont coppers (Ryder 2 through 8), and, in more modern times, the small-size $1 note (included as part of a pyramid design, no rays surrounding).
Almost Uncirculated – Another grading term for About Uncirculated.
Alteration – The tampering with a feature of a coin’s surface such as the date, mintmark, etc. to give it the appearance of being another date, mintmark, or variety. An unethical and sometimes illegal practice.
Altered Surfaces – When the surfaces of a coin have been affected by cleaning or other processes resulting in it being less desirable to collectors.
Aluminum – An elemental metal. Aluminum was a precious metal in the 1850s, but by the 1860s came into limited use to strike patterns as well as delicacies for collectors. Aluminum tended to oxidize quickly, forming a protective gray coating, which then stabilized and endures in many instances to the present day. In 1973 the Mint contemplated using aluminum for regular coinage of cents, since copper was rising sharply in price on the commercial market. About a million and a half Lincoln cents were struck with the date 1974, and some were given out as samples, but the metal was never used for regular coinage.
American Auction Association – 1970s auction division of Bowers and Ruddy Galleries. This name was discontinued, and later catalogs bore the Bowers and Ruddy Galleries name.
American Eagle – A series of bullion coins created by the U. S. Mint featuring a family of eagles on the reverse. The silver coins were introduced in 1986 in a $1 denomination. The gold coins were first produced in 1987 in 1/10, ¼, ½, and 1 ounce versions.
American Numismatic Association – A nonprofit educational organization founded in 1888, dedicated to encouraging the study and collecting of money and related items. The ANA helps people discover and explore the world of money through a vast array of programs including education and outreach, museum, library, publications, conventions, and seminars. They are headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Read more about them at money.org.
American Numismatic Association Grading System – Adopted in 1977, the ANA Grading System was described in the book, Official ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins, and evaluated coins based upon the Sheldon scale for grading.
American Numismatic Association Hall of Fame – Pantheon and gallery located at the American Numismatic Association Headquarters, Colorado Springs, CO. Numismatists past and present who are deemed worthy and elected for the honor are enshrined by being included in the exhibit, a highly desirable honor. The first honorees enshrined in 1969 were: Edgar H. Adams, George J. Bauer, Frank G. Duffield, Dr. George F. Heath, Edward T. Newell, Wayte Raymond, David C. Wismer, Howland Wood, and Farran Zerbe.
American Numismatic Association Headquarters – A.k.a. ANA. Headquartered at: North Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO, on the campus of Colorado College. Built in the 1960s on land leased for $1 per year for 100 years (option of 100 years renewal) from the college. Action center for executive, editorial, membership, museum, authentication, and other functions. Focal point for exhibits, seminars, other events.
American Numismatic Society – A museum and research institute devoted to the study of coins from all periods and cultures. They are headquartered in New York City, New York. Abbreviated as “ANS.”
ANA – An abbreviation for the “American Numismatic Association.”
ANACS – (American Numismatic Association Certification Service) – An authentication service started by the ANA that later provided grading services. The ANA later sold the acronym and this service, which now operates as a third-party grading service.
ANACS Certificate – Issued by the ANA Certification Service, a written document of authenticity and/or grade that bears a unique number.
Ancients – A term for world coins struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 450 A.D.
Annealing – A process by which a die or planchet is heated and then cooled to soften the metal for die preparation or the striking of a coin.
Annular – Ring like, ring form. Refers to a coin with a circular perforation or hole at the center, certain pattern cents of 1850 being examples.
Annulet – In heraldry and in numismatic descriptions, a small ring or related emblem as part of a design.
ANS – An abbreviation for the “American Numismatic Society.”
Anvil Die – Usually the reverse of the coin, the lower, stationary die. On some issues with striking problems, the obverse is used as the lower die. Due to the physics of minting, the stationary lower-die impression is slightly better struck than the upper-die impression.
Arcade Tokens – Metallic tokens used in penny arcades, amusement emporiums, and related places. Sometimes bearing a denomination, these tokens could be used in place of cents, nickels, quarters, or other coins in coin-operated devices.
Argentan – A variety of “German silver,” an alloy without silver, which contains a mixture of nickel, tin, copper, and other metals.
Arms – In heraldry, on banknotes, and on coins and medals, the representation of a state, family, or other entity, often incorporating a shield with patterns and designs, so as to permit easy identification of that entity. Certain state copper coins, commemoratives, and other United States issues included arms of various states.
Arrow and Rays – Term referring to a design element on quarters and half dollars dated 1853. The rays were removed the following year due to striking difficulties created by the complicated design.
Arrows – Design element seen on many U.S. coins, most frequently in the eagle’s left claw.
Arrows at Date – The arrows to the left and right of the date on a coin. The Mint added these to the dies to indicate a weight increase or decrease.
Artificial Toning – Toning or patination applied to a coin by chemical, heat, or other means to decrease its brightness or brilliance and to give it the appearance of having acquired attractive colors over a long period of time. Such coins are plentiful in the marketplace, including in certified holders, and a keen eye is needed to identify them.
Ask – The price that represents what a seller is willing to accept for a particular coin issue and grade. This changes with market fluctuations. See also: Bid; Spread
Assay – To evaluate and calculate the purity of a metallic alloy.
Assay Bar, Assay Ingot – A rectangular (usually) ingot or bar of silver or gold, produced by an assay office (see listing) and stamped with data, usually including the name of the assayer, weight, fineness (purity), metal, a serial number, and, sometimes, the date and market value.
Assay Office – A facility established by the federal government or by private individuals to receive and evaluate precious metals, especially gold, silver and copper. The government operated assay offices in Butte (Montana), New York City, Denver, and elsewhere. During the Gold Rush several assay offices did good business in California, including Kellogg & Humbert, Harris & Marchand, Justh & Hunter, Moffat & Co., and the United States Assay Office of Gold, among others.
Assayer – One who performs assays. Position at the Mint from 1792 onward. Most assayers operated in the private sector, however, especially in the conduct of business in assay offices, mines, refineries, etc.
Athena – Goddess symbolic of Athens. Athena and her owl (denoting wisdom) are motifs on the 1915-S commemorative $50 gold coins, round and octagonal formats, issued for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.
Attributes – The components that determine a coin’s grade, primarily marks (or hairlines for Proofs), strike, eye appeal, and luster.
Attribution – The assigning or referencing of a coin to its source, engraver of its dies, or of its die variety as described in a numismatic work. Example: United States copper cents of the 1793-1814 years can be attributed to Sheldon numbers, as, for example, S-48, as delineated in Early American Cents, Dr. William H. Sheldon, 1949.
AU – An abbreviation for “About Uncirculated.”
Auction – An offering of numismatic items for sale to the highest bidder, rather than ordering from a catalog, price list, or advertisement at a fixed price.
Auctioneer – The person who recognizes and accepts bids during an auction.
Authentic – A numismatic item that is genuine and was produced at the time and place to which it has been attributed.
Authentication – The process by which a determination is made as to whether a coin or other numismatic item is genuine.
Back of a Note – The reverse side of a note and the paper money equivalent of reverse used for coins.
Bag – A term for the cloth sacks that were used to carry, transport and store coins. Bags replaced wooden kegs in the mid-nineteenth century. The term “bag” can also refer to the value by volume of a specific denomination. Example: a bag of silver dollars is $1,000 face value.
Bag Marks – Minor marks on an otherwise Uncirculated coin often resulting from having been stored or shipped in bags with other coins.
Bag Toning – This occurs when the surface of a coin has changed color from being stored in a cloth bag. The material that comprised cloth bags contained metal-reactive chemicals, including sulfur, and when stored for extended periods of time, the coins near the cloth would acquire attractive blue, green, yellow, red and other vibrant colors. Depending on the coin’s placement in the bag, you can sometimes see the texture of the bag in the toning. Crescent-shaped toning can also occur when a coin is on top of another coin in the bag. Since part of the coin’s surface is covered, toning doesn’t develop in certain areas. Bag toning is most often seen on Morgan silver dollars, but it is occasionally seen on other series.
Bank Note – 1. piece of paper money, or currency, issued by or bearing the name of a bank. In numismatics this most particularly refers to obsolete currency issued by banks circa 1782-1866. 2. Popularly, any type of paper money issued by a bank or government.
Bank Note Reporter – A printed publication issued monthly by F+W Publications.
Bank-Wrapped Rolls – The Federal Reserve Bank would wrap rolls of coins by denomination from the original mint bags. These rolls are typically desired by collectors because they have not been looked through by other collectors or dealers. Also abbreviated as OBW, for “original bank wrapped.”
Bar Copper, Bar Cent – Copper coin or token, slightly smaller than the size of a contemporary state copper coin, featuring the monogram USA on the obverse, and 13 parallel bars on the reverse. Original pieces are said to have circulated in New York in 1785. The maker is unknown.
Bar, Metal – A slug or ingot of metal issued by a mine, refinery, mint, or other establishment working with metals. Sizes range from small, weighing just a few ounces (such as those issued as souvenirs and keepsakes by mining companies) to large versions weighing many pounds. Gold and silver bars of the 19th century were customarily stamped with information including the weight, purity, issue, a serial number, and sometimes the value and/or the date. Also known as an ingot.
Barber Coinage – A common name for the series of Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and half dollars designed by Charles Barber which were struck from 1892 until 1916.
Basal State – The lowest grade of a numismatic item. The coin is worn to the point where it can only be identified as a coin, and that it is a certain denomination and type.
Basal Value – This is the value base upon which Dr. William H. Sheldon’s 70-point grade/price system was created. Each variety of large copper cents dated from 1793 to 1814 was given a basal value that could be multiplied by the numerical grade of an individual coin to determine its market price. Thus a cent with a basal value of $5 and in VF-20 grade would be worth $100. The system was fine in theory, but it failed in practice and is no longer used today.
Baseball Cap Coin – A slang term for the Panama-Pacific (Pan-Pac) commemorative gold dollar coin, because the figure on the obverse wears a cap that resembles a baseball cap.
Basining – A die polishing process to remove clash marks or other damage or to create a mirrored surface on the die.
Bass, Harry W. Jr. – Numismatic connoisseur, builder of one of the greatest collections of American gold ever formed. We auctioned his collection in a number of sales beginning in 1999. Today the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Museum at ANA Headquarters in Colorado Springs showcases additional treasures. The Harry W. Bass Museum Sylloge, by Q. David Bowers, was published by us.
Battleship Note – A common name for a Series of 1918 $2 Federal Reserve Bank Note which depicts a battleship on the back printed in green.
Beaded Border – A continuous band of small, round design elements around the edge of a coin, later replaced by dentils. These are most often seen on early U.S. coins.
Betts Medal – A medal with motifs relating to early America as described by C. Wyllys Betts in American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals published in 1894.
BG Gold – A common term for California fractional gold coins as stated in the Breen-Gillio reference work titled California Pioneer Fractional Gold.
Bid – An offer made by a bidder at an auction for a particular numismatic item. Also, the top price a buyer is willing to pay for a specific coin issue and grade, accepted either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium. See also: ask; spread.
Bidder – A participant in an auction or a dealer issuing a quotation on an electronic trading system.
BIdder Number – Assigned by the auction house, the number assigned to a potential buyer who would like to execute bids during an auction.
Bill – Piece of paper money of $1 face value or higher.
Bimetallic – Refers to a coin made of two different metals, usually bonded or clad (not mixed as an alloy), with each metal being visible upon examination. Example: Certain pattern two-cent pieces with sections of silver bonded or fixed to a planchet of bronze. 2. A monetary system in which two precious metals, usually silver and gold, are both accorded full legal tender status based upon their intrinsic value.
Birch Cent – Any one of several pattern one-cent pieces dated 1792 and engraved by Birch.
Bison Note – A common name for the $10 Series of 1901 Legal Tender Notes. Printed on the front is a bison.
Bit – A nickname for the Spanish-American silver two-real coin worth 12½¢, popular in United States commerce until demonetized by the Act of February 21, 1857. A two-bit piece was worth 25¢. This nickname is sometimes used today to refer to the United States quarter dollar.
Black Eagle Note – A common name for the $1 Series of 1899 Silver Certificates with a bold eagle on the face of the note, printed in black.
Blank – A flat, plain metal disc prior to being struck into a coin. See also: planchet.
Blemish – Minor nick, mark, flaw, or spot of discoloration that mars the surface of a coin and detracts from its grade and appearance.
Blended – A term used to describe when one element of a coin is worn into another element or the surrounding field.
Bluebook – An annual wholesale pricing book for United States coins published by Whitman Publishing, LLC and so named because of its blue cover.
Bluesheet – A common name for the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter.
Blundered Die – A coin die with an error in engraving, such as an inverted letter or numeral or some other mistake.
BM – An abbreviation for “Branch Mint” typically used when describing Branch Mint Proof coins, an example being the 1893-CC BM Proof Morgan dollar.
BN – An abbreviation for “brown” when referring to copper coins.
Body Bag – Slang term for a plastic sleeve, envelope, or other container used by a grading service to return a coin, with a comment as to why the firm did not want to grade it (problems, etc.).
Bourse – A term synonymous with a coin show or coin convention.
Bourse Floor – The physical location where a coin show or coin convention takes place.
Braided Hair – This refers to the hair style where the hair is pulled back into a tight bun with a braided hair cord. This is seen on half cents and large cents from 1840 on.
Branch Mint – A United States mint other than the Philadelphia Mint where coins are, or were formerly, struck.
Breast Feathers – The central feathers of the eagle design on many different coins, but particularly Morgan dollars. Fully and well struck coins tend to command a premium and the breast feathers are usually the most telling feature when value is being determined.
Breen – A slang term used when referring to the late Walter Breen.
Breen Book – Slang for Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, a reference book published in 1988.
Breen Letter – A document written or typed by Walter Breen in which he states his opinion on a specific numismatic item. Before third party certification services, this was the common method used by dealers and collectors to authenticate a unique item.
Breen-Gillio – Numbering system for fractional gold coins based on the book, California Pioneer Fractional Gold, by Walter Breen and Ron Gillio.
Brilliant – A grading term for a coin with original cartwheel or prooflike luster, unimpeded by toning.
Brilliant Proof – A Proof coin with mirrorlike surfaces.
Brilliant Uncirculated – A common term for any coin that has not been circulated.
Brockage – A mint error coin caused by the failure to eject a struck coin from the dies, after which a blank planchet is inserted into the dies, receiving on one side the correct image of a die and on the other side an incuse impression made from the already-struck coin in the dies. The result is a coin which has one side in relief and the other side with an incuse mirror image of the same die. A brockage can be of a reverse or an obverse. Obverse brockages are seen more frequently.
Bronze – An alloy of copper, zinc, and tin, usually 95% copper and the balance zinc and tin.
Brother Jonathan, S.S. – Sidewheel steamship lost off the coast of California in 1865, recovered in the late 20th century. Double eagles and other gold coins auctioned by us, and a book, The Treasure Ship S.S. Brother Jonathan, by Q. David Bowers, was published by us.
