An Illustrated Glossary of Numismatic Terms for Coin Collectors


Area(s) of a coin where a foreign object or another coin has displaced metal in an abraded fashion. Similar to a bag mark but usually on the high points or open fields but not as deep or acute as the former.


A miscellaneous grouping of coins, often as a monetary hoard. Opposite of a coin collection. A second use is as a grouping of a particular date, type, or series.

Adjustment marks

Pre-striking file marks seen mainly on gold and silver coins prior to 1840. These removed excess metal from overweight planchets. After 1840 these are seldom seen as the filing was on the rim and was usually obliterated by the striking process.


Copper. Normally in describing coins in prose the English terms are used, but standard catalogues almost universally employ abbreviations taken directly from the Latin rather than from the periodic table: thus AE (aes) = copper or one of its alloys.

Album friction

Similar to album slide marks, though the friction may be only slight rubbing on the high points.

Album slide marks

Lines, usually parallel, imparted to the surface of a coin by the plastic “slide” of an album.


A combination of two or more metals.

  • Abyssinian gold (a form of brass) = 90% copper and 10% zinc
  • bronze = 95.5% copper, 3% tin and 1.5% zinc (e.g. Irish pre-decimal penny)
  • cupro-nickel = 75% copper, 25% nickel, and a trace amount of manganese
  • nickel brass = 79% copper, 20% zinc, 1% nickel (e.g. UK pre-decimal threepence)
  • nordic gold = 89% copper, 5% zinc, 5% aluminium and 1% tin (e.g. Euro 10c, 20c and 50c coins)
  • pewter = traditionally 85–99% tin, with the remainder consisting of copper, antimony, bismuth and lead
  • sterling silver = 92.5% by mass of silver and 7.5% by mass of other metals, usually copper
  • 22 karat gold = 91.7% gold – the rest depends on use (e.g. 8.3% copper for hardening gold coins)
Alloy smelter

Alloy smelter


A coin that has a date, mintmark, or other feature that has been changed, added, or removed, usually to simulate a rarer issue.


American Numismatic Association


American Numismatic Association Certification Service


General term for coins of the world struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 450 AD

The 'electrum' staters of Lydia (now part of modern day Turkey) are considered to be the first coins ever produced in the world.

The ‘electrum’ staters of Lydia (now part of modern day Turkey) are considered to be the first coins ever produced in the ancient world.


The heating of a die or planchet to soften the metal before preparation of the die or striking of the coin.

Anvil die

The lower die, usually the reverse – although on some issues with striking problems, the obverse was employed as the lower die. Because of the physics of minting, the fixed lower-die impression is slightly better struck than the upper-die impression.

Coin die - modern and ancient

Very few ancient Roman coin dies have survived. After many strikings the dies eventually wore out, producing coins with lettering and designs that were less and less crisp, until the coins became unacceptable and the dies were discarded (probably destroyed). However, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris has a collection of dies made in imitation of the ancient Roman dies by a sixteenth-century engraver and medallist from Padua named Giovanni Cavino. Cavino used these dies to strike many sestertii that imitated ancient Roman coins in design and method of striking. Today the coins struck by Cavino, known as “Paduans,” are collector’s items in their own right, though scholars can distinguish them from genuine Roman coins because of slight differences in the metal alloy, the thickness of the coin, and the cut of the letters


Silver. Normally in describing coins in prose the English terms are used, but standard catalogues almost universally employ abbreviations taken directly from the Latin rather than from the periodic table: AR (argentum) = silver.

Artificial toning

Colouring added to the surface of a coin by chemicals and/or heat. Many different methods have been employed over the years.  Beware of this when buying ‘toned’ coins at above premium prices.


To analyse and determine the purity of a metallic alloy.  Every year in London, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths are called into the Royal Mint to carry out the Trial of the Pyx – a ceremony going back to the Middle Ages when the guild controlled the purity of precious metals in the City of London.


The elements that make up a coin’s grade. The main ones are marks (hairlines for Proofs), lustre, strike, and eye appeal


An offering of coins for sale where the buyer must bid against other potential buyers, as opposed to ordering from a catalogue, price list, or advertisement at a set price.


The process of determining the genuineness of a coin or other numismatic item.


Gold. Normally in describing coins in prose the English terms are used, but standard catalogues almost universally employ abbreviations taken directly from the Latin rather than from the periodic table: thus AV (aurum) = gold.


A generic term for the cloth sacks in which coin are stored and transported. These came into use in the mid-nineteenth century and replaced wooden kegs for this purpose.


Bag mark

A generic term applied to a mark on a coin from another coin; it may, or may not, have been incurred in a bag.

Bag toning

Colouring acquired from the bag in which a coin was stored. The cloth bags in which coins were transported contained sulphur and other reactive chemicals. When stored in such bags for extended periods, the coins near and in contact with the cloth often acquired beautiful red, blue, yellow and other vibrant colours. Sometimes the pattern of the cloth is visible in the toning; other times, coins have crescent-shaped toning because another coin was covering part of the surface, preventing toning. Bag toning is seen mainly on Morgan silver dollars, though occasionally on other series.

Basal state

The condition of a coin that is identifiable only as to date mint mark (if present), and type; one-year-type coins may not have a date visible.


The process of polishing a die to impart a mirrored surface or to remove clash marks or other injuries from the die.

Beaded border

Small, round devices around the edge of a coin, often seen on early U.S. coins. These were replaced by dentils.  They also appear on pre-decimal Irish and UK coins.

Beaded borders on Irish and UK pre-decimal coins, farthing and penny, respectively.

Beaded borders on Irish and UK pre-decimal coins, farthing and penny, respectively.


Low grade gold or silver alloy when hyper-inflation or deliberate currency debasement occurs


The flat disk of metal before it is struck by the dies and made into a coin. Also known as planchet.


A term applied to an element of a coin (design, date, lettering, etc.) that is worn into another element or the surrounding field.


A gathering place where dealers exchange coins and buy and sell coins to the public Bourse locations are a major aspect of coin shows


A coin with full lustre, unimpeded by toning, or impeded only by extremely light toning.

Broad strike

Coin struck without a collar during the minting process When this happens, the metal planchete is allowed to expand and increase in diameter over what the design was supposed to be


A brockage is a Mint error, an Early capped die impression where a sharp incused image has been left on the next coin fed into the coining chamber. Most brockages are partial; full brockages are rare and the most desirable form of the error.

1760 George II, Farthing (DF 563, S 6611), obverse brockage, extremely fine and patinated, rare and unusual

1760 George II, Farthing (DF 563, S 6611), obverse brockage, extremely fine and patinated, rare and unusual.  The ‘brockaged’ example is the one to the right, with mirrored writing.


An alloy of copper, tin and zinc, with copper the principal metal.

  • bronze = 95.5% copper, 3% tin and 1.5% zinc (e.g. Irish pre-decimal penny)


The term applied to a copper coin that no longer has the red colour of copper. There are many “shades” of brown colour – mahogany, chocolate, etc. (abbreviated as BN when used as part of a grade).


