About Uncirculated

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About Good

The grade AG-3. The grade of a coin that falls short of Good. Only the main features of the coin are present in this grade. Peripheral lettering, date, stars, etc. sometimes are partially worn away.

About Uncirculated

The grades AU50, 53, 55, and 58. A coin that on first glance appears Uncirculated but upon closer inspection has slight friction or rub.


Area(s) of a coin where a foreign object or another coin has displaced metal in an abraded fashion. Similar to a bag mark but usually on the high points or open fields and not as deep or acute as the former.


A miscellaneous grouping of coins, often as a monetary hoard. Opposite of a coin collection. A second use is as a grouping of a particular date, type, or series. (Example: an accumulation–of Bust Halves.)

adjustment marks

Pre-striking file marks seen mainly on gold and silver coins prior to 1840. These removed excess metal from overweight planchets. After 1840 these are seldom seen as the filing was on the rim and was usually obliterated by the striking process.


This is for "About Good" (the grade) and "3" (the corresponding numerical designation). Most of the lettering on the coin is readable, but there is moderately heavy wear into the rims. This grade is frequently found on Barber coins where the obverse is fully Good (or better) but the reverse is heavily worn.

AGW (Actual Gold Weight)

This refers to the amount of pure gold in a coin, medal or bar. Any alloys are part of the gross weight of a gold coin, but not part of the AGW.

album friction

Similar to album slide marks, though the friction may be only slight rubbing on the high points.

album slide marks

Lines, usually parallel, imparted to the surface of a coin by the plastic “slide” of an album.


A combination of two or more metals.

Almost Uncirculated

Alternate of About Uncirculated.


A coin that has a date, mint mark, or other feature that has been changed, added, or removed, usually to simulate a rarer issue.

American Eagle

In 1986, the U.S. Mint began selling silver bullion coins in the denomination of $1. The next year, they added a series of gold coins to the series, eventually expanding to 1/10, ¼, ½, and 1 ounce gold versions. Each coin features a family of eagles on the reverse, hence the name.

American Numismatic Association

A non-profit numismatic organization founded in 1888 for the advancement of numismatics.


Short for “American Numismatic Association.”

ANACS – (American Numismatic Association Certification Service)

Originally, only authentication was offered, grading was added later. The grading service and acronym were sold by the ANA and now operate under this name as a third party grading service.

ANACS certificate

A uniquely numbered opinion of authenticity and/or grade from the ANA Certification Service. The ANA now only authenticates, having sold the name and grading service.


General term for coins of the world struck circa 600 B.C. to circa 450 A.D.


The heating of a die or planchet to soften the metal before preparation of the die or striking of the coin.


Short for "American Numismatic Society."

anvil die

The lower die, usually the reverse – although on some issues with striking problems, the obverse was employed as the lower die. Because of the physics of minting, the fixed lower-die impression is slightly better struck than the upper-die impression.


Design element usually found in the left (viewer’s right) claw of the eagle seen on many United States coins. After 1807, there usually were three arrows while prior to that time the bundle consisted of numerous ones.

arrows and rays

Term referring to the quarters and half dollars of 1853. The rays were removed in 1854 because of striking difficulties presented by the busy design.

arrows at date

Term referring to the arrows to the left and right of the date, added to the dies to indicate a weight increase or decrease.

artificial toning

Coloring added to the surface of a coin by chemicals and/or heat. Many different methods have been employed over the years.


The selling quotation of a coin either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium.


To analyze and determine the purity of a metallic alloy.


The elements that make up a coin’s grade. The main ones are marks (hairlines for Proofs), luster, strike, and eye appeal.


This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "50" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-50." This is the lowest of the four AU grades, with the others being AU53, AU55, and AU58. Between 50% and 100% of the surfaces will exhibit luster disturbances, and perhaps the only luster still in evidence will be in the protected areas. The high points of the coin will have wear that is easily visible to the naked eye.


This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "53" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-53." There is obvious wear on the high points with light friction covering 50-75% of the fields. There are noticeable luster breaks, with most of the luster still intact in the protected areas.


