Coin Collecting Terminology

By | April 1, 2017



Coin collectors have a terminology all their own. With such a fascinating subject 1907_Ultra_High_Relief_$20_Double_Eagle_(Inverted_Edge_Letters,_rev)to describe, a lexicon of coin collecting terminology has developed over the years. Think about it, there is the color, luster, artistic detail, front, back and edge of the coin to describe, to name just a few. Then there is the actual process of coin manufacture, known as minting, which also has an interesting vocabulary.


Common Coin Collecting Terms

Barber dimeHere are some rather common words in coin collecting terminology:

    • Obverse: The front side of a coin.
    • Reverse: The back side of a coin.
    • Relief: The raised portion of a coin’s design.
    • Proof: Special uncirculated coins made with polished polished dies, so the rims and designs are extra sharp, details are prominent and luster is extremely high.
    • Uncirculated: A coin that has never been in general public circulation and is still in the condition in which it was minted. Of course, there are varying grades of uncirculated coins.
    • Almost Uncirculated: A coin that has been in limited general circulation such that it looks like an uncirculated specimen with just a few extra nicks or blemishes.
    • Field: The flat areas on the obverse and reverse where there’s no design or legend.
    • Intrinsic Value: The current value of the metal of which the coin is made rather than the face value of the coin.
    • Numismatics: The study of coins and their collectibility.
    • Coin Grading: The process by which a coin is evaluated for its quality, based on how much wear has taken place since the coin was struck. Should you get your coins graded?
    • Key Date: A scarce date needed to complete a series of coins. Example: Washington Quarter Key Dates.
    • Mint Mark: A small letter indicating at which mint the coin was stuck.
    • Rare Roman Coin

      2000-Year-Old Rare Roman Coin

      Planchet: The piece of blank metal which is struck by dies to produce a coin.

    • Die: A metal rod used to impress an image onto the planchet to make a coin.
    • Mint: A factory where coins are produced. Also a verb: the process of creating a coin.
    • Mintage: The quantity of a particular coin that was produced in a given year. All Key Date coins have limited mintages.
    • Alloy: A mixture or combination of two or more metals to create one.
    • Full Strike: A coin displaying complete design made by a precise hard strike at the time of minting.
    • Raw Coin: A coin that has not been graded by a grading service and is not encapsulated in a protective slab.
    • Slabbed Coin: A coin that has been placed in a protective, sealed plastic container, usually after it has been graded by a coin graded agency such as PCGS. Also known as an Encapsulated Coin
    • Cull: Also known as a “cull coin”. These are usually coins that are very damaged or very well worn.
    • Strike: The stamping action of the dies on the planchet that makes a coin.
    • Toning: Natural color changes on the surface of a coin caused by exposure to air. They are often much sought after by collectors and investors.
    • Red Book: The go to book for coin collectors in the US. Annual editions are published giving pricing for all US coins and grades.

These are just a few of the common terms. As you build out your collection, your own vocabulary of coin collecting terminology will grow as well.

Do you have any coin terms you wonder about or that ought to be put on our list? Please let us know below.

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