Coin Grading Terms: Abbreviations and Acronyms Explained

by Chad Eicher

Coin grading terms

While you were out metal detecting, you discovered an old coin that looks valuable and now you want to find out what it is worth.

As you search through the coin price guides you are faced with the task of coming up with a grade for the coin you found while metal detecting.

The problem is that there are so many terms and aspects of coin grading that it is easy to get confused.

To help out, I have composed a glossary of coin grading terms.

Glossary of Coin Grading Terms

  • AG (About good) – One of the lowest coin grades.
  • AU (About Uncirculated) – A grade of coin that is close to being uncirculated.
  • Abrasion – Small marks or scratches on a coins surface due to contact with another coin or object.
  • Alloy – a mixture of two or more metals.
  • Altered date – A coin date that has been changed or manipulated after the coin was made.
  • American Eagle – U.S. gold and silver coins featuring an American Eagle and Liberty.
  • American Numismatic Association – A nonprofit organizations that promotes coin collecting.
  • Annealing – Heating coin blanks prior to striking the blanks into coins.
  • Bar – Bullion in the form of a rectangle rather than circlular round.
  • Bid – The price at which a dealer is willing to purchase a coin.
  • Blank (or planchlet) – The plain piece of metal prior to being struck into a coin.
  • BU (Brilliant Uncirculated) – An uncirculated coin that displays much of its original luster.
  • Buffing – Polishing a coin to mimic original luster.
  • Bullion – Precious metals formed into objects with specific weights and purities.
  • Bust – The head or upper body portrayed on a coin.
  • Cameo – A coin whose surface has a mirror like as well as frosty appearance.
  • Certified – A coin graded by an authentication service.
  • Circulation – Coins that have been used and exchanged among the public.
  • Clad – Coins that consist of multiple layers of different metals such as recent U.S. quarters which have a layer of copper in the center of the coin.
  • Collar – Prevents a coins metal from spreading outside of the printing press die.
  • Commemorative – Issued to celebrate a person, place, or event.
  • Condition – Degree to which a coin shows wear.
  • Contact Mark – A mark that resulted from one coin coming in contact with another.
  • Corrosion – Chemical alteration to a coins metal.
  • Counterfeit – A fake or reproduced coin made to appear genuine.
  • Cud – Extra metal on a coin resulting from a broken die.
  • Currency – Coins or paper money used as mediums of exchange.
  • Denomination – The monetary values currency. 5 Cents, 10 Cents, 25 Cents…
  • Die – The metal templates used to stamp a design onto a coin blank.
  • DD (Double Die) – A coin that shows duplicate details on the same coin.
  • Double Eagle – Older U.S. Twenty Dollar gold pieces.
  • Eagle – Older U.S. Ten Dollar gold pieces.
  • Edge Lettering – Lettering found on the outside edge of a coin.
  • Error – A coin with a defect that occurred at the press.
  • Face Value – The normal value of a coin used as a medium of exchange.
  • Fair – A very worn coin with a partially visible date.
  • Filler – A lower grade coin in a collection that will later be replaced with a better grade coin.
  • Field – The background surface of a coin.
  • F (Fine) – A coin that still contains some details in the recessed areas of the coin.
  • Gem BU (Gem Brilliant Uncirculated) – A coin that shows mint brilliance. Somewhat speculative.
  • Grade – Classification of coins based on the amount of wear on a coin.
  • Hairlines – Very fine lines or scratches on a coins surface.
  • Head (Obverse) – The front of most coins.
  • Incuse – Portion of a coin’s design that has been pressed into the surface.
  • Inscription – Words pressed onto a coin.
  • Intrinsic Value – The value of a coin based upon its metal composition.
  • Junk Silver – Silver coins that are common and show significant wear from being in circulation.
  • Key Date – A coin that is hard to find due to a small number of the coins being minted or still in existence.
  • Legal Tender – Currency issued by a government for use as money.
  • Legend – A coin’s main lettering.
  • Matte Proof – Proofs with a special grainy look.
  • Mint – Place where coins are manufactured. Can also be used casually to describe coins whose condition is close to the original condition when the coin left the mint.
  • Mint Luster – The shiny appearance of some uncirculated coins.
  • Mint Mark – A letter used to designate which mint the coin was struck at.
  • Mint Set – A set of coins packaged based on year and mint location.
  • Mint State – A coin in uncirculated condition.
  • Mintage – The number of coins produced for a given year.
  • NGC (Numismatic Guarantee Corporation) – A coin grading service.
  • Numismatics – The study and collecting of money.
  • Obsolete – A series or coin design that is no longer in production.
  • Obverse (Head) – The front side of a coin.
  • Off Center – Part of the coin design is missing because the coin blank was not properly centered in the die.
  • Over Strike – When a previously struck coin is accidentally struck again in place of a new coin blank.
  • Planchlet (Coin Blank) – The plain piece of metal before it is struck by the die.
  • PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) – A coin grading service.
  • Proof – A coin produced by dies that have been polished.
  • Proof Set – A group of proof coins packaged by date and mint with an example of each denomination for that year.
  • Raw – A coin that has not been certified.
  • Reeded Edge – A coin that has a series of small lines or indentions along the edge of the coin.
  • Relief – The portion of a coins design that rises from the surface of the coin.
  • Restrike – Coins struck from an original die but at a later date.
  • Reverse – The back of a coin.
  • Reverse Cameo – The background of a coin looks frosty and the main details appear mirrored.
  • Rim – The raised lip on the edge of a coin.
  • Roll – A group same face value coins packaged in a paper or plastic roll as commonly found at banks.
  • Rounds – Silver bullion that is round rather than rectangular.
  • Series – A collection of coins that share the same face value and contain all dates and mint marks for a particular design of coin. Silver Clad – Silver U.S. half dollars that are 40 percent silver instead of 90 percent.
  • Slab – A coin that has been sealed in a plastice case by a coin grading service.
  • Slider – A coin that appears to be uncirculated but upon closer inspection shows hard to find signs of circulation wear.
  • Strike – Stamping a design onto a blank with a metal die.
  • Token – A coin like item that is used as a medium of exchange but that is not official government currency.
  • Type – Coins that share specific characteristics.
  • Type Set – A collection of coins that focus on a specific denomination.
  • Uncirculated – Coins that do not show any wear associated with normal coin usage.
  • Varieties – Variations in the design of a particular style of coin.
  • War Nickel – Jefferson nickels made during World War II.
  • Year Set – A Collection of all coins minted for a particular year.

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