Short for Brilliant Uncirculated.

BU rolls

Wrapped coins (usually in paper) in specific quantities for each denomination. All of the Euro Zone mints issue coins in mint rolls, except for Ireland, Portugal and Spain. Most US coins also come in mint rolls, e.g. state quarters. The pre-decimal Irish coins were also shipped in mint rolls.

BU Roll of Euro coins

BU Roll of Euro coins

Buckled die

A die that has “warped” in some way, possibly from excess clashing, and that produces coins which are slightly “bent.” This may be more apparent on one side and occasionally apparent only on one side.

Bulged die

A die that has clashed so many times that a small indentation is formed in it. Coins struck from this die have a “bulged” area.


Slang for coins, ingots, private issue, and so on that trade below, at, or slightly above their intrinsic metal value. Only the precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, and palladium) are included as bullion. Copper cents could also technically be classed as bullion.

Bullion coin

A legal tender coin that trades at a slight premium to its melt value.

Among the types of bullion (cast, minted, extruded), bullion coins are the most common and are generally more expensive. A bullion coin can be made from gold, silver, platinum, or palladium and its value depends on its troy weight and prices in of precious metals. A bullion coin may come in different shapes, sizes and weight: 1-ounce, ½-ounce, and grams for gold and silver bars

Bullion coins are available from many countries in the world today. A bullion coin can be made from gold, silver, platinum, or palladium and its value depends on its troy weight and prices in of precious metals. A bullion coin may come in different shapes, sizes and weight: 1-ounce, ½-ounce, and grams for gold and silver.

Burn mark

Also known as counting machine mark


This word has two distinct meanings in the world of numismatics, so you have to consider the context in order to discern the correct meaning. The word “burnished” can refer to specially prepared planchets (usually 18th century) that were used for specimen coins or other special coins of the era. These planchets were burnished at the Mint prior to the striking of the coin. As a second meaning, “burnished” can refer to any coin that was abrasively cleaned after it left the Mint, and the word is often used as a synonym for “whizzed” (the worst kind of cleaning, where the metal is actually moved around).


A process by which the surfaces of a planchet or a coin are made to shine through rubbing or polishing. This term is used in two contexts – one positive, one negative. In a positive sense, Proof planchets are burnished before they are struck – a procedure done originally by rubbing wet sand across the surfaces to impart a mirror like finish. In a negative sense, the surfaces on repaired and altered coins sometimes are burnished by various methods. In some instances, a high-speed drill with some type of wire brush attachment is used to achieve this effect.

Burnishing lines

Lines resulting from burnishing, seen mainly on open-collar Proofs and almost never found on close-collar Proofs. These lines are incuse in the fields and go under lettering and devices.


Slang for a coin that has been over-dipped to the point were the surfaces are dull and lacklustre.

Business strike

A regular issue coin, struck on regular planchets by dies given normal preparation. These are the coins struck for commerce that the Mint places into circulation.

Cabinet friction

Slight disturbance seen on coins (usually on the obverse) that were stored in wooden cabinets used by Early collectors to house their specimens. Often a soft cloth was used to wipe away dust, causing light hairlines or friction.

Capped die

The term applied to an error in which a coin gets jammed in the coining press and remains for successive strikes, eventually forming a “cap” either on the upper or lower die. These are sometimes spectacular with the “cap” often many times taller than a normal coin.

Capped die errors on the coins of any country are scarce

Capped die errors on the coins of any country are scarce

Carbon spot

A spot seen mainly on copper and gold coins, though also occasionally found on U.S. nickel coins (which are 75 percent copper) and silver coins (which are 10 percent copper). Carbon spots are brown to black spots of oxidation that range from minor to severe – some so large and far advanced that the coin is not graded because of environmental damage.


A standardised measure of the weight of a diamond. Note the spelling (begins with a “c”) and the fact that this should not be confused with the term Karat (which refers to gold content of a coin or any other item of gold such as jewellery).

Cast blanks

Planchets made by a mould method, rather than being cut from strips of metal.

Cast counterfeit

A replication of a genuine coin usually created by making moulds of the obverse and reverse, then casting base metal in the moulds. A seam is usually visible on the edge unless it has been ground away.

Cast counterfeit (on left) and genuine coin (to the right) of Mexica 8 reales coin 1834. The discrepancies are almost too numerous to mention.

Cast counterfeit (on left) and genuine coin (to the right) of Mexica 8 reales coin 1834. The discrepancies are almost too numerous to mention. Some of the letters in “Republica Mexicana” are really malformed, and there are places where it looks like the surface has delaminated. In addition, there’s a bead of extra material along eagle’s tail where it meets the field, the lower edge of the wing has a stepped appearance, the snake is mis-shaped and its head is missing. In short, look at as many genuine coins as you can so as not be ‘duped’ into buying expensive fakes.


A compilation of the known specimens of a particular numismatic item.


A method used by forgers to create a mint mark on a coin. It involves heating the surfaces and moving the metal to form the mint mark.


An adjectival description applied to coin’s grade, e.g., choice Uncirculated, choice Very Fine, etc. Used to describe an especially attractive example of a particular grade.


A term applied to a coin that has wear, ranging from slight rubbing to heavy wear.


A term applied to coins that have been spent in commerce and have received wear.

Circulation strike

An alternate term for Business Strike or Regular Strike. A coin meant for commerce.

Clash marks

The images of the dies seen on coins struck from clashed dies. The obverse will have images from the reverse and vice versa.

Die Clash Mint Error Overlay

Die Clash Mint Error Overlay on USA Lincoln cents

Clashed dies

Dies that have been damaged by striking each other without a planchet between them. Typically, this imparts part of the obverse image to the reverse die and vice versa.

1998 USA 1c - Major Die Clash Struck Off Centre

1998 USA 1c – Major Die Clash Struck Off Centre


A term applied to a coin whose original surface has been removed. The effects may be slight or severe, depending on the method used.


Slang for a coin struck from a clipped planchet.

1922 UK Shilling Clipped Planchet

1922 UK Shilling Clipped Planchet error

Clipped / Clipping (medieval)

A term for when someone shaves slices of metal from the edges of a coin, reducing its weight and allowing the person to accumulate silver or gold for illegal profit. When caught doing this, the perpetrator usually had his hand cut off as punishment.

Henry VIII second issue Halfgroat, Archbishop Warham issue of Canterbury, mm Cross Patonce (S2012, 2343) the first clipped VG, the second with ...

Henry VIII second issue Halfgroat, Archbishop Warham issue of Canterbury, mm Cross Patonce (S2012, 2343) the first clipped VG, the second also clipped.  Medieval hammered coinage was prone to clipping, with a consequent loss in value

Clipped (modern)

A term for an irregularly cut planchet. A clip can be straight or curved, depending upon where it was cut from the strip of metal.

