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Numismatic Terms

Two coins that are the finest known. Image: CoinWeek.

Finest Known – What It Does and Doesn’t Mean in the Coin Market

(n.) A coin described as the "finest known" is a coin of such a condition that no other example of the same issue is known...
Lanģued heraldic figure. Image: Adobe Stock.

Lanģued : A Heraldic Term Used on Coins

(adj.) From the French langue ("tongue"). In heraldry, the term "lanģued" refers to a figure that is depicted with its tongue visible or sticking out....
Raw Coins: Silver dollars and silver half dollar coins. Image: Adobe Stock.

Raw Coin – When a Slab Just Won’t Do

(n.) A "raw" coin is simply a coin that is not semi-permanently encapsulated in a plastic holder. In other words, a coin in its natural,...
Two wooden nickels. Image: Adobe Stock.

Lignadenarist – Now Accepting Wooden Nickels

(n.) A lignadenarist is a collector of wooden nickels. The term is a portmanteau of the Latin words lignum, meaning “wood”, and denarius, the iconic...
KM Numbers appear in Krause's Standard Catalog of World Coins.

KM Number – A Commonly Referred to World Coin Reference Number

A "KM number", also known as a Krause-Mishler number, is named after American numismatists Chester “Chet” Krause and Clifford Mishler. KM numbers serve as...
Close up of a Ten Cents Fractional Currency note from Series Five. Left: Long Key depicted at the bottom of the Treasury Seal. Right: Short Key variety. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

Long Key – Fractional Currency Variety

(n.) The term "Long Key" refers to a variety of 19th-century American Fractional Currency paper money from the fifth series (February 26, 1874 – February...
In 2014, former PCGS President Don Willis was photographed placing an insert into PCGS holder to mark the 50 millionth item graded by the company. Image: PCGS.

Insert – An Important Element of a Graded Coin Holder

(n.) When talking about coins, medals, and tokens (etc.) certified and encapsulated in a plastic third-party grading service holder, an insert is a piece of...
This screenshot from a Heritage Auctions lot shows that the final price includes the Buyer’s Premium.

“The Juice” – A Fee That Buyers Pay at Auction

(n.) Slang. The "juice" is the buyer’s fee paid by the winning bidder of an auction lot, usually as a percentage of the winning bid. More...
Wooden nickel against a wide open backdrop.

What Does “Don’t Accept Any Wooden Nickels” Mean?

“Don’t accept any wooden nickels” is a colloquial expression meaning “Don’t get tricked” or “Don’t let yourself get fooled.” Wooden nickels were a popular advertising...
A 1981-D Susan B. Anthony Dollar in Superb Gem Mint State condition.

Condition Rarity – When to Look for It, When to Be Leery of It

(n.) The term condition rarity can refer to two things: ) A coin that is considered rare because of its exceptional state of preservation. This...
The MS64 grade was introduced to bring more arbitrage to MS63 coins.

MS-64 – The In-Between Grade

MS-64 is an in-between grade that splits the difference between MS-63 (Choice) and MS-65 (Gem). On January 1, 1986, NCI (Numismatic Certification Institute), a Dallas,...
The selvage of a Federal Reserve Note. Image: Adobe Stock / CoinWeek.

Selvage – A US Paper Money Security Feature

(n.) The term selvage refers to the extra paper around the edge of paper money before it is cut – sometimes used as a security...
Terminal Point

Terminal Point and How It Impacts Certified Coins

(n.) The "terminal point" is the highest possible grade where the cost of submitting a coin to a third-party grading service is still higher than...
An image of a War Nickel Set.

Spurious Set – Collecting Coins by Theme

(n.) As used by coin writer Susan Headley, a spurious set is any set of coins that lack a true relationship to each other except...
Guilloché pattern. Image: Heritage Auctions (visit www.ha.com).

Guilloché – The Intricate Web Pattern on Paper Money

(n.) Guilloché (pronounced “GEE-uh-shay” with a hard g) is a word borrowed from the fields of jewelry and metalworking that is frequently encountered when dealing...
This is an image showing various text blocks - ligature.

