Glossary

A

About Good

Very heavily worn coin with portions of lettering, date and legends worn smooth; date may be barely readable on the coin.

About Uncirculated (AU)

A coin with traces of light wear on many of the high points. Design details are very sharp, with most mint luster still evident.

Acid Test

Testing used to determine the fineness of gold. The process uses nitric acid and aqua regia.

Actual Gold Content

The amount of gold that remains in an object after all other metals have been removed. Abbreviated as AGW.

Actuals

Tangible commodity delivered at the end of a contract as opposed to a futures contract on that same commodity.

Adjustment Marks

Scratches which appear mostly on pre-1807 silver and gold coinage. These scratches were file marks, made at the mint in order to reduce the weight of a coin so that its metal value wouldn’t exceed its face value. As such, adjustment marks do not reduce the value of a coin nearly as much as series of equally visible scratches which were not “mint caused.”

Ag

The chemical symbol for silver

Allocated Metal

These are precious metals that are stored in secure warehouses. The warehouse provider is the custodian, while the precious metals remain the property of the owner.

Alloy

Metal made by combining two or more metals. Any silver or gold of less than .999 purity is an alloy.

Altered Date

The illegal practice of modifying a date or mint mark on a common coin to make it appear to be a rare coin. Also known as Mint Mark.

American Eagle (Gold or Silver)

Bullion products struck by the U.S. Mint. These are one of the most recognizable coins in the world and are the most popular bullion products in the U.S. and abroad. While they enjoy legal tender status, American Eagle coins have a very high intrinsic value. Guaranteed by the U.S. government.

ANA

Abbreviation for the American Numismatic Association. The ANA is the world’s largest organization of coin collectors and dealers. It is a non-profit organization chartered by an Act of Congress in 1912.

Annealing

The softening of planchets by heat followed by slow cooling. Annealing makes the planchets more easily struck.

Apparent Wear

A coin may appear to have more wear than it actually has, due to poorly made dies or the prolonged use of worn dies.

Approved Carriers

Exchange approved armored carriers used to transport precious metals.

Arbitrage

The simultaneous purchase of currency, securities or goods in one market and their sale in another market to take advantage of a price difference.

Argentum

The Latin word for silver.

Ask

The price that a seller is willing to take in order to effect the sale of a coin.

Assay

A test used to determine the fineness and weight of a precious metal item.

Au

The chemical symbol for gold.

AUD

The abbreviation for the Australian dollar.

Aurum

The Latin word for gold.

Australian Dragon

Manufactured by the Perth Mint, Year of the Dragon coins were issued in Australia in 2000 and 2012.

Australian Kangaroo

Australia’s Gold Nugget bullion coins were introduced in 1986 as .9999 fine bullion coins. The design has changed annually since 1989 but all feature various depictions of kangaroos.

Australian Koala

Manufactured by the Perth Mint, the Australian Koala bullion coin has been minted since 1987. The design has changed annually since 1989 in gold, silver and platinum.

Austrian 100 Corona

Late 20th century restrike of a popular 19th century bullion Gold coin. Each coin contains .9802 oz actual Gold weight.

Austrian Philharmonic (Gold, Silver, Platinum)

The Austrian Mint began producing the Philharmonic bullion coin in 1989 and they quickly became one of Europe’s most popular gold bullion coins. Silver Philharmonic coins were first issued in 2008 and platinum followed in 2016.

Avoirdupois (AVDP)

A system of weights based on a pound of 16 ounces or 7,000 grains, widely used in English-speaking countries. One avoirdupois ounce equals 28.35 grams or 437.50 grains. Not used for metals, but more for precious metals or gems.

B

Backwardation

Commonly seen during times of supply shortage or disruption, backwardation is a market condition where the current stock price is higher than the future contract price.

Bactericides

These are chemicals that prevent the formation of bacteria. They are typically used as an additive to coatings and corrosion inhibitors.

Bag

A $1,000 face-value bag of coins.

Bag Marks

The abrasions which coins receive through contact with one another. Most coins were thrown into bags soon after minting and shipped everywhere in the country. The coins banged against one another and usually received a considerable number of abrasions. The presence of abrasions does not mean that a coin has been circulated, as all business strikes have some bag marks. Bag marks are a very important consideration in the grading of coins.

Bank Wire

An electronic transfer of funds through the Federal Reserve System from one financial institution to another.

Bar

Metal molded into a bar shape.

Base Metal

Non-precious metal that serves as a base for gold-filled, gold-plated, silver-plated, or any non-precious metal covered by a precious metal.

Base Price

Silver-metal value of one dollar in coin, based on the face value and weight of the coin.

Basining (of Dies)

The process of polishing the field of the die before its use in the coining process. Most prooflike dollars are the result of this process, which is done infrequently and, as a result, are more valuable.

Basis

The difference (variation) between the spot price of a deliverable and the relative price of the futures with the shortest duration until maturity.

Bear

One who believes prices will move lower.

Bid

The price offered to buy a particular coin.

Blank or Blank Planchet

A piece of metal intended for coinage, but not struck.

Boiler Room

A room where a group of fast-talking salesman phone the unsophisticated in an effort to peddle coins.

Border

Within the raised rim of a coin was formerly a protective ornamentation either of radial lines or beads. See Denticles.

Branch Mint

Subordinate mints in locales other than Philadelphia. Branch mints are presently operating in Denver, San Francisco and West Point. They formerly operated in New Orleans; Carson City, Nevada; and the two “gold mints” at Charlotte, North Carolina; and Dahlonega, Georgia.

Brilliant

Untoned. Without tarnish or oxidation and with original cartwheel (i.e., frosty) or proof like luster. A copper coin is usually referred to as brilliant if it has full original red. A silver, nickel or gold coin is usually described as brilliant if it has no toning or oxidation (although it may have some spots or light toning hues about the periphery), and its original luster is more or less intact.

Brilliant Proof

A particular kind of proof coin which boasts a full mirror surface in the fields. See Proof and Matte Proof.