Brown – Describes the toning on certain copper coins that have lost their red color, usually abbreviated as BN on certified holders.
Brushing – A series of minute parallel lines caused by rubbing a light abrasive across the surface of a coin.
Bryan money, Bryan – Describes tokens and medals relating to William Jennings Bryan’s presidential campaigns of 1896 (in particular), 1900, and 1908, mostly with inscriptions relating to the “silver question.”
BU – An abbreviation for Brilliant Uncirculated.
BU Rolls – Wrapped coins, typically in paper, in specific quantities for each denomination. Cents, 50; nickels, 40; dimes, 50; quarters, 40; half dollars and dollars, 20.
Buckled Die – A die that is warped or distorted, typically caused by excessive clashing, that produces slightly bent coins.
Buffalo Nickel – Slang term for the Indian Head nickel, which depicts an American bison on the reverse. These were struck from 1913 to 1938.
Bulged Die – A die that clashes multiple times can form a small indentation, metal then fills the indentation and produces coins that have a bulged area.
Bullet Toning – A synonym for target toning.
Bullion – Uncoined gold or silver in the form of bars, ingots or plates that trade based on their intrinsic metal value.
Bullion Coin – A coin struck for sale as a convenient form of gold, silver, platinum or palladium, often in increments of a Troy ounce. Intrinsic metal weight determines value. Examples include the U.S. Gold Eagle and the Canadian Maple Leaf.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing – Federal department in change of printing paper money and other security items.
Burn Mark – A synonym for counting machine mark.
Burnishing – Rubbing or polishing the surfaces of a coin or planchet to make it shine. Proof planchets are burnished before they are struck, originally by rubbing wet sand across the surface to reveal a mirror-like finish. Burnishing can also refer to when the surfaces on altered or repaired coins are treated, through a variety of ways, either mechanically or chemically. Burnishing a coin after it is struck lessens its value.
Burnishing Lines – Incuse lines resulting from burnishing, most often seen on open-collar Proofs.
Burnt – A slang term for a coin that has dull and lacklustre surfaces because the coin has been over-dipped.
Business Strike – A term devised by Walter Breen to describe a coin struck and intended for regular circulation rather than primarily for sale to collectors. Circulation strike is the more descriptive preferred term.
Bust – The head and shoulders of Miss Liberty as seen on many United States issues.
Bust Dollar – A slang term for Draped Bust dollar, silver dollars struck from 1795-1803.
Buyer’s Premium – An additional fee paid by the winning bidder, as defined by our terms of sale.
C – A mintmark used to indicate a coin struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch mint.
Cabinet Friction – Typically seen on the obverse, slight friction seen on coins that have been stored in wooden cabinets used by early collectors. Often a soft cloth was used to wipe dust away, which would cause light tell-tale marks.
Cabinet, Coin Cabinet – A wooden (usually) cabinet with drawers used to store a numismatic collection. It is also a synonym for a coin collection that may or may not reside in a cabinet.
CAC – An abbreviation for the Certified Acceptance Corporation, a company that reviews coins that have already been encapsulated by a third-party grading service. If a coin meets CAC’s stringent grading standard, it will receive a green or gold CAC hologram sticker. A gold CAC hologram sticker indicates the coin exceeds CAC’s grading standards and a green hologram sticker indicates the coin meets the standards. This independent numismatic coin authentication service was founded by John Albanese.
Caduceus – Medical symbol, in this instance representing the fight against yellow fever in Panama. Shown on the 1915-S Panama-Pacific International Exposition $2.50.
California Fractional Gold – Descriptive of 25¢ and 50¢ pieces (also incorrectly extended to describe $1) minted privately in California from the 1850s through the 1880s, and described in literature by Lee, Burnie, Gillio, and Breen.
CAM – An abbreviation for Cameo.
Cameo – A Proof or prooflike coin with extreme contrast between the devices and the fields, where the fields appear to be mirrorlike and the devices look frosty.
Canadian – A general term for coins and other related numismatic items from Canada.
Canadian – Slang for the coins and other numismatic items of the Canada.
Canadian Silver – Slang term used when referring to silver coins of Canada. (Mainly struck in 80% fineness.)
Cap Bust – A shortened term for Capped Bust.
Capped Bust – A term used to describe any of the various depictions of Miss Liberty as displayed on early U.S. coins by a bust and floppy-capped head. Designed by John Reich.
Capped Die – A “cap” forms on either the upper or lower die when a coin becomes jammed in the coining press and remains there for successive strikes. These are sometimes spectacular with the “cap” often much taller than a regular coin.
Carbon Spot – A dark brown to black discoloration on the surface of a coin caused by oxidation. This is mainly seen on copper and gold coins, though occasionally found on U.S. nickel coins. Carbon spots can vary in size, and their severity will affect the grade and value of the coin.
Carson City Mint – A popular branch of the United States Mint, located in Carson City, Nevada that produced gold and silver coins from 1870-1885 and 1889-1893. This mint used the “CC” mintmark.
Cartwheel – A term applied mainly to frosty Mint State coins, especially silver dollars, to describe their luster when the coin is tilted back and forth under a light source. The luster rotates around the central devices of the coin. This can also be used as a slang term for a silver dollar.
Cast Blanks – Planchets created by a molding process, rather than cut from strips of metal.
Cast Counterfeit – A counterfeit coin upon which a seam is often found on the edge, unless it has been ground down. A replication of a genuine coin created by making molds of the obverse and reverse and casting base metal in the molds.
Castaing Machine – A machine which added edge lettering and devices to early U.S. coins before they were struck. Invented by French engineer Jean Castaing, these machines were used until close collar dies were introduced, which added the edge device during the striking process.
Catalog – The process of writing a description of numismatic items offered for sale. A term also used for our printed listing of auction lots for sale.
CC – A mintmark used to indicate coins struck at the Carson City branch mint, in Carson City, Nevada. See also Carson City Mint.
CCDN – An abbreviation for the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter.
CCE – An abbreviation for the Certified Coin Exchange.
CDN – An abbreviation for the Coin Dealer Newsletter.
Census – The known specimens of a particular numismatic item. A census allows the collector to determine range and availability of a specific issue.
Cent – A U.S. coin denomination valued at one-hundredth of the standard monetary unit.
Central America, S.S. – Sidewheel steamship launched in 1853, in service in the Atlantic. On September 12, 1857, with over 400 passengers and crew aboard and over $1,600,000 in registered gold treasure (gold was worth $20.67 per ounce), she sank in a hurricane. Much of the treasure was recovered by Bob Evans, Tommy Thompson and others in the 1980s. In the early 21st century our firm participated in the publicity and distribution of certain coins and ingots from the treasure, and Q. David Bowers wrote A California Gold Rush History, which was widely acclaimed. Abbreviated as S.S.C.A.
Certification Service – Third-party grading service which, for a fee, will assign a grade opinion to a coin submitted. Firms include Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America (NGC), ANACS, and others.
Certified Coin – A coin that has been commercially graded by a grading service, a.k.a. certification service. The certified term arose when the American Numismatic Association Certification Service (ANACS), which originally certified coins for their authenticity, began grading coins as well. Such coins were called certified. The name has remained with us.
Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter – A weekly newsletter that reports the bid, ask, and market prices for third-party certified coins. Also known as the “Bluesheet.”
Certified Coin Exchange – A real-time coin bid/ask, sight-seen/unseen rule-governed trading system for coin dealers.
Certified Note – A note that has been commercially graded by a grading service, a.k.a. certification service, and placed in a sealed holder.
CH – An abbreviation for the grade Choice.
Chain Cent – A nickname for the 1793 Flowing Hair cent with the Chain reverse, the first coins struck at the original mint building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Chapman Proof – The 1921 Morgan dollar Proofs supposedly struck for coin dealer Henry Chapman. These coins seldom have cameo devices and deeply mirrored surfaces like most Morgan dollar Proofs.
Charlotte Mint – A branch of the United States Mint, located in Charlotte, North Carolina that produced gold coins from 1838-1861 and was closed due to the Civil War. This mint uses the “C” mintmark.
Charter Number – Beginning in 1863, numbers were assigned to each of the National Banks that were chartered by the Treasury Department. These numbers were printed on the face of each note along with the notes serial numbers. Sometimes the numbers were retained by the bank even if the bank moved or changes its name.
Chasing – A method used by forgers that involves heating the surfaces of a coin and moving the metal to form a mintmark.
Cherrypicker – A collector who finds scarce and unusual coins by carefully searching through unattributed items in old accumulations or dealer inventories.
Choice – An term used to describe an especially select specimen of a given grade, but with no official definition. A choice coin can simply be a nice or a pleasing coin at any grade level.
Choice Unc – An abbreviation for Choice Uncirculated.
Choice Uncirculated – A grading term for an Uncirculated coin grading MS-63 or MS-64.
Chop Marks – Chinese characters stamped on the surface of silver and gold coins in the 19th century to indicated to merchants, banks and others in China that these were of full weight and metallic content. Today, chop marked coins are collected as a numismatic specialty.
Circulated – A term applied to a coin that has any extent of wear.
Circulation – A term for using coins in commerce.
Circulation Strike – A coin intended for eventual use in commerce, also known as a business strike or a regular strike, different from a Proof coin which was intended for collectors.
Clad – A term used to describe the issues of United States dimes, quarters, halves and some dollars made since 1965 with a center core of pure copper and a layer of copper nickel or silver on both sides.
Clad Bag – A term used to describe a bag containing $1,000 of face value clad coinage, most commonly 40% silver half dollars.
Clash Marks – Impressions of the reverse design on the obverse of a coin or the obverse design on the reverse of a coin due to die damage caused when the striking dies impacted each other with great force and without an intervening planchet.
Clashed Dies – Dies that strike each other without a planchet between them (see: clash marks).
Clashing – The process of the upper and lower dies striking each other without a planchet between them.
Classic Era – Considered to be the period from 1792 until 1964 when silver and gold coins of the United States were issued. (Gold coins, however, were not minted after 1933.)
Classic Head – This refers to the image of Miss Liberty that resembles the “classic” style of a Roman or Greek athlete wearing a ribbon around her hair.
Cleaned – A term applied to a coin from which the original surface has been stripped away by having been cleaned with a mild abrasive. The coin then appears slightly washed out and/or has an unnatural appearance depending on the severity of the method used. Coins that have been cleaned are considered damaged and this strongly affects their value.
Clip – A slang term for a coin struck from an irregularly cut or clipped planchet.
Clipped – A term used to describe an irregularly cut planchet. The clip may be straight or curved.
Clogged Die – A die becomes clogged when grease or some sort of other contaminant becomes stuck in its recessed areas. This causes the coins that are struck from these dies to be lacking detail.
Close Collar – The edge apparatus, occasionally called a collar die, that surrounds the lower die and imparts a smooth, plain edge or reeding to the coin.
Closed Collar – Alternate term for close collar.
C-Mint – A term used for coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch mint.
Cob – Antecedent to the legal-tender Spanish-American coins in the Americas. Spanish-American gold or silver coin denominated in real or escudo denominations. Generally refers to pre-1732 coins which were crudely struck from planchets cut from rods or bars. The typical cob-style coin is crude in appearance with not all of the inscriptions fully struck.
Cohen Variety – Listed as C-1, C-2, C-2a, and so on, Cohen numbers describe different die varieties of half cents.
Coiled Hair – Descriptive of the coiffure of Miss Liberty on certain 1879-1880 pattern coins, especially the $4 gold stella, made by George T. Morgan.
Coin – A piece of metal of standard recognized value, issued under government authority, generally bearing a denomination and intended for circulation.
Coin Collection – A grouping of coins assembled for fun or profit.
Coin Collector – An individual who seeks out and accumulates coins in a systematic manner over a period of time.
Coin Dealer Newsletter – A weekly newsletter that reports the bid and ask for most U.S. coins. Also known as the “Greysheet.”
Coin Doctor – Slang term for a collector or dealer who tries to enhance the value or grade of a coin by cleaning, artificial toning, or other processes, such procedure being conducted privately and with the coins later offered without mention of the “improvements.”
Coin Friction – A term for the area where small amounts of metal are displaced as a result of two coins rubbing together in bags or rolls.
Coin Note – A note redeemable in coins issued in the Series of 1890 and 1891. The denominations range from $1 to $1,000. It was up to the Treasury Department to determine whether silver or gold coins would be paid, but in practice the bearer decided. Also known as Treasury Note.
Coin Show – A defined time and location at which coin dealers and collectors gather to display numismatic items for sale and trade.
Coin World – The top weekly numismatic periodical, established in 1960.
COINage – A monthly numismatic publication.
Coinage – The issuance of metallic money.
Coins Magazine – A monthly numismatic publication.
Collar – The outer ring that holds a planchet in place in the coinage press while the coin is struck by the obverse and reverse dies.
Colonial Coin – A coin struck in or related to colonial America (pre-Revolution) or, loosely, referring to certain other coins through the early 1790s, not made by the federal government.
COMEX – The New York-based Commodity Exchange, Inc. where gold and silver is traded on a daily basis. In the United States, the spot price, or market value of gold at the moment a transaction is finalized, is usually based upon trading at the COMEX.
Commem – A shortened term for the word “commemorative.”
Commemorative – A coin issued in recognition of a person, place, or event, often also to raise funds for a related cause. Sometimes referred to as NCLT (non-circulating legal tender) commemoratives.
Commercial Strike – An alternate term for regular strike or business strike.
Common – A term used to describe the relative availability of a numismatic issue since there is no numerical value assigned for scarcity.
Common Date – A readily available date of issue within a series. A relative term, since there is no exact value for determining the difference between common and scarce dates.
Complete Set – A collection that includes all possible coins within a series, all types, or all coins from a particular branch mint. For example, a complete set of Peace dollars (series) would includes all dates and types between 1921 and 1935.
Compound Interest Treasury Note – Notes issued in the early 1860s in the denominations $1 to $1,000, which would yield interest to the bearer.
Condition – A numismatic item’s state of preservation.
Condition Census – Data concerning the range and availability of the finest known examples of a particular numismatic issue.
Condition Rarity – A term for a common coin that is rare when found in high grades.
Consensus Grading – Using multiple graders to evaluate the condition of a coin.
Conservation – Carefully changing the appearance of a coin’s surface by dissolving grease or oxidation, removing stains or spots, etc., in a manner that does not disturb the original surface (lustrous or mirrorlike), with the goal of enhancing the coin’s market value and desirability.
Contact Marks – The term for marks on a coin that are inflicted by contact with another coin or foreign object. Generally these are small in comparison to gouges or other types of marks.
Contemporary Counterfeit – A coin struck from crude dies, usually composed of base metal, and created to pass for legal tender at the time it was made. These can be collected along with genuine coins, especially in American colonial issues.