Clogged die

A die that has grease or some other contaminant lodged in the recessed areas. Coins struck from such a die have diminished detail, sometimes completely missing.

Close collar

The edge device, sometimes called a collar die, that surrounds the lower die. Actually open and close collars are both closed collars – as opposed to segmented collars. The close collar imparts reeding or a smooth, plain edge.

Closed collar

Alternate form of close collar


Metal formed into a disk of standardized weight and stamped with a standard design to enable it to circulate as money authorized by a government body.

Modern Irish coins are instantly recognisable by their common obverse 'harp' designs.

Modern Irish coins are instantly recognisable by their common obverse ‘harp’ designs.

Coin friction

Term applied to the area resulting when coins rub together in rolls or bags and small amounts of metal are displaced. Also known as roll friction


The issuance of metallic money of a particular country.


A metal piece that either positions a planchet beneath the dies and/or restrains the expanding metal of a coin during striking. Collars are considered the “third” die and, today, are used to impart the edge markings to a coin. Collars can be merely a hole in a flat piece of metal or a set of segments that pull away from the coin after it is struck.


Coins issued to honour some person, place, or event and, in many instances, to raise funds for activities related to the theme. Sometimes called NCLT (non-circulating legal tender) commemoratives.

2004 - €10 silver proof - EU Expansion Obverse

2004 – €10 silver proof – EU Expansion and Ireland’s Presidency commemorative (Obverse)


A numismatic issue that is readily available. Since this is a relative term, no firm number can be used as a cut-off point between common and scarce.

Common date

A particular issue within a series that is readily available. No exact number can be used to determine which coins are common dates as this is relative to the mintage of the series.


The state of preservation of a particular numismatic issue.

Condition rarity

A term to indicate a common coin that is rare when found in high grades. Also, the rarity level at a particular grade and higher.

Consensus grading

The process of determining the condition of a coin by using multiple graders.

Contact marks

Marks on a coin that are incurred through contact with another coin or a foreign object. These are generally small, compared to other types of marks such as gouges. Also known as bag mark

Contemporary counterfeit

A coin, usually base metal, struck from crudely engraved dies and made to pass for face value at the time of its creation. Sometimes such counterfeits are collected along with the genuine coins, e.g. evasion halfpennies of the late 18th C

Cast Counterfeit coin mould

Cast Counterfeit coin mould

Copper spot

A spot or stain commonly seen on gold coinage, indicating an area of copper concentration that has oxidized. Copper spots or stains range from tiny dots to large blotches.


The alloy (88% copper, 12% nickel) used for small cents from 1856 until mid-1864.


Slang for farthings, halfpennies and pennies – or any other copper (or bronze) coin issues.

1902 Half Farthing

1902 Half Farthing


Any reproduction, fraudulent or otherwise, of a coin.


Damage that results when reactive chemicals act upon metal. When toning ceases to be a “protective” coating and instead begins to damage a coin, corrosion is the cause. Usually confined to copper, nickel and silver regular issues, although patterns in aluminium, white metal, tin, etc., also are subject to this harmful process.


The price paid for a numismatic item.


Literally, a coin that is not genuine. There are cast and struck counterfeits and the term is also applied to issues with added mint marks, altered dates, etc.


A stamp or impression placed on a coin after it has left the Mint of origin. In Ireland, we see English Counterstamps over Spanish silver coins. In this instance, the counterstamped coins are worth many times the value of the original Spanish coins.

1801 Castlecomer token (obv + rev)

1801 Castlecomer token (obv + rev) counter-struck on Spanish silver 8 reales coin


An area of a coin struck by a die that has a complete break across part of its surface. A cud may be either a retained cud, where the faulty piece of the die is still in place, or a full cud, where the piece of the die has fallen away. Retained cuds usually have dentil detail if on the edge, while full cuds do not.


A coin that is basically non-collectible due to its extremely bad condition. A coin that will not even qualify for a grade of Poor-1, usually because of extensive environmental damage or other post-striking damage.


Any alloy of copper and nickel.

Irish decimal 10p coins were cupro-nickel

Irish decimal 10p coins were cupro-nickel


The numerals on a coin representing the year in which it was struck. Restrikes are made in years subsequent to the one that appears on them. Also, slang for a more valuable issue within a series.


Someone whose occupation is buying, selling, and trading numismatic material.


An acronym for Doubled Die Obverse


An acronym for Doubled Die Reverse


When metal missing is peeling from the surface (or already gone) because of poor bonding or planchet imperfections


The value assigned by a government to a specific coin.


The tooth-like devices around the rim seen on many coins. Originally these are somewhat irregular, later much more uniform – the result of better preparatory and striking machinery.


A particular motif on a coin or other numismatic item. The Seated Liberty, Barber, Morgan, etc. are examples of designs.

Design type

A specific motif placed upon coinage which may be used for several denominations and subtypes, e.g., the harp on Irish coins from 1928-69.


The individual responsible for a particular motif used for a numismatic series.


Any specific design element. Often refers to the principal design element, such as the harp on Irish coins.

1760 George II (1727-1760), Copper Halfpenny, Type IV

1760 George II (1727-1760), Copper Halfpenny, Type IV

Device punch

A steel rod with a raised device on the end used to punch the element into a working die. This technique was used before hubbed dies became the norm.


A steel rod that is engraved, punched, or hubbed with devices, lettering, the date, and other emblems.

Die alignment

Term to indicate the relative position of the obverse and reverse dies. When the dies are out of alignment, several things can happen: If the dies are out of parallel, weakness may be noted in a quadrant of the coin’s obverse and the corresponding part of the reverse; and if the dies are spaced improperly, the resultant coins may have overall weakness; if the dies are spaced too close together, the resultant coin may be well struck but the dies wear more quickly.

Die break

An area of a coin that is the result of a broken die. This may be triangular or other geometric shape. Dies are made of steel and they crack from use and then, if not removed from service, eventually break. When the die totally breaks apart, the resultant break will result in a full, or retained, cud depending whether the broken piece falls from the die or not.

Die crack

A raised, irregular line on a coin, ranging from very fine to very large, some quite irregular. These result when a hairline break occurs in a die.

Die line

These are the raised lines on the coins that result from the polish lines on the die, which are incuse, resulting in the raised lines on the coins. See also die striations and polished die

Die scratches

These are raised thin lines, usually on the fields of a struck coin (though they may occasionally be seen on the design), which are created by the abrading of a die. It is the pattern of the die scratches which makes them important. Die scratches are often used for identification of a stage for a particular variety. The pattern acts like a fingerprint, pinpointing an exact position in the die progression

Die stage

There are two definitions for this term. One, many numismatists use it as a synonym for “die state.” Two, some numismatists use the term “die stage” to refer to the specific status of a certain die state. For instance, in die state XYZ this coin exhibits a large cud at six o’clock, but in this particular die stage the cud isn’t fully formed.