This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "55" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-55." There is slight wear on the high points with minor friction in the fields. Luster can range from almost nonexistent to virtually full, but it will be missing from the high points. The grade of "Choice AU" equates to AU55.


This is for "About Uncirculated" (the grade) and "58" (the numerical designation of that grade). Also called "Almost Uncirculated-58." There is the slightest wear on the high points, even though it may be necessary to tilt the coin towards the light source to see the friction. In many cases the reverse of an AU58 coin will be fully Mint State. Less than 10% of the surface area will show luster breaks. The grade of "Borderline Unc" equates to AU58.


An offering of coins for sale where the buyer must bid against other potential buyers, as opposed to ordering from a catalog, price list, or advertisement at a set price.


The process of determining the genuineness of a coin or other numismatic item.


A generic term for the cloth sacks in which coin are stored and transported. These came into use in the mid-nineteenth century and replaced wooden kegs for this purpose.

bag mark

A generic term applied to a mark on a coin from another coin; it may, or may not, have been incurred in a bag.

bag toning

Coloring acquired from the bag in which a coin was stored. The cloth bags in which coins were transported contained sulfur and other reactive chemicals. When stored in such bags for extended periods, the coins near and in contact with the cloth often acquired beautiful red, blue, yellow and other vibrant colors. Sometimes the pattern of the cloth is visible in the toning; other times, coins have crescent-shaped toning because another coin was covering part of the surface, preventing toning. Bag toning is seen mainly on Morgan silver dollars, though occasionally on other series.

Bank-wrapped rolls

Rolls of coins that were wrapped at a Federal Reserve Bank from original Mint bags. Such rolls are often desirable to collectors because they have not been searched or "picked" by collectors or dealers. Sometimes abbreviated as OBW, for "original bank wrapped."

Barber coinage

Common name for the Charles Barber designed Liberty Head dimes, quarters, and half dollars struck from 1892 until 1916 (1915 for the half dollar).

basal state

The condition of a coin that is identifiable only as to date mint mark (if present), and type; one-year-type coins may not have a date visible.

basal value

The value base from which Dr. William H. Sheldon's 70-point grade/price system started; this lowest-grade price was one dollar for the 1794 large cent upon which he based his system.

baseball cap coin

Slang for a Pan-Pac commemorative gold dollar coin. The figure wears a cap similar to a baseball cap.


The process of polishing a die to impart a mirrored surface or to remove clash marks or other injuries from the die.

beaded border

Small, round devices around the edge of a coin, often seen on early U.S. coins. These were replaced by dentils.

BG Gold

Term sometimes applied to California fractional gold coins as encompassed in the Breen-Gillio reference work titled California Pioneer Fraction Gold, including additional discoveries.


The buying quotation of a coin either on a trading network, pricing newsletter, or other medium.


Either the dealer issuing a quotation on one of the electronic trading systems or a participant in an auction.

bidder number

The number assigned by auction houses to the various participants in their auction. In the past, codes or nom de plumes were also commonplace at sales.


The flat disk of metal before it is struck by the dies and made into a coin.


A term applied to an element of a coin (design, date, lettering, etc.) that is worn into another element or the surrounding field.


A blue-cover, wholesale pricing book for United States coins issued on a yearly basis.


Slang for the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter.


The designation BM refers to "Branch Mint," meaning any US Mint other than Philadelphia. You will usually find this designation used to describe Branch Mint Proof coins, such as the 1879-O BM Proof Morgan dollar, 1893-CC BM Proof Morgan dollar, etc.


Short for Brown

body bag

Slang term for a coin returned from a grading service in a plastic sleeve within a flip. The coin referred to is a no-grade example and was not graded or encapsulated. Coins are no-grades for a number of reasons, such as questionable authenticity, cleaning, polishing, damage, repair, and so on.


Term synonymous with coin show

bourse floor

The physical area where a coin show takes place

boy wonder

Slang name for a young coin dealer who bursts upon the numismatic scene and quickly becomes a top flight dealer.