Ligature – An Element of Coin Engraving Design

A printing, engraving, and general design term, a ligature is a combination of two letters into a single unit in order to appear more...
Illustration of a chemical compound. Image: Adobe Stock.

Oct-1-En-3-One – Why Do Coins Smell That Way?

Why do pennies and other coins smell that way? Oct-1-En-3-One (also 1-octen-3-one) is the chemical responsible for the dull, metallic smell we associate with...
1864 $20 Compound Interest Treasury Note graded PCGS Extremely Fine 40 and ex: James a. Stack, Sr. This note was sold by Stack’s Bowers on March 22, 2018, for $28,800 USD. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

In God Is Our Trust – Paper Money Inscription Explained

“In God Is Our Trust” is a motto emblazoned on a federal shield that is located in the bottom right corner of the $20...
PCGS Body Bag coins. Image: ChzForLife - Reddit / Jaobler - Coin Community Forum / CoinWeek.

Body Bag – A Former Container for Problem Coins

(n.) Coins deemed upgradable by some third-party grading companies were at one time returned to the customer in a container known as a “body bag“....
ASA Accugrade holder.

Accugrade – A Novel Approach to Coin Grading

On occasion, one might encounter coins in obsolete coin slabs. One such obsolete slab presents a few interesting insights, that--had they been adopted more...
This is a photograph of a pile of United States generic gold coins.

Generic Gold – What Does This Coin Marketing Term Mean?

(n.) The term "generic gold" generally refers to gold coins wherein their primary value is derived from the intrinsic worth of the precious metal they...
1923 Peace dollar with rotated dies. On this example, the reverse die is rotated approximately 60 degrees. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

Rotated Alignment – A Variety of Error Coin

The term "rotated alignment" refers to a type of mint error and describes the alignment of a coin that has been struck by dies...
A Prooflike 1880-CC Morgan dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

Prooflike – What Does This Coin Collecting Term Really Mean?

(adj.) "Prooflike" is a term used to describe a business-strike coin--especially Morgan and Peace silver dollars--in which all of the fields, and possibly the devices,...
American Buffalo Nickel by David Mamet

American Buffalo (Film) – Coin Collector Meets Tragic End

Hollywood and Broadway occasionally create works that center around numismatic MacGuffins, and collectors sometimes seek these out for entertainment. The film American Buffalo (1996)...
An image of a mock-up ad for a coin in Almost New condition.

Almost New – Don’t Be Fooled by This Dishonest Coin Grade

(adj.) An "Almost New" coin is one that is, at best, in About Uncirculated condition and is being opportunistically marketed. The term is similar in connotation...
An assortment of challenge coins from Charles Morgan's personal collection.

Challenge Coin: What Are These Colorful Mementos?

A challenge coin is a small coin or medallion issued by any number of public or private organizations but most frequently associated with branches...
Azure Shield as it appears on the Coat of Arms of the President of the United Statse and a Liberty Shield on the back of a Liberty Head half eagle gold coin. Image: CoinWeek.

Azure : A Heraldic Term Used on Coins

(n.) In heraldry, azure is the color blue. It is typically (but not always) a deeper shade of blue based on the precious stone lapis...
Unsearched rolls of one cent coins. Image: Adobe Stock.

Unsearched Roll : What It Does and Doesn’t Mean

An unsearched roll is a roll of coins that has not been searched through by a collector looking to remove rare dates and varieties...
Adding skin to a double eagle using a Q-Tip. Image: CoinWeek.

Adding Skin – A Deceptive Coin Doctoring Techique

Adding Skin is a coin doctoring technique where putty or other materials are used to apply a layer of material on a coin’s surface...
Great Seal of the United States of America as it appears on the back of the $1 Federal Reserve Note. Image: Adobe Stock.

Annuit Coeptis : What Does the Phrase on the Back of the $1 Bill...

"Annuit Coeptis" is a Latin phrase meaning “He has favored the work”. The motto of the First Seal of the United States of...