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coin glossary

  • actual gold weight (agw): amount of pure gold in a coin or medal. Any alloys are part of the gross weight of a gold coin, but not part of the agw
  • alloy: a blend of different metals
  • bi-metal: coin with one type of metal in the center with an outer ring of a different metal
  • blank: the raw metal disk that is later stamped to make a coin
  • brass: a yellow alloy of copper and zinc
  • brilliant uncirculated: please see quality definitions section
  • bronze: reddish alloy of copper and a small amount of tin
  • BU: abbreviation for brilliant uncirculated
  • bullion: raw metal, usually gold or silver in ingot form
  • bullion coin: a coin that has no collector value above the value of its metal
  • cameo: in world coin terminology, this refers to a part of the design that is separate from the main design because of a different metal, plating or composition. An example would be a small round or oval gold area inside a silver coin obverse or reverse
  • circulated: coin that is worn by use and no longer uncirculated
  • clad coinage: coins that contain a center core and outer layer of differing alloys
  • cleaned: coin that has dirt or toning removed with a cleaning agent. Cleaning may disqualify a coin from being certified, so leave this to the professionals. Cleaning generally lowers the collector value of a coin
  • coin: a mostly round piece of metal to which designs have been applied and a denominational value assigned. Don't confuse with medal, which may look similar but has no denominational value
  • commemorative: a coin struck specially to honor a place, event, or person. Generally sold at a premium and are not meant to circulate
  • copper-nickel (cupronickel): silver colored ally, and the most commonly used coin alloy in the world for circulating coins
  • corrosion: green oxidation that appears on the surfaces of coins
  • counterfeit: fake coin
  • crown: british standard commemorative coin standard with a weight of 28.28 grams. Diameter is typically 40 mm
  • denomination: the face value of a coin, typically found on the coin's obverse (front)
  • design: the art and lettering that appear on coins
  • designer: the person who creates the design of a coin. May also be the engraver
  • die: steel cylinder with a design on it used to strike one side of a coin
  • dollar: name of the official currency in several countries, dependencies and other regions. Represented by the dollar sign: $
  • edge: known as the third side of a coin, this is the surface that encircles a coin
  • edge lettering: any marking, lettering or ornamentation on the edge of a coin
  • effigy: image or likeness of a person, usually on the obverse of a coin or medal
  • encapsulated: placed in a sealed plastic protective holder (capsule)
  • engraver: the person who actually cuts the design of a coin into the die
  • error: a coin that results from a mistake in the coining process
  • face value: the value stated in writing on a coin. The collector value of the same coin may be substantially higher
  • fineness: the percentage of metal in gold and silver coins. A fineness of 99.9% would be described as fine silver or fine gold
  • foreign: for the purposes of this store, non-U.S
  • frosted relief: raised design element that has a white, slightly grainy finish, resulting from the sand-blasting or acid treatment of parts of the minting die. The opposite would be brilliant relief
  • gold: a soft, precious metal of yellow color. Will change color according to the alloy it is blended with. Copper will make it reddish and silver white
    • incuse: refers to designs or lettering that are impressed into a coin (instead of being raised)
    • inscription: the wording or legends on a coin
      • karat: unit measurement of the purity of gold, usually marked K or k. 24 karat is fine gold. Not to be confused with "carat" used with precious stones
      • legal tender: coins or currency which must be accepted in payment of debt
      • legend: any of the wording or lettering on a coin. A motto can be a legend
      • lettered edge: an edge of a coin that has been imprinted with raised or incuse letters
      • lettering: any of the letters or words that appear on a coin or its edge
      • mark: defect caused when a coin is hit by foreign objects or other coins
      • medal: piece of metal that looks like a coin but has no denominational value
      • mintage: the quantity struck of a particular coin
      • mint set: a specially packaged set of coins produced and sold by a government or dealer
      • mint mark: letters or symbols on a coin that identify where the coin was struck, who the designer was, and who was the director of the mint (mint master) at the time of minting
      • nickel: hard metal used in most coin alloys. Alloy on some modern clad coins. Tendency to cause skin allergies and is therefore banned in many countries
      • numismatics: the study of coins and coin collecting
      • numismatist: the person who studies and collects coins
      • obverse: the front of a coin, usually the side with the date or head. When you flip a coin and call “heads,” this is the side you want
      • oxidation: tarnish or corrosion on a coin caused by chemical reaction with its surroundings
      • patina: refers to the surface crust on an ancient coin or the color on a more modern coin
      • piefort: coin struck on a planchet twice or more the normal thickness. The french spelling used in europe is piedfort (strong foot)
      • plain edge: an edge of a coin that has no marking, reedings, or lettering of any kind
      • planchet: the blank piece of metal upon which a coin is struck. Same as a blank
      • plated: a coin to which an extra layer of metal was applied chemically or electronically (usually gold or silver)
      • platinum: a precious metal used primarily in bullion coins
      • press: the machinery used to strike coins
      • proof : a special process for producing coins of exceptional quality and brilliance. Most often, proof coins will exhibit mirrored surfaces and frosted reliefs
      • proof set: specially packaged set of proof coins, most often current versions of circulating coins
      • proof dies: specially prepared dies used to strike proof coins
      • prooflike: circulation strike that mimics the deeply reflective appearance of a proof coin
        • rare: not common
        • reeded edge: an edge with raised vertical or diagonal marks designed to make it obvious if anyone has removed any metal from the edges
        • relief: the raised portions of a coin, usually the design elements
        • replica: a copy of a coin
        • restrike: a coin from genuine dies, struck later than the year indicated on the coin, usually to satisfy collectors
        • reverse: the back of a coin, usually the side without a date or a head. When you flip a coin and call “tails,” this is the side you want
        • rim: the raised area where the obverse and reverse meet the edge of the coin. Protects the designs, and makes coins not stick to each other
        • roll: a set quantity of coins that banks “roll up” in paper wrappers
        • scratch: the long mark left when a foreign object is dragged across the surface of a coin
        • series: the complete listing of all dates and mints struck of a denomination or design type
        • shield: a popular design that is really a flag in the shape of a shield
        • silver: a semi-precious metal with a white luster
        • slab: the plastic cases used by grading and certification services. Also, a coin that has been slabbed
        • slabbed: the act of sealing a coin in a protective plastic case, usually performed by grading and certification services
        • specimen: please see quality definitions section
        • spot: a tiny area of discoloration or corrosion on the surface of a coin. typically caused by water or soap/polish residue
        • sterling silver: alloy of silver containing 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper. The most popular silver coin alloy used around the world today
        • surface: the outer layers of metal on all sides of a coin
        • toning: the color changes that occur on coins as a result of oxidation or contamination
        • type set: set of circulation coins that do not have the same year date. One of each coin of a particular design, series or period
        • unique: one-of-a-kind
          • wear: friction on the surface of a coin
          • world coins: any coin issued by countries other than the united states
            • year date: the year in which a coin is struck
            • year set: a collection of all denominations produced in a given year
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