This article is a collection of Numismatic and coin collecting terms with concise explanation for the beginner or professional.
Numismatics (ancient Greek: νομισματική) is the scientific study of money and its history in all its varied forms. While numismatists are often characterized as studying coins, the discipline also includes the study of banknotes, stock certificates, medals, medallions, and tokens (also referred to as Exonumia).
Sub-fields or related fields of numismatics are:
Exonumia: is the study of coin-like objects such as token coins and medals, and other items used in place of legal currency or for commemoration.
Test to ascertain the weight and purity of a coin.
Identifier of a coin such as date, mint, denomination, or variety.
Surface mark, or nick, on a coin usually from contact with other coins in a mint bag. More often seen on large gold or silver coins. Also called "contact marks".
A small countermark applied to a coin by a bank or a trader indicating that they consider the coin to be genuine and of legal weight. Most often found on ancient and medieval coins, but also on silver coins which circulated in China and Japan, where they are referred to as chop-marks.
Originally referring to metal wasted in coin production, now means coins struck when the previous coin remains stuck to a die, creating an incuse impression in the next struck coin (primarily found in ancient coins).
Precious metals in the form of coins whose market value is determined by metallic content rather than scarcity.
Current market value of the raw precious metal content of a coin. For example, the bullion value for Canadian silver coins, 1920 to 1966, is 12 times the face value when silver is $20.00 per troy ounce.
Also known as Communion Tokens, they were generally issued initially by Scottish parishes (die stamped one-side only to show the parish) and later in USA and Canada; they were square or oblong, and were made of lead, iron or brass and measured 1/4" to 1".
Term used to indicate a coin that has wear.
Issues of coins that contain a center core and outer layer of differing metals or alloys bonded together. The current U.S. Quarter, dime, and half dollar are made of cupronickel clad copper.
A method of striking in which the obverse and reverse dies are aligned 180 degrees from each other. All American coins are struck this way.
Outer ring of the die chamber that holds the blank in place while the obverse and reverse are being stamped.
Minor abrasions on uncirculated coinage created by contact with other coins. Also called "bag marks".
Countermark or Counterstamp
Partial or complete over-stamping of a coin or token in order to change its value or issuing authority, or to display an advertisement, political slogan or symbol, etc. Stamping may consist of a number (value), symbol (authority), letters (advertisement or slogan), or any combination of the above.
Large coin often struck in precious metal. Modern crowns are usually not highly circulated due to being too large and/or too heavy. The United States's last crown-sized coin for circulation was the Eisenhower Dollar, last struck in 1978.
A defect from a chipped die.
To lower the silver/gold value of the coin by altering its purity, but with the same face value as the pure coin. This often happens during periods of high inflation.
Small toothlike projecting points on the inside edge of coins.
Metal piece engraved with the design used for stamping the coin.
Caused when a coin planchet fails to be placed between two dies during the minting process, causing the dies to smash together. The design of one or both may impress into the opposite die, causing a "shadow" of the design to appear on subsequent coins minted with the damaged dies. The impact of the two dies may also result in die cracks or defects.
Fine raised line on a coin that was caused by a crack in the die.
Imperfection of various sorts caused by a damaged die. May refer to a crack or clash or a chip out of the die, etc. A defect from a chipped die is called a cud.
The combination of a particular obverse and reverse set of dies. If one die is replaced a new die marriage is created.
A variation in appearance to a coin struck by a single die, resulting from wear or alteration of the die. For example, the presence or absence of die cracks may signal a specific die state.
Minor variation in a die, including repunched mintmarks, doubling, or deliberate minor changes to the die design.
United States $0.10 coin. While the term is American in origin, Canadians often use the term as well.
Chemical cleaning of a coin with a diluted acid. This "cleanliness" is a result of the surface of the coin being dissolved by the acid. Dipped coins almost always have a lower numismatic value than when they were in their former "dirty" state.
Usually a mis-made coin not intended for circulation, but can also refer to an engraving or die-cutting error not discovered until the coins are released to circulation. The mis-made coin errors are usually unique, but the engraving errors appear on all of the coins produced until the error is corrected. This may result in two or more varieties of the coin in the same year.