Brilliant Uncirculated (BU)

Literally, not circulated, with mint luster. A coin which is still in Mint State condition. See Uncirculated, Mint state.

British Sovereign

British Gold sovereigns have been struck since 1489. Sovereigns are typically struck for each new monarch and are made from a variety of metals and weights.

Broker

A brokerage firm that acts as an agent for a customer and charges the customer a commission for its fees.

Buffalo Nickel

U.S. 5 cent coins designed by James Earle Fraser, minted for circulation from 1913-1938. This coin was the basis of the popular Buffalo Silver Round.

Buffalo Round

A replica of the design used on U.S. 5 cent coins minted from 1913-1938.

Bull (Bull Market)

The belief that the market (and prices) will continue to rise. Opposite of a Bear Market.

Bullion

Precious metal in negotiable or tradable shape, such as a wafer, bar, or ingot; or sometimes as coins or jewelry.

Bullion Coin

Coin that has little numismatic value but is purchased for its precious metal content. The Canadian Maple Leaf and the Mexican 50 Pesos are two examples.

Bullion Precious Metals

These include gold, silver, platinum and palladium. Bullion trading is based on the intrinsic metal value. Typically, presented as bars, ingots, coins and rounds.

Burnished

Polishing process that consists of placing blank planchets in a rotating drum with thousands of small metal balls.

Business Strike

Manufacturing used to mint coins for everyday use. See Proof Method for coins manufactured for collectors.

Bust

Usually found on the obverse side of a coin (front) this is the head, neck and shoulders of a person.

Buy/Sell Spreads

This is the difference between the buy and sell price of a commodity on the same day, at the same price and by the same buyer.

C

CAD

The abbreviation for the Canadian Dollar

Call

The right to buy a commodity at a future time and at a specified price. The buyer is not obligated to complete the purchase.

Cameo

A proof, or proof-like coin with exceptional contrast between the fields and the devices. On a cameo coin, the fields are mirror-like, while the devices give a frosty appearance.

Canadian Maple Leaf (Gold or Silver)

These are bullion coins struck by the Royal Canadian Mint. Since its release in 1979, the 1 oz. Gold Maple Leaf has undergone a few changes by the Royal Canadian Mint, to help confirm the authenticity of the gold coins while preserving the iconic design. The most recent of these was the replacement of the shiny, smooth background with a radial-line finish that diffracts light. The 1 oz. Gold Maple Leaf remains one of the most popular bullion coins because of its beauty, purity and iconic design. Created by Walter Ott, the reverse features a stylized maple leaf, the Canadian national symbol, along with the coin’s weight and purity. The front depicts a side profile of Queen Elizabeth II along with the year of issue.

Capital Gain/Loss

The profit or loss realized from the sale of a coin or other capital asset.

Capsule

A two-piece plastic container that encapsulates and snaps together to protect coins while in storage.

Carat

This is a measurement of weight used primarily for gems. A carat is equal to about 3.086 grains or 0.2 grams. The word “karat” however, refers to the fineness of gold.

Carbon Spot

A dark discoloration on the surface of a coin. It is possible that this discoloration is caused by a planchet imperfection prior to striking, or in another case, it is considered to be caused by improper storage of the coins. Regardless of the cause, carbon spots are difficult, if not impossible, to remove without leaving pits in the coin’s surface. If they are large enough, carbon spots can significantly lower the grade and value of a coin. Reference is usually made to copper coins.

Carrying Charge

The costs of storing a physical commodity.

Cash

Usually refers to paper currency in the United States, but may also refer to any other locally defined paper currency.

Cash Commodity

The physical commodity that supports a futures contract.

Cash Market

When payment and delivery have to be made within two business days of the transaction date.

Cashier’s Check

Check drawn by a bank with its own funds and signed by its representative.

Cartwheel

Slang for the silver dollar.

Cent

U.S. copper coin (1793-present). One-hundredth of a dollar. First coin struck under the authority of the U.S. government. See Indian Head cent, Large cent, Lincoln cent.

Centenario:

See Mexican Peso.

Central Bank

Organization responsible for setting the nation’s fiscal policy and managing interest rates and money supply.

Central Device

Design found on the obverse and reverse sides of a coin.

Cert

Abbreviation for certified, meaning rated by a third-party grading service.

Certified Coins

These are coins that are submitted for slabbing and grading to an independent grading service such as NGC and PCGS. These services verify quality, authenticity and preservation state.

Chameleon

This is a dealer who changes his position on an investment to encourage an investor to enter into a transaction.

Chinese Lunar Calendar

Produced annually, mints create coins inspired by the ancient Chinese Lunar calendar. These start with the Rat and are followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. This means each animal returns to the cycle once every 12 years.

Chinese Panda (Gold or Silver)

China began striking gold bullion coins in 1982 and Silver Pandas in 1983. The Pandas are popular for featuring a different panda portrait almost every year and because of their typically low mintage. Each of these coins is individually sealed at the China Mint.

Chop Mark

Chop marks are Chinese characters that are stamped on coins to verify the weight, authenticity and metal content of coins.

Choice About Uncirculated

The barest evidence of light wear on only the highest points of the design; most mint luster still remains.

Choice Extremely Fine

Light overall wear shows on highest points of coin. Design details are very sharp and some mint luster is evident.

Choice Uncirculated

An above average uncirculated coin which may be brilliant or lightly toned and has very few contact marks on the surface or rim.

Choice Very Fine

Light, even wear on the coin surface and highest parts of the design; lettering and major features are sharp.

Circulated

A coin passed from hand to hand in commerce and, therefore, showing signs of wear. A used coin. There are various degrees of wear. See specific grading definitions.

Clad

U.S. coinage issued since 1965. Made of cupronickel.

Clad Marks

Impressions on a die, from another die, caused when the two dies impact without a planchet between them.