Die state

A readily identified point in the life of a coinage die. Often dies clash and are polished, crack, break, etc., resulting in different stages of the die. These are called die states. Some coins have barely distinguishable die states, while others go through multiple distinctive ones.

Die striations

Raised lines on coins that were struck with polished dies. As more coins are struck with such dies, the striations become fainter until most disappear.

Die trial

A test striking of a particular die in a different metal.

Die variety

A coin that can be linked to a given set of dies because of characteristics possessed by those dies and imparted to the coin at the time it was struck. In the Early years of U.S. coinage history, when dies were made by hand engraving or punching, each die was slightly different. The coins from these unique dies are die varieties and are collected in every denomination. By the 1840’s, when dies were made by hubbing and therefore were more uniform, die varieties resulted mainly from variances in the size, shape, and positioning of the date and mintmark.

Die wear

Deterioration in a die caused by excessive use. This may evidence itself on coins produced with that die in a few indistinct letters or numerals or, in extreme cases, a loss of detail throughout the entire coin. Some coins, especially certain nickel issues, have a fuzzy, indistinct appearance even on Uncirculated examples.


Term used to describe a small to medium size mark on a coin Most frequently used to describe a mark on the rim of a coin


A term applied to a coin that has been placed in a commercial “dip” solution, a mild acid wash that removes the toning from most coins. Some dip solutions employ other chemicals, such as bases, to accomplish a similar result. The first few layers of metal are removed with every dip, so coins repeatedly dipped will lose lustre, hence the term “overdipped”.

Dipping solution

Any of the commercial “dips” available on the market, usually acid-based and damaging to coins.


Term used for a numismatic item that has been enhanced by chemical or other means. Usually, this is used in a derogatory way, i.e. without wanting someone to notice the work, e.g. artificial toning, tooling, adding a mintmark, removing a mintmark or other nefarious acts.

Double(d) die

A die that has been struck more than once by a hub in misaligned positions, resulting in doubling of design elements. Before the introduction of hubbing, the individual elements of a coin’s design were either engraved or punched into the die, so any doubling was limited to a specific element. With hubbed dies, multiple impressions are needed from the hub to make a single die with adequate detail. When shifting occurs in the alignment between the hub and the die, the die ends up with some of its features doubled – then imparts this doubling to every coin it strikes. The coins struck from such dies are called doubled-die errors – the most famous being the 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln cent. PCGS uses doubled die as the designation.


A condition that results when a coin is not ejected from the dies and is struck a second time. Such a coin is said to be double-struck. Triple-struck coins and other multiple strikings also are known. Proofs are usually double-struck on purpose in order to sharpen their details; this is sometimes visible under magnification.

A spectacular mis-strike of the James II gunmoney sixpence – November 1689, KM93, VF, far off-center double strike

A spectacular mis-strike of the James II gunmoney sixpence – November 1689, KM93, VF, far off-center double strike

Drift mark

An area on a coin, often rather long, that has a discoloured, streaky look. This is the result of impurities or foreign matter in the dies. One theory is that burnt wood was rolled into the strips from which the planchets were cut, resulting in these black streaks.


Term for a numismatic item that is lack lustre. This may be the result of cleaning, oxidation, or other environmental conditions.


Early American Copper coins, e.g. US Colonial Coppers, Large Cents, and Half Cents.


The third side of a coin. It may be plain, reeded, or ornamented – with lettering or other elements raised or incuse.

Edge device

A group of letters or emblems on the edge of a coin, e.g. lettering on the edge of the 1966 Irish ten shilling piece.

Ireland 1966 Concave 10 Shilling Coin • It includes edge lettering. The Gaelic phrase Éirí Amac na Cásca 1916 translates as

Ireland 1966 Concave 10 Shilling Coin • It includes edge lettering. The Gaelic phrase Éirí Amac na Cásca 1916 translates as “1916 Easter Rising”.


A duplicate coin created by the electrolytic method, in which metal is deposited into a mould made from the original. The obverse and reverse metal shells are then filled with metal and fused together – after which the edges sometimes are filed to obscure the seam.


For numismatic condition purposes, the various components of grading. In other numismatic contexts, this term refers to the various devices and emblems seen on coins.

Emission sequence

The order in which die states are struck. Also, the die use sequence for a particular issue.


The person responsible for the design and/or punches used for a particular numismatic item.

Envelope toning

A term applied to toning that results from storage mainly in 2 x 2 manila envelopes; most paper envelopes contain reactive chemicals.

Environmental damage

Corrosion-effect seen on a coin that has been exposed to the elements. This may be minor, such as toning that is nEarly black, to major – a coin found in the ground or water which has severely pitted surfaces. PCGS does not grade coins with environmental damage.

Eroded die

Synonym for “worn die.”


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.


Term for trial, pattern, and experimental strikings. It literally means a test or trial.


A feature at the lower part of a coin, usually set off by a horizontal bar that displays the date or denomination.

Eye appeal

The element of a coin’s grade that “grabs” the viewer. The overall look of a coin.

Face value

The stated value on a coin, at which it can be spent or exchanged. The face value is usually different from a coin’s numismatic or precious metal value.

The four-coin set: £100, £50, £25 and £10 gold Proof coin, with a product issue limit of 1,250 and priced at £2,050

The four-coin set: £100, £50, £25 and £10 gold Proof coin, with a product issue limit of 1,250 sets and priced at £2,050.  The face value = £185 which is less than 10% of the real value.


Slang for a counterfeit or altered coin.


The portion of a coin where there is no design – generally the flat part (although on some issues, the field is slightly curved).

Finest known

The best-known condition example of a particular numismatic item – a phrase commonly mis-used on eBay when sellers are describing their goods.

First strike

A coin struck Early in the life of a die. First strikes sometimes are characterized by striated or mirror-like fields if the die was polished. Almost always fully or well struck, with crisp detail.  Some people describe these coins as “proof-like”

Flat lustre

A subdued type of lustre seen on coins struck from worn dies. Often these coins have a grey or otherwise dull colour that makes the fields seem even more lacklustre.

Flip rub

Discoloration, often only slight, on the highest points of a coin resulting from contact with a flip. On occasion, highly desirable coins sold in auctions have acquired minor rub from being repeatedly examined by eager bidders. The shifting of the coin, although it may be slight, can cause this rub.


To sell a new purchase for a short profit.

Flow lines

The lines, sometimes visible, resulting from the metal flowing outward from the centre of a planchet as it is struck. The “cartwheel” lustre is the result of light reflecting from these radial lines.


Any numismatic item not from Ireland.  Of course, this definitive varies in context.


Slight wear on a coin’s high points or in the fields.


A crystallized-metal effect seen in the recessed areas of a die, thus the raised parts of a coin struck with that die. This is imparted to dies by various techniques, such as sandblasting them or pickling them in acid, then polishing the fields, leaving the recessed areas with frost.

Frosted devices

Raised elements on coins struck with treated dies that have frost in their recessed areas. Such coins have crystalline surfaces that resemble frost on a lawn.

