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The rare coin market, like any specialized field, has its own terms and slang. This glossary is a comprehensive list of terms and slang that you may encounter in your collecting pursuits. This list was compiled using several reference works and the experience of our numismatists. Click on one of the letters below to go to a specific letter.

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Ultra Rarity 
Term used for a coin or other numismatic item that is represented by only a few examples. 

Uncirculated / Unc
General term that refers to a coin which shows no signs of circulation or wear. Uncirculated coins can still have lots of bagmarks and chatter, as well as deficiencies in strike and luster. 

Refers to a coin with a design on only one side, the other side blank. 
Refers to a coin being resubmitted to one of the third-party CERTIFICATION SERVICES and being returned in a higher grade. As the certified grade of a coin plays such a large role in determining its value, a one-point "upgrade" on the SHELDON scale could mean a significant increase in value

Upsetting Mill
The machine which forms the raised edge or rim of a coin.

Term to describe a coin that has light to heavy wear or circulation


Reference number assigned to a particular DIE VARIETY based on the book, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars, written by Van Allen and Mallis. Through their system, any silver dollar can be identified by presenting the date, mint mark and VAM number of the coin.

Any coin recognizably different in DIES from another of the same design, TYPE, date and mint. For example, the 1883 nickels with and without "CENTS" are different varieties of the same basic type and design.

VF / Very Fine
A grading term used for coins which display light, even wear on the surface and highest points of the DEVICES. All lettering and and major features remain sharp. On the SHELDON SCALE, it corresponds to a numerical grade between 20-35.

VG / Very Good
A grading term used to describe a well-worn coin with main features clear and bold - although rather dull and flat. On the SHELDON SCALE, it corresponds to a numerical grade between 5-10.

The buyer's fee at an auction. See also: JUICE


Short for the Walking Liberty Half-Dollars minted in the United States from 1916-1947. See also: SHORT SET

Want List
Term used in reference to a list of coins that a particular collector, investor or dealer wishes to acquire.

War Nickels
Refers to Jefferson nickels that were minted between 1942-1945. During WWII, nickel and copper were designated as critical strategic metals. It was during this time that the U.S. Mint changed the metal content of our five-cent pieces to a silver and manganese alloy. See also: STEELIES

The loss of metal on a coins devices caused by handling in circulation. The amount of wear on a coin is a key factor in determining its GRADE. See RUB


West Point Mint

The West Point Mint was originally opened in 1937 as a bullion depository and was officially designated by Congress as a Mint on March 31, 1988. This mint manufactures American Eagle uncirculated and proof coins, manufactures all sizes of the proof and uncirculated silver, gold and platinum American Eagle coins, manufactures commemorative coins that Congress mandates, and stores platinum, gold and silver bullion. This mint uses the “W” mintmark.

Wheel Mark
This is a small circular scratch on the surface of a coin caused by a coin counting machine. Wheel marks are considered damage and coins so marked cannot be slabbed.

Whizzed / Whizzing
This is a harsh cleaning technique that uses a wire brush in order to simulate mint luster. This technique was used in the 60’s and 70’s to fool the uneducated buyer. "Whizzed" coins are not certifiable and very difficult to sell. See also: CLEANED, ALTERED, ARTIFICIAL

Wire Edge
The thin, knife-like projection seen on some rims created when metal flows between the collar and the dies. Also, slang for the Wire Edge Indian Head eagle of 1907
. Also known as knife edge.

Working Die
A die prepared from a working hub and used to strike coins.

Worn Die

A die that has lost detail from extended use. Dies were often used until they wore out or were excessively cracked or broke apart. Coins struck from worn dies often appear to be weakly struck but no amount of striking pressure will produce detail that does not exist.




Acronym for Young Numismatist.


Zerbe Proof
Those 1921 Morgan dollars specially struck for numismatist and Mint friend Farran Zerbe. These Proofs are not of the same quality as the other Proof Morgan dollars. The devices on these specimens usually are not frosted while the fields lack the depth of mirror normally associated with Proofs. In fact, the fields are characterized by heavy die polish, the planchets likely not burnished before striking. (Both Philadelphia and San Francisco examples are known.)
See also: CHAPMAN.

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