Clash Dies

Extraneous design detail that often appears on a die as a result of two dies coming together without a planchet between them during the minting process. Coins struck from such dies are said to be struck from clashed dies, or to have die clashes or clash marks. See Die, Die scratches.

Cleaned

When a coin has been cleaned with baking soda or other mild abrasives, it may take on a slightly washed out look, or have patches of hairline scratches

Close

The end of a trading session.

COA

Abbreviation for Certificate of Authenticity.

Coin

A piece of metal intended for use as legal tender and stamped with marks or inscriptions which show that it was issued by an authority that guarantees its weight and purity. Most often a government entity.

Coin Gold

The alloy used to make gold coins. This alloy may differ from country to country or in different coins minted in the same country.

Coin Grading

The process of evaluating the quality and condition of a coin using defined parameters within acceptable standards.

Coin of The Realm

Legal tender coins issued by a government and are intended for general circulation.

Coinage

Stamped metal of a known weight and fineness, issued specifically for commerce.

Coin Silver

The alloy used to make silver coins. When used as a designation on silver items in the United States, it must be .900 fine, with the deviations allowed by the U.S. Stamping Act.

Coin World

The largest weekly coin publication and by far the most influential coin newspaper or magazine. Published by Amos Press, PO Box 150, Sidney Ohio, 45365

Collector coins

These are coins produced that are not issued for general circulation. Typically issued at a slight premium specifically for collectors.

Colonials

Coins made for circulation in or by the various colonies before the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

Comex

A major commodities futures exchange where gold and silver are traded. Comex is a division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Commemoratives (U.S.)

Coins that are issued by the U.S. government to celebrate important events in our history. Commemoratives are very popular with collectors. These are legal tender coins or medallions and are usually minted in gold or silver.

Commission

The fee charged by a broker for the execution of an order.

Commodity

A valuable or useful item bought and sold and used to generate funds.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission creates and implements policies that protect market users from fraud and other abuses and works to provide protections for customer funds.

Commodity Pool

Most commonly a limited partnership venture where investors contribute to a pool of funds for the purpose of buying commodities.

Common Date

Coins with dates that are easy to acquire, usually because they have high mintages.

Comptroller of the Currency

The official of the U.S. Department of the Treasury who regulates national banks and administers the issuance and redemption of Federal Reserve Notes (U.S. dollars).

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Condition

The diagnostic features that describe a coin’s state of preservation.

Contango Market

The opposite of backwardation. A futures market when prices are higher in the succeeding delivery months than they are at the nearest delivery month.

Conservation Grade

A grade which give the “benefit of the doubt” to the purchaser, rather than the seller.

Copy

A forgery. See Reproduction

Coronet

A small crown or tiara. Often worn by Liberty in some early American coins.

Correction

A correction represents a change in the price of something after it has had sustained movement in the opposite direction.

Corrosion

Damage which occurs on the surface of some coins, generally due to improper storage. Corrosion is caused when a chemical reaction, such as rust, actually eats into the metal.

Counterfeit

A forgery intended to deceive.

Cover

To offset a short futures or options position.

Cu

The symbol for copper

Currency

Monetary units that are in common use. Often refers to paper money, particularly in the U.S.

Current Delivery Month

The period during which a futures contract becomes available during the current month or the month closest to scheduled delivery.

D

DCAM

A PCGS grade that indicates a coin has a Deep Cameo appearance.

Date

The year that appears on a coin, which is usually and legally the year of manufacture, although there are some exceptions to this rule.

Debase

Reduce the intrinsic value (bullion content) of a coin, while leaving the face value untouched.

Defective Die

Coins which show raised metal from a large die crack or a small rim break.

Deliverable Bar

These are bars that have been approved with regard to weigh, fineness and hallmark, as a tradable unity on a commodities exchange. In order to retain its status as deliverable, the bar may only be handled by London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) companies or agents.

Delivery

The exchange by which an underlying commodity, cash or other delivery instrument is tendered and received by the contract holder.

Denomination

The currency amount assigned to coins or paper money.

Denticles

The toothlike projections which make up the inner rim on some coins. They were discontinued on most U.S. coins in the early 20th century.

Depository

A location where items are deposited for safekeeping.

Depository or Warehouse Receipt

A receipt or other document that is provided by a depository facility that indicates ownership of a commodity stored in a safe or warehouse.

Derivative

The derivative itself is a contract between two or more parties based upon the asset or assets. Its value is determined by fluctuations in the underlying asset. The most common underlying assets include stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, interest rates and market indexes.

Designer

Creator of the design featured on a coin or banknote.

Devices

The principal design elements of a coin, such as the head of “Liberty” on the obverse of a silver dollar and the eagle on the reverse, for example.

Die

A coin die is one of the two metallic pieces that are used to strike a coin, one per each side of the coin. A die contains an inverse version of the image to be struck on the coin.

Die Cracks

Raised lines which appear on a coin as a result of that coin having been struck by a cracked die.

Die Rust

Pitting or roughness appearing on a coin as result of that coin having been struck by a rusted die.

Die Scratches

Raised lines which appear on a coin as a result of scratches on the die used to strike that coin. Die scratches (and similarly, die cracks and die clashes) do not diminish the value of a coin nearly as much as scratches acquired after the coin is struck. In many cases, they do not affect the value of the coin at all.

Die Variety

A coin which has different characteristics from all other pieces struck from different dies of the same year. Usually refers to those die varieties which exhibit unusual characteristics which set them apart from their counterparts

Die Wear

The loss of detail on a coin, due to wear on the die used to strike it (rather than wear on the coin itself).

Dime (or Disme)

U.S. silver coin (1796-1964). One-tenth of a dollar. Disme was the term used in 1792. Dimes are now struck in cupronickel.

Dipped

A coin which has been immersed in a mildly acidic or alkaline solution is said to have been dipped. The term dipped is not considered necessary in a catalog description of a coin, unless the dipping has caused noticeable dulling of luster, or an otherwise unnatural appearance (usually on copper coins).