Frosty lustre

The crystalline appearance of coins struck with dies that have frost in their recessed areas. Such coins show vibrant lustre on their devices and/or surfaces; the amount of crystallization may vary. Also, this term is applied to coins whose entire surface his this look.

Full strike

A numismatic item that displays the full detail intended by the designer. Weak striking pressure, worn dies or improper planchets can sometimes prevent all the details from appearing, even on uncirculated specimens.


The numerical or adjectival condition of a coin.


An individual who evaluates the condition of coins.  There are good and bad … and the downright deceitful.


The process of numerically quantifying the condition of a coin. Before the adoption of the Sheldon numerical system, coins were given descriptive grades such as Good, Very Good, Fine, and so forth.  There are different grading scales, with different descriptions from country to country.  Sometimes, the same acronym can mean something different, so get familiar with the different scales

  • The European Coin Grading System has six basic descriptions, with the addition of “good” to denote a better than average example of each grade, or the use of the word “almost” when a seller or auctioneer is trying to be enthusiastic about a coin, i.e. its really the next grade downwards !
    • Graders in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scandinavia and Spain use this scale, albeit with acronyms and descriptions from their languages.
    • Apart from some minor regional differences, it is basically the same scale.
  • The Sheldon Coin Grading Scale is a 70 point coin grading scale used in the numismatic assessment of a coin’s quality. It is used by nearly all major coin grading companies in the USA and Canada.
    • It has nothing to do with the character from popular TV sitcom Big Bang Theory


The English “groat” originally referred to an English coin worth four pennies or fourpence, and that meaning adheres today for coins such as the silver groats first issued under King Edward I of England (1272-1307), in Scotland under King David II (1329-1371), and in Ireland beginning in 1425. Groats still exist today as part of the Maundy Money sets issued each year (on Maundy Monday) by the British monarch.

Similar contemporaneous silver coins circulated in the form of the gros tournois or “groat of Tours” in France, the denaro grosso or “large penny” in Italy, thegroschen in Germany, the Czech grosz, and the Dutch groot. Just as the English word “gross” still carries a meaning “thick” or “fat,” such thick coins were in contrast to deniers or pennies, thinner, lighter-weight coins of less value.

A more generalized meaning arose and persisted for centuries among all these similar terms from different nations, with the thicker, largely silver grosso or groat coins usually worth from several to a dozen pennies.


Fine cleaning lines found mainly in the fields of Proof coins, although they sometimes are found across an entire Proof coin as well as on business strikes.

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 upper die, usually the obverse – although on some issues with striking problems, the reverse was employed as the upper die.


A cloudy film, original or added, seen on both business-strike coins and Proofs. This film can range from a light, nEarly clear covering with little effect on the grade to a heavy, opaque layer that might prevent the coin from being graded.

High end

A term applied to any coin at the upper end of a particular grade.


A group of coins held for either numismatic or monetary reasons. Typically, this refers to groups of coins found by individuals, archaeologists or treasure hunters (e.g. metal detectorists).  A hoard usually = 3 or more coins.  Therefore, some hoards are quite small.  The hoards that make the news are usually counted in the thousands and are worth millions of pounds, e.g. the Aylesbury Hoard 2015 (see below)

The 5,251 silver coins, which are more than 1,000 years old, were found in a farmer’s field near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. They are said to form one of the largest hoards of Anglo Saxon coins ever found in Britain and is thought to be worth more £1 million when auctioned.

The 5,251 silver coins, which are more than 1,000 years old, were found in a farmer’s field near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.  They are said to form one of the largest hoards of Anglo Saxon coins ever found in Britain and is thought to be worth more £1 million when auctioned.

Hoard coin

A coin that exists, or existed, in a quantity held by an individual, organization, etc.


An individual who amasses a quantity of a numismatic item(s).


Minting term for the steel device from which a die is produced. The hub is produced with the aid of a portrait lathe or reducing machine and bears a “positive” image of the coin’s design – that is, it shows the design as it will appear on the coin itself. The image on the die is “negative” – a mirror image of the design.

Incomplete strike

A coin that is missing design detail because of a problem during the striking process. The incompleteness may be due to insufficient striking pressure or improperly spaced dies.

Incuse design

The intaglio design used on Indian Head quarter eagles and half eagles. These coins were struck from dies which had fields recessed, so that the devices – the areas usually raised – were recessed on the coins themselves. This was an experiment to try to deter counterfeiting and improve wearing quality.


1909 USA Indian-head $5 coin, or ‘gold half-eagle’

Intrinsic value

The value of the metal(s) contained in a numismatic item. The United States issues contained their intrinsic value in metal until 1933 for gold coins and 1964 for silver coins. Today’s “sandwich” coins are termed ‘fiat’ currency.  The Uk stopped producing coins in Sterling silver in 1919 and all silver coins from 1920 onwards contained only 50% silver.  In 1946, the Uk stopped producing silver coins and all UK coins since have been ‘fiat’ currency, i.e. low intrinsic value.


An individual who buys numismatic items strictly for profit, not caring to complete a set or particular collection.


A “glow” displayed by a coin, often gleaming through light pastel colours.


An internationally recognised standard for the gold quality of gold coins and any other item of gold such as jewellery. 24 karat is pure gold, which is far too soft for the manufacture of coins and the highest quality gold coins are usually 22 karat. However, most gold coins fall below this standard but are not easily described in karats. Gold coins are more commonly described for their fineness (parts per thousand) and percentage (parts per hundred) gold content.

Key Coin

The major, or most important, coin in a particular series. The “key” coin is usually the lowest-mintage coin and/or the most expensive coin in a particular set, e.g. 1933 halfpenny, 1940 penny, 1939 threepence, 1943 florin and 1943 halfcrown in the Irish pre-decimal issues of 1928-69. At times any scarce or rare coin is referred to a “key” coin. The terms “key to the set” or “key to the series” are also used as synonyms for “key coin.”


A thin piece of metal that has nearly become detached from the surface of a coin. If this breaks off, an irregular hole or planchet flaw is left behind.

Large date

Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that a medium or small date exists for that coin or series.)

Large letters

Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that medium or small letters exist for that coin or series.)

Large size

A term referring to the particular diameter of a coin in a series. (Use of this term implies that there is a small size or diameter with the same motif. Examples are the cartwheel pennies and twopences of 1797.

Legal Tender

Coins and currency issued by the government as official money that can be used to pay legal debts and obligations.


A phrase that appears on a coin – for instance, Éire on modern Irish coins.

Lettered edge

A coin edge that displays an inscription or other design elements, rather than being reeded or plain. The lettering can be either incuse (recessed below the surface) or raised. Incuse lettering is applied before a coin is struck; the Mint did this with a device called the Castaing machine. Raised lettering is found on coins struck with segmented collars; the lettering is raised during the minting process, and when the coin is ejected from the dies, the collar “falls” apart, preventing the lettering from being sheared away.