Braided Hair

Style of hair on half cents and large cents from 1840 onward consisting of hair pull back into a tight bun with a braided hair cord.

branch mint

One of the various subsidiary government facilities that struck, or still strikes, coins.

breast feathers

The central feathers seen on numerous eagle designs. Fully struck coins usually command a premium and the breast feathers are usually the highest point of the reverse. (They are the most deeply recessed area of the die, so metal sometimes does not completely fill the breast feather area, usually because of insufficient striking pressure. Incorrectly spaced or lapped dies will also cause “striking” weakness.)


Slang for the late Walter Breen. Often heard in context of Breen letter, Breen said, Breen wrote, and so on. A controversial personal life has dimmed the impact Breen had on numismatics.

Breen Book

Slang for Walter Breen’s magnum opus, Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, published in 1988.

Breen letter

A document, usually one page, written or typed by Walter Breen giving his opinion on a particular numismatic item. Before certification, this was the usual method employed by collectors and dealers desiring to sell an esoteric item such as a branch-mint Proof, early Proof, and so on.


Numbering system base on the book on California fraction gold coins by Walter Breen and Ron Gillio titled California Pioneer Fraction Gold.


A coin with full luster, unimpeded by toning, or impeded only by extremely light toning.

Brilliant Uncirculated

A generic term applied to any coin that has not been in circulation. It often is applied to coins with little "brilliance" left, which properly should be described as simply Uncirculated.


A brockage is a Mint error, an early capped die impression where a sharp incused image has been left on the next coin fed into the coining chamber. Most brockages are partial; full brockages are rare and the most desirable form of the error.


An alloy of copper, tin and zinc, with copper the principal metal.


The term applied to a copper coin that no longer has the red color of copper. There are many "shades" of brown color – mahogany, chocolate, etc. (abbreviated as BN when used as part of a grade).


Short for Brilliant Uncirculated.

BU rolls

Wrapped coins (usually in paper) in specific quantities for each denomination. Fifty for cents, forty for nickels, fifty for dimes, forty for quarters, and so on.

buckled die

A die that has "warped" in some way, possibly from excess clashing, and that produces coins which are slightly "bent." This may be more apparent on one side and occasionally apparent only on one side.

Buffalo nickel

Slang for the Indian Head nickel struck from 1913 to 1938. The animal depicted is an American Bison.

bulged die

A die that has clashed so many times that a small indentation is formed in it. Coins struck from this die have a "bulged" area.

bullet toning


Slang for coins, ingots, private issue, and so on that trade below, at, or slightly above their intrinsic metal value. Only the precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, and palladium) are included as bullion. Copper cents could also technically be classed as bullion.

bullion coin

A legal tender coin that trades at a slight premium to it’s melt value.

burn mark


This word has two distinct meanings in the world of numismatics, so you have to consider the context in order to discern the correct meaning. The word "burnished" can refer to specially prepared planchets (usually 18th century) that were used for specimen coins or other special coins of the era. These planchets were burnished at the Mint prior to the striking of the coin. As a second meaning, "burnished" can refer to any coin that was abrasively cleaned after it left the Mint, and the word is often used as a synonym for "whizzed" (the worst kind of cleaning, where the metal is actually moved around).


A process by which the surfaces of a planchet or a coin are made to shine through rubbing or polishing. This term is used in two contexts – one positive, one negative. In a positive sense, Proof planchets are burnished before they are struck – a procedure done originally by rubbing wet sand across the surfaces to impart a mirror like finish. In a negative sense, the surfaces on repaired and altered coins sometimes are burnished by various methods. In some instances, a high-speed drill with some type of wire brush attachment is used to achieve this effect.

burnishing lines

Lines resulting from burnishing, seen mainly on open-collar Proofs and almost never found on close-collar Proofs. These lines are incuse in the fields and go under lettering and devices.


