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Common Coin Terms Glossary

Understanding the difference between all of the terms used in numismatics can be confusing for new, first-time numismatists and collectors. From understanding the difference in grading terms to differentiating between parts of the coin itself, knowing what each term means will help you make an educated decision when it comes time to purchase. Review our coin terms glossary below for definitions of many popular coin terms.

Almost Uncirculated – A coin that is nearly uncirculated and may show slight wear. Can also be referred to as About Uncirculated or AU.

Bag Mark – Any sort of nick or dent that occurs during production when a coin hits another coin while being bagged at their governmental mint.

Bar – Rectangular shape made of any precious metal and can vary in size.

Burnished – The act of polishing, buffing, or rubbing the surface of a coin. Burnishing reduces the value of a minted coin.

Circulated – Any coin that has been used previously to purchase good is a circulated coin. Any coin with wear and tear from trading hands is also considered circulated.

Commemorative – One-time, special coins produced to honor a person, place, event, or milestone. They are often not produced for circulation.

Extra Fine – A term used in grading for a coin with wear on its high points. Details are visible and legible. Extremely fine can be used interchangeably.

Fair – A grading term used for a coin that is heavily worn with partially visible dates and details.

Fine – A grading term used for a coin that has some details missing but is still in decent condition.

Genuine – A term used to describe an authentic coin manufactured by its issuing country’s mint.

Intrinsic Value – The value of the precious metal that comprises a coin. Can be called the Bullion Value.

Investment Grade – A grade that signifies the coin would be good for investing.

Mint – The location where a coin is produced. Often controlled by national government, but private minting facilities do exist.

MS – Stands for “Mint State” and is followed by digits that signify the quality of the coin from 1-70.

Numismatic Guarantee Corporation – A 3rd party grading service that grades and certifies coins. Abbreviated as the NGC.

Obsolete – A design that is no longer in production.

Obverse – The front of a coin, usually featuring a portrait. Can also be called the Head.

Professional Coin Grading Service – Like the NGC, this is a 3rd party grading service that grades and certifies coins. Abbreviated as the PCGS.

PR – Abbreviation for “Proof” and is followed by digits that signify the coin’s quality from 1-70.

Proof – A coin made from polished dies or planchets that is struck multiple times to give it a very high level of detail. A proof is never made for circulation.

Rare – Very limited in availability or very uncommon. Not synonymous with highly valuable.

Relief – Any part of a coin’s design that is raised off the coin’s surface.

Reverse – The back side of any coin, commonly referred to as the Tail.

Rounds – Non-legal tender silver pieces that are shaped like coins.

Strike – Stamping a design onto a blank coin.

Troy Ounce – A unit of weight not to be confused with a standard ounce. Heavier than a standard ounce by about 10%.

Uncirculated – A new coin that shows no sign of wear. Often referred to as Mint Condition.

By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you’ll be able to more fully understand the differences between coins when it comes time to collect or expand your investment portfolio. Check back on this glossary as we will add more terms in the future!