Dictionary of Terms Used in
Numismatics & Coin Collecting
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AG: "About good" grade for a coin very heavily worn
Alloy: combination of two or more metals.
American Numismatic Association (ANA): nonprofit educational that supports coin collecting and numismatic studies.
ANACS: coin grading service
Ancients: Coins of the world struck around 600 BC to 450 AD
AU: "About Uncirculated" grade for a coin that appears uncirculated but has traces of wear.
attributes: the elements of a coin that help determine grade (such as strike, marks, luster, and appeal)
bag mark: a mark or blemish on a coin that occurs from contact with other coins while in holders or bags.
blank: flat piece of metal on which a coin’s image is struck (see planchet)
BN: "Brown" generally used for copper coins that have lost the original red color of copper, and are now brown
BU: "Brilliant Uncirculated" coin grade with no signs of wear, it must also have never been circulated (also considered "mint state" or "uncirculated")
bullion: gold or silver coins, bars or ingots
burnishing: a process by which a planchet or coin are made to shine through rubbing or polishing
business strike: a coin produced for general use and circulation (not proof). Note: proof coins use a different striking process which results in a shinier surface and deeper strike.
CAM: Short for "Cameo," proof coins that have frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the shinier fields
carbon spot: a brown or black spot on a coin, caused by impurities or oxidation
cartwheel: a visual effect where the coin’s luster appears to spin in a radiating fashion. Considered desirable.
circulated: coins with wear that have been handled, in any condition
clad coin: Some coins are made by compositing layers of metal together. The outer layer is typically silver in color, while the inner layer is typically copper in color. Example: US Roosevelt Dime. Any multi-layered coin is considered clad. This method is used to save money in production and lengthen the life of the coin.
cleaned: coins can be cleaned to enhance their appearance. Cleaning is considered to be undesirable by most collectors since the coin has been altered and not in its original state. Cleaning can be done by dipping in cleaning solution, polishing, or brushing. Do NOT clean coins unless you are fully trained and fully aware of what you are doing. You can ruin coins and lose the value of a coin by cleaning.
coin: metal currency issued by a governmental authority as legal tender. Some companies, issue "coins" as well, but these are not legal tender and are generally considered less collectible than real money.
commemorative: a coin or medal minted to honor an outstanding person, place, or event.
condition: state or quality of a coin
corrosion: some metals corrode due to oxidation, handling, or exposure to chemicals or moisture.
counterfeit: fake coins or currency that appear legitimate
currency: any kind of money that is legal tender
DCAM: "Deep Cameo" refers to a proof coin that has deeply frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the shiny fields
denomination: the monetary value assigned by the issuing government to a coin. Example: Dime, Quarter, Dollar.
dentils: the toothlike devices around the rim of many coins
device: a design element on a coin such as an eagle or building or star for example.
die: an engraved hardened steel stamp used for minting a design on a blank piece of metal (planchet) to make a coin
die break: die defect, usually a crack or break. Visible on the resulting coin.
dipped: coins that are cleaned in a mild acid (or cleansing) solution to hopefully remove tarnish and unwanted toning. Cleaning coins in this was is not recommended except by professional conservationists.
DMPL: The designation "Deep Mirror Prooflike" is used for coins that have deep reflective (almost mirror-like) fields
doubled die: a coin that has been struck two times by a die can result in doubled coin design elements. Usually there is an offset or slight misalignment that makes the doubling visible.
edge: The edge of a coin may be plain, imprinted with text, reeded or even ornamented.
EF: "Extremely Fine" is the grade of a coin that is slightly worn that still retains sharp and well defined features
engraver: the artist who sculpts the coin design prior to making dies. The master dies are made from the large sized sculpted artwork.
error coin: a coin that was minted incorrectly and was missed in the mint’s quality control. Few make it into circulation, but when they do they can be valuable.
F: "Fine" is a coin grade that has moderate to considerable wear. See grading guides for more specific info.
FB: "Full Bands" is used to describe Mercury dimes where the central bands of the fasces on the reverse side are fully separated
FBL: "Full Bell Lines" is used to describe Franklin half dollars where the lower lines on the Liberty Bell are fully visible to the eye.
FH: "Full Head" is used to describe a Standing Liberty quarter whose helmet on Liberty's head has complete detail
field: area on a coin with no design or inscription or device (basically the background)
Finest known: A coin that is considered to be the best known quality or grade for that type of coin.
first strike: a coin struck early in the life of a die before die wear occurs. Usually considered desirable since these coins are likely to have good solid strikes and excellent detail.
flip: clear plastic coin holder, be sure to only buy archival quality flips
frosted devices: raised designs on a coin which are struck with treated dies that have frost in recessed areas
FS: "Full Steps" is used to describe a Jefferson nickel where 5.5 or 6 steps are fully defined on the picture of Monticello
G: "Good" is used to describe a coin that is heavily worn with devices visible but faint. See official grading guides for more exact details.
gem: a generic term used for an excellent coin
grade: coins are graded on a numeric scale to represent the quality and preservation of the coin. This scale is used to describe condition. It can also be used to establish prices. The grade can be verified by independent third-party graded services such as NGC, PCGS, and ANACS for example.
hairline: a thin scratch on a coin typically from improper cleaning, polishing, or damage
haze: a hazy film on the surface of a coin, typically occurs over time due to chemical reactions or exposure
incuse: A design element on a coin that has been stamped below the surface of the coin. Opposite of raised design elements
inscription: words minted on a coin
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