Continental Dollars – The first silver dollar-sized coins ever proposed for the United States that are dated 1776, although likely struck sometime later. The reverse link design was suggested by Benjamin Franklin. These were struck in pewter (scarce), brass (rare), copper (extremely rare) and silver (extremely rare) and varieties result from differences in the spelling of the word CURRENCY and the addition of EG FECIT on the obverse. Some of these were possibly struck as experimental or pattern coins.
Copper Spot – A stain or spot that appears on an area where copper concentration that has oxidized, typically seen on gold coinage. Copper stains or spots range in size from tiny dots to large blotches.
Copper-Nickel – The alloy used for small cents from 1856 to mid-1864, comprised of 88% copper and 12% nickel.
Copper-Nickel Cents – A term for cents issued from 1856 until mid 1864 made from copper-nickel alloy. These were commonly called white cents when they were issued due to their pale color in comparison to the red cents of the past.
Coppers – A slang term that encompasses pre-federal copper issues, half cents, and large cents.
Copy – Any reproduction of a coin, fraudulent or otherwise.
Copy Dies – Counterfeit dies copied directly from a genuine coin and also dies made at a later date, typically showing slight differences from the originals.
Coronet Head – Another name for the Braided Hair design by Christian Gobrecht, also called the Liberty Head design.
Corrosion – Damage that occurs on a coin’s surface as the result of a chemical reaction, typically due to improper storage. An example would be rust.
Cost – The price paid for a numismatic item.
Counterfeit – A coin or a piece of currency that is not genuine and was forged in defiance of government authority with the intent to defraud. These include coins that are cast and struck counterfeits, bills printed from false plates, issues with added mintmarks, and issues with altered dates.
Counterstamp – A design, group of letters, or other mark stamped on a coin for special identification or advertising purposes. Counterstamped coins are graded the way regular (not counterstamped) coins are, but the nature and condition of the counterstamp must also be described.
Counting Machine Mark – When the counting machine’s rubber wheel was not set with the proper spacing, it would cause a dense patch of lines on the surface of the coin. This patch of lines is called a counting machine mark.
Crossover – A coin that was encapsulated by one grading service, then sent to another and put in a holder of the second company; i.e., the coin crossed over.
Cud – A die break (see listing) at the rim of a coin, often filling in part of the rim and dentils.
Cupro-Nickel – Any alloy of copper and nickel.
D – A mintmark used to indicate coins struck at the Dahlonega, Georgia branch mint from 1838-1861 or the Denver, Colorado branch mint from 1906 to the present.
Dahlonega Mint – A branch of the United States Mint, located in Dahlonega, Georgia, that produced gold coins from 1838-1861 and was closed due to the Civil War. This mint uses the “D” mintmark.
Damaged Coin – A coin that has been impaired apart from normal wear, by scraping, drilling, polishing, or other abuse. Generally, a damaged coin will not be given a stand-alone grading designation but will be described adjectivally. Example: 1822 cent, holed at the top, otherwise VF-30. Such a coin must not be simply described as VF-30 without further comment.
Date – The numerals on a coin that represent the year the coin was struck . Restrikes are made in years subsequent to the date that appears on them.
Date Size Descriptions – Terms are used to differentiate the size of the numerals on the date of a given coin, comparative in relation to other varieties of the same issue. Such terms as Small Date, Large Date, and Medium Date are often used. Often capitalized in numismatic usage.
Date Spacing (Width) Descriptions – Terms such as Wide Date, Compact Date, Narrow Date, etc., are sometimes employed to describe the spacing of numerals within a date or the overall width of a date, comparative in relation to other varieties of the same issue.
DCAM – An abbreviation for Deep Cameo contrast.
DDO – An abbreviation for doubled die obverse.
Dealer – One who buys, sells, and trades numismatic material.
Deep Cameo – A term that applies typically to a Proof or prooflike coin with deeply frosted central devices and lettering in high contrast to the mirror like fields. Sometimes these are called “black and white” cameos.
Deep Cameo Contrast – Describes the portrait or devices on a Proof coin being especially frosted or satiny, or cameo, in contrast with mirrorlike fields. Abbreviated DCAM. Seemingly more contrasted than Cameo (CAM). Certain of this is semantics, with actual differences being slight between various cameo designations.
Deep Mirror Prooflike – An Uncirculated coin with the fields struck from highly polished or mirrored dies, and closely resembling a Proof.
Demand Note – Notes issued in 1861 and early 1862 redeemable in gold coins, with denominations $5 to $20.
Denomination – The value assigned to a specific coin or piece of currency by the government.
Denticles – Small, toothlike projections around the inner rim of some coins, most often seen on coins from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Dentils – A shortened term for denticles.
Denver Mint – A branch of the United States Mint, located in Denver, Colorado that manufactures coins of all denominations for general circulation, stores gold and silver bullion, medals, coin dies, and manufactures Uncirculated coin sets and commemorative coins. The Denver Mint was established in 1906 and uses the “D” mintmark.
Design – A coin or other numismatic item’s motif. Peace dollars, Buffalo nickels, and Liberty double eagles are examples of designs.
Design Type – A distinct motif that is on a coin or other numismatic item and used for multiple denominations or subtypes. An example would be the Barber design type that was used on silver dimes, quarters and half dollars.
Designation – A characteristic added to a coin’s grade that specifies a certain attribute or quality such as color, strike or appearance not covered by the numerical grade. Not all series and denominations have designations, but for those that do, the associated designation will affect the coin’s value. Copper coins have color designations of Red, Red-Brown, and Brown. Standing Liberty quarters can have the designation of Full Head, where Miss Liberty’s head is fully struck. Some other designations include: Prooflike, Deep Cameo, Deep Mirror Prooflike.
Designer – The artist who creates a coin’s design.
Details – Small features and fine lines in a coin design, particularly those seen in hair, leaves, wreaths, and feathers.
Deuce – A slang term for a $2 bill.
Device – Any element of design, often referring to the main design element, on either the obverse or reverse of a coin or numismatic item. An example would be the head of Miss Liberty.
Device Punch – A steel rod with raised devices on the end that would be used to punch the elements into a working die, a technique used prior to hubbed dies.
Die – A shank or rod of steel engraved on its face with a design for use in stamping coins.
Die Alignment – A term that indicates that the obverse and reverse dies are in their proper position and will strike a coin evenly.
Die Break – A raised area on a coin caused by metal filling the space caused from a small chip or piece falling out of a die. Those at the rim of a coin are called cuds or cud breaks. Die breaks can be interesting and have no effect on grade or market value of older coins but for a modern issue can command a great premium.
Die Crack – A raised ridge, often irregular, on the surface of a coin, caused by a crack in the die, and metal from the planchet filling the crack. Die cracks can be interesting and have no effect on grade or market value of older coins but for a modern issue can command a great premium.
Die Line – Appearing as raised lines on a coin, these are caused by polish lines on the die.
Die Polish – Refers to a “bright” or mirrorlike spot or area, not the entire surface, of a coin, where a working die was polished slightly to remove an imperfection, rust, etc. Heavy die polishing is a different matter, and refers to the entire field of a coin being resurfaced, also called relapping. Heavy die polishing sometimes resulted in the removal of low-relief details in a coin, while at the same time giving a prooflike surface.
Die Rust – Raised grainy patches on a coin caused by rust on the die, often the result of improper storage.
Die State – An easily identified point in the life span of a coinage die. Dies can clash, rust, crack, break, etc., and evidence of such represents a different state of the die. Certain coins have barely distinguishable die states, while others show multiple distinctive die states.
Die Striations – Raised lines on coins caused by having been struck with polished dies, similar to die lines.
Die Trial – A term for testing the strike of a particular die in a different metal.
Die Variety – Any minor alteration to the basic design of a coin that has already been attributed by denomination, date, mintmark and major variety. Some examples of die varieties are variances in the size, shape, and positioning of the date and mintmark.
Die Wear – A term for the loss of detail on a coin caused by striking the coin with worn dies.
Dime – A denomination valued at one-tenth of the standard monetary unit, issued by the United States starting in 1796.
Ding – A common term for a small to medium sized mark on a coin.
Dipped – A coin that has been placed in a chemical solution, often resulting in the removal of toning from most coins. When a coin is dipped, the first few layers of metal are removed and will eventually lose luster. We do not advise dipping your coins.
Dipping Solution – A commercial chemical solution available on the market and used to dip coins.
Disme – One tenth of a dollar. The early spelling of the word “dime.”
D-Mint – An abbreviation for coins struck at the Dahlonega, Georgia mint from 1838-1861 or the Denver, Colorado mint 1906-present.
DMPL – An abbreviation for Deep Mirror Prooflike. Sometimes pronounced “dimple.”
Doctored – A descriptive term for a numismatic item that has been enhanced by chemical or other means, usually considered a derogatory expression.
Dollar – A denomination valued at one hundred cents and considered to be the U.S. standard monetary unit. Authorized by the United States government via the Mint Act of 1792. The word “dollar” is the anglicized spelling of the European thaler and was chosen due to the world-wide acceptance of the thaler and the Spanish Milled dollar.
Double Die Obverse – A doubled die error (see also) that results in the doubling of design elements on the obverse only.
Double Eagle – A United States $20 gold coin.
Doubled Die – A die that has been struck more than once by a hub that is in imperfect alignment, resulting in the doubling of design elements; the coin is called a doubled-die error. The most famous is the 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln cent.
Double-Struck – A term for a coin that is not ejected from the dies and is struck again. To sharpen their details, Proof coins are generally double struck intentionally and this is sometimes visible under magnification. Coins can also be triple-struck or more.
Doubloon – Spanish-American 8-escudos gold coin equal to about $16 U.S. Such coins were legal tender in the United States until the implementation of the Act of February 21, 1857, but were mainly used in large commercial transactions, not in everyday change. Fractional pieces of 8-escudo doubloons were called pieces of eight (as were fractional pieces of 8-real silver “dollars”).
Draped Bust – A design of Miss Liberty with a drape across her bust line attributed to Mint Engraver Robert Scot who is thought to have copied a portrait by Gilbert Stuart.
Drift Mark – A streaky or discolored area on a coin, typically long, caused by foreign matter or impurities on the die.
Dull – A lackluster numismatic item, possibly the result of natural environmental conditions or cleaning.
EAC – An abbreviation for Early American Coppers.
Eagle – A United States $10 gold coin. Name also applies to certain gold bullion coins.
Early American Coppers (Club) – A club whose purpose is to advance the study of pre-1857 U.S. copper issues, including colonial-era coins.
ED – An abbreviation for environmental damage.
Edge – The rim or “third side” of a coin, which may bear vertical striations (reeding or milling), lettering or ornamentation so any clipping or shaving of precious metals would be obvious.
Edge Device – The design elements, like letters or emblems, on the edge of a coin.
Educational Note – A common name for the elaborately designed Series of 1896 Silver Certificates, including the $1, $2 and $5.
EF – An abbreviation for Extremely Fine.
Electrotype – A counterfeit coin made by the electrodepositation of metal.
Elements – The devices and emblems on a coin. In the context of grading, the components that constitute the grade.
Eliasberg, Louis E. – Beginning in 1925 Mr. Eliasberg, a Baltimore banker and eventually the owner of the Finance Company of America, commenced building a coin collection, augmented greatly in 1942 when the John H. Clapp Collection of United States coins was purchased intact for $100,000, through Stack’s, this being tied for the greatest private transaction in American numismatics up to that time. Mr. Eliasberg then determined to acquire one of every date and mintmark of federal coinage from the 1793 half cent to the 1933 double eagle. This was accomplished in 1950 when he purchased the unique 1873-CC No Arrows dime. He also had a wide selection of ancient coins, private and territorial gold , colonial coins, and more. We auctioned the collection in a series of record-breaking sales beginning in 1982 and concluding in 2010 for nearly $45 million and his collection is considered to be one of the greatest in numismatic history.
Embossing – A term to describe the raised printing on a note caused by pressing damp paper into the recesses of a printing plate.
Emission Sequence – The order in which die states are struck. Also, the die use sequence for a particular issue.
Encapsulation – The encasing of a coin in a hard plastic holder (nickname “slab”) by a third-party grading service such as the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America (NGC), ANACS, and others.
Encased Postage Stamp – Brass frame, with clear mica face, enclosing a regular federal postage stamp of a denomination from 1¢ to 90¢. On the back of most, embossed in raised letters in brass, is the name of an advertiser. Patented by John Gault, and popular as a money substitute in 1862 and 1863.
Engraver – Formerly called a diesinker, the person responsible for the design and/or punches used for a coin or other numismatic item.
Envelope Toning – A coloration on the surface of a coin resulting from the chemical reaction that occurs when it has been stored in a small manila envelope over a long time.
Environmental Damage – A corrosive effect ranging from minor dulling or toning to severe pitting, evident on a coin that has been exposed to the elements.
Eroded Die – Another term for “worn die.”
Error – The term for 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.
Escudo – Gold denomination equivalent to $2; part of the Spanish-American coinage system. Legal tender in the U.S. until the implementation of the Act of February 21, 1857.
Essai – A term for trial, pattern, and experimental strikings.
Exergue – That portion of a coin beneath the main design generally separated by a line or ridge.
Exonumia – A term to describe collectibles related to coins and paper money, but never legal tender. Examples include tokens, medals, badges, etc.
Expert – One who specializes in a defined numismatic area, for example a copper expert, a Bust dollar expert, etc.
Extra Fine – Shortened term for Extremely Fine.
Extremely Fine – A grading term that describes a coin that has about 90-95% of full detail with only the high points worn, the fields are often with luster barely remaining in the protected areas. This is also abbreviated as EF. The numerical equivalents associated with Extremely Fine are EF-40 and EF-45.
Extremely High Relief – Designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, this 1907 double eagle had so much medallic depth that it had to be struck multiple times to bring up the full detail. The design was then lowered, resulting in the High Relief design, which again was lowered to create the Saint-Gaudens double eagle design.
Eye Appeal – The subjective measure of a coin’s attractiveness. A coin with good eye appeal is one that is attractive and does not have dullness, stains, spots, damage, or anything detracting. Often, a coin with excellent eye appeal will command a premium. Eye appeal can be part of the grading process, and higher grades, such as MS-67 or above usually have good eye appeal.
F – An abbreviation for Fine.
Face of a Note – The front side of a note and paper money equivalent of obverse used for coins.
Face Value – The denomination’s originally assigned value stamped on a coin. Face value does not determine actual value, which is based on numismatic value or metal content.
Fair – A grading term for coins showing heavy wear with the lettering, devices and the date partially visible. This is abbreviated as FR. The numerical equivalent is FR-2.
Fake – A term for a counterfeit, forged or altered coin.
Fantasy Piece – A term applied to coins struck at the whim of mint officials. Examples include the various 1865 Motto and 1866 No Motto coins, as well as the 1868 large cent Type of 1857.
Fasces – The design element consisting of a bundle of rods wrapped around an ax with a protruding blade seen on the reverse of Mercury dimes. The designation “Full Bands” refers to the fasces on which there is complete separation in the central bands across the rods.
