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Glossary

Adjustment marks
Marks made on a coinage blank to ensure consistency when used to become a coin.

Alteration
The act of adding or changing a date or mint mark outside of a mint, usually to create the appearance a coin is a rarity.

Annealing
Heating of coin blanks to soften them prior to being struck with coinage dies.

Artificial toning
Tarnish appearing on a coin caused by purposeful improper storage to create the surface colors now appearing on that coin.

Assay
A destructive test through which the purity of metal can be determined.

Bag marks
Detrimental marks on the surface of a coin caused by banging against other coins when stored in bags.

Bank note
A promissory note issued by a banking agency through which assets are pledged valued at the same amount as the note issued against those assets.

Beaded border
A border of dots around the edge of a coin.

Billon
An alloy of copper and silver also known as potin, but containing more than half copper.

Bit
A pie-shaped piece cut from a Spanish 8-real coin to make change.

Blank
The round metal disk, or planchet, specially cut in preparation for the coin images to be added to make a coin.

Bourse
The area of a coin show where dealers buy and sell coins.

Branch Mint
A remote mint facility that aids coinage production centralized at the main mint.

Brockage
An error coin on which one side is struck correctly, however the other side is the incuse mirror image of this other side.

Bullion
Platinum, palladium, gold or silver coins struck to a specific weight and purity and meant to be traded for their intrinsic value rather than for their legal tender face value. THese coins do not command a premium above this precious metal value. They are a convenience, circumventing the need for assaying the metal when it is sold.

Burnishing
A minting process through which coinage surfaces are brightened.

Business strike
A coin made by mass production and intended to circulate as money. The majority of coins encountered in coin collections will be business strikes.

Cabinet friction
The rub a coin receives from movement while in storage in a coin collection.

Carbon spots
Detrimental oxidation specks appearing on the surfaces of a coin.

Cartwheel luster
THe surface brilliance of an uncirculated coin originating from when the coin was first produced. This brilliance disappears when a coin circulates or is cleaned.

Eagle
Name adopted by the Coinage Act of 1792 for a gold coin valued at 10 units or $10. Also a name used to refer to gold, silver, and platinum coins of the American Eagle bullion coinage program begun in 1986.

Edge
The cylindrical surface of a coin between the two sides. The edge can be plain, reeded, ornamented, or lettered.

Electrotype
A copy of a coin, medal, or token made by electroplating.

Engraver
The person who designs the coinage dies; known as a celator in ancient times.

Error Coins
Coins displaying problems due to mistakes made during production.

Essay
Also called an essai, the term represents experimental pieces, pattern coins, transitional and trial pieces.

Exergue
The lower segment of a coin, below the main design, generally separated by a line and often containing the date, designer initials, and mintmark.

Eye appeal
The perception of a coin or bank note from the item's outward appearance. This can include toning, strike quality, centering and other such factors, other than condition.

Face value
The nominal legal-tender value assigned to a given coin by the governing authority.

Fantasy issue
A coin that was never officially struck, such as an 1868 U.S. large cent or a coin issued by the non-existent nation of Sealand.

Fasces
A Roman symbol of authority consisting of a bound bundle of rods and an axe.

Field
The flat area of a coin's obverse or reverse, devoid of devices or inscriptions.

Fineness
The purity of a precious metal of a coins, typically expressed in decimal form such as .916 fine rather than as 22 karat. A .916 fine coin has 91.6 percent of that metal in it.

Flip
A 2-by-2 inch clear plastic holder into which a collectible coin is often placed.

Flow lines
Lines that are not always visible that are caused by the metal flow from the center of the coinage blank caused at the moment the blank was struck by the working coinage dies.

Forgery
A counterfeit, an unauthorized coin or bank note meant to deceive.

Friction
Wear appearing only on the highest points of coinage detail on a high grade coin.

Galvano
A reproduction of a proposed design from an artist's original model produced in plaster or other substance and then electroplated with metal. The galvano is then used in a reducing lathe to make a die or hub.

Glory
A heraldic term for stars, rays or other devices placed as if in the sky or luminous.

Grading
The largely subjective practice of providing a numerical or adjectival ranking of the condition of a coin, token, or medal. The grade is often a major determinant of value.

