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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After the discovery of gold in the southern United States a new mint was constructed in Dahlonega, Georgia. The first coinage exited its doors in 1838 and it continued minting until it was closed due to the civil war in 1861. The 1861-D gold dollars were struck after the Mint was seized, the mintage figure for this rare issue is not listed in Mint records and has been estimated at 1,000 to 1,500 examples. The Dahlonega Mint struck only gold coins and used the “D” mintmark.
Refers to underweight coins or coins whose precious metal content is inferior to legal standards (or to those claimed on a coin's face). "Debased" coins are not necessarily COUNTERFEIT. For example, Mormon gold coins have lettering which states "PG" or "Pure Gold" which were actually heavily ALLOYED.
Deep Mirror Proof-Like (DMPL or DPL)
A desgination given to a Morgan Dollar that possesses heavily FROSTED DEVICES and MIRRORED FIELDS, which result in a CAMEO appearance. To merit a DMPL designation over a PL designation, the mirrored fields must be reflective to a depth of more than six inches.
The term applied to coins, usually Proofs and prooflike coins, that have deeply frosted devices and lettering that contrast with the fields - often called “black and white” cameos. Specifically applied to those 1950 and later Proofs that meet deep cameo standards (DCAM).
Declared not to be legal tender or removed from circulation (i.e. TRADE dollars).
Face value of a coin.
The tooth-like devices around the rim seen on many coins. Originally these are somewhat irregular, later much more uniform - the result of better preparatory and striking machinery.
The Denver Mint was established in 1906. It had formerly been an Assay Office since 1863. Today, this Mint manufactures coins of all denominations for general circulation, medals, coin dies, stores gold and silver bullion, manufactures uncirculated coin sets and commemorative coins. This mint uses the “D” mintmark.
Refers to the raised relief and lettering on a coin such as the bust of Ms. Liberty on $20 gold pieces or the eagle on the reverse of a Walking Liberty half-dollar. The devices are a critical focal point when grading a rare coin. A coin's GRADE is determined in no small part to how well-struck these devices are. In addition, it is often the devices which show the first signs of WEAR - another important consideration when determining the grade. See also: STRIKE
An INCUSE (depressed) design on the end of a short steel rod used to strike PLANCHETS to make coins. Prior to 1996, all dies were made at the Philadelphia mint
Term to indicate the relative position of the obverse and reverse dies. When the dies are out of alignment, several things can happen: If the dies are out of parallel, weakness may be noted in a quadrant of the coin's obverse and the corresponding part of the reverse; and if the dies are spaced improperly, the resultant coins may have overall weakness; if the dies are spaced too close together, the resultant coin may be well struck but the dies wear more quickly.
Raised irregular areas on a coin, the result of metal from the planchet being forced through a portion of the DIE which has broken and fallen out during the minting process.
Raised, irregular lines on a coin, the result of a DIE having cracked and metal being forced through those cracks at the time of striking.
An area of raised lines or highly reflective area of a coin, most often in the fields, that resulted from striking from dies that had been recently polished by the coiner.
A readily identified point in the life of a coinage die. Often dies clash and are polished, crack, break, etc., resulting in different stages of the die. These are called die states. Some coins have barely distinguishable die states, while others go through multiple distinctive ones.
A "test" coin consisting of a short trial run at the Mint.
Refers to the use of a coin cleaning liquid (usually some sort of acid-based solution) to remove tarnish, natural toning or dirt from a coin.
The original spelling of dime, the s silent and thought to have been pronounced to rhyme with steam. (This variation was used in Mint documents until the 1830s and was officially changed by the Coinage Act of 1837.)
DMPL or DPL
See DEEP MIRROR PROOF-LIKE
A coin which has been altered through noticeable, unnatural means. See also; CLEANED, ALTERED, DONE, TOOLED or ARTIFICIALLY TONED.
The denomination, consisting of one hundred cents, authorized by the Mint Act of 1792. This is the anglicized spelling of the European Thaler and was used because of the world-wide acceptance of the Thaler and the Spanish Milled dollar or piece-of-eight. See also: Thaler
A die that has been struck more than once by a hub in misaligned positions, resulting in doubling of design elements. Before the introduction of hubbing, the individual elements of a coin's design were either engraved or punched into the die, so any doubling was limited to a specific element. With hubbed dies, multiple impressions are needed from the hub to make a single die with adequate detail. When shifting occurs in the alignment between the hub and the die, the die ends up with some of its features doubled – then imparts this doubling to every coin it strikes. The coins struck from such dies are called doubled-die errors – the most famous being the 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln cent.
Refers to $20 gold pieces - usually pre-1907 Liberties. $10 gold coins are often referred to as EAGLES - making the $20 pieces "double".
A condition that results when a coin is not ejected from the dies and is struck a second time. Such a coin is said to be double-struck. Triple-struck coins and other multiple strikings also are known. Proofs are usually double-struck on purpose in order to sharpen their details; this is sometimes visible under magnification.
Refers to a Spanish or Latin American gold 8 Escudos. Standard weight 417.75 grains (27.07 grams). The famous gold coins of Ephraim Brasher were of similar weight - thus known as "Brasher Doubloons".
An area on a coin, often rather long, that has a discolored, streaky look. This is the result of impurities or foreign matter in the dies. One theory is that burnt wood was rolled into the strips from which the planchets were cut, resulting in these black streaks.
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