Fat Head – A slang term for small size Capped Bust quarters and half eagles.
FB – An abbreviation for Full Bands.
FBL – An abbreviation for Full Bell Lines.
Federal Reserve Bank Note – Notes which have the boldly imprinted name of a Federal Reserve Bank across the middle of the face of the note and a letter designating its district. These large sized notes were issued in the Series of 1915 and 1918 and bear the denominations $1 to $50; small sized notes were issued in the Series of 1929 with denominations ranging from $5 to $100.
Federal Reserve Note – Large size and small size notes from $1 to $10,000, bearing the name of Federal Reserve Bank and a letter designating its district. The first was the Series of 1914 and has been used to the present day.
FH – An abbreviation for Full Head.
Fiat Currency – Coinage not backed by a metal value.
Field – The portion of a coin’s surface not used for a design or inscription.
Fine – A grading term for coins upon which details are worn away. Some detail is present in the recessed areas, but it is not sharp. This is also abbreviated as F. The numerical equivalents associated with Fine are F-12 and F-15.
Fine Gold Content – The actual weight of pure gold in a coin, as opposed to the gross or overall weight of the piece. A U.S. gold bullion eagle has a fine weight of 31.1033 grams. The gross weight of 33.933 grams includes the copper that strengthens the alloy.
Fineness – Purity of gold or silver, normally expressed in terms of one thousand parts.
Finest Known – The best-known condition example of a particular numismatic item.
First Charter Note – A common term for Original Series and Series of 1875 National Bank Notes, with no basis in Treasury documents.
First Shot – The opportunity to buy a numismatic item before it is offered to or shown to anyone else
First Strike – An unofficial term, once popular but now used rarely, referring to a coin struck shortly after a new die is put into use. Such coins often have prooflike surfaces and resemble Proofs in certain (but not all) characteristics. Resurfaced previously-used dies sometimes also have these characteristics, hence there is confusion when this term is used.
Five – Term for a half eagle or a $5 gold coin.
Five Indian – A common term for Indian Head half eagles which were struck from 1908 to 1929.
Five Lib – A common term for Liberty Head half eagles which were struck from 1839 until 1908.
Fixed Price List – A listing of numismatic items for sale at set prices.
Flat Edge – A particular variety of High Reliefs that do not have a wire design on the edge.
Flat Luster – A term for the effect seen on coins that are struck from worn dies, evidenced by a subdued gray or dull luster.
Flip – A plastic, flexible sleeve used to display or store coins. Also, to immediately sell a newly purchased item, usually for short profit.
Flip Rub – A term for slight discoloration on the high points of a coin, caused by contact with a flip.
Flow Lines – A term for the lines that appear when the metal flows outward from the center of the planchet as the coin is struck. These lines reflect light and cause “cartwheel” luster.
Flowing Hair – A design of Miss Liberty where she has long, flowing hair, used from 1794-1795 on half dimes, half dollars and dollars, designed by Robert Scot.
Flying Eagle – A shortened term for Flying Eagle cent.
Flying Eagle Cent – The small cent that replaced the larger one, struck from 1856-1858, designed by James B. Longacre, and composed of 88% copper and 12% nickel.
Flyspecks – Minute oxidation spots often seen on the surfaces of coins, particularly higher grade copper and nickel coins, caused by exposure to small drops of moisture.
Focal Area – The area of a coin which draws a viewer’s eye. An example is the cheek of a Morgan dollar.
Ford, John Jr., Jr. – Ford, born in 1924, entered numismatics as a youth, and when he was a teenager was actively dealing in the greater New York area. He was also an employee of Stack’s and helped with cataloging and sales. Beginning in 1950 he joined New Netherlands Coin Company, and commencing in 1972 worked with Walter Breen and others to turn out some of the finest auction catalogs ever published. In the early 21st century his collection was consigned to us by his estate and was showcased in 24 separate sales over a long period of time. The offering of numismatic Americana was unprecedented and will never be equaled, as it combined not only Ford’s longtime purchases but selections from the estate of F.C.C. Boyd, Wayte Raymond, and others, many of which were unique. Today the catalogs stand as a valuable reference. The total realized challenged the $60 million mark, the most valuable collection ever sold anywhere in the world.
Foreign – A numismatic item not from the United States.
Four-Dollar Gold Piece – Commonly known as a Stella, these were struck from 1879-1800 as patterns.
FR – An abbreviation for Fair.
Fractional Currency – Pertains to small denomination notes issued by the Treasury Department beginning in 1863 and continuing through 1876, of denominations from three cents to fifty cents. These served as monetary substitutes in an era in which silver coins were hoarded by the public. Today they are widely collected.
Franklin – A shortened term for a Franklin half dollar.
Franklin Half Dollar – The half dollar featuring Benjamin Franklin on the obverse and the Liberty Bell on the reverse, designed by John Sinnock, and struck from 1948 until 1963.
Friction – The appearance of slight wear on a coin’s high points or in the fields, where only the luster is disturbed. Caused by rubbing.
Friedberg Numbers – Refers to catalog numbers devised by Robert Friedberg in Paper Money of the United States, first published in 1953 and a standard reference, updated by his sons Ira and Arthur.
Frosted Devices – The crystallized appearance seen on the raised elements of a coin.
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.
FS – An abbreviation for Full Steps.
Fugio Cents – Considered to be the first coins issued by authority of the United States dated 1787; however Congress did not pass the Mint Act until 1792 so the case for the half dismes of 1792 as the first regular issue is also valid. These were coined in New Haven, Connecticut.
Full Bands – A descriptive term applied to Mercury (Winged Liberty Head) dimes or Roosevelt dimes. On Mercury dimes it is when the central band is fully separated. On Roosevelt dimes it refers to full separation on both the upper and lower parts of the crossbands on the torch. Abbreviated as FB.
Full Bell Lines – A descriptive term applied to Franklin half dollars when the lower sets of bell lines are complete. Abbreviated as FBL.
Full Head – A descriptive term applied to Standing Liberty quarters when the helmet of the head has full detail. Abbreviated as FH
Full Steps – A descriptive term applied to a Jefferson nickel when at least 5 steps of Monticello are present. Abbreviated as FS.
Full Strike – The term for an item that displays crisp, full detail.
FUN Show – The annual convention held in early January sponsored by the Florida United Numismatists (FUN).
Fusible Alloy – Copper mixed with silver to create an alloy that would be lighter in weight than copper yet have higher intrinsic value. Used to strike certain 1792 pattern coins.
G – An abbreviation for Good.
Galvano – The large metal relief used in the portrait lathe from which a hub is made.
Garrett, T. Harrison – A scion of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad fortune, Garrett developed an interest in numismatics while a student at Princeton circa 1864. By the time of his death (due to a boating accident in Chesapeake Bay) in 1888, he had the largest collection in private hands in America. This passed eventually to his son Robert then to another son John Work Garrett, who added to it. In 1942 it was gifted to The Johns Hopkins University. Selections from the Garrett Collection were sold by us in 1976 and 1979 through 1981, creating a sensation at the time, the total prices realized exceeded $25,000,000.
Garrett, John Work – Son of T. Harrison Garrett, he entered the ambassadorial service and served in a number of posts over a long period of years. In the late 1910s he acquired the family collection from his brother Robert, and added to it with auction and regular purchase. After his passing it was bequeathed to The Johns Hopkins University. Selections from the Garrett Collection were sold by us in 1976 and 1979 through 1981, creating a sensation at the time.
Garrett, Robert – Son of T. Harrison Garrett, Robert was a medalist in the first modern Olympics held in Athens in 1896. He was heir to the Garrett coin collection, which he kept through the 1910s, then passed it along to his brother John Work Garrett. In 1942 it was gifted to The Johns Hopkins University. Selections from the Garrett Collection were sold by us in 1976 and 1979 through 1981, creating a sensation at the time.
Gem – A descriptive term applied to coins of exceptionally high quality, typically considered Mint State-65 or Proof-65 or better.
Gem BU – An abbreviation for Gem Brilliant Uncirculated.
Gem Unc – An abbreviation for Gem Uncirculated.
Gem Uncirculated – A grading term reserved for coins of exceptional quality, grading Mint State 65 or 66.
Generic Coin – A typical or common coin of its type, in average or below average grade. The type of coin for which sight-unseen bid prices are often given.
German Silver – No one has ever been able to define “German silver,” although the term is widely used in numismatics. Variations have been called argentan, packfong, Feuchtwanger’s Composition, and American silver. This alloy found its main use in providing a cheap substitute for silver in tableware, ornamental articles, etc., and in several proposals for coinage. Generally, German silver contained large proportions of nickel and copper, but also sometimes zinc, lead, and tin. Elemental analysis of certain “German silver” tokens has reveals that some actually contained a small amount of silver. There were no standards.
Gobrecht – An shortened term for “Gobrecht dollar.”
Gobrecht Dollar – Silver dollars designed by Christian Gobrecht, at the time “second engraver” at the United States Mint. In 1840 he became chief engraver at that facility and remained in that position until his death in 1844. These were struck in 1836, 1838 and 1839 and were later restruck from the late 1850s to the 1870s.
Gold – Basic elemental metal. Gold coins were first minted for circulation in 1795 and last struck for circulation in 1933. From their inception copper was added for strength, standardized by the Act of January 18, 1837, as 90% gold and 10% copper. The copper added a warm rosy orange hue to the gold. Sometimes, silver was present as an “impurity,” particularly for metal brought from California after the Gold Rush, and such pieces have a generally lighter color. The specification of 10% allowed for copper allowed amounts of other metals as well, so long as the gold content remained at 90%.
Gold Certificate – Notes redeemable in gold coins including the denominations $10 to $10,000 in both large-size and small-size formats. The backs of the large size notes were printed in a gold color and the backs of the small-size notes were printed in a green color.
Gold Commem – A shortened term for gold commemorative.
Gold Commemorative – Two groups of coins are considered gold commemoratives. The first group is comprised of the 11 gold coins from the classic commemorative series, struck from 1903 to 1926 to honor a person, event or place. The second group is any of the modern United States commemorative gold issues, sometimes called modern gold commemoratives.
Gold Dollar – Small gold coins with a denomination of $1 struck from 1849 until 1889.
Gold Dust – Technically, raw or native gold in powdered or granular form, as mined or processed. Sometimes used in newspaper accounts to refer to gold bullion in general.
Good – A grading term that describes a coin with little detail but outlined major devices. On some coins the rims may be worn to the tops of some letters. This is also abbreviated as G. The numerical equivalents associated with Good are G-4 and G-6.
Grade – The condition or amount of wear that a coin or piece of paper money has received. Generally, the less wear a coin has received, the more valuable it is.
Grader – An expert who evaluates the condition of coins or paper money.
Grading – The method of numerically quantifying the condition of a coin or paper money.
Grading Service – A commercial enterprise that, for a fee, will encase a coin or piece of paper money in a holder or capsule and affix a notation as to an opinion of grade. Synonym: Certification service.
Gram – A metric unit of weight representing 1/1000 kilograms. There are 31.1033 grams per Troy ounce.
Grand Watermelon Note – A common term for the $1,000 Series of 1890 Treasury Notes. So-called for the three zeros on the back that resemble watermelons.
Green Bean – A nickname for the CAC acceptance sticker.
Greenback – A term for a piece of paper money that is printed in green on the back with a face value of $1 or higher. This is also an unofficial popular term for paper money from the United States in general, popularized by the Legal Tender Notes of the 1860s with green backs (but not the first to be printed in this color), and widely used since.
Greysheet – A common name for Coin Dealer Newsletter.
Guide Book – The Guide Book of United States Coins, a favorite single-volume source for combined historical and price information of a general nature. This volume made its first appearance in 1946, bearing a cover date of 1947, with Richard S. Yeoman listed as author. Yeoman was an executive of the Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin, which since 1941 had enjoyed success with the annual Handbook of United States Coins, a slim volume listing dealer buying prices.
Hair – The area of a coin that displays hair, which can be an important aspect of the grade.
Hairlines – A series of minute lines or scratches, usually visible in the field of a coin, caused by cleaning or polishing. Often, these are not described, but are factored into the grading process. Thus, a Proof-63 coin is one that has hairlines and was cleaned at one time.
Half – A shortened term for half dollar.
Half Cent – Struck from 1793 until 1857, half cents are the lowest-value coin denomination ever issued by the United States, representing one-two hundredth of a dollar.
Half Disme – The original spelling of half dime, with a face value of five cents. The 1792 half disme is widely considered the first United States coinage struck under authority of the Mint Act of April 1792 and was supposedly struck in John Harper’s basement with newly acquired mint presses.
Half Dollar – The denomination with a face value of 50 cents that was first struck in 1794. It is still issued today.
Half Eagle – The first gold coin actually struck for the United States. It had a face value of $5 and was struck from 1795-1929. Half eagle means half the value of an eagle, the name for a gold coin with a face value of $10.
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 non-stationary upper die, typically the obverse. However, on certain issues with striking problems, the reverse was used as the upper die.
Hammer Price – The price at which an item is sold at an auction, not including any additional fees.
Hard Times Tokens – Tokens or monetary substitutes, most of which are the size of large copper cents, issued from 1832 to 1844 inclusive, as cataloged by Lyman H. Low, who published Hard Times Tokens in 1899. Strictly speaking the Hard Times era began in 1837 and ended in the spring of 1843, so the numismatic definition is somewhat different. In modern times Russell Rulau has added to the Low number, to the point at which several hundred tokens are now included. This has been a very popular collecting specialty for many years.
Haze – A cloudy film, which may occur naturally or be added, seen on the surface of both Proofs and circulation strike coins.
Heraldic Eagle – An emblem of Liberty that resembles the eagles of heraldry, also called the large eagle.
High End – A coin given a grading number designation, but which an informed observer believes is an exceptional specimen within that grade or may be a candidate for a higher grade.
High Points – Areas of highest relief in a coin design used to help determine the grade of a coin. These are the first small parts to show evidence of wear or abrasion, and also the last areas to strike up fully.
High Relief – A coin on which the design features very deep concave fields. This requires extra pressure to achieve a full strike. Only a few coins were struck in High Relief for the U.S. Mint before their designs were reduced to offer better striking capabilities. An example is the MCMVII (1907) Saint-Gaudens High Relief double eagle.
Hippocampus – Mythical animal displayed on the 1915-S Panama-Pacific International Exposition $2.50. Usually pictured as having the fore part of a horse and the hind part of a fish, the tail sometimes shown in a curl.
Hoard – A group of coins usually held over a long period of time for either monetary or numismatic reasons.
Hoard Coin – A coin that exists, or existed, in a quantity held by an organization or an individual. An example would be the Randall Hoard of copper cents. A wooden keg filled with as-new copper cents was found under an old railroad platform in Georgia sometime after the Civil War. It contained thousands of coins dated 1816-1820, and accounts for most of the Mint State examples we have today.