Slang for a coin that has been over-dipped to the point were the surfaces are dull and lackluster.

business strike

A regular issue coin, struck on regular planchets by dies given normal preparation. These are the coins struck for commerce that the Mint places into circulation.


The head and shoulders of the emblematic Liberty seen on many United States issues.

Bust dollar

Slang for silver dollars struck from 1795-1803. (Those dated 1804 were first struck in 1834 for inclusion in Proof sets. Those Proofs dated 1801, 1802, and 1803 were also struck at dates later than indicated.)


Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch Mint.


Term applied to the gold coins struck at the Charlotte, North Carolina branch Mint. This Mint only struck gold coins from its opening in late 1837 until its seizure by the Confederacy. (Those coins struck in late 1837 were dated 1838.)


Short for Cameo.

cabinet friction

Slight disturbance seen on coins (usually on the obverse) that were stored in wooden cabinets used by early collectors to house their specimens. Often a soft cloth was used to wipe away dust, causing light hairlines or friction.


Short for Cameo. Also, PCGS grading suffix used for 1950 and later Proofs that meet cameo standards.


The term applied to coins, usually Proofs and prooflike coins, that have frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the fields. When this is deep the coins are said to be “black and white” cameos. Occasionally frosty coins have “cameo” devices though they obviously do not contrast as dramatically with the fields as the cameo devices of Proofs do. Specifically applied by PCGS to those 1950 and later Proofs that meet cameo standards (CAM).


Slang for the coins and other numismatic items of the Canada.

Canadian silver

Slang for the silver coins of Canada. (Mainly struck in 80% fineness.)

Cap Bust

Alternate form of Capped Bust

Capped Bust

A term describing any of the various incarnations of the head of Miss Liberty represented on early U.S. coins by a bust with a floppy cap. This design is credited to John Reich.

capped die

The term applied to an error in which a coin gets jammed in the coining press and remains for successive strikes, eventually forming a “cap” either on the upper or lower die. These are sometimes spectacular with the “cap” often many times taller than a normal coin.

carbon spot

A spot seen mainly on copper and gold coins, though also occasionally found on U.S. nickel coins (which are 75 percent copper) and silver coins (which are 10 percent copper). Carbon spots are brown to black spots of oxidation that range from minor to severe – some so large and far advanced that the coin is not graded because of environmental damage.

Carson City Mint

Located in Nevada, this mint produced gold and silver coins from 1870-1893. It was closed from 1885-1889 due to a lack of funding. In 1893 the mint was permanently closed due to internal corruption. In 1895 it was found that several employees and prominent community officials were stealing bullion from the mint and this dashed all hopes of the mint ever reopening. Coins minted in Carson City are among the most popular branch-mint issues. This mint uses the “CC” mintmark.


The pleasing effect seen on some coins when they are rotated in a good light source. The luster rotates around like the spokes of a wagon wheel. A term applied mainly to frosty Mint State coins, especially silver dollars, to describe their luster. Also, a slang term for a silver dollar.

cast blanks

Planchets made by a mold method, rather than being cut from strips of metal.

cast counterfeit

A replication of a genuine coin usually created by making molds of the obverse and reverse, then casting base metal in the molds. A seam is usually visible on the edge unless it has been ground away.

Castaing machine

A device invented by French engineer Jean Castaing, which added the edge lettering and devices to early U.S. coins before they were struck. This machine was used until close collar dies were introduced which applied the edge device in the striking process.


A printed listing of coins for sale either by auction or private treaty. As a verb, to write the description of the numismatic items offered.


Mintmark used to signify coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada branch Mint.


Term applied to coins struck at the Carson City, Nevada branch Mint.


Short for Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter


Short for Certified Coin Exchange


Short for Coin Dealer Newsletter


A compilation of the known specimens of a particular numismatic item.


A denomination valued at one-hundredth of a dollar, struck continuously by the U.S. Mint since 1793 except for 1815. (Actually, some cents dated 1816 were struck in December of 1815.)

Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter

The official name for the Bluesheet that lists bid/ask/market prices for third-party certified coins.

