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Glossary of Terms

Attribute  - characteristics of a coin, for example, country of issue, inscription, date, metal composition, design, mint marks

American Eagle Bullion Coin - platinum, silver and gold coins released by the United States Mint beginning in October 1986.

American Numismatic Association (ANA) - nonprofit educational organization that encourages the study of money throughout the world


Bag Mark - a mark on a coin from contact with other coins in a mint bag.

Blank - another word for planchet, the blank piece of metal on which a coin design is stamped.

Business strike - a coin produced for general circulation (as opposed to a proof or uncirculated coin specially made for collectors).

Brilliant - a coin that is bright and shiny with a chrome luster

Bullion - platinum, gold or silver in the form of bars or other storage shapes, including coins and ingots


Cameo - a coin with brilliant fields surrounding frosted design elements

Carbon Spots - small spots of corrosion usually seen on copper coins

Clad Coinage - coins that have a core and outer layer made of different non-precious metals.  Since 1965, all circulating U.S. dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars have been clad.

Coin - flat piece of metal issued by the government as money.

Coin Press - the machine that makes a coin

Commemorative - a special coin that honors the anniversary of a person, place, or event

Counterfeit - a fake coin or other piece of currency made so that people will think it's genuine.

Currency - any kind of money - coins or paper money - that's used as a medium of exchange.


Deep Cameo - a cameo coin with heavy contrast between the frosted and brilliant areas

Denomination - the different values of money.  U.S. coins currently are made in the following six denominations:  cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar

Die(s) - The plate press used to make coins upon which the designs are engraved and pressed


Edge - the outer border of a coin, considered the "third side" (not to be confused with "rim").  Some coins feature lettering, reeding, or ornamental designs on their edges

Engraver - the person who engraves the design of a coin onto the die

Error - an improperly produced

Eye Appeal - the total visual aspects of a coin


Field - the flat areas surrounding the raised design elements on a coin

Frosting - a textured, almost crystalline, surface usually seen on the raised portions of proof coins


Grading - the art of determining the condition or quality of a coin


Hairline Scratch - a fine scratch on the surface of a coin usually caused by wiping with a cloth


Incuse - opposite of relief, the part of a coin's design that is pressed into the surface


Key Date - a scarce date required to complete a collection, usually more difficult to find and afford


Matte - a fine, granular texture on the surface of a proof coin. Matte surfaces have a dull appearance as opposed to the reflective surfaces of a brilliant proof  - featured on the Satin Finish Specimens

Medal - a metal object resembling a coin issued to recognize an event, place, person or group, with no stated value and not intended to circulate as money

Mint - A) the Government Branch where coins are printed, B) Uncirculated (brand new), or C) the act of making a coin

Mint Luster - the dull, frosty, or satiny shine found on uncirculated coins

Mint Mark Set - A set consisting of one example of each mint mark of a coin type (for example, a Morgan Dollar Mint Mark Set would have one Morgan each from the Denver, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Carson City Mints)

Mint Set - official, government-issued sets of Uncirculated United States coins, first issued in 1947

Motto - a word, sentence or phrase inscribed on a coin to express a guiding national principle.  For example, "E Pluribus Unum" inscribed on all U.S. circulating coins is Latin for "out of many, one."

MS - abbreviation for a mint state coin


Numismatics - the study and collecting of coins


Obsolete - a coin design or type that is no longer produced

Obverse - the front of a coin

Off-Center - describes a coin that has received misaligned strike from the coin press and has portions of its design missing

Oxidation - the chemical reaction of metal with its surroundings; on copper coins, oxidation shows up as carbon spots and a mellowing of the original color; on silver coins, oxidation shows up as tarnish or toning


Pattern - an experimental or trial piece, generally of a new design or metal

Planchet - the blank disk that becomes a coin once it is stamped by the dies

Proof - a coin that is specially prepared using a highly polished planchet, highly polished dies, and extra pressure in the coining press – issued solely for collectors

Proof Set - official government-issued sets of proof United States coins, first publicly released in 1936

PR - abbreviation for proof coin


Reverse - the back of a coin

Roll - coins packaged by banks, dealers or the United States Mint.  The number of coins in a roll depends on the denomination:  50 cents, 40 nickels, 50 dimes, 40 quarters, 20 half dollars, or 25 dollars


Series - a collection of coins that contains all date and mint marks of a specific design and denomination.  For example, a Kennedy series would include a Kennedy half dollar from each year from each Mint facility (Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco), beginning with the coins first issued in 1964

Slab - nickname for some protective coin encapsulation methods, especially those that are permanently sealed and rectangular

Special Mint Set - special sets featuring a brand new finish of Uncirculated coins issued from 1965 to 1967 as replacements for both Mint Sets and Proof Sets (both of which were not issued during those years)

Specimen - a specially prepared coin, usually for presentation purposes or for sale to collectors featuring a Satin Finish

Strike - A) the stamping of a coin or B) the degree of detailing on a coin

Surfaces - the outer layer of a coin including the raised portions of a coin and the edge


Toning - oxidizing of the surface of a coin caused by a chemical reaction between the metal of the coin and its surroundings, usually the case or bag holding it

Type Set – A set consisting of one example each denomination of each design in each denomination of a coin type (for example, a Nickel Type set would include a Shield Nickel, Liberty Nickel, Buffalo Nickel, Jefferson Nickel, and each Westward Journey Nickel)


Uncirculated - A) a coin that has not circulated or B) the condition or “grade” given to coins of the highest quality


Variety - something different from the standard type.  In Morgan Dollars, these are known as VAMs


Year/Date Set – A set consisting of one example of each date of a coin type (for example, a State Quarter Year/Date Set would have one Quarter from each year between 1999-2008, making it a 10 coin set)



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