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This section is a brief description of general coin terms used by both coin collectors and coin dealers. If you hear a term that you are not familiar with, you can look it up on our website. If you don’t see a term, please email us and we will try to get you an explanation.
About Good/AG3: This is the grade of a coin that is below Good on the Grading Scale where only the main features are present. The detail on the outer rim is partially worn away (Date, Stars, and Motto).
Abrasions: Areas where an object has displaced metal, these are similar to “Bag Marks”, but are much more deep and acute.
AGW (Actual Gold Weight): This refers to the amount of pure gold that the coin, bar, or medal contains. This doesn’t refer to the actual weight of the item, just the amount of refined gold in the item.
Almost Uncirculated/AU: This is the grade of a coin that is just below Uncirculated (Mint State); these coins have only slight wear on the high points of the coin.
Alterations: Alterating is the practice of either adding or removing a feature of a coin in the attempt to deceive collectors. Several common examples of this are adding the S’s to a 1909-VDB Penny, or removing the mint mark on a 1928-S Peace Dollar.
Artificial Toning: Artificial Toning is the Art of adding colors to the coin by various means in an attempt to increase the value of the coin. There are 2 Main reasons to tone a coin, first to conceal damage or a previous cleaning of the coin, which would reduce its values, second to give the coin a more natural look with better eye appeal.
Assay: To scientifically calculate the purity of metals in a bar or coin generally for gold, silver, or platinum.
Authentication: The process of determining if a coin is genuine or not.
Bag Marks: Bag Marks are the minor to major nicks and abrasions from a coin coming in contact with other coins in the same mint bag. These are very common in large coins, such as half dollars and dollars.
Body Bag: A Slang term for a coin that has been returned from a 3rd Party Grading Service without being encapsulated. This can be due to improper cleaning, damage, or authenticity.
Brilliant Uncirculated: A generic term used for any coin that has not been circulated, but usually lacks “Mint Luster”.
Bullion: A Coin or Bar that is composed primarily of precious metal (Gold, Silver, or Platinum) which derives all or most of its value from the precious metal that it contains.
Business Strike: A coin that was struck with the intent to be used in regular commerce.
Certified Coins: Certified Coins are often referred to as “Slabs” and are coins that have been sent to an independent grading service (PCGS, NCC, etc.) to be graded and authenticated.
Circulated: Circulated refers to coins or currency that have been used in normal commerce, and show some type a wear.
Cleaned Coins: When someone refers to “Cleaned Coins” they are normally refering to a coin that has been cleaned with a chemical that gives the coin an unoriginal color, or someone has used an abrasive material to clean the coins leaving “Cleaning Lines” in the coins surface.
Cleaning Lines: The term refers to a coin that has been improperly cleaned with an abrasive item, which leaves swirl marks or diagonal lines running in different directions in the surface of the coin. The main difference between “Die Polish Lines” and Cleaning lines is that cleaning lines are small scratches in the surface of the coin while die polish lines are raised.
Contact Marks: A mark on a coin that is caused when other coins came in contact with them. Contact marks are very common and even though a coin may have many contact marks the coin can still be Uncirculated.
Cull: Cull refers to a coin that is worn to the point of being barely identifiable or that has been damaged.
Denticles: The small raised areas around the rim of a coin. Common to older coinage.
Die: An engraved metal punch that carries the design of 1 side of the coin it was designed to create.
Die Clash: A type of mint error caused by the Dies striking one another and leaving a faint impression on each other. A die clash coin will have a faint impression of the reverse on the obverse or the obverse on the reverse, and possibly both.
Die Crack: Die Cracks are fine raised lines that typical go from one detail in the design to another; they are usually not a single straight crack, but a series of small erratic cracks to connect the two points of the design.
Die Polish Line: Die Polish Lines are small scratches that are created when the employees at the mint refinished the dies and created small linier lines on the surface. They tend to run in one direction, and you will only see them in the “Fields” of the coins, and not on the design, also they are slightly raised and not “Scratched” in the surface.
Die Variety: An alteration in the coins design midway through it's mintage or from older hand crafted dies having slight variations in object placement.
Double Die: A mint error where the coin was struck twice. Such a coin will show doubling in the letters or numbers.
Eye Appeal: This refers to the overall attractiveness of a coin.
Face Value: The value that is imprinted on the coin or currency when it was produced.
Fair: A grade of a coin below Almost Good. A fair coin will be very heavily worn with the date only partially visible.
Field: The background surface of the coin, usually flat.
Fine/F: This is a grade of a coin that is just below Very Fine, these coins have heavy wear over the entire coin, but are still very readable.
Focal Area: The area of the coin in which the collector tends to look at first, or is more concerned about the visual appearance, example the cheek area on a Morgan Dollar.
Full Bell Lines/FBL: This is a reference to the Franklin Half Dollars which on the lower part of the bell have 4 lines that are complete and free of missing sections.
Full Steps: This is a reference to Jefferson Nickels where the 5 steps of the Monticello are present.
