Rare Coin Terminology


US Gold Coins


Bag Marks - Minor abrasions on an otherwise uncirculated coin, caused by contact between coins in a mint bag.

Bullion - Precious metal in negotiable or tradable form, such as a wafer or a bar.

Business Strike - A coin which has been struck for circulation.

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

Face Value - The monetary worth of a coin. This does not necessarily correspond to its actual worth.

Field - The open area on a coin - its background.

Fineness or Fine - The portion of a precious metal relative to base or other alloy in a precious metal. A US gold coin is .900 fine, meaning that 90% of the coin is gold and the rests alloy. A British Sovereign is .916 fine, meaning that 91.6% of the coin is gold and the rest is alloy.

Fine Weight - The actual weight of the pure gold in a coin ingot or bar, as opposed to the item's total (gross) weight, which includes the weight of the alloying metal(s). Example: a 1 oz. US Gold Eagle coin has a fine gold weight of 31.1033 grams and a gross weight of 33.933 grams.

Gram - The basic unit of weight in the metric system (31.1033 grams = 1 troy ounce).

Hallmark - Mark or marks which indicate the producer of a gold bar and its fineness or other characteristics.

Intrinsic Value - The actual value of the precious metal within a coin.

Legend - The inscription on a numismatic item.

Lettered Edge - Intaglio lettering milled onto the edge of a coin before striking or raised lettering on the edge of a coin produced by the use of a segmented collar die at the time of striking.

Market Value - The price a coin will fetch in the open market which may be greater than or equal to its intrinsic value.

Medallion - A gold wafer in round form, resembling a coin. It is not legal tender and should not be confused with genuine "coin of  the realm" of a specific government.

Mint Luster - The sheen or bloom on the surface of an uncirculated numismatic coin resulting from the centrifugal flow of metal caused by the striking of the dies. Mint luster is somewhat frosty in appearance as opposed to the mirror-like smoothness on the field of a proof.

Mint Marks - A letter, symbol or hallmark found on a coin that indicates the minting facility where it was struck. In the US, P (Philadelphia), D (Denver), S (San Francisco), and W (West Point) are frequently used for current coinage manufactured at those sites.

Obverse - The side of a numismatic item which bears the principal design or device.

Reverse- The side opposite to that on which the head or principle figure is impressed. The side opposite the obverse.

Uncirculated - A piece in a condition as issued by the mint. If it retains its original luster, it can be called "Brilliant Uncirculated" or "Mint State" or mint condition.