Divisibility

Able to be divided into equal parts.

Dore Bullion

An impure alloy of silver or gold, so named for the Dore furnace which is used at mining facilities that produce it.

Double Eagle

U.S. gold coin (1849-1933) with a face value of $20. One of the most highly recognized coins in the world.

Dollar (U.S.)

U.S. coin issued in silver (first dated 1794), gold (first dated 1849), and cupronickel (first dated 1971). Equal to 100 cents.

Dragon

The Chinese Mint produces these Lunar coins issued depicting a dragon. They represent the Chinese lunar Year of the Dragon.

Ductility (in Plasticity)

An ability to change shape drastically without breaking is called plasticity.

E

Eagle

U.S. gold coin (1795-1933) with a face value of $10. The basic standard from which all other early U.S. gold coins derive their value, either in fractions or in multiples of an Eagle. 2. Modern U.S. gold and silver bullion and numismatic coins.

Early Release

Coins that are received by a third-party grading service, such as NGC or PCGS, within the first 30 days of the original release date.

Early Strike

Coins that are received by a third-party grading service, such as NGC or PCGS, within the first 30 days of the original release date.

Edge

This is the side of the coin, not the obverse or reverse. The edge is often reeded, plain or lettered.

Extra Fine (EF)

Grading that finds that design elements remain sharp and well-defined.

Extremely Fine (EF)

Slightly circulated coin; very fine hairlines partly obliterated.

EFP (Exchange for Physical)

Off-market trading that allows customers to swap futures and options exposure for an offsetting physical position.

Encapsulated

Indicates that item has been put in a protective plastic holder to safeguard the quality and condition of the item.

ETF (Exchange Traded Fund)

A marketable “paper” security that tracks an index, a commodity, bonds or a basket of assets like an index fund.

Exchange of Futures for Physicals (EFP)

When both parties involved in a futures contract agree to close their positions simultaneously.

Executive Order 6102

Franklin D. Roosevelt issue this order to prevent the hoarding of gold coins and gold bullion. It effectively made holding more than $100 in gold coins. There were exceptions made for artists and jewelers, in addition to holdings of rare gold coins.

Extrusion

A design process that allowed for the creation of objects of a fixed cross-sectional profile. During this process, metal is pushed through a die of the preferred shape.

Eye Appeal

The aesthetic effect that a coin has on its viewer.

F

Fabricator

A company which makes semi-fabricated products from refined metals and occasionally from scrap.

Face Value

The value of a coin, paper money or other currency as imprinted, stamped or marked on that unit.

Federal Reserve Note

A note issued by a Federal Reserve Bank; a U.S. dollar.

Ferrous

Containing iron.

Fiat Money

Paper money which is recognized as legal tender but is not backed by gold or silver.

Field

The flat, undetailed part of the surface of a coin surrounding and between the portrait, symbol, legend, and other raised portions of the design, including the date. Visually important to most numismatists as an aid to determining grade.

Fine (F)

Coins which are slightly worn on the edges but sharp in all details.

Fine Gold

Pure gold without any alloy metal.

Fine Ounce

An ounce of pure, actually .999 pure, precious metal.

Fine Silver

The purity level or fineness of a silver coin or silver bullion.

Fine Weight

The actual weight of the pure gold or silver in a coin, ingot, bar, or other item with a precious metal content, as opposed or the item’s total weight, which includes the weight of the alloying metal(s).

Fineness

The designation of purity of a precious metal in relation to 1,000 parts. For example, .900 fine gold has 900 parts of pure (fine) gold and 100 parts of an alloying metal or metals, which means it is 90% pure gold.

First Strike

Early impression from working dies, retaining their initial polishing. See Prooflike.

Flip

A clear, flexible plastic holder used to display and store coins.

Fool’s Gold

Iron pyrite. Sometimes mistaken for pure gold. Iron pyrite is hard and brittle. Real gold is much softer and malleable.

Forward Transaction

An agreement to sell a currency, commodity or other asset at a specified future date and at a predetermined price. This may be the current price or exchange rate, or an agreed forward price/rate, which would be at a discount or premium to the spot rate.

Fractional/Fractional Denomination:

A fractional amount of the original unit. For example, a 1 oz. American Gold Eagle can be purchased in ½ oz., ¼ oz. and other fractional weights.

Free Coinage

Law or policy which provides that all who deposit bullion at the mint are entitled to receive, in exchange, coins of equal weight, less minor charges.

French Franc

Prior to migrating to the Euro, the French Franc was the official currency of France. One of the most common coins was the French 20-franc Gold Rooster coins, struck from 1899 to 1916. Each of these coins is 91.7 percent pure (22 karat) and contains .1867 troy oz. actual Gold weight.

Friction

A disturbance which appears either on the high points of a coin or in the fields, as a result of that coin rubbing against other objects. A coin is said to have friction when only the luster is disturbed and little, if any, actual wear of the metal is visible to the naked eye.

Frosty

An adjective used to describe a coin which possesses intense luster that is not mirrorlike. Devices of cameo-proof coins are considered frosty.

Fungible

A good or asset’s interchangeability with other individual goods or assets of the same type. For example, oil, wheat and lumber are fungible commodities

Futures Contract

An agreement to either take or make delivery of a commodity at a date set in the future.

G

Gem

An adjective which is typically used by numismatists for any coin which they grade MS65 or Proof 65.

Globex market

An electronic trading platform used for derivative, futures and commodity contracts.

Gold

The native metal, commonly alloyed with silver and, to a lesser extent, with copper, in natural occurrences.

Gold Buffalo

Gold coins issued beginning in 2006. .9999 fine. The obverse and reverse designs are a duplicate of James Earle Fraser’s 1913 design which was used on U.S. five cent coins.

Gold Bullion

Gold coins which closely follow spot prices and have little or no numismatic value. These are most often shaped as bars, ingots and coins.