Gresham's law
The name for the observation made by Sir Thomas Gresham, 16th century English financier, that when two coins with the same face value but different intrinsic values are in circulation at the same time, the one with the lesser intrinsic value will remain in circulation while the other is hoarded.

Half eagle
Name adopted by the Coinage Act of 1792 for a gold coin valued at five units or $5.

Hub
A piece of die steel showing the coinage devices in relief. The hub is used to produce a die that, in contrast, has the relief details incuse. The die is then used to produce the final coin, which looks much the same as the hub. Hubs may be reused to make new dies.

Legend
A coin' principal lettering, generally shown along its outer perimeter.

Lettered edge
Incuse or raised lettering on a coin's edge.

Matte proof
A proof coin on which the surface is granular or dull. On U.S. coins this type of surface was used on proofs of the early 20th century. The process has since been abandoned.

Magician's coin
A term sometimes used to describe a coin with two heads or two tails. Such a coin is considered impossible in normal production due to physical differences in obverse and reverse die mountings, though as of 2001 two have been certified as genuine by professional coin authenticators. The vast majority are products made outside the Mint as novelty pieces.

Medal
Made to commemorate an event or person. Medals differ from coins in that a medal is not legal tender and, in general, is not produced with the intent of circulating as money.

Medal alignment
Medals are generally struck with the coinage dies facing the same direction during striking. When held by the top and bottom edge and rotated from side-to-side, a piece struck in this manner will show both the obverse and reverse right side up.

Mintage
The total number of coins struck during a given time frame, generally one year.

Mintmark
A letter or other marking on a coin's surface to identify the mint at which the coin was struck.

Mule
The combination of two coinage dies not intended for use together.

Numismatics
The science, study or collecting of coins, tokens, medals, paper money, and related items.

Obverse
The front or "heads" side of a coin, medal, or token.

Overdate
Variety produced when one or more digits of the date are re-engraved over an old date on a die at the Mint, generally to save on dies or correct an error. Portions of the old date can still be seen under the new one.

Overmintmark
Variety created at the Mint when a different mintmark is punched over an already existing mint-mark, generally done to make a coinage die already punched for one mint usable at another. Portions of the old mintmark can still be seen under the new one.

Overstrike
A coin, token or medal struck over another coin, token, or medal.

Pattern
A trial strike of a proposed coin design, issued by the Mint or authorized agent of a governing authority. Patterns can be in a variety of metals, thicknesses, and sizes.

Phrygian cap
A close-fitting, egg-shell-shaped hat placed on the head of a freed slave when Rome was in its ascendancy. Hung from a pole, it was a popular symbol of freedom during the French Revolution and in 18th century United States.

Planchet
A disc of metal or other material on which the image of the dies are impressed, resulting in a finished coin. Also sometimes called a blank.

Proof
A coin struck twice or more from specially polished dies and polished planchets. Modern proofs are prepared with a mirror finish. Early 20th century proofs were prepared with a matte surface.

Prooflike
A prooflike coin exhibits some of the characteristics of a proof despite having been struck by regular production processes. Many Morgan dollars are found with prooflike surfaces. The field will have a mirror background similar to that of a proof, and design details are frosted like some proofs.

Quarter eagle
Name adopted by the Coinage Act of 1792 for a gold coin valued at 2.5 units or $2.50.

Reeding
Serrated (toothlike) ornamentation applied to the coin's edge during striking.

Relief
The portion of a design raised above the surface of a coin, medal, or token.

Restrike
A coin, medal or token produced from original dies at a later date, often with the purpose of sale to collectors.

Reverse
The backside or "tails" side of a coin, medal or token, opposite from the principal figure of the design or obverse.

Rim
The raised area bordering the edge and surrounding the field.

Series
The complete group of coins of the same denomination and design and representing all issuing mints.

Token
A privately issued piece, generally in metal, with a represented value in trade or offer of service. Tokens are also produced for advertising purposes.

Type coin
A coin from a given series representing the basic design. A type coin is collected as an example of a particular design rather than for its date and mint-mark.

Variety
Any coin noticeably different in dies from another of the same design, date and mint. Overdate and overmint marks are examples of varieties.

Wire edge
Created when coinage metal flows between the coinage die and collar, producing a thin flange of coin metal at the outside edge or edges of a coin.

 



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