Hoarder – An person who gathers and holds onto a large quantity of numismatic items.
Hobo Nickel – An Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel which has been engraved with the portrait of a hobo or other character, often by hoboes themselves. These are popular with certain collectors. Some have features so distinctive that they have been attributed to particular “hoboes.”
Holder Toning – Toning acquired by a coin as a result of being stored in a holder.
Hub – A positive-image punch used to impress a coin’s design into a die for striking coins.
Impaired Proof – A grading term for a Proof coin that is graded less than Proof-60.
Incandescent Light – Direct light from a lamp, unlike indirect light such as that from a fluorescent bulb.
Incomplete Strike – The term for a coin that is missing design details due to a problem that occurred during the striking process. This can be due to insufficient striking pressure or improperly spaced dies.
Incuse Design – The design of a coin that has been impressed below the coin’s surface. This design was used on Indian Head quarter eagles and half eagles to deter counterfeiting and improve the coin’s durability during circulation.
Independent Coin Grading Company (ICG) – ICG is a third party grading service located in Tampa, FL.
Indian Cent – Another term for Indian Head cent.
Indian Chief Note – A common name for the $5 Series of 1899 Silver Certificates with Indian Chief Running Antelope on the face.
Indian Head Cent – A small cent designed by James Longacre and issued from 1859 until 1909.
Indian Head Eagle – A $10 gold coin designed by Saint-Gaudens that was issued by the United States from 1907 until 1933.
Indian Peace Medals – Medals, usually of silver but copper strikings were made also, including restrikes for collectors, intended to be presented to the chiefs of Native American tribes on behalf of the current president of the United States. This was to show friendship of the government (which, of course, was inconsistent) and also to encourage peace on the part of the tribes. The first such medals were engraved and were awarded on behalf of George Washington in 1892. The tradition continued into the late 19th century.
Indian Penny – A slang term for Indian Head cent.
Ingot – A slug or bar of metal issued by a mine, refinery, mint, or other establishment working with metals. Gold and silver ingots of the 19th century were customarily stamped with information including the weight, purity, issue, a serial number, and sometimes the value and/or the date.
Inscription – The straight-line lettering on a coin, unlike legends which follow the curvature.
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Intrinsic Value – The value of the precious metal in a numismatic item based upon the market value, which may fluctuate on a daily basis. United States coins contained their intrinsic value in metal until 1933 for gold coins and 1964 for silver coins. The modern United States issues are termed fiat currency.
Iridescence – A lustrous rainbow-like play of colorful toning on the surface of a coin.
Jackass Note – A common name for the $10 Series of 19869 Legal Tender Notes. These notes have an eagle on the face and when turned upside down, the eagle resembles a jackass.
Jefferson Nickel – The 5-cent coin designed by Felix Schlag, first struck in 1938 and still issued today.
Juice – Slang for the surcharge, called the buyer’s fee, added to the hammer price as listed on an auction invoice.
Junk Silver – A term used to describe common date silver coinage taken from circulation that trades based on the bullion spot prices.
Karat – A unit of fineness representing 1/24th of the gold in a coin. 22 karat coins correspond to the .916 fine, 24 karats describes theoretically pure gold of 1000 fine, although this is generally expressed as .9999 fine.
Key Coin – The major or most important coin in a specific series. This is usually the most highly valued coin and/or the lowest mintage coin of that series.
Key Date – Generally descriptive of a coin which is considered to be one of the more difficult dates to obtain, either in any grade or in a specific grade, within a given series.
Kilogram – The major metric unit of weight representing 1,000 grams or 32.15 Troy ounces.
Knife Edge – Another term for wire edge.
Lamination – A recess in the surface of a coin caused by a flake or strip of metal separating from the planchet.
Large Cent – Issued by the United States from 1793 until 1857, a large copper coin denominated at one-hundredth of a dollar.
Large Date – A term used to describe the size of the numerals of the date on a coin. Using this term implies that there are other varieties for the coin or series, like small date or medium date.
Large Eagle – Another term for Heraldic Eagle.
Large Letters – A term used to describe the size of the lettering on a coin. Using this term implies that there are other varieties for this coin or series.
Large Motto – A common name for the 1864 two-cent piece with the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” in large lettering. This motto was first used on the 1864 two-cent piece. Congress mandated this inscription for all coinage and it has been used on nearly every coin since 1864.
Large Size – A term used to describe a coin’s diameter relative to others in a series. When this term is used it implies that there is a small size or diameter issue with the same motif.
Launder – A derogatory term used to describe the cleaning of paper money to enhance its appearance to numismatists. Careful cleaning can be beneficial if done properly by experts, like removing grime and grease.
Lazy Deuce – A common name for a $2 Original Series or Series of 1875 National Bank Note. These notes have a large 2 placed horizontally in a resting, or “lazy,” position.
LD – An abbreviation for large date.
Lead – Basic elemental metal. Many splashers (clichés in French), or one-sided strikings on thin (usually) planchets, were made on elemental lead, a soft metal that was easy to use for testing dies in progress or finished dies. A few pattern coins were made in lead, an example being the 1907 $20 J-1777. Lead oxidized rapidly, and such pieces soon became dull and porous.
Legal Tender – Money that is officially issued by the government and is recognized for redemption.
Legal Tender Note – Notes issued in large-size and small-size formats of a denomination $1 to $10,000. This is the foundation of the federal paper-money system and has been for many years.
Legend – The lettering or phrase on a coin that follows the curvature, unlike inscriptions, which are in straight lines.
Lettered Edge – The edge of a coin that displays design elements or an inscription rather than having a plain or reeded edge. The elements can be raised or recessed below the surface.
Lettering – The alphabet characters used in legends, mottos, and other inscriptions on the surface of a coin.
Lib – A shortened term for Liberty Head.
Liberty – The symbolic figure of Miss Liberty used in many U.S. coin designs.
Liberty Cap – A design used on certain early United States half cents and large cents that displays the head of Miss Liberty with a cap on a pole nearby.
Liberty Head – The obverse motif used on most U.S. gold coins from 1838 to 1908. Barber coinage and Morgan dollars are also sometimes referred to as Liberty Head coins.
Liberty Nickel – A term for the Liberty Head nickel or “V” nickel struck from 1883 until 1912. (Those seen dated 1913 were clandestinely struck and are not regular issues.)
Liberty Seated – The design featuring Miss Liberty seated on a rock, designed by Christian Gobrecht, first used on the Gobrecht dollars of 1836-1839 and then used on nearly all regular issue silver coinage from 1837 through 1891.
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.
Lincoln – A shortened term for Lincoln Head cent.
Lincoln Cent – Issued by the United States government with a face value of one one-hundredth of a dollar. Designed by Victor D. Brenner, the Lincoln cent was first struck in 1909 and continues to be struck today. The Wheat Ears reverse design was changed to the Memorial Reverse in 1959.
Lincoln Penny – Another term for Lincoln cent.
Liner – 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 small incuse or incised mark on the surface of a Proof or Uncirculated coin caused by a stray hair, thread, or other small debris adhering to the die after it was wiped with an oily rag.
LL – An abbreviation for large letters.
London Fix – The gold price set at a London meeting of five well-established, old-line firms which becomes the benchmark for market trading at that time. The price of a transaction is sometimes agreed upon based on the AM or PM London Fix for that day.
Long Beach – A shortened term for the Long Beach Coin and Stamp Exhibition held in Long Beach, California three times each year.
Lot – A unique number assigned by the auction house to an item or group of items to be sold in a particular auction sale.
Loupe – A magnifying glass used to examine coins.
Low End Coin – A coin given a grading number designation, but which an informed observer believes is really in a lower grade or is a minimal example of the designated grade—an item for the price-conscious buyer and bargain hunter.
Luster – The effect that light has on the surface of a coin when reflecting on the flow lines. Also known as a coin’s original mint bloom.
Lustrous – A term used to describe a bright coin that still has its original mint bloom.
Machin’s Mills – A private mint operated by Captain Thomas Machin and associates on the shore of Orange Pond near Newburgh, NY in the late 1890s. Its specialty was making counterfeit coins, although genuine Vermont copper coins were struck there as well.
Mail Bid Sale – An auction sale where there is no live bidding component. Bids are only accepted via mail, phone, fax or email.
Major Variety – A coin that differs from other coins of the same date, design, type and mint in at least one major design element.
Margin – The blank area at the border of a note beyond the design or printed information.
Mark – Proposed U.S. coin consisting of 1,000 units. Pattern marks, inscribed 1000, were struck in 1783 as part of the Nova Constellatio series.
Marks – Scratches or other imperfections that are acquired after the coin is struck and are caused by other coins or foreign objects.
Martha Washington Note – A common name for the $1 Series of 1886 and 1891 Silver Certificates. The front depicts a portrait of Martha Washington, the nation’s first First Lady.
Master Die – The main die produced from the master hub.
Master Hub – The original hub created by the portrait lathe. Master dies are created from this hub.
Matte Proof – A Proof coin that has no mirror-like qualities. The surfaces have a dull, sandblasted appearance. These were minted in the United States mainly from 1907 to 1916.
MD – An abbreviation for medium date.
Medal Press – A high-pressure coining press used to strike medals, patterns, restrikes and some regular-issue Proofs, acquired by the U.S. Mint, circa 1854-1858.
Medal, Medallion – A commemorative or artistic piece resembling a coin but bearing no denomination or redemption value, not necessarily issued by any government.
Medalet – Describes a “small” (otherwise undefined) medal, often a medal of less than 20 mm. diameter, but especially if less than about 10 to 12 mm.
Medium Date – A term referring to the size of the numerals of the date on a coin. Using this term implies that another variety exists for this coin or series, such as a large or small date.
Medium Letters – A term used to describe the size of the lettering on a coin. Using this term implies that another variety exists for this coin or series, such as large or small letters.
Melt – The intrinsic metal value of a particular numismatic item.
Merchant’s Token – A metallic (usually) token issued by a merchant or other commercial entity to advertise goods or services. Same as store card. Example: the token issued during the Hard Times era by J. Cochran, a Batavia, New York bellfounder.
Mercury Dime – Common name for the Winged Liberty Head dime. The wings crowning Miss Liberty’s cap are intended to symbolize liberty of thought. Designed by Adolph A. Weinman, these were issued from 1916 until 1945.
Metal Flow – Describes the flow of metal on a planchet used to strike a coin, as the dies come together with tens of tons of pressure, and squeeze the metal into the different recessions in the die. Metal flow tended to wear away at the surface of the die, eventually resulting in coins with a grainy rather than lustrous surface.
Metal Stress Lines – A term for the radial lines caused by metal flowing outward from the center of the planchet as the coin is struck.
Micro – Very small, but not microscopic. Example: The 1945-S Micro S dime has an S mintmark that is much smaller than that usually employed on dimes of this ear.
Milling – Technically, the term milling refers to the raised rim on a coin, as imparted by a milling machine. However, in popular but incorrect parlance milling is sometimes used to refer to the closely spaced vertical ribs or reeds on a coin, seen when certain coins are viewed edge-on.
Milling Mark – Staccato-like nicks that appear on the surface of a coin caused by contact with the reeded edge of another coin.
Minor Variety – A coin that differs only slightly from other coins of the same design, type, date, and mint.
Mint – A facility for striking coins, traditionally a government agency.
Mint Bloom – The effect that light has on the surface of a coin when reflecting on the flow lines. The original luster on a coin.
Mint Error – A misstruck or defective coin produced by the mint.
Mint Luster – The delicate frost or crystalline sheen imparted on an Uncirculated coin as the dies strike the planchet or blank.
Mint Set – A group of Uncirculated coins from a particular year that includes coins from each mint.
Mint Set Toning – Mint sets issued from 1947-1958 were displayed in cardboard holders. This term refers to the patterns and colors coins acquired from years of storage in these holders.
Mint State – A grading term for a coin that has never been in circulation, corresponding to the numerical grades MS-60 through MS-70. This is also abbreviated as MS.
Mintage – The number of coins that were struck at a certain mint during a specific year.
Mintmark – A symbol, usually a small letter, used to indicate at which mint a coin was struck. Usually given as one word, but sometimes as two. U.S. mintmarks include: C, Charlotte, NC; CC, Carson City, NV; D, Dahlonega, GA (1838-1861); D, Denver, CO (1906 to date); O, New Orleans, LA; P or no mark at all, Philadelphia, PA; S, San Francisco, CA; W, West Point, NY.
Mishandled Proof – A Proof coin that has been cleaned, significantly abused, or somehow escaped into circulation.
Miss Liberty – The term applied to the various versions of the emblematic Liberty represented on United States numismatic items.
Mis-struck – Refers to error coins that have striking irregularities.
ML – An abbreviation for medium letters.
Modification – A minor change in the basic design of a coin, sometimes creating a new collectible type. Example: In 1866 the reverse of the half dollar was modified by adding the motto IN GOD WE TRUST.
Morgan – A shortened name for “Morgan dollar.”
Morgan Dollar – The common name used for the Liberty Head silver dollar that was designed by Assistant Engraver George T. Morgan. These were struck from 1878 through 1904 and once again in 1921.
Mottled Toning – Toning that is uneven and splotchy, usually with dull colors.
Motto – An inscribed word or phrase on a coin.
MS – An abbreviation for Mint State.
Mule – A mint error where the coin has a mismatched obverse and reverse.
Multiple-Struck – Another term for double struck. When a coin is not ejected from the dies and is struck again. To sharpen their details, Proof coins are generally double struck intentionally and this is sometimes visible.
Mutilated – A term that describes a coin so badly damaged it can no longer be graded.
National Bank – A term used to describe a commercial bank that is incorporated under the laws of the federal government. These banks are given a federal charter number, pursuant to the National Banking Act of 1863 and amendments and were regulated by the Comptroller of the Currency, an officer of the Treasury Department.
National Bank Note – A note which bears the imprint of a specific National Bank and its location, plus the signature of bank officers, in addition to federal signatures and information.
NCLT – An abbreviation for a non-circulating legal tender coin issued for collectors at a premium, and with a stated face value, but not used in circulation. Term devised by Krause Publications.
New – A term for a coin that has never been in circulation.
New Orleans Mint – A branch of the United States Mint, located in New Orleans, Louisiana that struck coins from 1838 until its seizure in 1861 by the Confederacy (however some 1861-O half dollars were struck after the seizure). The mint reopened in 1879 and continued until 1909. This mint uses the “O” mintmark.
New York Close – The last price of a given day’s trading for gold on the New York gold COMEX.
NGC – An abbreviation for the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.
NGC Black Holder – A first generation NGC holder where the inside of the slab was black and not white. The label was on the reverse side. Considered to be highly collectible and sought after.
NGC Census Report – A quarterly reference published by NGC listing the number of coins graded and their grades.
NGC Fatties – Slang term for old holders where the slab is thicker than what is currently in use by NGC. There are several different varieties and label styles.