Gold Color

Various alloys that are used with gold create different colors of the metal, including yellow, red and green. Most common alloys are silver, copper, nickel and zinc.

Gold Dust

Fine particles of gold.

Gold Electroplate

A thin coating of karat gold is applied to a base metal by electrical current; it must be at least seven millionths of an inch thick.

Gold Eagle

See American Eagle

Gold Electroplate

A thin coating of karat gold is applied to a base metal by electrical current; it must be at least seven millionths of an inch thick.

Gold-Filled (GF)

A product that has a layer of at least 10-karat gold, mechanically bonded by heat and pressure to a base metal.

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Gold Flashed

Also, gold washed. A thin film of gold applied to a base metal, as in electroplating, but with less than seven millionths of an inch thickness of karat gold.

Gold Nugget

A water worn piece of native gold, usually implying some size, not in minute particles.

Gold Plate

See Gold Overlay

Gold-Silver Ratio:

The ratio of gold vs. silver in metals composition. This is a ratio often used in reference to gold vs. silver spot prices. For instance, the number of ounces of silver needed in order to buy one ounce of gold at the current spot price.

Gold Standard

The term to designate the monetary standard of a country when all the paper money it issues is based by a gold reserve. The United States abandoned the gold standard in 1934.

Good

Coins which are quite worn but have a discernible date. Design, legends and date are clear, but not sharp.

Good Delivery

The requirement that a precious metals bar must meet in order be accepted for delivery at a particular exchange.

Good Delivery Bar

A bar of silver or gold that is approved for delivery against an existing metals contract.

Grade

The condition or state of preservation of a coin. One of the main determining factors of value.

Grading Service

An independent company that grades numismatic or bullion coins. Coins are generally slabbed in a protective plastic container and graded for condition, purity and authenticity. NGC and PCGS are two well-known grading services.

Grain

A very early unit of measurement, a grain is equal to 0.0648 grams troy. There are 480 grains in a troy oz.

Gram

A unit of weight measurement equivalent to .0322 Troy ounces.

Grey Sheet

The Coin Dealer Newsletter

H

Half

Half of a full unit. For instance, a half-dollar.

Half Eagle

Half Eagles were $5 face value U.S. gold coins, issued from 1795-1929. Each contains .24187 oz. actual gold weight.

Hallmark

A stamp on the surface of a precious metals bar (gold, silver, platinum, etc.) that indicates the brand, serial number, weight and/or purity of metal content.

Hedge

A purchase of sale of a futures contract option which is designed to lessen the harm of adverse movement in the value of the asset.

Hoard

A significant accumulation of items over a number of years.

I

Impaired Proof

A proof which has numerous hairlines or has been mishandled or abused.

Incused

Sunk below neighboring surfaces (intaglio). Gold Indian Quarter Eagles and Half Eagles (1908-1929) are the only U.S. coins that feature an incuse design.

Indian Head Cent

U.S. copper coin (1859-1909). Common name for the Longacre design of cent.

Ingot

A bar of metal used for the production of coins.

Inflation

An increase in both money supply and available credit.

Intrinsic Value

The actual value of the precious metal(s) in an item

Inverted Market

See Backwardation

Investor

A person who commits capital in order to gain financial returns

IRA Eligible

Items that are approved for addition to a precious metals portfolio, for use during retirement.

Iridescent

A desirable form of toning on a silver or nickel coin. Iridescent toning covers virtually all of the coin’s surface, while still permitting the coin’s natural luster to shine through with its full intensity. Some numismatists feel that in order for toning to be called iridescent, it must have all the colors of the rainbow, or at the very least, most of them.

J

Junk Silver:

U.S. silver coins with no numismatic (collectible) value. The value lies in the metal itself.

Junk Sterling:

Sterling that holds no value other than its 92.5% silver content, because of damage or poor craftsmanship.

 

K

Karat

Measurement of purity used in showing the fineness of gold. One karat is 1/24 pure gold; 24-karat gold is pure, .999 fine.

Kennedy Half Dollar

U.S. coins issued beginning in 1964 having a face value of 50 cents.

Key Date

The opposite of common date. Coins with low mintages or with mintages having few survivors. See Rare, Scarce.

Kilo Bar

A precious metal bar weighing one kilogram (32.1507 troy oz.)

Kilogram

1,000 grams (32.1507 troy oz.)

Koala

Australian bullion coin backed by the Australian government. These coins have been minted since 1987. Coins are minted in gold, silver and platinum, with the designs changing annually.

Krugerrand

See South African Krugerrand.

Kt (Karat)

Measurement of purity used in showing the fineness of gold Purity is scaled from 1 to 24. 24 karat is pure gold.

L

Lamination

A form of planchet flaw caused by imperfections in the metal, whereby a thin strip of the metal separates itself from the coin.

Large Cent

U.S. copper coin (1793-1857).

Layered Metal

A metal item in which gold or silver is used as a finishing surface on a base metal, such as gold or silver plate.

Legal Tender

Coin or currency identified by a government to be acceptable in the discharge of debts.

Legend

The main inscription on a coin.

Lettered edge

Edge of a coin which has an inscription around the edge.

Licensed Warehouse

An approved facility for the storage of silver or gold held as a deliverable against gold or silver futures contracts.

Licensed Weighmaster

An organization approved to witness and verify the weighing of silver or gold delivered against a silver or gold futures contract.

Limit (Up or Down)

The pausing of trading of stocks and other traded products in order to correct imbalance or unusual suspicious activity.

Lincoln Cent

U.S. copper coin (1909-present). One hundredth of a dollar; one cent.

Lint Mark

A characteristic which occurs mostly on proof coins as a result of a piece of lint on the die or planchet during the striking process. This lint creates an incused, scratch-like mark on the coin. Lint marks are wider, deeper, and more visible than hairlines. They are also identifiable by their interesting thread-like shapes. Since a lint mark is mint-caused, it has a much smaller effect on the value of a coin than a hairline of equal size or prominence.