The alphabet characters used in creating legends, mottoes, and other inscriptions on a coin, whether on the obverse, reverse, or edge.

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.

Lint mark

A repeating depression on a coin, usually thin and curly, caused by a thread that adhered to a die during the coin’s production. Lint marks are found primarily on Proofs. After dies are polished, they are wiped with a cloth, and these sometimes leave tiny threads.


A magnifying glass used to examine coins. Loupes are found in varying strengths or “powers”.


In numismatics, the amount and strength of light reflected from a coin’s surface or its original mint bloom. Lustre is the result of light reflecting on the flow lines, whether visible or not.


A term used to describe coins that still have original mint bloom.

Major variety

A coin that is easily recognized as having a major difference from other coins of the same design, type, date, and mint.


Imperfections acquired after striking. These range from tiny to large hits and may be caused by other coins or foreign objects.

Master die

The main die produced from the master hub. Many working hubs are prepared from this single die.

Master hub

The original hub created by the portrait lathe. Master dies are created from this hub.

Medium date

Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that a large or small date exists for that coin or series.)

Medium letters

Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that large or small letters exist for that coin or series.)


Slang term for the intrinsic value of a particular numismatic item. (What’s the melt value of that gold or silver coin?)

Metal stress lines

Radial lines, sometimes visible, that result when the metal flows outward from the centre of the planchet during the minting process.

Milling mark

A mark that results when the reeded edge of one coin hits the surface of another coin. Such contact may produce just one mark or a group of staccato-like marks.

Minor variety

A coin that has a minor difference from other coins of the same design, type, date, and mint. This minor difference is barely discernible to the unaided eye. The difference between a major variety and a minor variety is a matter of degree.

Mint bloom

Original lustre that is still visible on a coin.

Mint signature

On early Irish hammered coins, the mint signature usually appeared on the reverse, e.g. Dublin, Cork, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Limerick, Trim, Waterford, etc. For example:

  • Blundered Hiberno-Norse Legend: + FÆ NEM NMΘ ÐУHI
    • Translates as: Faeremin, Moneyer of Dublin
  • Inner Legend on coin of Edward IV: “CIVI  TAS  LIMI  RICI”
    • Translates as: “City of Limerick”


The number of coins of a particular date struck at a given mint during a particular year. (This may not equal the “official” mintage for that calendar year, especially for pre-1840 coinage. The Mint reported coins struck in the calendar year, regardless of the date(s) on the issue. For instance, the 1804-dated dollar was included in Proof Sets struck in 1834 because the “official” mintage figures for 1804 included silver dollars although it is now known that these were dated 1803 or possibly even Earlier.)

Mintmark (Ireland)

In the latter period of Irish ‘hammered coinage’ a mintmark was a small symbol which denoted a date, or a year. For example, Queen Elizabeth I issued a copper penny for Ireland as part of her 3rd Irish Coinage. These coins occurred with three mintmarks: trefoil, star and martlet.

  • The ‘trefoil’ was first, and in use from the date of the indenture, 2nd February 1601, until the pyx trial of 20th May 1601
  • Following the pyx of 20th May 1601, the mint mark was changed to ‘star’
  • On 24th May 1602 the ‘star’ pieces were pyxed, and the mint mark changed to ‘martlet’

Mintmark (USA)

The tiny letter(s) or symbols stamped into the dies to denote the mint at which a particular coin was struck.


Term applied to the error coins that have striking irregularities.

Mishandled Proof

A Proof coin that has been circulated, cleaned, or otherwise reduced to a level of preservation below PR-60.

MM, or mm

See Mintmark (Ireland)

Mottled toning

Uneven toning, usually characterized by splotchy areas of drab colours.

Mule Error

This is a rare Mint error where the obverse die is of one coin and the reverse die is of another coin. The most famous of the Mule errors is the 1961 Irish halfcrown which used the pre-1938 reverse die and the horse’s tail is therefore different to the norm.


A term used to describe a coin that has been damaged to the point where it no longer can be graded.


Term applied to a coin returned from a third-party grading service that was not encapsulated because of varying reasons. (This could be for cleaning, damage, questionable authenticity, etc.)

Numerical grading

Specifically, the Sheldon 1-70 scale employed by PCGS and others.


The science of money; coins, paper money, tokens, inscribed bars, and all related items are included.


One who studies or collects money or substitutes thereof.


The front, or heads side, of a coin – usually has the monarch’s head or, in the instance of Ireland, the harp symbol.

Ireland - coin obverse side

Ireland – coin obverse side

Original toning

Term for the colour acquired naturally by a coin that never has never been cleaned or dipped. Original toning ranges from the palest yellow to extremely dark blues, greys, browns, and finally black.

Over dipped

A coin that has become dull from too many baths in a dipping solution.


Synonym for toning.


A test striking of a coin produced to demonstrate a proposed design, size, or composition (whether adopted or not). Patterns often are made in metals other than the one proposed; examples of this include the 10 ecu coins issued by the Central Bank of Ireland in 1990.

1990 Ireland 10 ecu Proof

1990 Ireland 10 ecu Pattern – the ECU was never adopted as the new European single currency unit.


A listing of a coin’s current owner, plus all known previous owners.

Peripheral toning

Light, medium, or dark colouring around the edge of a coin.


A term that means “double thick,” it usually refers to French coins that were made in a double thickness to signify double value.

Plain edge

A flat, smooth edge seen mainly on a small-denomination coinage.


The blank disk of metal before it is struck by a coining press which transforms it into a coin. Type I planchets are flat. Type II planchets have upset rims from the milling machine, these to facilitate easier striking in close collars.

Planchet defects

Any of the various abnormalities found on coin blanks. These include drift marks, laminations, clips, and so forth.

Planchet flaw

An irregular hole in a coin blank, sometimes the result of a lamination that has broken away.

Planchet striations

Fine, incuse lines found on some Proof coins, though rarely on business strikes, usually the result of polishing blanks to impart mirror-like surfaces prior to striking. See Also adjustment marks, burnishing lines, die striations, roller marks


A term used to describe a coin that has had a hole filled, often so expertly that it can only be discerned only under magnification.

Polished die

A die that has been basined to remove clash marks or other die injury. In a positive sense, Proof dies were basined to impart mirror-like surfaces, resulting in coins with reflective field.

Polyvinyl chloride

A chemical used in coin flips to make them pliable.


Description indicating a rough or granular surface, e.g. James II gunmoney often shows porous surfaces

1689 Aug, with stop. James II, Gunmoney. Large size. Laureate head left. Reverse XII over crown. Usual surface porosity

James II, 1685-1691. Gunmoney. Large size. Laureate head left. Reverse: XII over crown. Usual surface porosity, better than average strike for issue

Presentation striking

A coin, often a Proof or an exceptionally sharp business strike, specially struck and given to a dignitary or other person.


Any of the various coining machines. Examples include the screw press and the steam-powered knuckle-action press.