Nick – A small mark on a coin caused by another coin bumping against it or by contact with a rough or sharp object.
Nickel – A common term for a 5-cent piece struck in cupro-nickel alloy (actually 75% copper, 25% nickel).
No “CENTS” Nickel – A Liberty Head or “V” nickel struck in 1883 without a denomination. This caused much confusion and led to the “racketeer” nickel scandal.
No Arrows – A term applied to coins that do not have arrows by their dates during years when arrows were used on other coins.
No Motto – A term applied to coins struck without the motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST”.
No Stars – A term applied to Liberty Seated coins that do not have stars.
No-Grade – A coin that has been returned by a third party grading service that was not encapsulated due to cleaning, damage, questionable authenticity, or many other reasons.
Non-Circulating Legal Tender Coin – A coin issued for collectors at a premium, and with a stated face value, but not used in circulation. Term devised by Krause Publications.
Note – Piece of paper money of $1 face value or higher.
Novodel – A coin struck from dies made later than the date on them and for which there was no original issue. The 1804-dated dollars are novodels as they were first minted in 1834.
Numerical Grading – The Sheldon 1-70 scale used by PCGS, NGC and other third-party grading services.
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation – A third-party grading service based in Sarasota, Florida.
Numismatic News – A weekly numismatic periodical, started in 1952.
Numismatics – The science of money; coins, paper money, tokens, inscribed bars, and all related items.
Numismatist – A student or collector of coins, tokens, medals, paper money, or related items.
O – A mintmark used to indicate coins struck at the New Orleans, Louisiana, branch mint.
Obsolete Note – A note issued by a bank, railroad, canal, etc., typically of the early 19th century, which later became obsolete, although the issuer may not have become insolvent (as contrasted with broken bank notes, from insolvent institutions).
Obverse – The front or face side of a coin, generally the side with the date and the principal design.
Oct – A shortened term for octagonal, which refers to the Pan-Pac octagonal commemorative $50 coin.
Off Center – A coin struck on a blank which was not properly centered over the lower die.
OGH – An abbreviation for “Old Green Holder” which includes all generations of PCGS holders with a light green insert rather than a blue insert.
OH – An abbreviation for “Old Holder.”
O-Mint – An slang term for coins struck at the New Orleans, Louisiana, branch mint.
Open Collar – A device used for striking early U.S. coins whose edges had already been stamped with lettering or reeding. This device restrains and positions a planchet above the lower die.
Opening Bid – The starting price of a lot during a live auction, determined by the presale bidding on that specific lot.
Orange-Peel Surfaces – So named because of its resemblance to the skin of an orange, the dimple-textured fields seen on many Proof gold coins. Some Mint State gold dollars and $3 gold coins display this effect to some degree.
Original – A term used to describe any aspect of a coin that retains its original state, and has not been dipped, cleaned, or altered in any way.
Original Roll – Coins wrapped in paper and stored at the time of their issuance. All the coins in the original roll have the same date, denomination, and mintmark and generally will have similar toning and luster.
Original Toning – A term used to describe the color naturally acquired by a coin that has never been cleaned or dipped. Original toning ranges in color from light-pale yellow to extremely dark blues, grays, browns, and even black.
Over Dipped – The term for a coin whose luster has been stripped or dulled by too many baths in a dipping solution.
Overdate – A coin struck from a die with a date that has one year punched over a different year.
Overgraded – A coin bearing a grading designation higher than it should.
Over-Mintmark – A coin struck with a die on which one mintmark is engraved over a different mintmark.
Overstrike; Overstruck Coin – A coin struck over another previously struck coin, sometimes of a different variety or type, instead of on a blank planchet.
Oxidation – The formation of oxides or tarnish on the surface of a coin from exposure to air, dampness, industrial fumes, or other elements.
P – A mintmark used to indicate coins struck at the primary mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Panama-Pacific Exhibition – An exhibition held in San Francisco, California, in 1915 to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal.
Pan-Pac – A shortened term for Panama-Pacific Exhibition.
Pan-Pac Slug – A common name for either the octagonal or the round 1915-dated Panama-Pacific $50 commemorative coins.
Paper Money – Another term for currency.
Paper Money Guaranty – A third-party paper money grading service located in Sarasota, Florida.
Patina – A green or brown surface film found on ancient copper and bronze coins caused by oxidation over a long period of time. Sometimes used to refer to toning of any hue.
Pattern – A trial or experimental coin, typically a new design, denomination, size, or metal. Patterns were also often struck in metals other than that originally proposed.
PCDA – An abbreviation for the Professional Currency Dealers Association.
PCGS – An abbreviation for Professional Coin Grading Service, a third party grading service located in Newport Beach, CA.
PCGS Doily Holder – A PCGS Slab with PCGS printed in an interlocking pattern resembling a doily.
PCGS Population Report – A quarterly reference published by PCGS listing the number of coins graded by PCGS and their grades.
PCGS Regency Holder – A large holder that was used by PCGS for special collections.
Peace Dollar – The common name used for the silver dollar designed by Anthony De Francisci. These were struck from 1921 to 1935 to commemorate the peace that followed World War 1. The 1921 coins featured a High Relief design; in 1922 the relief was lowered to a Regular Relief which was used until the end of the design in 1935.
Pedigree – The listing of a coin’s current owner plus all known previous owners.
Penny – A common term for a 1-cent United States coin.
Peripheral Toning – Coloring around the edge of a coin, which can range from light to dark.
PF – An alternate abbreviation for Proof.
Philadelphia Mint – The primary United States mint, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, established in 1792.
Pinhole – On a piece of paper money, a tiny hole made by a metal pin. In the 19th century in particular, before the paper clip came into use, a metal pin was used to attach a bill to a letter or document, or to fasten several notes together for storage or transit. In in other instances, travelers sometimes stitched bills to the lining of a coat by a thread, for security, this creating pinholes.
Pioneer Gold – A term for privately issued gold coins struck prior to 1861 . Generally associated with the private issues from California and other post-1848 ore finds in Nevada, Oregon, and Colorado.
PL – An abbreviation for prooflike.
Plain Edge – A flat, smooth edge seen mainly on small-denomination coinage, such as the nickel.
Planchet – The blank piece of metal on which a coin design is stamped. Also called a blank.
Planchet Defect – Any defects on a coin caused by an imperfect planchet being struck.
Planchet Flaw – An irregular hole in a coin blank, usually the result of a lamination that has broken away.
Planchet Striations – Fine, incuse lines usually resulting from polishing blanks, typically found on some Proof coins.
Plated – A coin that has been coated with a thin layer of metal. For example, gold-plated copper strikings of certain U.S. pattern coins.
Platinum – A precious metal infrequently used for coinage. The only United States issues struck in platinum are the pattern half dollars of 1814 and the modern platinum Eagles.
Plugged – A coin that has had a hole filled. Typically they are so expertly done that it can only be discerned under magnification.
PMG – An abbreviation for Paper Money Guaranty.
P-Mint – A term for coins struck at the main mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
PNG – Abbreviation for Professional Numismatists Guild.
PNG Certificate – A document that guarantees authenticity and is issued to a coin owner, a duplicate of which is kept on file at PNG. This certificate is completed by a PNG dealer prior to third-party grading services.
PO – Abbreviation for Poor.
Polished Coin – A coin that has been buffed or subjected to some other treatment to give it a mirrorlike surface, after it was struck. A polished coin is a damaged coin.
Polished Die – The term for a die that has been basined to remove clash marks or other die injury. Proof dies were basined to impart mirrorlike surfaces, resulting in coins with reflective fields.
Political Token – A metallic (usually) token issued in connection with a local, state, national, or other political candidate or in connection with a political movement or situation. Example: tokens dated 1837 satirizing President Andrew Jackson.
Polyvinyl Chloride – A chemical used to make coin flips pliable, but which also causes some coins to turn green.
Poor – A grading term that describes a coin with a readable date and mintmark, but little more. Barely identifiable as to type but not horribly damaged (such as holes). This is also abbreviated as PO. The numerical equivalent associated with Poor is PO-1.
Pop Report – A slang term for a roster published by a commercial grading service, showing how many coins have been graded and at what levels. Also known as a population report.
Population – The total number of coins that have been certified within a particular grade by a given grading service.
Porous – A descriptive term for a rough or granular surface, typically seen on pre-1816 copper coins.
Porthole Note – A common name for the $5 Series of 1923 Silver Certificates. The face depicts a portrait of Lincoln surrounded by a heavy frame which resembles a ship’s porthole.
PQ – An abbreviation for premium quality.
PR – An abbreviation for Proof.
Premium – The value a coin may hold in excess of its simple intrinsic value, expressed as an actual dollar amount or percentage.
Premium Quality – An unofficial term designating a coin within a grade an exceptional example. However, in the marketplace the term is often misused, as some sellers consider all coins to be Premium Quality. Abbreviated PQ.
Presentation Striking – A specially struck coin, often a Proof or an exceptionally sharp business strike, given to a dignitary or other person.
Press – Any kind of coining machine.
Prestrike – A coin struck earlier than the year on the die. Example: Many 2000 Proof coins were prestrikes made in 1999 but not released until 2000.
Price Guide – A periodical listing approximate prices for numismatic items.
Price List – Another term for fixed price list.
Price Realized – The final amount for which a lot is sold at auction, including the buyer’s premium.
Printage – The exact or estimated quantity of notes printed.
Pristine – Coins that are typically graded Mint State or Proof 67 or higher are considered pristine. This term describes coins in unimpaired and original condition.
Professional Coin Grading Service – A third-party grading service located in Newport Beach, California, established in 1985.
Professional Currency Dealers Association – An organization of paper-money dealers.
Professional Numismatists Guild – An organization of numismatic dealers founded in 1955.
Proof – A coin struck for collectors using specially polished or otherwise prepared dies and a carefully selected planchet. Some Proofs are struck twice to bring up the details of the design. The term denotes a method of manufacture, not a grade.
Proof Dies – Dies which are specially prepared, often sandblasted or acid-picked, and used exclusively to strike Proof coins. Often, the fields of Proof dies are highly polished which results in a mirrorlike finish, and the recessed areas are left unfinished to create frosted devices.
Proof Note – A term to describe impressions made from a complete or partially complete plate, for test purposes to illustrate its appearance. Typically they have no serial numbers, or just zeros in place of a serial number, and may also be missing other elements like signatures and Treasury seals. These are usually only printed on one side.
Proof Set – A coin set sold by a mint containing Proof issues from a particular year. A few exceptions exist, such as the 1804 dollar and eagle in 1834 presentation Proof sets.
Prooflike – An Uncirculated coin with a mirrorlike reflective surface but lacking the full characteristics of a Proof. Abbreviation: PL. This term is most often used with Morgan dollars.
Proof-Only Issue – A coin struck only in Proof, no circulation-strike counterpart was ever made.
Provenance – Another term for pedigree.
Publish – To issue, as to publish a medal. The term is most familiar with printed material, but it is equally appropriate for medals. For example, the Manly medal of George Washington was published in 1790.
Punch – A steel rod, one end containing a device, date, lettering or other symbol, that would be hammered into a working die.
Put-Together Roll – A seemingly original roll that has been gone through and, typically, the best condition coins have been removed and replaced with lesser quality coins.
PVC – An abbreviation for polyvinyl chloride.
PVC Damage – A film that may form on a coin that has been stored in flips that contain PVC. Usually green or, in the early stages, clear and sticky.
PVC Flip – A soft, plastic coin storage envelope or “flip” that contains the chemical PVC.
Quarter – A common term for a U.S. coin of the 25 cent denomination.
Quarter Eagle – A United States $2.50 gold coin. These were first struck in 1796, and then struck sporadically until the denomination was discontinued in 1929.
Questionable Toning – Color on a coin that does not appear to be natural.
Quint – Proposed U.S. coin consisting of 500 units (out of 1,000, the last representing a mark). Pattern quints, marked 500, were struck in 1783 as part of the Nova Constellatio series.
Racketeer Nickel – A gold-plated 1883 No “CENTS” Liberty Head 5-cent coin (“V” nickel). Since the coin lacked the word “CENTS” it created the opportunity for people to misrepresent its value to be $5 instead of 5 cents. The most famous story is of Josh Tatum, a deaf mute, who would pay for items with these coins and in return receive change for a $5.00 coin. He was soon arrested and at his trial it was discovered he never asked for change since he could not speak, so no crime had been committed. The Mint later that year put the words “CENTS” at the bottom of the reverse.
Rainbow Note – A common term for the Series of 1869 Legal Tender Note with the denominations $1, $2, $5, or $10. These notes have a colorful face and a green overprint, hence the name.
Rainbow Toning – Toning on a coin containing a full spectrum of color, including yellow, orange, red, green, indigo and sometimes even black. This is usually seen on silver dollars that were stored in bags.
Rare – A relative term indicating a coin within a particular series that is difficult to find or one of which only a few are known to exist. It may also apply to any coin with numismatic value as opposed to bullion value.
Rarity – A condition referring to the number of specimens that exist within a particular grade and those graded higher.
Rarity Scale – The numerical rating system used to quantify the rarity of a numismatic item.
Rattler – A first generation PCGS holder.
Raw – A coin or other numismatic item that has not been encapsulated by a third party grading service.
Rays – A design element on a coin comprised of lines that represent sun rays.
RB – An abbreviation for red and brown, descriptive of the color of a copper coin.
RD – An abbreviation for red.
Real – A genuine numismatic item. Also a term for the basic division of the Spanish-American silver coinage system, which was legal tender in the United States until the implementation of the Act of February 21, 1857. One real is worth 12.5 cents U.S.
Red – The term applied to a copper coin that retains 95% or more of its original color, typically abbreviated as RD when used as part of a description or in the grade.
Redbook – The common name for A Guide Book of United State Coins, which is an annual price guide and reference book first issued in 1947.
Red-Brown – The descriptive term applied to a copper coin that retains between 5% and 95% of its original mint color, typically abbreviated as RB when used as part of a description or in the grade.
Reeded Edge – The edge of a coin with grooved lines that run vertically around its perimeter.
Reeding Mark(s) – A mark or series of marks on the surface of a coin caused when the reeded edge of another coin strikes the surface. Also known as a milling mark.
Regular Issue – Refers to a coin that was struck for commerce. These can be regular strikes, as well as die trials of a regular issue. Also known as circulation strike or commercial strike.
Regular Strike – Another term for circulation strike, which is a coin struck using conventional methods.
Reholder – To take a certified coin in a scratched or unsightly slab, or one with a typographical error on the label, and put it in a new holder at the same grade.
Relapped Die – A die that has had its surface reground at the Mint, to remove traces of wear, clash marks, etc. This process often imparts a prooflike character to the dies.
Relief – Any part of a coin’s design that is raised above the coin’s surface.
Remainder – A piece of currency or sheet of currency printed for a bank, but never distributed. The remainder can have full or partial information filled in, such as serial number, date, and bank officer names, but usually is blank in those spaces. Most remainder notes are in high grades.