Good/G: This is a grade of a coin that is just below Very Good, these coins have extremely heavy wear over the entire coin, with most of the design worn away, just leaving an outline of the design remaining.
Grade: This term refers to the quality of the coin or currency. The grading scale is a scale from 1 (Cull) to 70 (Perfect) and everything in between. It should be noted that grading is somewhat subjective, and that every collector should spend ample time learning to grade coins that they intend to collect.
Hairlines: Hairline is a series of small lines or scratches, usually visible in the fields of coins. This is caused by improper cleaning, or poor storage. This can reduce the value of the coin.
Impaired Proof: This refers to a Proof Coin that has damage or wear that would cause a coin to grade less than Uncirculated.
Incuse: Incused is when the design of a coin in imprinted below the surface of the coin. The 2 examples of this type of coin are the 2 ½ and 5 Dollar Indian Gold Coins. Because of this design, it is difficult to detect a counterfeit coin made like this.
Junk Silver: This is a term used for 90% Silver coinage when its value comes from the silver that it contains rather that its collector values. As Silver rises, coins that once carried a small collector value may become “Junk Silver”. But the term doesn’t mean that these coins are in poor or unusable condition. Most of these are in very good condition, but are so common in that condition, that the silver is worth more than the coin is to a collector.
Key Date: Key Date refers to a coin that is among the rarest coins in a series and therefore a more expensive coin. Key Dates even in low grades are very valuable and highly sought after.
Loupe: Usually a hand held magnifier used to examine coins. These come in different lens strengths or “Powers”. The ANA recommends using a 5 to 7 Power Loupe.
Machine Doubling: Machine Doubling (Die Bounce) is a result of loose dies during striking. The design will only be slightly doubled and the doubled design will be lower then the strong design.
Matte: A finish that appears to be grainy in texture.
Melt Value: Melt Value is the value of a coin's precious metal content multiplied by the current market value of that precious metal.
Milky/Milk Spot: A spot or area of a silver coin that appears to be whitish. This is caused by liquid being left on the die when it is cleaned/polished by a Mint employee.
Mintage: Mintage is the production number of a particular coin during a period of time (usually 1 year).
NGC: Acronym for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, a third party grading service for coins, and paper currency.
Numismatist: An individual who studies or collects money or substitutes of it (Tokens, Bank Notes, etc...)
Obverse: The front or face of the coin, usually depicting the bust of a person. This side commonly contains the date and mintmark.
Overdate:The re-engraving of the die to change the date (the date is made by superimposing one or more different numbers on a previously dated die)
PCGS: Acronym for Professional Coin Grading Service, a third party grading service for coins.
Plated: A term used to describe a coin that has had a very fine metal added to it; Zinc pennies are often plated with zinc to make them appear Uncirculated.
Plugged: A term used to describe when a coin with a hole in it has been repaired.
Proof Coins: A coin that is struck off of specially prepared coin dies and planchets. Proofs are usually struck twice, at a slower rate of speed with more pressure.
Proof Like: Is very similar to Deep Mirrored Proof Like, but the fields do not reflect images as a clear image (especially small text). These coins are closer to value of a non-proof like coin than a DMPL.
Raw: Refers to a coin that is not certified.
Redbook: This yearly retail price guide of U.S. coins has been printed annually since 1947.
Relief: The raised portion of the coin, such as Jefferson's head on the modern Nickel.
Repaired: A coin or note that has had an imperfection repaired to appear undamaged. Decreases the value of the item.
Replica: A copy or reproduction of a coin, usually marked as such and not designed to fool the collector.
Round: A silver coin that is not legal tender, usually minted by private companies.
Slider: A term used in reference to a coin that appears to be in a higher grade than it is. These coins have usually been cleaned, treated, or whizzed.
Split Grade: Refers to a coin that has diffenerent grades on the Obverse and Reverse. Commonly bought, sold, and certified at the lower of the 2 grades.
Spotting/Spot: Refers to a spot of discoloration on the coin, commonly toning or staining. Spots can reduce the value of a coin but usually should not be cleaned without professional advice.
Striations: Another term for Die Polish Lines (see above).
Strike: The process of stamping a design into a coin planchet (blank) Dies can be struck weakly, some US Mints have been known for weakly struck coins. Weakly struck coins may be in uncirculated condition even though the details are not strong.
Sweating: The illegal process of removing gold or silver from the surface of a coin. Acid is used to dissolve the surface of the coin. A coin that has been through this process will be slightly lighter in weight and usually has a grainy or rough texture.
Toning: Color changes on the coins surface due to contact with oxygen or other outside substances.
Uncirculated: A coin that has not been put into circulation and does not have any signs of wear. Marks on a coin from manufacturing do not count against it when determining if it is uncirculated.
Variety: Coins from the same year and mint that have slight differences in the design, such as a Double Die.
Whizzed: The process of moving metal on the surface of a coin to cover or fill marks or scratches. Often used in an attempt to make the coin appear to be in a higher grade. Checking near the small details of the coin can often uncover whizzing as the tools used do not work well around objects such as Dates.