Screw press operation. Forstriking coins, blanks had to be ready in quantity. Three or five men operated a screw press. One was the coin setter, he removed the struck piece and inserted the next blank. Two or four men were spinners, they operated the balance arm, swinging it back and forth. Lead weights were added to the balance arm to give it more strength about 1740

Screw press operation. Forstriking coins, blanks had to be ready in quantity. Three or five men operated a screw press. One was the coin setter, he removed the struck piece and inserted the next blank. Two or four men were spinners, they operated the balance arm, swinging it back and forth. While the screw press was a major improvement, it took more than a century to replace entrenched moneyers and hammered coinage. Moneyers fought the innovation despite the fact coins could be struck with a screw press in quicker time creating a far more uniform coin with a better rim by cold coining. The screw press was introduced at the London Mint in 1551, the moneyers revolted, the screw press rejected, and it was not until 1662, 111 years later that it finally was in full use there.

Privy Mark

A symbol on a coin that identifies the minter or mintmaster — also called private mark


A coin usually struck from a specially prepared coin die on a specially prepared planchet. Proofs are usually given more than one blow from the dies and are usually struck with presses operating at slower speeds and higher striking pressure. Because of this extra care, Proofs usually exhibit much sharper detail than regular, or business, strikes.

Proof set

A coin set containing Proof issues from particular year. A few sets contain anomalies such as the 1928 set.

Proof dies

Specially prepared dies, often sandblasted or acid-picked, that are used to strike Proof coins. Often, the fields are highly polished to a mirror-like finish, while the recessed areas are left “rough”; on coins struck with such dies, the devices are frosted and contrast with highly reflective fields.

Proof-only issue

A coin struck only in Proof, with no business-strike counterpart.


Term synonymous with pedigree, i.e. we know where a coin has come from. For example, from a known hoard or famous collection, or via several auctions in the past.


A steel rod with a device, lettering, date, star, or some other symbol on the end which was sunk into a working die by hammering on the opposite end of the rod.


Short for polyvinyl chloride.

PVC damage

A film, usually green, left on a coin after storage in flips that contain PVC. During the Early stage, this film may be clear and sticky.

PVC flip

Any of the various soft coin flips that contain PVC.

Questionable toning

Term to describe the colour on a coin that may not be original. After a coin is dipped or cleaned, any subsequent toning, whether acquired naturally or induced artificially, will look different than original toning. PCGS will not grade coins with questionable colour.

Rainbow toning

Term for toning which is usually seen on silver coins stored in bags. The “colours of the rainbow” are represented, stating with pale yellow, to green, to red, to blue, and sometimes fading to black.

Rainbow toning on an American Morgan dollar coin

Rainbow toning on an American Morgan dollar coin


A relative term indicating that a coin within a series is very difficult to find. Also, a coin with only a few examples known. A rare 1943 halfcrown refers to 1000 coins issued whereas some Early hammered coins of Ireland are unique or have less than 10 known pieces.


The number of specimens extant of any particular numismatic item. This can be the total number of extant specimens or the number of examples in a particular grade and higher. (This is referred to as condition rarity.)

Rarity scale

A term referring to a numerical-rating system such as the Universal Rarity Scale.

Reeded edge

Term for the grooved notches on the edge of some coins. These were first imparted by the Mint’s edge machine, later in the minting process by the use of close collars – these sometimes called the third die or collar die.

The original purpose of reeded edges in coins was to prevent counterfeiting, tampering and general damage to the coin

The original purpose of reeded edges in coins was to prevent counterfeiting, tampering (clipping) and general damage to the coin

Reeding mark(s)

A mark or marks caused when the reeded edge of one coin hits the surface of another coin. The contact may leave just one mark or a series of staccato-like marks.

Regular issue

Term for the coins struck for commerce. These may be both Regular and Proof strikes of a regular issue. In addition, there can be die trials of regular issues.

Regular strike

Term to denote coins struck with normal coining methods on ordinarily prepared planchets. Synonymous with business strike.


The height of the devices of a particular coin design, expressed in relation to the fields.


A copy, or reproduction, of a particular coin.


A term used to describe a coin that has been dipped or cleaned and then has re-acquired colour, whether naturally or artificially.


The back, or tails side, of a coin. Usually opposite the monarch’s head or Irish harp.


A machine used by mints that screens out planchets of the wrong size and shape prior to striking.


The raised area around the edges of the obverse and reverse of a coin. Pronounced rims resulted from the introduction of the close collar.

Rim nick

Term for a mark or indentation on the rim of a coin or other metallic numismatic item.

Roll friction

Minor displacement of metal, mainly on the high points, seen on coins stored in rolls.

Rolled edge

Term synonymous with rim (the raised edge around a coin). This has become part of the vernacular because of the Rolled Edge Indian Head eagle.

Roller marks

Term to describe the mostly parallel incuse lines seen on some coins after striking. These were originally thought to be lines resulting from debris “scoring” the metal strips before the blanks were cut. However, new research has pointed to the final step of strip preparation, the draw bar. To reduce the strips to proper thickness, the final step was to pass them through the draw bar. It certainly seems logical that debris in the draw bar may cause these lines, if so, then draw-bar marks or lines would be a more appropriate term.


Term for slight wear, often referring just to the high points or the fields.


A detracting line that is more severe than a hairline. The size of a coin determines the point at which a line ceases to be viewed as a hairline and instead is regarded a scratch; the larger the coin, the greater the tolerance.

Second toning

Any toning, natural or artificial, that results after a coin is dipped or cleaned. This second toning is seldom as attractive as original toning, although some coins “take” second toning better than others.


The profit generated from the printing or coining of currency. This word also has many other related meanings, most often associated with taxes created through inflation.

Semi proof-like

A term used to describe a coin that has some mirror-like surface mixed with satin or frosty lustre. Reflectivity is obscured on such a specimen, unlike the reflectivity on prooflike and deep mirror prooflike coins.


A particular design or motif used over a period of time. This can used for a single denomination, or in some cases, used for several denominations, e.g. gunmoney


A term indicating a collection of coins in a series, a collection of types, or a collection from a particular Mint. Examples include a complete series set (Irish pennies from 1928-68 or a single year set such as 1966.


Term to indicate coins struck in silver or silver alloy.

Small date

Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that a large or medium date exists for that coin or series.)

Small letters

Term referring to the size of the lettering of the date on a coin. (Use of this term implies that large or medium letters exist for that coin or series.)

Small size

A term referring to the particular diameter of a coin in a series. (Use of this term implies that there is a large size or diameter with the same motif. Examples are the Large and Small size 5p and 10p Irish decimal coins.

Spark-erosion die

A die made by an electrolytic deposition method. The surfaces of such a die are very rough, so they usually are extensively polished to remove the “pimples.” The recessed areas of the die, and the relief areas of any coin struck with the die, still have rust like surfaces with tiny micro pimples.

Spark-erosion strike

A coin made from spark-erosion dies. These are characterized by the telltale “pimples” noted mainly on the areas in relief.