Replica – A reproduction or copy of a numismatic item.
Repunched Date – A date that is punched into a die and then punched again in slightly different alignment.
Repunched Mintmark – A mint letter on a coin that shows slightly doubling of the features, or represents a correctly aligned letter punched over one entered at an angle.
Reserve – The lowest auction price at which a seller is willing to sell an item.
Restrike – A coin struck from genuine dies at a date later than the original issue. Examples include the 1915 Austrian 4 Ducats, 1947 Mexican 50 Pesos, and 1908 Hungarian 100 Korona.
Retoned – A term for a coin that has been cleaned or dipped, and has over time regained color, either by natural or artificial means.
Reverse – The side of a coin carrying the design of lesser importance. Opposite of the obverse side. Although there are many exceptions, for many types of coins the obverse bears the date and a portrait, and the reverse has an eagle, building, or wreath.
Riddler – A screening machine used by mints to sort out planchets of the wrong shape or size prior to striking.
Rim – The raised portion of a coin encircling the obverse and reverse which protects the designs of the coin from wear.
Rim Ding – Another term for rim nick.
Rim Nick – An indentation or mark on the rim of a numismatic item.
Ring Test – A test used to determine if a coin was struck or is an electrotype or cast copy. The process entails balancing the coin on a finger and gently tapping it with a metal object and listening to the resulting sound. Struck coins have a high-pitched ring or tone, while electrotypes and cast copies have little or none. This test is not always accurate.
Rip – A slang term for a numismatic item that was purchased well below the price at which it can be resold.
Roll – A specific number of coins, all of the same denomination, stored in a coin wrapper. Originally rolls were stored in paper wrappers; today the wrappers are likely to be made of plastic.
Roll Friction – The minor displacement of metal, most often seen on the high points of coins that were stored in rolls.
Rolled Edge – The raised edge around the circumference of a coin.
Rolled Edge Ten – A common name for the regular issue 1907 Indian Head eagle.
Roller Marks – Parallel incuse lines visible on a coin after it is struck, believed to be caused when the strips of metal are pulled through draw bars insuring the strips are the proper thickness.
Roman Finish – An experimental Proof surface used in 1909 and 1910 mainly on U.S. gold coins. The surface appears scaly, similar to Satin Proof finishes, and is more reflective than matte surfaces but less so than brilliant Proofs.
Rotated Die – When one of the dies became loose in the coining press, it rotated from its normal orientation. Coins struck from such dies show alignment different from the norm, the norm usually being alignment 180 degrees apart (coin-wise alignment) or in the same direction (medal-wise alignment).
Round – A shortened term for the Pan-Pac round commemorative $50 coin. This may also refer to a one-ounce silver medal or bullion piece.
Rub – When the high points of a coin have the smallest trace of wear.
S – A mintmark used to indicate coins struck at the San Francisco, California branch mint.
S VDB – An abbreviation for the 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln Head cent.
Saint – A common name for the Saint-Gaudens designed double eagle gold coin that was struck from 1907 until 1933.
Saint-Gaudens – Used to refer to Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the preeminent sculptor of the late 19th and early 20th century. Chosen by Theodore Roosevelt to redesign the coinage of the nation, he redesigned the eagle and double eagle in 1907. Many consider his $20 gold piece, also called the Saint-Gaudens, to be the most beautiful U.S. coin.
San Francisco Mint – A branch of the United States Mint, located in San Francisco, California, that struck coins from 1854 until 1955, and again from 1965 to the present day. This mint uses the “S” mintmark.
Satin Finish – An experimental Proof surface used after 1907 on U.S. gold coins. The dies were treated to create a silky surface on the coins.
Satin Luster – A silky, fine finish seen mostly on copper and nickel business strikes. Coins with satin luster have almost no “cartwheel” effect.
Scarce, Rare, etc. – The terms scarce, rare, etc., are relative. A Morgan or Peace dollar considered scarce or rare may be much more plentiful than a Liberty Seated dollar described as such. A street car token of 1880, of which 500 are known to exist, would be considered to be common in the context of street car tokens. However, the 1895 Morgan silver dollar, of which about 500 are known, is recognized as a classic rarity within the Morgan dollar series, as many thousands are known of all other dates and mintmarks.
Scratch – A deep line or groove in a coin caused by contact with a sharp or rough object.
Screw Press – The U.S. Mint’s first type of coining press invented by Donato Bramante. The press had a fixed lower die and an upper die attached to a rod with screw-like threads. Weighted arms attached to the rod would be rotated and the screw mechanism quickly moved the rod with the die downward, striking the planchet placed into the lower die. The struck coin was then ejected and the process was repeated.
SD – An abbreviation for small date.
Sea Salvage Coin – A coin recovered from the ocean, usually from a ship wreck.
Seated – A shortened term for the Liberty Seated design on United States silver coinage.
Seated Coinage – Coins bearing the Liberty Seated design.
Second Charter Note – A common term for Series of 1882 National Bank Notes, with no basis in Treasury documents.
Second Generation Rattler – The second generation PCGS holder, which is a rattler holder with a separate outer ring.
Second Toning – Toning that occurs after a coin is dipped or cleaned, whether by natural or artificial means.
Semi-Common – A term to identify coins that are neither scarce nor common.
Semi-Numismatic – Coins that have a significant bullion value and some numismatic value. The most recognized examples are common date Liberty Head and Saint-Gaudens double eagles.
Semi-Prooflike – A coin that has some mirror-like surface, but not enough to be called “prooflike” because some satin or frosty luster is evident.
Series – A specific motif or design used over a period of time. This can refer to a single denomination, or in some cases, several denominations. For example, the Peace dollar design was only used for silver dollars, while the Liberty Seated series included multiple denominations (dime, quarter, half dollar, dollar, etc.).
Sesqui – A shortened term for “Sesquicentennial” which refers to the gold quarter eagle or silver half dollar commemorative coins.
Set – A collection of coins in a series, a collection of types or a collection from a specific mint.
Set Registry – A listing of graded sets of coins specific to the third party grading service by which they were graded. Example: PCGS Set Registry.
Sharp Strike – Refers to a coin with all of its minute design details sharply defined.
Sheet of Notes – An uncut group of notes, as printed. Large-size paper money of 1861-1929 contained four notes, early small-size paper money of the late 1920s contained 12 notes cut apart into two 6 note sheets and modern size paper money sheets have 36 notes.
Sheldon – The last name of Dr. William H. Sheldon, a numismatist who wrote the seminal work on 1793 to 1814 large cents.
Sheldon Book – The major reference book on large cents, first published in 1949 as Early American Cents, written by Dr. William H. Sheldon. The book was updated in 1958 and included Walter Breen and Dorothy Paschal as authors under a new name, Penny Whimsy.
Sheldon Numbers – The reference numbers assigned to 1793 to 1814 large cents in the Sheldon books, Early American Cents and Penny Whimsy. These are typically abbreviated and listed as S-1, S-2, etc.
Sheldon Scale – A system designed by Dr. William H. Sheldon for grading large cents that first appeared in his 1949 book, Early American Cents. The Sheldon Scale incorporates numerical grades ranging from 1 to 70 and corresponds with a range of descriptive grades. Poor-1 is the lowest grade and Mint State 70 is the highest grade.
Shield – A design featured on certain series of coins that have vertical and horizontal lines in the shape of a shield.
Shield Nickel – The common name for the Shield 5-cent United States coins that were struck from 1866 until 1883.
Shiny Spots – Areas on Matte, Roman, and Satin Proof coins where the original surface, which is supposed to appear dulled, has been disturbed.
Show – The common name for a bourse, coin convention, or coin show.
Sight Seen – A term meaning that the buyer of a specific numismatic item in a specific grade wants to view the coin before committing to its purchase.
Sight Unseen – A term meaning that the buyer of a specific numismatic item in a specific grade will pay a certain price without having to examine the item first.
Silver – A precious metal. It also refers to coins struck in silver, which are generally comprised of 90% silver and 10% copper, with exceptions.
Silver Certificate – Note issues in large-size and small-size formats, redeemable in silver dollars, later in silver bullion, in the denominations $1 to $1,000.
Silver Commem – A shortened term for silver commemorative coins.
Silver Commemoratives – Coins issued to recognize or honor a person, place, or event. These 90% silver and 10% copper alloy coins were struck at various times from 1892 until 1954, and again after 1982.
Silver Dollar – Silver coins with a denomination of $1 that were struck from 1794 through 1935, in a composition of 90% silver and 10% copper.
Silver Dollar Note – A common name for the $5 Series of 1886 Silver Certificates. The design on the back is printed in green and contains the images of five Morgan silver dollars.
Silver Nickel – A common name for a Wartime nickel.
Silver Plug – In order to bring a planchet to the proper weight, a silver plug was inserted into a hole in the center of the planchet on certain early American coins. This was then flattened out when the coin was struck.
Silver-Clad – A coin that is comprised of 40% silver and 60% copper, such as the Kennedy half dollars, which were struck from 1965-1970.
Skirt Lines – On Walking Liberty half dollars, these are the lines that represent the folds in Liberty’s flowing gown.
SL – An abbreviation for small letters.
Slab – Universally used nickname for a sealed plastic holder issued by a third party grading service and labeled with a grading opinion.
Slabbed – Sending a coin to a third-party grading service to have it authenticated, graded, and encapsulated in a sonically sealed holder.
Sleeper – A numismatic item that is undervalued or underpriced.
Slider – A term used to describe a coin that looks like a higher grade. The term is most often used to describe an AU coin that appears Uncirculated.
Slug – A common term for the octagonal and round $50 gold coins struck during the California Gold Rush. These large two-and-one-half ounce gold coins supposedly got their name because criminals used them as weapons and would wrap these in cloth and “slug” their victims on the head. The 1915 Pan-Pac $50 gold commemorative issues are also referred to as slugs.
Small Cent – The reduced-size cents that replaced the large copper cents in 1857.
Small Date – A term used to describe the size of the numerals of the date on a coin. Using this term implies that there are other varieties for the coin or series, such as large or medium dates.
Small Eagle – The coin design showing a plain eagle on a perch, first used on the 1794 half dime and half dollar.
Small Letters – A term used to describe the size of the lettering used in the design on a coin. Using this term implies that there are other varieties for the coin or series, such as large or medium letters.
Small Motto – A common name for the 1864 two-cent piece with the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” in small lettering. This motto was first used on the 1864 two-cent piece. Congress mandated this inscription for all coinage and it has been used nearly always since 1864.
Small Size – A term used to describe a coin’s particular diameter in a series. When this term is used it implies that there is a large size or diameter with the same motif.
S-Mint – An abbreviation for coins struck at the San Francisco, California, branch mint.
SMS – An abbreviation for Special Mint Set.
SP – An abbreviation for Specimen Strike.
Spark-Erosion Die – A die that is made by the electrolytic deposition technique has surfaces that are very rough, with almost rust-like pimples. The surfaces must be polished to remove the surface imperfections.
Spark-Erosion Strike – A coin made from spark-erosion dies. These are distinguished by the “pimples” or pitting in the relief areas.
Special Mint Set – A set of unique coins that were neither circulation strikes nor Proofs. First struck in limited quantities in 1965 and officially released in 1966-1967, these were intended to replace Proof sets, which had been discontinued as part of the U.S. Mint’s efforts to stop coin hoarding. The Mint then resumed issuing Proofs in 1968.
Specimen – Special coins struck at the mint from 1792-1816. These coins display many characteristics of the later Proof coinage. Abbreviated as SP and also referred to as specimen strikes.
Specimen Note – Another term for proof note.
Split Grade – The practice once widely employed, including extensively by the American Numismatic Association Certification Service (ANACS), to grade each side of a coin separately. Accordingly, a Morgan silver dollar might be graded MS-63/65, meaning that the obverse is 63, the reverse 65. Today, this informative method is rarely used.
Splotchy Toning – Color, uneven in shade and composition, on the surface of a numismatic item.
Spot – A general term for the discolored area on a numismatic item. A spot or spots can affect the grade of a coin depending on size, severity, placement, and other factors.
Spot Price – The market price of precious metals in bullion form at the moment a transaction is finalized.
Spread – The difference in price between bid and ask.
St. Gaudens – A shortened term for Augustus Saint-Gaudens or for the Standing Liberty double eagle he designed.
Standard Dollar – Regular silver dollar, as the Morgan type. Term used to differentiate the 412.5 grain silver dollar from the 420 grain trade dollar.
Standard Silver – The Mint Act of 1792 established the official composition of U.S. silver coinage at approximately 89% silver and 11% copper. It was later changed to 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper, which is the composition seen in most U.S. silver coins.
Standing Liberty – A design motif with Miss Liberty in an upright front-facing position.
Standing Liberty Quarter – The common name used for the Liberty Standing silver quarter that was designed by Hermon MacNeil. These were struck from 1917 until 1930.
Staple Scratch – A line on a coin caused by removing it improperly from a stapled cardboard holder.
Star – A design element on many U.S. coins depicting a five-pointed or six-pointed motif.
Star Note – A note with a start next to the serial number to indicate that it is a replacement note, which means it was printed as a substitute for a defective note that was immediately destroyed. This process began with Silver Certificates of 1910. The serial number of the star note does not match that of the note being replaced.
State Quarter – Washington quarters struck with unique reverse designs for each state. First issued in 1999, subsequent issues followed in the order of a state’s admittance to the United States. The order for the original 13 colonies was determined by the date each state ratified the Constitution.
Steam-Powered Press – A coining press powered by a steam engine.
Steel Cent – A name for the 1943 cents, struck in steel and plated with zinc. Certain 1944 cents were struck in steel with the left over blanks.
Steelies – A common name for 1943 steel cents.
Stella – A common name for the experimental $4 gold coins struck by the U.S. Mint from 1879-1880. The name is derived from the large star on the coin’s reverse.
Stock Edge – A counterfeit edge collar used to produce counterfeit coins.
Store Card – A metallic (usually) token issued by a merchant or other commercial entity to advertise goods or services. Same as merchant’s token. Example: the tokens issued in 1837 by Smith’s Clock Establishment, New York City.
Store Cards – During the nineteenth century there was a shortage of small change. Merchant tokens were created to help alleviate this shortage. These were typically composed of copper and were widely accepted in their immediate areas.
Stress Lines – Another term for “flow lines.”
Striations – Raised lines on coins that are caused by the incuse polish lines on a die. These tend to be fine, parallel lines, although they can be swirling or even criss-crossed. Planchet striations are burnishing lines that are not struck away by the minting process and appear as incuse lines on the coins.
Strike – The act of minting a coin. Also the intended sharpness of detail for a particular coin.
Striking – Refers to the process by which a coin is minted. Also refers to the sharpness of design details. A sharp strike or strong strike is one with all of the details struck very sharply; a weak strike has the details lightly impressed at the time of coining.