Liquidity

Items available to be readily converted to cash

Liquid Market

A market where selling and buying can be accomplished with ease, due to the presence of a large number of interested persons willing and able to trade substantial quantities at small price differences.

Locked-In Price

The amount assessed to an item to be bought or sold at its most up-to-date value. Generally, the buyer and seller must agree to adhere to this pricing, regardless of fluctuation.

London Fix Price

The bullion pricing standard set each day in London by the members of the London Bullion Market Association. There is a morning and afternoon price fix and the London Fix is internationally recognized for this benchmark price.

Low Relief

The designing of a die so as to create a shallow, relatively flat field upon the surface of a coin in order to improve die life. Most of the aesthetic deficiencies of the 1908 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle are due to the change from a high-relief design (1907) to a low-relief design (1907-1933). See High Relief.

Luster

The brightness or brilliance of the coin’s metal. The luster of a coin can vary considerably due to factors such as wear, polishing of dies or planchets; or exposure to chemicals, humidity or temperature extremes

M

Master Die

The die which is used to produce several hubs, which in turn are used to make many working dies. The master die is never used to strike coins. See Hub.

Malleable (in Plasticity)

An ability to change shape drastically without breaking

Maple Leaf:

See Canadian Maple Leaf (Gold or Silver).

Market Value

The price at which a coin or bullion item trades.

Markup

The premium assigned to an item in order to make a profit.

Matte Proof

A certain type of proof coin minted in the United States, mostly from 1908 to 1916. Matte proofs have a dull, granular finish without any mirrorlike qualities.

Medallion

A metal round that looks like a coin but has no denomination and isn’t recognized as legal tender. Can be issued by both private and government mints.

Melt (Price)

Value determined by the current price without any fees added.

Melt Value

Value determined by the current price without any fees added.

Mercanti, John M

The 12th Chief Engraver of the United States Mint.

Metric Ton

1,000 kilograms or 32,151 troy oz.

Mexican 50 Peso

Often referred to as a “Centario”, these large gold coins are a tribute to Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821.

Milling Mark

Also reeding mark. A series of two or more small nicks on a coin which result from contact with the reeded edge of another coin, usually in the mint bag. Milling marks are generally more detrimental to the grade than normal bag marks, because of their severity of depth and greater visual impact.

Minor Coin

Small-denomination coins which have little bullion value.

Mint (adj.)

Undamaged.

Mint (n.)

The facility where a coin or bar was manufactured.

Mint (v.)

To produce a coin by stamping metal.

Minting

Act of manufacturing coins in a mint.

Mintage

Total number of items issued with the exact same design elements.

Mintmark

Letters added to a coin to indicate where it was minted. For instance, “D” for Denver Mint.

Mint luster

The sheen or reflective qualities that are produced during the minting process.

Mint Set

A coin of each denomination produced by a given mint in a particular year.

Mint State

A coin that is in the same condition that it was when it left the mint where it was produced.

Mishandled Proof

A proof coin which somehow escaped into circulation or was otherwise significantly abused. Also referred to as an impaired proof.

Modern issue

Coins issued within the last 20-25 years.

Money

Anything that is accepted as a medium of exchange.

Money Order

Payment usually issued by a bank or post office, for the payment of a specified amount of money.

Monster Box

Mint-issued boxes usually holding a large number of coins.

MS

Mint State.

Mylar

A polyester resin used to make heat-resistant plastic films and sheets

N

National Futures Association (NFA)

Futures industry trade association which defines rules of conduct and mediates disputes between customers and brokers.

New York close

Trading times and conditions on the New York Stock Exchange during a normal business day.

NGC

The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, one of two major coin grading services in the United States.

Nickel

U.S. nickel coin (1866-present). One-twentieth of a dollar; five cents.

Noble

Modern Platinum bullion coins that have been Issued by the Isle of Man since 1983, these are modern platinum bullion coins.

Nominal Face Value

Nominal value given to legal tender coins sold for their metal content. For example, the 1 oz. Gold Eagle has a face value of $50. It sells for its nominal value: gold content plus a premium of 5-8%.

Non-Fungible

The opposite of fungible. Item not easily or freely exchangeable or another item of like kind.

Nugget

See Australian Kangaroo.

Numismatics

The study of coins, paper money and metallic art.

Numismatist

Coin expert.

Numismatic Coins

Coins whose prices are based on rarity, condition, dates and mints marks, rather than on their gold and silver content.

NYMEX

The New York Mercantile Exchange.

O

Obverse

The front or face of a coin.

Offer

A movement to sell a commodity at a specified price. This is the priced which dealers offer to sell.

OGP

Original government packaging, as issued from the mint.

Option

The right to buy or sell a commodity on a specified date in the future at a specific price.

Original Bag

Descriptive of a sack of Uncirculated coins, all of the same date, which were assembled at the time of manufacture at a mint. There are 1,000 silver dollars to a bag.

Ounce (oz.):

A unit of weight. In the precious metals industry, an ounce means a troy ounce equal to 31.1035 grams.

Over Date

A coin whose date has been punched first with one date and then with another, with the bottom date showing under the top one.

Overgrade

To assign the wrong grade to a coin, either by error, lack of knowledge, maliciousness, or with criminal intent.

Over Spot

A handling fee charged in excess of the actual metal value.

Overstrike

A struck coin which is passed through the dies and has been struck again.

P

Palladium

A rare metallic element of the platinum group. Primarily used in industry and jewelry.

Paper Profits

Unrealized profits.

PAMP

Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux, a refiner of Precious Metals, located in Switzerland.

Panda

See Chinese Panda (Gold or Silver).

Paper Precious Metals

Precious metal investments that are not associated with investors holding physical gold, silver or other precious metals.

Pattern

Proposed coin design which may or may not have been adopted.

PCGS

Professional Coin Grading Service, one of the two major coin grading services in the United States.

Pd

The chemical symbol for palladium.

Pennyweight

An American unit of gold weight. One pennyweight equals 24 grains or 1/20 of a troy oz.