Special Mint Set

A set of special coins-neither business strikes nor Proofs-first struck in limited quantities in 1966, i.e. the farthing was re-struck for that year only.

Staple scratch

A line on a coin resulting from its improper removal from a holder, usually one of the two-by-two inch cardboard type. Staples should be completely removed from any holder before the coin is removed!

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is a composition of 0.925 parts pure silver with 0.075 parts of copper. This is usually defined as .925 fine silver.

Stock Edge

A counterfeit edge collar used for various-dated fakes. These have the same repeating characteristics.

Store cards

Merchant tokens, usually composed of copper, which helped alleviate the small change shortage during the nineteenth century. These were widely accepted in their immediate areas.

Stress lines

Alternate form of “flow lines.”


Term for the incuse polish lines on the die which result in raised lines on coins. These are usually fine, parallel lines though on some coins they are swirling, still others with criss-cross lines. Planchet striations are burnishing lines not struck away by the minting process and are incuse on the coins.

Strike – n.

Term to indicate the completeness, or incompleteness, of a coin’s intended detail. v. The act of minting a coin.


The flat metal, rolled to proper thickness, from which planchets are cut.


A term used to describe a coin produced from dies and a coining press.

Struck copy

A replica of a particular coin made from dies not necessarily meant to deceive.

Struck counterfeit

A fake coin produced from false dies.

Struck thru

An error caused by a foreign object that got between the dies and the planchet when a coin was struck. A common Struck Thru error is a piece of wire that leaves an indentation that is usually mistaken for a scratch.

Surface preservation

The condition of the surface of a coin. On weakly struck coins, this is a better indicator grade than is the coins’ detail.


The entire obverse + reverse of a coin, although often used to mean just the field areas.


A procedure in which coins are placed in a bag and shaken vigorously to knock off small pieces of metal. Later these bits of metal are gathered and sold, producing a profit as the coins are returned to circulation at face value. Mainly employed with gold coins, leaving their surfaces peppered with tiny nicks.

Tab toning

Term to describe the toning often seen on commemorative coins which were sold in cardboard holders with a round tab. Coins toned in these holders have a circle in the centre and are said to have tab toning.

Target toning

Term used for coins with circles of colour, similar to an archery target, with deeper colours on the periphery often fading to white or cream colour at the centre.

Tensor light

A small, direct light source used by many numismatists to examine and grade coins.


A term used to describe a coin that has been doctored in a specific way to cover marks, hairlines, or other disturbances. Often associated with silver, it actually is used on many coin types, mainly business strikes. The thumb is rubbed lightly over the disturbances, and the oils in the skin help to disguise any problems.

Tissue toning

Colour, often vibrant, acquired by coins stored in original Mint paper. Originally, this was fairly heavy paper; later, very delicate tissue. Sometime during the nineteenth century, the Mint began wrapping Proof coins, and occasionally business strikes, in this paper. The paper contained sulphur; as a result, the coins stored in it for long periods of time acquired blues, reds, yellows, and other attractive colours.


A substitute for a coin. These have been issued in the past and are still currently issued in huge quantities. Older ones generally were issued by stores and may not have been accepted at other establishments, e.g. the trade tokens of the 18th and 19th century as used in Ireland.


The term for the colour seen on many coins. There are infinite shades, hues, and pattern variations seen, the result of how, where, and how long a coin is stored. Every coin begins to tone as it leaves the die, as all coins contain reactive metals in varying degrees.

Tooling mark

A line, usually small and fine, found on both genuine and counterfeit coins. On genuine coins, such lines result when Mint workmen touch up dies to remove remnants of an overdate or other unwanted area. On counterfeits, they often appear in areas where the die was flawed and the counterfeiter has attempted to “fix” the problem.

Trade dollar

A U.S. silver coin, issued from 1873 until 1885, slightly heavier than the regular silver dollar and specifically intended to facilitate trade in the Far East-hence its name. Trade dollars were made with this marginally higher silver content than standard silver dollars in an effort to gain acceptance for them in commerce throughout the world.

Transfer die

A die created by sacrificing a coin for a model.

Transitional issue

A coin struck after a series ends, such as the 1866 No Motto issues of the USA. A coin struck before a series starts, such as the 1865 Motto issues. A coin struck with either the obverse or the reverse of a discontinued series, an example being the 1860 half dime With Stars. A coin struck with the obverse or reverse of a yet-to-be-issued series, an example being the 1859 Stars half dime with the Legend-type reverse.

Treasure coin

A coin known to have come a shipwreck or from a buried or hidden source.

Troy weight

A method of weighing gold and silver and the coins made from those metals. There are 480 grains (or 20 pennyweights) in a troy ounce. There are twelve troy ounces in a troy pound. Examples of this method of measurement are to be seen in the very rare Inchiquin money of the mid-17th century in Ireland.


A variation in design, size, or metallic content of a specific coin design.

Type coin

A representative coin, usually a common date, from a particular issue of a specific design, size, or metallic content.

Ultra High Relief

Alternate name for the Extremely High Relief.

Ultra rarity

Term used for a coin or other numismatic item that is represented by only a few examples.

Universal Rarity Scale (URS)

A collectibles rarity information scale developed in 1998 by 21 major collectibles experts in order to both define rarity within their individual markets and allow collectors and dealers from different collectibles markets to more easily communicate with one another. The URS “doubles” for every step taken and the most greatest rarity = URS1, where only one specimen is known. URS-2 = 2 specimens, URS 3 = 3-4, URS 4 = 5-8, URS-5 = 9-16 and so on. The least rare collectible items are those where more than 8,000 examples are estimated to exist. These items are designated “UR15” (8,001-16,000 specimens) and are described as “readily available.” However, this rarity scale can extended ad finitum if the need arises to describe greater numbers.

Upsetting Mill

A machine that raises the outer rim on a planchet prior to striking. Upsetting ensures that the rims are properly formed during striking.


term to describe a coin that has light to heavy wear or circulation.


A coin of the same date and basic design as another but with slight differences.

Watery look

A look seen on the surfaces of most close-collar Proof coins. Highly polished planchets and dies give the surfaces an almost “wavy” look-hence the term.

Weak strike

A term used to describe a coin that does not show intended detail because of improper striking pressure or improperly aligned dies.

Wheel mark

Synonymous with “counting machine mark.”


Term to describe the process of mechanically moving the metal of a lightly circulated coin to simulate lustre. Usually accomplished by using a wire brush attachment on a high-speed drill.

Wire edge

The thin, knife-like projection seen on some rims created when metal flows between the collar and the dies.

Working die

A die prepared from a working hub and used to strike coins.

Working hub

A hub created from a master die and used to create the many working dies required for coinage.

Worn die

A die that has lost detail from extended use. Dies were often used until they wore out or were excessively cracked or broke apart. Coins struck from worn dies often appear to be weakly struck but no amount of striking pressure will produce detail that does not exist.

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