Newbie coin collectors often find they’ve entered into a unique new world that has its own language, history, and customs. To really dive in and start to learn how it all works, one of the first things you’ll need to learn is the lingo. Our glossary for coin collectors and numismatics provides a convenient introduction to the language of coin collecting and a resource you can return to anytime you come across a term in your coin collecting you don’t know. Here are the main terms it’s good to be aware of in numismatics.
There are a lot of words below, but they won't be hard to pick up on once you start to get into the world of numismatics. Learning the language is a big step forward, but to become a skilled coin collector, there’s always more to learn. Keep an eye on our blog for more information on collectible coins and other investment opportunities in precious metals. The more you learn, the more skilled you’ll become at identifying the best coins to add to your collection.
In the early years of the United States, coin adjusters were employed to check the weight of a coin to see if the materials in it exceeded its face value. For coins that did, they would file them with marks to reduce their weight. Many early U.S. coins therefore have these adjustment marks.
The result of mixing multiple metals together. Many coins are made of such mixes.
Any change that someone makes to a coin, usually done by fraudulent coin sellers to convince buyers a coin is worth more than it is.
The marks occurring on coins that were stored or shipped in mint bags, caused by the contact they made with other coins in the bag.
Term that refers to coins designed by the U.S. Mint engraver Charles Barber, which includes dimes, quarters, and half dollars minted between 1892 and 1916.
Word used to describe non-precious metals. This category includes copper, zinc and nickel. Coins are sometimes made entirely out of base metals; other times they're mixed with gold or silver to create coins.
The border of raised dots and indentations found around the edge of some coins.
Term used to describe a coin with one type of material in the center and another on the outside.
The prepared metal disc yet to be stamped with a design.
Alloy made of copper and zinc.
Alloy made of copper and tin.
Term commonly used to describe a coin show.
A popular way of describing Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. It includes the Breen Numbers that many still use to identify different coin varieties.
Precious metals in various forms, including coins and bars, which sell for their intrinsic metal value and are thus popular with investors. Bullion coins are valued for their metal content rather than as collectors items.
Coins created with the intention of being used in circulation, rather than as collectors items.
Adjective that describes a coin that has a lot of contrast between the devices and field and an especially reflective surface. These attributes make it more attractive and sought after than other coins of its type.
Coins that have been graded and authenticated by a reputable third party such as the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) or the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS).
A way of describing the grade of a coin, a “choice” coin is considered to be in good condition.
Coins with the wear and tear of being used by consumers in transactions.
Coins that have a different metal at the center than on the outside.
The period from 1792-1964 when the U.S. minted coins for circulation using gold and silver, before the price of the metals became too high.
The metal money minted by a particular country.
Special printings of coins to commemorate a particular person, event or place.
Synonym for bag marks. The marks on a coin made by contact with other coins.
A list of the finest or most valuable coins of a particular coin issue.
Describes a coin that's common in general, but rare to find in good condition.
Any coin sold as something other than what it is, whether due to alterations or faking the metals it supposedly contains.
Any coin that has defects present from manufacturing or use in circulation.
Shortened as NCLT, this describes specialty coins that are released by a mint with collectors rather than consumers in mind. The intrinsic value of the coin is typically more than its face value from the time it’s first released with these.
The field of studying and collecting coins.
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC)
One of the main two coin certification services that provides authentication for certified coins. Often shortened to NGC.