Personal Check

A check drawn against funds deposited in a personal checking account.

Perth Mint

The primary mint located in Australia.

PF

Abbreviation for Proof, used as part of professional grading systems.

Philharmonic

See Austrian Philharmonic

Physicals Market

A marketplace in which the physical product is traded, as opposed to a futures market where contracts are traded and may or may not include the actually delivery of a tangible product.

Piedfort or Piefort

A coin struck with ordinary dies on an unusually thick (often double thick) planchet; it is identical in all other respects to the coins of the realm that is resembles. Not intended for circulation or commercial use. Collectors the world over have long prized the piedfort as a mix between a pattern and a circulation issue, unique because of its thick status and, in the case of precious metals coins, more valued metal content.

PL

Prooflike. Circulation-quality coins that feature qualities normally associated with collector coins.

Planchet

The blank disk of metal upon which the dies are struck to produce a coin. See Blank.

Plating

The deposition of a layer of metal on an object, forming the cathode, during electrolysis.

Plasticity

An ability to change shape drastically without breaking.

Platinum:

A precious silver-white metallic element.

Platinum American Eagle

Modern platinum bullion coins minted by the U.S. Mint. They are made of .9995 Platinum and were struck in 1 oz., 1/2 oz., 1/4 oz. and 1/10 oz. sizes.

Platinum Metals

Platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, osmium, and iridium.

Pool Accounts

A venture in which investors contribute funds for the purpose of buying commodities.

Population Report

Total number of coins that have been given a specific grade.

Poured (Adj.)

Placing molten metal in a mold to obtain a particular size or design

PR

Abbreviation for Proof, used as part of the grading system by PCGS.

Precious Metals IRA

An individual retirement account (IRA) that allows you to invest in your choice of IRA approved products.

Premium

Price of a coin over its bullion value.

Presentation Pieces

Coins minted with unusual care from new dies on carefully selected blanks, intended as gifts for “VIPs” on visits to the mint.

Proof

A coin made from carefully selected coin blanks that have been highly polished. The coins are hand-fed into a slow-moving press. This assures a well-struck coin, more even impression, and makes the design more distinct. Each coin is struck twice or more. The finished coins have an almost mirror surface. See Matte proof.

Proof Branch Mint

A proof coin which has been struck at a mint other than the Philadelphia. For example, branch mint proofs are known to exist of the following date Morgan dollars: 1879-O, 1883-O, 1893-CC. etc.

Proof Set

A set of all coins issued during a specific year. These coins are struck multiple times to bring out the features of the designs. They are also specially handled to keep imperfections at a minimum.

Prooflike

A coin which has been struck from a new die, or a newly polished die, which leaves a mirrorlike reflective surface upon the field, and occasionally the devices, of a coin. Prooflike coins are business strikes and therefore usually have abrasions. See First strike.

Prooflike Cameo

A prooflike coin in which the reflective mirror finish is confined to the fields of the coin. The devices will have a frosty finish.

Proof Set

A set of one proof coin of each denomination issued by a mint in a particular year.

Pt

The chemical symbol for platinum.

Pure Gold

Gold of .999 fineness, with no alloying metal.

Pure Silver

Silver of .999 fineness, with no alloying metal.

Purity

The purity relationship between metals. The higher the purity, the better quality of the metal.

Put

An option that gives the owner the right to sell a commodity or a financial security on a specified date in the future, at a specified price. and intangible factors.

Q

Quarter Dollar

Also quarter. U.S. silver coin (1796-1964). Twenty-five-hundredths of a dollar; 25 cents. Quarters are now made of cupronickel.

Quarter Eagle

U.S. gold coin (1796-1929) with a face value of $2.50.

R

Rally

A rise in prices following a decline in a market.

Rare

A coin which only a small number exist. See Scarce.

Rarity Scale

Estimate of the surviving population of a coin.

Unique: One known
R-8: Estimated two or three known (Excessively Rare)
R-7: (High) Estimated four to six know (Extremely Rare)
R-7: (Low) Estimated six to 12 known (Very Rare)
R-6: Estimated 13 to 30 known (Rare)
R-5: Estimated 31 to 75 known
R-4: Estimated 76 to 200 known
R-3: Estimated 201 to 500 known
R-2: Estimated 501 to 1,250 known
R-1: Estimated over 1,250 known

Raw

A coin that has not been graded, certified, and placed in a tamper-proof capsule by a grading service.

Red Book

A Guide Book of United States Coins.

Refinery

An industrial facility where a substance is refined

Relief

Any part of coin’s design which is raised. See High Relief, Low Relief.

Repair

An area of a coin which has been worked on to fix a defect. Repairs must be mentioned in the description of the coin. See Altered Date, Mint Mark.

Reproduction

A copy so marked as required by law, with an “R” or a “C.” See Copy.

Restrikes

New coins made from old dies. They usually have the same specification as the original coins. Restrikes are considered bullion coins because such a large number are made that they have no numismatic value.

Reverse

The back of a coin. The side usually opposite from the portrait or date.

Riffle

A groove in the bottom of an inclined trough or sluice, for arresting gold contained in sands or gravels.

Rim Nick

An abrasion or cut into the rim or edge of a coin, usually occurring through contact with another coin or coins (as in a bag of coins).

Roll (of coins)

Original coins, assembled at the time of manufacture, usually by a bank and then placed into a paper tube. There are, for example, 20 dollars in a roll.

Rolled Gold Plate (RGP)

A solid layer of gold (typically constituting at least 5% of the item’s total weight) mechanically bonded to a base of either sterling silver or some base metal.

Round

Round pieces of metal that are usually about the size of a U.S. Silver Dollar. Rounds have no face value and can be minted privately or by government mints.

Royal Canadian Mint

The official mint of Canada, responsible for the production and distribution of Canada’s coinage.

S

Saint-Gaudens

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, an American sculptor known for his creation of $20 Saint-Gaudens Gold Double Eagle, produced 1907-1933.