Certified Coin Exchange

The bid/ask coin trading and quotation system owned by the American Teleprocessing Company. Certified Assets Exchange, a Collectors Universe company.


An abbreviation for "Choice."

Chain Cent

The popular name for the Flowing Hair Chain cent of 1793, the first coins struck in the newly occupied Mint building.

Chapman Proof

Those 1921 Morgan dollar Proofs supposedly struck for coin dealer Henry Chapman. These have cameo devices and deeply mirrored surfaces like most Morgan dollar Proofs. (George Morgan did bill Henry Chapman for 10 Proof Morgan dollars in 1921. Possibly, more coins from these dies were struck for others as there apparently more known than ten.)

Charlotte Mint

Located in North Carolina, the branch Mint at Charlotte operated from 1838-1861 and was closed due to the Civil War. The Charlotte mint struck only gold coins (mostly from local, native ore), all of which bear the “C” mintmark.


A method used by forgers to create a mint mark on a coin. It involves heating the surfaces and moving the metal to form the mint mark.

Cheerios Dollar

One of 5,500 2000-P Sacagawea Dollars placed along with a 2000-P Lincoln Cent in boxes of Cheerios cereal to promote the new Dollar coin. Some design details on the "Cheerios" Dollars are different from later strikes, causing some experts to propose the "Cheerios" Dollar as a pattern coin.


An adjectival description applied to coin's grade, e.g., choice Uncirculated, choice Very Fine, etc. Used to describe an especially attractive example of a particular grade.

Choice Unc

Short for Choice Uncirculated.

Choice Uncirculated

An Uncirculated coin grading MS-63 or MS-64.


A term applied to a coin that has wear, ranging from slight rubbing to heavy wear.


A term applied to coins that have been spent in commerce and have received wear.

circulation strike

An alternate term for Business Strike or Regular Strike. A coin meant for commerce.


A term used to describe any of the modern “sandwich” coins that have layers of copper and nickel. (A pure copper core surrounded by a copper-nickel alloy.) Also used for the 40-percent silver half dollars.

clad bag

Usually applied to a one-thousand dollar bag of 40-percent silver half dollars although it also could apply to any bag of “sandwich” coins.

clash marks

The images of the dies seen on coins struck from clashed dies. The obverse will have images from the reverse and vice versa.

clashed dies

Dies that have been damaged by striking each other without a planchet between them. Typically, this imparts part of the obverse image to the reverse die and vice versa.

Classic Era

The term describing the period from 1792 until 1964 when silver and gold coins of the United States were issued. (Gold coins, of course, were not minted after 1933.)

Classic Head

A depiction of Miss Liberty that recalls the “classic” look of a Roman or Greek athlete wearing a ribbon around the hair. The motif was first used on the John Reich designed large cent struck from 1808 until 1814. The next year, the half cent was changed to this design. This head was also copied by William Kneass for the quarter eagle and half eagle designs first struck in 1834.


A term applied to a coin whose original surface has been removed. The effects may be slight or severe, depending on the method used.


Slang for a coin struck from a clipped planchet.


A term for an irregularly cut planchet. A clip can be straight or curved, depending upon where it was cut from the strip of metal.

clogged die

A die that has grease or some other contaminant lodged in the recessed areas. Coins struck from such a die have diminished detail, sometimes completely missing.

close collar

The edge device, sometimes called a collar die, that surrounds the lower die. Actually open and close collars are both closed collars - as opposed to segmented collars. The close collar imparts reeding or a smooth, plain edge.

Closed collar

Alternate form of close collar


Metal formed into a disk of standardized weight and stamped with a standard design to enable it to circulate as money authorized by a government body.

coin collection

A systematic grouping of coins assembled for fun or profit.

coin collector

An individual who accumulates coins in a systematic manner

Coin Dealer Newsletter

Weekly periodical, commonly called the Greysheet, listing bid and ask prices for many United States coins.

coin friction

Term applied to the area resulting when coins rub together in rolls or bags and small amounts of metal are displaced.

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