Here are some common coin terms to help you with your coin collecting. If there is something that should be included here, please let me know.
alloy – two or more metals mixed together, like copper and nickel known as cupronickel
ANA – the American Numismatic Association – formed in 1891, it is an organization to enhance the education, history and knowledge of numismatics.
bag marks – coins from a mint bag that has marks from other coins
bullion – precious metals like silver, gold, platinum made into coins, bars, etc. The US minted bullion coins since 1986
certified – coins officially reviewed and graded by a third party certification company. Popular certification companies include PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) and NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation).
clad – coins composed of numerous non-precious metals. All circulated coins have been clad since the Coinage Act of 1965. Only circulated half dollars from 1965 – 1970 have 40% silver.
circulated – coins released to the public
commemorative – coins that were minted to honor a special person, location or event. The first commemorative was minted in 1892 for the World Columbian Exposition to honor the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s landing in America.
condition – the physical state of a coin, usually determined by grade
counterfeit – a fake or altered coin to make it look like a rarer coin
denomination – the face value of a coin
die – two metallic pieces used to strike the coin
edge – the side of a coin. Some are reeded like the quarter and the half dollar, and some had lettering like the Bust Half Dollar.
grade – rating the condition of the coin from 1 – 70, depending on how much the coin is worn. The ANA has a grading system from About Good (AG-3) to a perfect condition (MS-70).
hairlines – scratches on a coin usually caused by cleaning it. It will reduce the value of the coin
key date – one of the more difficult coins in a set. For example, the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent is a key date.
mint mark – one or two characters on a coin representing which US mint location it was minted
mint set – a set of coins of each denomination minted each year and packaged by the US mint, usually minted from Philadelphia and Denver.
mint state – also known as uncirculated, these are only coins that come out of mint sets, graded between MS-60 and MS-70 in the ANA scale.
mintage – the number of coins minted from a particular mint location
numismatics – the study of collecting money, including of course, coins.
obverse – the front of the coin. it has the date, design of Liberty or famous US person, and since 1968, the mint mark.
pattern – a trial piece which is used to determine whether it would be the next design of a new coin
planchet – the metal that a coin design gets stamped on
proof – a specially produced coin released each year from a proof set. Proof coins have the highest quality strike with a mirror-like surface and in some coins, a beautiful ‘cameo’ polished design.
proof set – a set of all proof denominational coins released each year. Since 1968, they have been released from San Francisco.
relief – the design of the coin that is above the surface, like the person on the front of the coin and the lettering
reverse – the back of a coin. The mint mark was on the reverse until 1964.
slab – a certified coin that is encapsulated by the group that certified it to keep it protected. The front of the slab usually has the coin name, date, any special feature, grade, and certification ID.
strike – stamping a coin blank with a design. The strike can be full, average or weak.
toned – discoloration of coin surface usually due to oxidation. Unlike cleaning a coin, coins that are toned may not lose their value. Some coins can have a rainbow or darker toning.
type set – collecting one of each coin or denomination for a particular period. A popular type set is the 20th Century type set made up of every different coin minted from 1901 – 2000.
uncirculated – a special process done to a coin giving it a satin finish, usually from mint sets. Graded between MS-60 and MS-70.
variety – a minor change to a coin. For example, arrows were added to the obverse of the 1853 Seated Liberty Quarter