Numismatic Dictionary

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acid date
A term used to describe Indian Head "Buffalo" nickels that had its date restored using a chemical acid. The acid used to restore the dates leaves a distinct mark on the coin that can be seen without magnification.

adjustment marks
Scratches or file marks on a silver of coin made by the Mint to reduce the weight of the coin so that the amount of metal does not exceed its value. This usually can be seen on pre-1807 coins.

album friction
Friction marks on the high points of a coin from rubbing while being stored in an album.

alteration
A coin that has a date, mintmark, or other feature that has been altered, added, or removed in an attempt to make the coins appear more valuable than it is.

altered surfaces
Cleaning, tooling, or other changes to the surface of a coin to make it look better but reduces its value.

American Numismatic Association
The ANA is the world’s largest organization of coin collectors and dealers chartered by an Act of Congress in 1912.

artificial toning
Term describing the coloring of a coin by using a chemical on its surface.The lowest price of a particular coin issue and grade offered for sale. See also bid.

bag toning
Coloring from the oxidation of a coin’s metal caused by a reaction with the cloth bag the coin was stored in.

bid
The highest price of a particular coin issue and grade offered for sale. See also ask.

Bluebook
Nickname for the book Handbook of United States Coins by R. S. Yeoman and Kenneth Bressett. The Bluebook is a popular wholesale price reference guide that is published annually. See also Red Book.

brilliant
Bright and shiny coin with its original finish. A copper coin is one that has maintained it full original luster described. See also red.

brilliant proof
A proof coin with mirrored surfaces and no toning.

brown
Term applied to a copper coin that no longer has the red color of copper.

cabinet friction
Friction marks that appear on coins that were stored in wooden cabinets used by early collectors.

Carson City
The state capital of Nevada that housed a branch of the United States Mint. The Carson City Mint was established in 1863 but was not operational until 1870 to support the assay and minting of silver from the Comstock Lode. It was operated through 1883 when silver coinage minting was reduced. Production was resumed in 1885 to be ended permanently in 1893. Coins struck in Carson City have a "CC" mintmark.

cartwheel effect
A term used to describe how the light reflects off the surface of a genuine coin that has not been altered.

cent
The one hundred fractions of a United States dollar is called a cent. It is also a coin that is valued at one-hundredth of a dollar struck by the U.S. Mint.

clad
A term used to describe modern coins that have layers of copper-nickel surrounding a layer of copper in the middle. These are sometimes referred to as "sandwich coins."

copper
A non-precious reddish-brown soft metal that has been traditionally used to strike lower denomination coins. Sometimes written using its chemical symbol of Cu for its Latin name cuprum.

credit card
A plastic card issued by a bank or business that allows the holder to purchase goods or services with a promise that the consumer would pay at a later date.

deep cameo
Term applied to proof coins that have deeply frosted devices that contrast with the mirrored fields.

doctored
A term used to describe a coin that has been altered to enhance its appearance.

encapsulated coin
A coin that has been stored and sealed in a plastic holder usually by a third-party grading service. See also third-party grading service.

enhanced uncirculated
A type of specimen strike by the U.S. Mint that requires special treating of the dies in order to add highlights and other textured elements to the coin being struck.

exonumia
The study and collection of tokens, medals, or other coin-like objects that are not considered legal tender.

fake
A counterfeit or altered coin

fantasy coins
coins that look like real coins but represent something else. An example of a fantasy coin is one that was made to look like the 1964-D Peace Dollar that is rumored not to exist.

Federal Reserve Notes
First issued in 1914 by the newly formed Federal Reserve, these are promissory notes backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

fineness
The purity of a precious metal measured as a ratio to the number of parts per 1,000 units by its weight. For example, the American Silver Eagle has a fineness ratio of .999 meaning that the coin contains 999 parts per 1,000 total parts of silver by weight. Non-precious metals are usually not specified.

frosted devices
A textured surface of a coin caused by the intentional treating of the dies used in its striking. Frosted surfaces appear to have a matte finish.

Galvano
An epoxy coated plaster relief model of a coin, token or medal that is used in a reducing lathe to make a die or hub.

gold
A yellow-colored metallic precious metal. Its chemical symbol is Au for the Latin arum.

golden dollar
Promotional term used by the U.S. Mint to describe the small dollar coins produced since 2000 that has a gold-colored appearance but are made from a magnesium alloy.

holder toning
Any toning acquired by a coin as a result of storage in a holder.

hologram
An image that appears to be three-dimensional when examined under light. Holograms are used as a security device on currency and credit cards. Some mints print hologram designs on non-circulating legal tender coins.

Iridescent
Refers to the multi-colored, rainbow-like toning on a coins surface, especially of a silver coin.

Janvier Reduction Lathe
A special reducing lathe is used to carve the hub during the die making process.

Large Cent
A United States copper coins struck from 1793 to 1857 whose face value was one-cent. During its existence, large cents ranged in size from 23.5 mm in diameter to 29 mm. The size was reduced to 19 mm beginning in 1857.

lettered edge
An incused or raised inscription on the edge of a coin. See also edge letter.