Strip – A flat piece of metal, rolled to proper thickness, from which coin planchets are cut.
Struck – A term used to describe a coin or numismatic object, produced from dies and a coining press.
Struck Copy – A replica of a coin made from dies, but not necessarily intended to deceive.
Struck Counterfeit – A counterfeit coin produced from false dies.
Surface Preservation – The condition of a numismatic item’s surface.
Surfaces – The entire obverse and reverse of a coin.
Sweating – A process whereby coins are placed in a bag and shaken vigorously to knock off small pieces of metal. The bits of metal are gathered and sold, producing a profit as the coins are returned to circulation at face value. Done primarily with gold coins, leaving their surfaces peppered with tiny nicks.
Tab Toning – Often seen on commemorative coins that were sold in cardboard holders with a round tab, the coins have a toned circle in the center.
Tail Feathers – The feathers that make up the eagle’s tail on the reverse of certain U.S. coins. Most often used when describing Morgan silver dollars.
Target Toning – A term for color distribution resembling an archery target on a coin. The deeper colors are on the outer periphery and fade to white or off white at the center of the coin.
Technicolor Note – A common term for the Series of 1907 large-size Gold Certificates. Derived because the faces of these notes have a gold tint to part of the paper, part of the inscription is in gold ink and a bright red Treasury seal and serial numbers.
Teddy’s Coin – A common name for J-1776, the unique gold striking of the 1907 Indian Head double eagle, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt.
Ten – The common term for a $10 gold coin, also known as an eagle.
Ten Indian – A common name for the $10 gold Indian Head eagle.
Ten Lib – A common name for the $10 gold Liberty Head eagle.
Territorial Gold – Gold coins and bars that were privately struck during the various gold rushes.
TF – An abbreviation for tail feathers.
Thaler – The Germanic spelling of the name for the silver-dollar size coins from Europe, from which the English word “dollar” is derived.
The Numismatist – A monthly periodical published by the American Numismatic Association.
Third Charter Note – A common term for the Series of 1902 National Bank Notes, with no basis in Treasury documents.
Third-Party Opinion – An opinion of a numismatic item’s grade supplied by a person or company other than the buyer and seller of the coin.
Three – A shortened term for the Indian Head $3 gold coin.
Three Cent Nickel – Three-cent coins struck from 1865 to 1889 containing 75% copper and 25% nickel with a Liberty Head motif. The design by James B. Longacre was copied from Christian Gobrecht’s earlier Liberty Head motif.
Three Cent Silver – Three-cent coins with a star motif struck from 1851 to 1873 in silver alloy. This is the smallest of the silver coins and was designed by James B. Longacre.
Threepence – Coin in the British system, also used in certain early American issues (1737 Higley coppers, 1783 Chalmers threepence), equivalent to three pennies (pence) or ¼ shilling.
Thumbed – A term used to describe a coin that has been doctored by rubbing the thumb lightly over marks, hairlines, or other disturbances. The oils in the skin help to disguise these problems.
Tin – Metal element. Used in numismatic texts to describe coins in a soft silver-colored alloy, better called white metal. Judd listings as tin are in the present text called white metal. Pure or nearly pure tin oxidizes at cold temperatures, producing unsightly black “tinpest.”
Tinted Paper – Paper used to make currency that has color embedded in the material rather than applying color to the surface during printed. An example would be a Series of 1869 Legal Tender “Rainbow Note.”
Tissue Toning – Coins that are stored in the original mint paper can often acquire colorful, usually vibrant, toning caused by the sulfur in the paper reacting with the metals in the coin.
Token – A privately issued piece, used typically with an exchange value for goods or services but not officially issued by the United States government.
Tombstone Note – A common term for the Series of 1886, 1891 and 1908 Silver Certificates. The face depicts the deceased vice president, Thomas A. Hendricks, surrounded by a frame that is shaped like a tombstone. It is not known whether this was intentional or not.
Toning – Natural patination or discoloration of a coin’s surface caused by the atmosphere over a long period of time. Often very attractive, many collectors prefer coins with this feature.
Tooling Mark – Lines found on both genuine and counterfeit coins, most often small and fine, these are caused by touching up the dies.
Top Pop – Slang for a coin with a grade that is the highest listed for that particular variety within a population report.
Trade Dollar – A U.S. silver coin, issued from 1873 until 1885, intended for circulation in Asia to compete with dollar-sized coins from other countries. It is slightly heavier than the regular silver dollar and was made with marginally higher silver content in an effort to gain acceptance in commerce throughout the world. Designed by William Barber.
Transfer Die – A die created by using an existing coin as the model.
Transitional – Shortened term for transitional issue.
Transitional Issue – A coin struck before a series starts, after a series ends, or a coin struck with either the obverse or the reverse of a discontinued series. Or, a coin struck with the obverse or reverse for a newly issued series.
Treasure Coin – A coin discovered from a shipwreck or from a buried or hidden source.
Treasury Department – A branch of the United States government that controls the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Federal Reserve System, the coinage mints, and other monetary bureaus.
Treasury Hoard – Generally a term referring to hundreds of millions of silver dollars held by the United States Treasury Department from the 19th century through the early 20th century. Most coins in the hoard were distributed in 1962-1964, after which only about three million remained, to be sold by the General Services Administration (GSA).
Treasury Note – Another term for a Coin Note.
Treasury Seal – An emblem of the Treasury Department used on the face of all federal currency. They vary in size, color and the border design, but the basic design features a pair of scales above and a key below, with inscription surrounding. Used from 1862 to the present day, on all denominations $1 and higher, in addition to fourth and fifth issues of Fractional Currency.
Trial Strike or Striking – Another term for die trial.
Trime – The common name for a 3-cent silver U.S. coin.
Troy Ounce – The principal unit of weight in the troy system, generally used in precious metal transactions. The troy pound contains 12 troy ounces.
Truncation – The bottom edge of a portrait or bust. Example: The neck truncation of Miss Liberty on an 1850 $20.
Twenty – Common term for a double eagle or $20 gold coin.
Twenty Lib – Common name for $20 gold Liberty Head double eagle.
Two and a Half – Common term for a quarter eagle or $2.50 dollar gold coin.
Two-Cent Piece – A common name for the Shield two-cent coin designed by James Longacre, struck from 1864 to 1873.
Type – A series of coins defined by a shared distinguishing design, size, metallic content, denomination or other element.
Type Coin – A representative coin from a particular issue of a specific design, size, denomination, or metallic content, usually a common date for the series.
Type One – Term for any coin from the first type within a series.
Type One Buffalo – An Indian Head nickel dated 1913 that has a bison on a raised mound on the reverse.
Type One Gold Dollar – The gold dollar struck from 1849 until mid-1854 in Philadelphia and for the full year in Dahlonega and San Francisco with a Liberty Head design.
Type One Nickel – The five-cent coin struck from 1938 until mid-1942 and from 1946 until the present day with a Jefferson Head obverse.
Type One Quarter – The quarter struck from 1916 to mid-1917. This Standing Liberty design features a bare-breasted Miss Liberty, a simple head detail, and no stars under the reverse eagle.
Type One Twenty – Double eagles struck from 1850 until mid-1866 with the Liberty Head design. These coins did not have a motto on the reverse and the denomination was indicated as “TWENTY D.”
Type Set – A collection comprised of one representative coin of each type, particular to a period or series.
Type Three – Any coin from the third type within a series.
Type Three Gold Dollar – Gold dollar with a small Indian Head design, struck from 1856 until the series ended in 1889. The San Francisco Mint did not receive the type three dies in time to strike the new design in 1856, so the coins from that mint have the type two style.
Type Three Twenty – Liberty Head double eagles struck from 1877 until the series ended in 1907. They have the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the reverse and have “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 struck from mid 1913 until the series ended in 1938, with a bison shown on level ground on the reverse.
Type Two Gold Dollar – Gold dollar with the large Indian Head design, struck from mid-1854 until 1855 in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans.
Type Two Nickel – The five-cent coin with the Jefferson Head design, struck from mid-1942 until 1945. These are identified by a large mintmark above Monticello on the reverse and are composed of silver, manganese, and copper. The first U.S. coins to have a “P” mintmark to indicate they were struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
Type Two Quarter – The quarter struck from mid-1917 until the series ended in 1930. This Standing Liberty design features Miss Liberty with a covered breast, three stars under the reverse eagle, and a more intricate head design.
Type Two Twenty – Double eagles with the Liberty Head design, struck from mid-1866 until 1876. These coins have the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the reverse and have “TWENTY DOL.” for the denomination.
Ultra Cameo – A term that means Deep Cameo, used by the third party grading service NGC. Applied typically to a Proof coin, or a prooflike coin with deeply frosted central devices and lettering in high contrast with the mirror like fields. Sometimes these are called “black and white” cameos.
Ultra High Relief – Alternate term for Extremely High Relief.
Ultra Rare – A numismatic item that is represented by only a few examples.
Unc – An abbreviation for Uncirculated.
Uncirculated – A coin or numismatic item in new condition, which has seen no wear and has not been circulated, but may show marks from bag storage.
Underbidder – One that executes the bid preceding the winning bid.
Undergraded – A coin bearing a grading designation lower than it should.
Unique – A numismatic item of which only one specimen is known to exist.
Unsold – An item that did not sell through auction because it did not receive bids equal to or greater than the reserve.
Used – A term that describes a coin that has light to heavy wear or circulation.
VAM Number – A numbering system designed to catalog each die combination of Morgan and Peace dollars listed in The Complete Catalog and Encyclopedia of United States Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis.
Van Allen-Mallis – The authors of The Complete Catalog and Encyclopedia of United States Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars. This reference book was first published in 1971 and reprinted in 1998.
Variety – A coin’s design that sets it apart from the normal issue of that type. These variations can include the size of the date, mintmark and/or placement of either.
VDB – An abbreviation for the 1909 V.D.B. Lincoln Head cent, which are the initials for designer Victor D. Brenner.
Very Fine – A grading term that describes a coin that has about 45-80% of the original detail depending on the numerical grade assigned to the piece, also abbreviated as VF. VF-35 coins have nearly 80% detail and this decreases to about 45% detail on the VF-20 coins. The numerical equivalents associated with Very Fine are 20, 25, 30 and 35.
Very Good – A grading term that describes a coin that is heavily worn but the major devices and lettering are still for the most part clear, depending on how high the grade. This is also abbreviated as VG. The numerical equivalents associated with Very Good are 8 and 10.
Vest Pocket Dealer – A person who sells coins or other numismatic items on a part time basis.
VF – An abbreviation for Very Fine.
VG – An abbreviation for Very Good.
Vignette – The design elements on a bank note, including allegorical scenes, historical motifs and portraits.
V-Nickel – A common term for the five-cent coins with the Liberty Head design, struck from 1883 through 1912 , so called because of the large letter “V” on the reverse. (The 1913 issue was struck clandestinely and is not listed in mint reports.)
W – A mintmark used to indicate coins struck at the West Point, New York, branch mint.
Walker – A common name for a Walking Liberty half dollar.
Walking Liberty – A common name for a Walking Liberty half dollar.
Walking Liberty Half Dollar – The name used for the half dollars designed by A.A. Weinman, struck from 1916 through 1947 featuring Miss Liberty walking.
War Nickel – A shortened term for Wartime nickel.
Wartime Nickel – Five-cent coins composed of 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese struck during World War II.
Washington Quarter – A shortened term for the Washington quarter dollar.
Washington Quarter Dollar – Issued by the United States government with a face value of 25 cents. Designed by John Flanagan, the Washington quarter was first struck in 1932 as a circulating commemorative coin to celebrate the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. It continues to be struck today. A special bicentennial reverse was issued in 1976, and in 1999 the obverse was redesigned and the State quarter series began.
Watermelon Note – A common term for the $100 Series of 1890 Treasury Notes so-called for the two zeros on the back that resemble watermelons.
Watery Look – A descriptive term for the wavy, reflective finish seen on the surfaces of most close-collar Proof coins as a result of highly polished planchets and dies.
Weak Strike – A coin with certain of its details (in the areas of high relief) not fully formed because of the hardness of alloy, insufficient striking pressure, or improper die spacing.
Wear – The abrasion of metal from a coin’s surface caused by normal handling and circulation.
West Point Mint – A branch of the United States Mint, located in West Point, New York that manufactures American Eagle Uncirculated and Proof coins, all sizes of Proof and Uncirculated silver, gold and platinum American Eagle coins, commemorative coins mandated by Congress, and stores platinum, gold and silver bullion. This was officially designated by Congress as a mint on March 31, 1988. This mint uses the “W” mintmark.
Wheat Pennies – The common term for Lincoln cents with wheat ears on the reverse, issued from 1909 to 1958.
Wheel Mark – Another term for “counting machine mark.”
White Metal – A pewter-like metal, of no fixed specifications, employing lead, tin, antimony, and other elements to create a metal silver in appearance but fairly soft. The popular term pewter is sometimes used in the field of antiques and artifacts to describe such items; the term is not widely used for pattern coins. White metal was used to strike many different patterns in the 19th century and tokens and medals in the 19th century and later. In general, white metal was not chemically stable, and sometimes pieces oxidized or blistered. Sometimes white metal strikings have been described as being in tin.
Whizzing – The alteration of a coin’s appearance by use of a rotating bristled (wire or other material) brush to move or remove metal from the surface. This process generally gives a coin the artificial appearance of being in a higher grade than it actually is. Areas of a whizzed coin usually show a series of minute scratches or surface disruptions simulating artificial luster, and the buildup of metal ridges on raised letters or other design features.
Wire Edge – The term for a thin, wire-like section of the rim of a coin that is raised above the rest of the rim along the outside perimeter. This is typically caused by very high striking pressure, and tends to occur mostly on Proof and high relief strikings. Can also be a common term for the Wire Edge Indian Head eagle of 1907.
Wire Edge Eagle – The $10 gold coin of 1907 with the Indian Head design of which only 500 were struck. This is technically a pattern and features a fine wire rim and surfaces which were both satiny and striated unlike any other United States issue.
Wire Edge Ten – A common term for the Wire Edge Indian Head eagle of 1907.
Wire Rim – Another term for wire edge.
With Arrows – A shortened term for arrows at the date.
With Arrows and Rays – Another term for arrows and rays.
With Motto – Another term for motto.
With Rays – Another term for rays.
W-Mint – An abbreviation for coins struck at the West Point, New York, branch mint from 1988 to present.
Working Die – A die produced from a working hub and used to strike coins.
Working Hub – A hub made from a master die used to create the working dies.
World Coins – A term that refers to any coins from countries other than the United States.
Worn Die – A die that has lost detail from over usage. Coins struck from worn dies often appear weakly struck.
Wreath Cent – A common name for the second large cent type of 1793.
XF – Another abbreviation for Extremely Fine, or EF.
Zerbe Proof – The 1921 Morgan dollars specially struck for numismatist and Mint friend Farran Zerbe.