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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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Bag Mark(s)

These are small marks and nicks resulting from contact with other coins in the same bag. During the early years of MINTING, coins were ejected from the presses and into bins or bags along with numerous other coins. The bags were usually thrown around creating lots of "bag-marks". Coins with the fewest bag-marks are obviously more valuable as one of the primary criteria in GRADING concerns the number of hits, ticks and bag-marks. See also: HITS, CHATTER.


Bag Toning

Coloring acquired from the bag in which a coin was stored. The cloth bags in which coins were transported contained sulfur and other reactive chemicals. When stored in such bags for extended periods, the coins near and in contact with the cloth often acquired beautiful red, blue, yellow and other vibrant colors. Sometimes the pattern of the cloth is visible in the toning; other times, coins have crescent-shaped toning because another coin was covering part of the surface, preventing toning. Bag toning is seen mainly on Morgan silver dollars, though occasionally on other series.


Barber, Charles (1840-1917)
Succeeded his father, William Barber as Chief Engraver of the US Mint in Philadelphia in 1879. During his tenure, he is credited with designing many MEDALS, plaques and PATTERN coinage but is best remembered for his 1879 Flowing Hair $4 STELLA, 1883 Liberty nickel and the dime, quarter and half-dollars issued between 1892-1916. He was succeeded by GEORGE T. MORGAN.

Basal Value
The value base on which Dr. William H. Sheldon’s 70-point grade/price system started. The lowest-grade price was one dollar ($1) for the 1794 large cent - upon which he based his system.

Base Metal
A metal not classified as a PRECIOUS METAL (i.e. copper, zinc).

The process of polishing a die prior to striking. This consists of placing the die against a rotating zinc dish. The process was used so that coins would STRIKE-up properly. Newly polished dies were a major factor in the production of PROOFLIKE dollars. See Also: Polished Die.

Usually refers to the published wholesale value of a certain coin as published in the Coin Dealer Newsletter or other numismatic price directory Otherwise, it could simply refer to a dealers offer to buy a certain coin (e.g. I would bid $4,200 for your MS-64 $20 St.Gaudens). Also used as an auction term; "I placed a bid on Lot#19 in last night’s auction

An ALLOY of silver and another metal, usually copper which is less than 50% silver.



A coin or medal that combines parts of two different metal alloys.

Pieces of eight were physically cut into eights or “bits”. A 25c piece is sometimes referred to as "two bits".


A disc of metal intended to become a coin. A "blank" is not a PLANCHET until it goes through the UPSETTING MILL which creates the raised rims. "Blanking" is done by shearing blanks from metal strips - much like a cookie cutter.

Refers to a fully lustrous, brilliant-white coin. i.e. "This coin's a real blazer".

The term used to refer to the lustrous appearance of a coin immediately after striking - caused by the clash of the metal DIE and PLANCHET.

Blue Ikes
Refers to Eisenhower dollars minted between 1971-1978 which were issued by the U.S. Mint in blue envelopes. They are composed of 40% silver.

Body Bag
Slang term for a coin returned from a grading service in a plastic sleeve within a flip. The coin referred to is a no-grade example and was not graded or encapsulated. Coins are no-grades for a number of reasons, such as questionable authenticity, cleaning, polishing, damage, repair, and so on.

Booby Head
Term usually used to describe Large cents minted in 1839 in which the bust of Liberty exhibits "an idiot" expression on her face.

Raised circle whose outer circumference is the RIM of a DIE or coin.

Bourse Floor
This refers to the booth and trading area at a coin show where dealers display, buy and sell coins.


Branch Mint
Any US Mint other than Philadelphia. The first Branch Mints were established in the late 1830's in Charlotte, Dahlonega and New Orleans. See also: MINT

Term referring to the removal of a coin from its certified SLAB for the purposes of re-submitting to the same or different certification service for a hoped-for-UPGRADE. Also referred to as a “crackout”.

Breen, Walter (1930-1993)
Noted numismatic historian, authenticator and author.


Numbering system base on the book on California fraction gold coins by Walter Breen and Ron Gillio titled California Pioneer Fraction Gold.

A group of 500 American silver EAGLES sealed in a "brick" as received from the U.S. Mint



A coin struck without a firmly seated collar, resulting in “spreading outwards, but still showing design details.

A mirror image of the design from one side of a coin impressed on the opposite side - occasionally, a newly struck coin "sticks" to a die, causing the next coin struck to have a First Strike Mirror Brockage of the coin stuck to the die; by the second strike the mirror is distorted, and later strikes are termed Struck Through A Capped Die.


An ALLOY of copper and tin.

Brown Ikes
Refers to Eisenhower dollars minted between 1971-1978 which were issued by the U.S. Mint in brown boxes. They are composed of 40% silver.

BU / Brilliant Uncirculated
A grading term for a coin that has no trace of wear but still shows a number of contact marks, striking deficiencies or breaks in the luster. Equivalent to a

numerical grade of Mint State 60-62 on the SHELDON SCALE.

Bullion Coin

Bullion coinage refers to common coins whose value is determined almost entirely by their metal content rather than by collector demand. For example, KRUGERRAND, MAPLELEAF, EAGLE, KOALA, KANGAROO. See also: SEMI-NUMISMATIC

A US Mint treatment given to proof dies that imparts a glossy surface with a buffing wheel. PROOF dies were burnished prior to STRIKING. A second negative connotation is a coin "burnished" after striking. This is considered abrasively cleaned and the word is often used as a synonym for "whizzed" (the worst kind of cleaning, where the metal is actually moved around).

Business Strike

A coin given only one STRIKE from a DIE and intended for general circulation and commercial use.  As opposed to PROOFS.

Device including the head neck and partial shoulder of a portrait.

Bid-Buy Sale

A combination form of fixed-price list and mail-bid sale. Rules may vary from dealer to dealer. However, customers usually may either buy a lot outright at the fixed price or place a bid (higher or lower). It permits buyers to purchase a lot at less than fixed price (in some cases), or by paying more, ensures a greater chance of obtaining the lot.

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