Coin Collecting Terminologies

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Written By Natasha Jones
I'm Natasha Jones, an avid collector of coins, stamps, and paper money.My passion drives me to seek unique finds, from antique shops to international exchanges.I enjoy connecting with fellow collectors through forums and meet-ups, sharing discoveries and insights.

Here is a list of coin collecting terminologies that can help you in your coin collecting journey!

Coin Collecting Terminologies:

  • Alloy – Combination of metals to create something much stronger and more corrosion-resistant.
  • Assay – Metal testing to check its quality and its content.
  • Authentication – A service to check if your coins are legit or not.
  • Bag Mark – A coin’s surface mark, or nick, is also known as a contact mark.
  • Beading – A raised, dotted border along the rim of a coin.
  • Blank – A small disk of metal.
  • Brilliant Uncirculated – Brilliant Uncirculated refers to a striking standard. Commonly abbreviated to BU, these coins are struck to a higher standard than circulating and bullion coins.
  • Bullion – Precious metals in the form of bars, coins, or ingots.
  • Cameo – A strong distinction in the surface appearance of foreground devices relative to the field. Proof coins often exhibit this feature.
  • Cast Coins – Coins are produced by pouring metal into a mold. This method was used for the first Ancient Roman bronze and Chinese ‘cash’ coins but is rarely used today. Instead, modern counterfeit coins are often cast.
  • Circulated – A term that indicates a coin showing signs of wear and tear.
  • Die – An extremely hard stamping tool designed to withstand high pressure. Each die bears an image that is struck onto coins.
  • Edge – A coin’s rim often contains a series of reeds, lettering, or other decoration.
  • Encapsulated Coin – A coin that has been authenticated, graded, and enclosed in plastic by an independent service.
  • Error – Sometimes errors occur during the minting process – the wrong date or inscription, for example. As a result, it’s scarce for these coins to find their way into circulation.
  • Exergue – A segment of the coin design is separated by a line (usually indicating the ground in the design) in which a legend is placed/inscribed.
  • Field – The background area of a coin is not used for a design or inscription.
  • Fleur de coin (FDC) – A coin of exceptionally high quality, where quality is determined not just by the wear of the coin in circulation but also by the wear and artistic quality of the dies from which it was minted. These factors are crucial for ancient coinage, where variability was higher than in modern mints. 
  • Grade – The coin’s condition or the amount of wear a coin has received. Common grade terms are Fine, Very Fine, Extremely Fine, and Uncirculated. These grades can be split into divisions: Nearly and About are sub-grades, and Good is an over grade; for example, ‘About Very Fine is just below ‘Very Fine’ and ‘Good Very Fine is just above ‘Very Fine.
  • Grading – The condition of a coin or the amount of wear and tear it has received. Grades commonly used in the UK include Fine, Very Fine, Extremely Fine, and Uncirculated.
  • High Relief – A coin with a raised design high above the field. Coins struck in high relief often have problems with details not appearing sharply enough and die having a shorter than usual lifespan. In addition, if the design is higher than the rim, the coin may not be stackable, and the highest points of the design will wear away very quickly.
  • Laureate – A style of coin portraiture started in Ancient Rome, often showing the Emperor’s head crowned with a laurel wreath. A modern example is the first portrait of Her Majesty The Queen, which was used on UK coins from 1953 to 1967.
  • Legend – The principal inscription on a coin.
  • LEP – An abbreviation of Limited Edition Presentation – refers to the number of coins or sets presented in a specific style.
  • Lettered Edge – The outside edge of a coin contains an inscription.
  • Low Relief – A coin with a raised design not very high above the field.
  • Luster – The appearance of a coin’s ability to reflect light; is brilliance.
  • MCM – An abbreviation of Maximum Coin Mintage – a term that refers to the maximum number of coins issued.
  • Milled Edge – The coin’s edge with grooved lines around the perimeter. Also known as a Reeded Edge.
  • Mint Mark – A small letter or symbol indicating where a coin was struck. For example, Sovereigns struck at our former branch mints bear ‘S’ for Sydney or ‘C ‘for Canada. They are sometimes added to modern commemorative coins to mark a significant anniversary.
  • Mintage – The total number of coins struck—for example, a mintage of 1,000 coins.
  • Numismatic – A term used to describe the study or collection of coins and currency.
  • Numismatist – Someone who collects coins.
  • Obverse – The front or head side of the coin.
  • Piedfort – Pronounced ‘pee a fort,’ a piedfort coin is a coin struck on a planchet that is thicker than usual, typically twice as thick.
  • Planchet – A disc-shaped metal blank onto which the image of a coin is pressed.
  • Proof – Coins struck for collectors using polished dies and blanks. The resulting coins usually have a mirror field, and raised areas appear frosted.
  • Re-strike – Coins struck from genuine dies at a date later than the original issue.
  • Reverse – The back or tail side of the coin; is the opposite of the ‘obverse.’
  • Rim – A raised portion of the design along the edge protects the coin from wear and tear. It also makes the coins stackable and easy to roll by machine.
  • SOTD – An abbreviation of Strike on the Day. A commemorative coin is struck on the same day as an important royal or historic occasion.
  • Toning – The surface film caused by oxidation, usually green or brown, is mainly found on older silver, copper, or bronze coins. Also known as ‘Patina,’ this characteristic can enhance the detail on silver coins and therefore increase their desirability.
  • Truncation – A sharply cut-off bottom edge of a portrait or bust. The coin engraver’s initials are often found on the truncation.
  • Uncirculated – A coin that has never been used, thus retaining all or most of its original luster.

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