Liberty
A symbolic figure required to be used on U.S. coin designs.

marks
Imperfections acquired after a coin is struck.

medal press
A high-pressure coining press acquired by the U.S. Mint in the 1850s to strike medals and other special issues.

mint
A facility where coins are manufactured.

mint error
A coin that that is flawed as a result of a mistake that occurred during its production at the United States Mint. See also error.

Mint Set toning
Term referring to toning acquired by coins after years of storage in the original holders as packaged by the mint.

Modern Era
Term used to describe coins produced since 1965. At this time, all circulating coins were made using base medals except for the Kennedy half-dollar from 1965-1969 when the amount of silver was reduced to 40-percent.

National Bank Notes
Currency issued only by federally chartered banks that bought bonds to insure the notes’ value.

New Orleans
Louisiana’s largest city and main entry port on the Mississippi River, New Orleans was the home of a branch of the United States Mint. It was established in 1838 and operated until 1861 when the Confederate Army captured it during the Civil War. ADM David Farragutin recaptured it in 1862. Following the passage of the Bland-Allison Act in 1878 that required the federal government to buy large quantities of silver, it was recommissioned as a mint in 1879 and operated until 1909. Coins struck in New Orleans have an "O" mintmark.

nickel silver
Sometimes referred to as "German silver," nickel silver is an alloy of 60- percent copper, 20-percent nickel, and 20-percent zinc. It is named because of its silvery appearance even though it does not contain any silver. Nickel silver had been used to strike European coins prior to the adaptation of the Euro.

off center
A coin struck on a blank that was not properly centered over the anvil, or lower, die.

original surface
Term used to describe a coin that has never been altered. It is the original surface of the coin as it was when it was released from the mint.

penny
The official name of the coin that is one hundredth of a British pound. It is also a synonym for the U.S. one-cent coin.

pet crime
President Theodore Roosevelt, who was unhappy with the look of United State coinage, turned to Augustus Saint- Gaudens to help redesign the coins in circulation. During a discussion with Saint-Gaudens, Roosevelt was quoted as saying, "You know, Saint-Gaudens, this is my pet crime."

Pioneer gold
Privately issued gold coins struck by a variety of minters anywhere in America where gold was discovered.

pristine
Term describing coins in original, unimpaired condition. See also Mint State.

proof dies
Dies that are prepared and used exclusively to produce proof coins.

Punch
A steel rod with a device, a date, lettering, and other symbols on the end that was hammered into a working die.

rainbow toning
Toning which is usually seen on silver dollars stored in bags. A full spectrum of colors is represented; beginning with yellow, then green, to red, to blue, and sometimes even black.

red
A term used to describe the color of a copper or copper-plated coin that maintains at least 95-percent of its original color.

Red Book
Nickname for the book A Guide Book of United States Coins by R. S. Yeoman and Kenneth Bressett. The Red Book is a popular retail price reference guide that is published annually. See also Blue Book.

red brown
A term used to describe the color of a copper or copper-plated coin that maintains between 5-percent and 95-percent of its original color because of natural oxidation.

reprint
Numismatically, it is a later printing of currency using the same printing plates as the original. Reprints are made for presentation or collection and altered in some way to distinguish it from the original printing.

roll
A set number of coins stored in a coin wrapper. Rolls were originally paper wrappers, and today are typically plastic.

roll friction
Term used to describe wearing of coins on the high areas of the relief on coins that were stored in rolls.

Sacagawea
Name of the Shoshone woman who helped Lewis and Clark on their westward expedition. Her portrait has appeared on the U.S. small $1 coin since 2000.

scrip
A certificate representing money issued to be used in exchange for goods and services. Scrip is usually backed by money used in exchange. In some cases, scrip is an interest-bearing item that promises the redeemer a specified return on the investment.

semi-common
A coin that is considered neither common, nor scarce. See also semi-key date.

Shotgun Cents
Lincoln Cents struck from 1942-1945 were made using the copper reclaimed from shotgun shells gathered from the military training camps during World War II.

specimen
A coin or banknote prepared with special care as an example of a given issue.

spot
A discolored area on a coin.

stickered coins
A coin with a sticker on one site used as advertising. Although a sticker can be applied to any coin, during the 1920s and 1930s the dominant stickered coins were dollars and quarters because of their size.

strike
The degree to which metal flows into the recesses of the dies when a coin is struck. The strike of a coin is usually referred to as weak, soft, bold, or full.

thumbed
Term for a coin that has been doctored in a specific way to hide marks, hairlines, or other disturbances.

tissue toning
The toning is caused by sulfur in the paper reacting with coins stored in original Mint paper.

toning
A slow, natural and normal process by which a coin oxidizes over a number of years from contact with the environment. Coins that have been naturally toned are not considered errors.

Treasury Notes
Currency issued in 1890-1891 used to buy silver bullion and redeemable in gold coin.

verdigris
A green or bluish-green substance stuck to a coin as a result from the metal reacting to a non-archival element like polyvinyl chloride. Coins with verdigris are usually considered damaged.

Yeoman Number
A cataloging system for coins created by R.S. (Richard S.) Yeoman. Although the Krause-Mishler catalog numbers has made this cataloging system obsolete, it is common to see many Asian coins referred to by their Y#. See also Krause-Mishler.

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