Blank metal piece before striking, also called a planchet or blank.
Fleur de coin (FDC)
Coin of exceptionally high quality, where quality is determined not just by wear of the coin in circulation but also by the wear and artistic quality of the dies from which it was minted. These factors are crucial for ancient coinage where variability was higher than in modern mints. See also Grade.
An error caused by the coin flipping over after being struck, and then struck a second time. Each face of the coin will have a "ghost" of the opposite face.
Coin of exceptionally high condition, such as Gem Uncirculated or Gem Proof.
The condition of a coin or amount of wear that a coin has received. Common grade terms used in North America, from worst to best, are Poor (Po), Fair (Fr), About Good (AG), Good (G), Very Good (VG), Fine (F), Very Fine (VF), Extra/Extremely Fine (EF or XF), Almost Uncirculated (AU), Uncirculated (UNC), and Brilliant Uncirculated (BU). Grading criteria may also include color, strength of strike, and "eye appeal".
A coin that has been struck by hand, using dies and a hammer.
A coin with the raised design high above the field. Coins struck in high relief often have problems with details not coming up sharp enough and dies having a shorter than usual lifespan. If the design is higher than the rim, the coin may not be stackable, and the highest points of the design will wear away very quickly.
Unit measurement of the purity of gold. Usually marked 'K', or 'k'. 24K = pure gold, 18K = .750 fine. Not to be confused with 'Carat' used with precious stones (see above). Note that both originally referred to the seed of the carob tree ('Ceratonia siliqua' or 'Siliqua Graeca'). A Roman coin called the solidus weighed 24 'carats' or 'siliquae', 1/6 of a scruple; this became the standard of purity in western Europe.
A rarer or higher valued coin within a series. As an example, 1923 and 1925 are key coins in the Canadian small cent series.
A style of coin portraiture started in ancient Rome whose coins often showed the Emperor's head crowned with a laurel wreath. The American Barber coins from 1892 to 1915 and the first portrait of Queen Elizabeth II used in Great Britain from 1953 to 1967 are modern examples.
An annual gift made on Maundy Thursday of a set of pure silver coins made by the Royal Mint and distributed personally by the Monarch to the poor of Canterbury. The number of sets reflects the number of years the Monarch has occupied the throne.
Inspirational phrase or wording. Examples include "In God we Trust" on US coins or "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" on French coins.
Coin struck from two dies never intended to be used together.
Non circulating legal tender. These coins are issued in "limited editions" for collectors, and sold for far more than their face value. While these coins are technically legal tender, their bullion value usually far exceeds their face value.
Coins specially struck for collectors using polished dies and planchets. The resulting coins usually have a mirror field and raised areas are frosted in appearance.
Set of proof coins packaged and sold by the mint.
Coin struck from 'punching' the coin with symbols or seal. Ex: Five Punch Marked coins of ancient India. Punch Marks generally represent animals, tree, hills, and human figures. These coins were issued by royal authority and generally marked with banker's punches on the reverse.
Raised portion of the design along the edge that protects the coin from wear. It also makes the coins stackable and easy to roll by machine.
Round one ounce bullion piece, generally issued privately.
Set of years coin was minted with a specific design and denomination.
One Roman scruple = 1/24 Roman uncia; the modern (nominal) estimate of the weight of the Roman scruple is 1.125 g.
A one-dollar coin minted in the U.S. (until 1935), and Canada (until 1967). Dollar coins made after those dates are sometimes called "silver dollars" although they are actually made of nickel or other metal. Dollar coins struck in Canada since 1987 are more commonly referred to as Loonies because of the loon design on the reverse.
Plastic case containing a coin that has been graded and encapsulated.
A combination of iron, carbon and another element, usually chromium, to prevent rusting. Coins struck on stainless steel are very durable and maintain their shiny appearance, but the hardness of the metal requires that the coins have a low relief in order to prolong die life.
A rare and historic Bechuanaland Border Police canteen token.
A grey inexpensive metal, usually alloyed with copper to make brass coins, but is also used in pure form for emergency coinage when the usual coinage metal is not available due to war or other serious crisis. Much of the coinage struck in Nazi-Occupied Europe was tin-plated zinc.
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