Glossary of Coin Terms

Very Important Terms

Coin: Typically, round flat metal discs issued by the government as money, though shape can greatly vary
Bullion: Physical silver, gold, platinum, palladium or other precious metals in the form of coins, rounds, bars, ingots or other storage shapes
Bullion Coin: Precious metal coins traded at current spot prices plus a premium
Business Strike: A coin produced for general circulation (as opposed to a proof or uncirculated (typically called burnished) coin specially made for collectors)
Clad Coinage: Coins that have a core and outer layer made of different metals. Since 1965, all circulating U.S. dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars have been clad
Commemorative: A special coin or medal issued to honor an outstanding person, place, or event
Condition: The physical state of a coin. Condition of a coin is generally determined by the Sheldon grading scale
Counterfeit: A fake coin or other piece of currency made so that people will think it’s genuine
Designer: The artist who creates a coin’s design (but doesn’t necessarily engrave the design into a coinage die)
Denomination: The different values of money ie one dollar or one cent
The raised details of the coin, such as the design, date, mint mark and more
Engraver: An artist who sculpts a clay model of a coin’s design in bas relief
Error: An improperly produced coin, overlooked in production, and later released into circulation
Edge: The outer border of a coin, considered the “third side” (not to be confused with “rim“)
Field: The portion of a coin’s surface not used for design or inscription
Inscription: Words stamped on a coin or medal
Intrinsic Value (Bullion Value): Current market value of the precious metal in a coin
Key Date: A scarce date required to complete a collection, usually more difficult to find and afford
Legal Tender: Coins, dollar bills or other currency issued by a government as official money
Mint: A place where coins of a country are manufactured under government authority
Mint Luster: The dull, frosty, or satiny shine found on uncirculated coins
Mint Mark: A small letter on a coin identifying which of the United States Mint’s facilities struck the coin
Mintage: The quantity of coins produced
Motto: A word, sentence or phrase inscribed on a coin to express a guiding national principle, such as, “E Pluribus Unum” inscribed on all U.S. circulating coins is Latin for “out of many, one”
Numismatics: The study and collecting of things that are used as money, including coins, tokens, paper bills, and medals
Obverse: The front (or “heads”) side of a coin
Planchet: The blank piece of metal on which a coin design is stamped
Proof: A specially produced coin made from highly polished planchets and dies and often struck more than once to accent the design. Proof coins receive the highest quality strike possible and can be distinguished by their mirror-like background and frosted foreground.
Proof Set: A complete set of proof coins of each denomination made in a year
Relief: The part of a coin’s design that is raised above the surface, opposite of incuse
Reverse: The back (or “tails”) side of a coin
Rim: The raised edge on both sides of a coin (created by the upsetting mill) that helps protect the coin’s design from wear
Roll: Coins packaged by banks, dealers or the United States Mint.
Series: A collection of coins that contains all date and mint marks of a specific design and denomination
Slab: Nickname for some protective coin encapsulation methods, especially those that are permanently sealed and rectangular
Strike: The process of stamping a coin blank with a design. The strength of the imprint – full, average, or weak – affects the value of rare coins.
Type Set: A collection of coins based on denomination
Uncirculated: The term “uncirculated” may have three different meanings when applied to a coin:
It can refer to the particular manufacturing process by which a coin is made
It can be used as a grade when referring to a coin’s degree of preservation and quality of the strike
It can point to the fact that a coin has not been used in everyday commerce
For United States Mint coins, the term uncirculated refers to the special coining process used to make the coin, which gives it a brilliant finish. Uncirculated coins are manufactured using the same process as circulating coins, but with quality enhancements such as slightly higher coining force, early strikes from dies, special cleaning after stamping, and special packaging. Uncirculated coins may vary to some degree because of blemishes, toning, or slight imperfections.

Production Terms

Alloy: A mixture of two or more metals
Collar: A metal piece that restrains the expanding metal of a planchet during striking
Annealing: Heating blanks (planchets) in a furnace that softens the metal
Blank: Another word for planchet, the blank piece of metal on which a coin design is stamped
Die: An engraved stamp used for impressing a design (images, value, and mottoes) upon a blank piece of metal to make a coin
Riddler: A machine that screens out blanks (planchets) that are the wrong size or shape

 Grading Terms

Bag Mark: A mark on a coin from contact with other coins in a mint bag
Hairlines: Tiny lines or scratches on coins, usually caused by cleaning or polishing
Grade: Rating which indicates how much a coin has worn from circulation

 Other Terms

American Numismatic Association (ANA): nonprofit educational organization that encourages the study of money throughout the world.
Assay: To analyze and determine the purity of metal
BiMetallic: A coin comprised of two different metals, bonded together
Bust: A portrait on a coin, usually including the head, neck and upper shoulders
Currency: Any kind of money – coins or paper money – that’s used as a medium of exchange
Face Value: The sum for which a coin can be spent or exchanged (a dime’s face value is 10¢) as opposed to its collector or precious metal value
Incuse: Opposite of relief, the part of a coin’s design that is pressed into the surface
Ingot: Metal cast into a particular shape; used in making coins
Legend: Principal lettering on a coin
Medal: A metal object resembling a coin issued to recognize an event, place, person or group, with no stated value and not intended to circulate as money
Mint Set: A complete set of coins of each denomination produced by a particular mint
Mint State: Same as uncirculated
Mylar®: Trademark for a polyester film used to store coins.
Obsolete: A coin design or type that is no longer produced
Off-Center: Describes a coin that has received misaligned strike from the coin press and has portions of its design missing
Overstrike: A new coin produced with a previously struck coin used as the planchet
Pattern: An experimental or trial piece, generally of a new design or metal
Restrike: A coin that is minted using the original dies but at a later date
Upsetting Mill: A machine that raises the rim on both sides of a blank (planchet)
Variety: A minor change from the basic design type of a coin
Year Set: A collection of all coins issued by a country for any one year (does not necessarily include every mint mark)