Scarce

A coin of which only a small number exist. See Rare.

Secondary Market

Items purchased from the general public.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

A U.S. government agency that oversees securities transactions, activities of financial professionals and mutual fund trading to prevent fraud and intentional deception.

Set

A collection of two or more coins with one or more common characteristics.

Sheldon Scale

A system of grading, originally introduced by the late Dr. William H. Sheldon, for the purpose of grading larger cents. The system was adapted to all coins in the early 1970s. The Sheldon Scale, as used today, incorporates numerical grades 1 through 70 to correspond with various descriptive grades.

Short Sale

The sale of an asset for future delivery without having asset of the item.

Silver

A transition metal, silver is extensively used in coins, jewelry, tableware and photography. It is a chemically active metal and naturally changes color or tones when exposed to air and certain elements.

Silver American Eagle

See American Eagle

Silver Certificate

Paper currency that was issued as legal tender until the 1960s by the U.S. government to represent deposited silver bullion.

Silver rounds

Privately minted round pieces of metal that are struck in Silver, usually about the size of a U.S. Silver Dollar. Silver rounds carry no face value and are not considered legal tender.

Silvering

A small silver coin.

Slab

A tamper-resistant, acrylic plastic container used by major independent grading services into which certified coins are inserted.

Slabbed Coins

Coins encased in plastic for protection against wear. Slabbed coins are usually graded by one of the two major independent grading services, PCGS or NGC.

Sleeper

A coin which is undervalued or underpriced.

Slider

A coin which a less scrupulous individual might sell at a higher grade than it really merits. The term usually refers to a nearly Mint State coin which is, or could be offered as, a full Mint State coin.

Solid Gold

One of the most misleading designations that the U.S. government allows manufactures of precious-metals products to use. Means simply that the gold product is not “hollow.” The gold item could have as little as nine karats and still be stamped “solid gold.”

South African Krugerrand

South African Gold Krugerrand coins are the world’s first coins struck solely as bullion items. Introduced in 1967 and Krugerrands dominated the bullion market through the early 1980s. They are struck in 22 karat gold.

Sovereign

See British Sovereign.

Spot

Describes a one-time open market cash transaction price of a commodity, where it is purchased “on the spot” at current market rates.

Split Grade

A coin whose obverse grade is different from its reverse grade. Example MS63/65 or Proof 63/60.

Spot

Used in commodities and foreign exchange to denote something which can be delivered readily. Also refers to the futures contract of the current month; it is still “futures” trading, but delivery is possible at any time.

Spot Gold Price

The closing spot price varies with markets located in numerous cities and countries throughout the world. It is recommended that one follow the spot Gold close from one particular.

Spot Market

A market that requires that delivery and payment must be made within two working days of the transaction date.

Spot Month

The futures contract closest to maturity of the nearby delivery month.

Spread

The difference between the bid and ask or coin price quotation.

Stacker

Bars or coins that are struck so that one side of the item will fit tightly into the next item that is stacked above or below it. Also, a term for a person who “hoards” Silver, mostly in bar or round form.

Stella

Pattern gold coin (1897-1880) with a face value of $4.

Sterling Silver

Silver of a fineness of 92.5 percent purity.

Strike

The strength of the imprint in the process of stamping a coin blank with a design.

Symbolic Face Value

Nominal value given to legal tender coins, which are valued or sold for their metal content. The symbolic face value of a coin will be less than its actual market price.

T

Taler or Thaler

Common name for various European dollar-sized silver coins; predecessors to the dollar.

Three Cent Nickel

U.S. nickel and silver coin (1869-1889), issued to retire three-cent fractional notes.

Three-Dollar Gold Piece

U.S. gold coin (1854-1889).

Tola Bar:

Gold bars measured in tolas, an Indian unit of weight. 1 tola is equal to 180 grains or 0.375 troy oz. (11.7 grams).

Toning

Also patina. Coloration upon the surface of a coin caused by the chemical combination of the metal in the coin with other elements over a long period of time, due to place of storage or the sulphur from a paper envelope.

TPG

A large private equity firm that builds its business on leveraged buyout, growth capital and leveraged recapitalization investments.

Trade (v.)

Transfer of the ownership of goods or services in exchange for money goods or services.

Trader

A person or company who buys and sells financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, and commodities.

Troy

System of weight primarily used in the United States for precious metals.

Troy Ounces

A unit of weight equal to 1.09711 ordinary or avoirdupois ounces. One troy ounce equals 31.1035 grams or 480 grains.

Troy pound

A traditional unit of weight equaling 12 troy ounces.

Tube

A plastic container used to store coins or rounds.

Two-Cent Piece

U.S. copper coin (1864-1873).

Type

Major subdivision of a design within a particular denomination; a design change.

Type Set

A type set incorporates all coins sharing single specific characteristics. For example, an American gold type set features one example of each type of all gold coins issued by the U.S. Mint from 1795-1933.

U

UCAM

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) grade indicating that the coin has an Ultra Cameo appearance.

Unallocated Metal

“Unallocated” means you own part of a pool of gold with no title to any particular bar.

Uncirculated (Unc or BU)

A coin with no trace of wear, exactly as it came from the mint. See Brilliant Uncirculated, Mint State.

United States Mint

The mint responsible for producing circulating currency and coinage for the United States. Facilities are located in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and West Point.

V

Variety

See Die Variety.

Vault Receipt:

Also known as a warehouse receipt, or warrant, this is a document that indicates ownership of precious metals stored in a warehouse, bank or other depository.

Vermeil

Gold plating on another metal, most often silver.

VG

Very Good condition

W

W

This mint mark represents the West Point Mint

Weight

Relative mass or the quantity of matter contained by it.

X

XF

Extra Fine condition

Y | Z

Year

Date stamped on coins and currency to indicate when they were made.

Yield

A measure of the annual return on an investment expressed as a percentage.