Home > Glossary S

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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Short for the U.S. $20 gold pieces minted from 1907-1933. Named after their famed designer, Augustus St.Gaudens.

Sandblast (proof)
One made by sandblasting coins given the normal multiple blows from polished DIES. Several variants of this finish appear on US gold coins minted in 1908 and 1911-1915. See also, MATTE


San Francisco Mint

The United States branch Mint located in San Francisco, California that struck coins from 1854 until 1955. After closing as a Mint, it served as an assay office until it reopened as a coinage facility in 1965. This facility manufactures annual proof coin sets, manufactures silver proof coin sets and manufactures commemorative coins. This mint uses the “S” mintmark.

Satin Finish
One with a surface more closely resembling ROMAN gold than to MATTE and very close to regular brilliant-PROOFS. Most common examples of Satin finishes include some 1921 and 1922 PEACE dollars.


Satin Luster

Fine, silky luster seen on many business strike coins, especially copper and nickel issues. Almost no “cartwheel” effect is seen on coins with this type of luster.

Screw Press

The first type of coining press used at the U.S. Mint. Invented by Italian craftsman Donato Bramante, this press had a fixed anvil (or lower) die, with the hammer (or upper) die being attached to a rod with screw-like threads. When weighted arms attached to the rod were rotated, the screw mechanism quickly moved the rod with the die downward, striking the planchet placed into the lower die. The struck coin then was ejected and the process was repeated.

Semi - Key
Refers to a coin which is not the rarest issue in a series -- but one of the most difficult dates to acquire nonetheless.

Refers to coin(s) whose current value is determined by a combination of NUMISMATIC and BULLION criteria. A good example of a semi-numismatic item would be common-date $20 gold pieces in lower grade (currently worth $875ea) which would MELT for approximately $860 but have some collector / investor demand which adds a small premium. See also: SAINTS, LIBS

Short for "Sesquicentennial" - either the $2.5 gold or 50c silver Commemorative.


Set Registry/Registry set

Listing of registered PCGS or NGC graded sets of coins. These include Morgan dollar sets, Proof Barber quarter sets, Mercury dime sets, etc... Registry sets are ranked according to grade and completeness.

The process whereby someone fraudulently removed minor amounts of shaves & slivers of PRECIOUS METAL from the edge of a coin - reducing its weight but making it "passable" and then profit from the absconded metal. See also: Rim File.

Sheldon Scale
A 70-point scale created by the late Dr. William H. Sheldon and adopted by the numismatic industry for coin GRADING purposes (see below).0

1 Poor
2 Fair
3 About Good
4-6 Good
7-10 Very Good
11-19 Fine
20-39 Very Fine
40-49 Fine
50-59 About Uncirculated
60-70 Mint State

Short Set
Refers to a popular "sub-set" of the Walking Liberty half-dollars (1916-1947). Many collectors choose to complete a set of the later, less expensive dates - specifically, those issues between 1941 and 1947.


A term to indicate that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular grade wants to view the coin before he buys it. He may have a customer who wants an untoned coin – or a toned coin, or some other specific requirement.

As opposed to SIGHT-SEEN. This term is usually used in conjunction with making a BID for a certain CERTIFIED coin -- without needing or wanting to see the actual item first. See also: COMMODITY, CCE

Silver Dollar

A coin of the one dollar denomination that is struck in a composition of 90% silver (or so) and 10% copper. The silver dollar was introduced in 1794 and was issued for circulation in intermittent years through 1935. The most frequently seen silver dollars are the Morgan design (1878-1921) and the Peace design (1921-35). These coins remained in circulation until the 1960s, mostly in the western US. Modern dollar coins are sometimes called "silver dollars" as well, even though the pieces struck for circulation contain no silver.


Silver Plug

On certain early American coins, a silver plug was inserted into a hole in the center of the coin, which was then flattened out when the coin was struck. The purpose of the plug was to add weight or value to the coin to bring it into proper specifications. Examples include the 1792 Silver-Center Cent, a Specimen 1794 Silver Dollar, and several varieties of 1795 Silver Dollars.

Slang for a coin that still has all of its original luster and surfaces. ie: that coin has great skin!

Slang term referring to the plastic holder used by the grading services that ENCAPSULATES a CERTIFIED coin.

Refers to a coin which appears to be undervalued when compared to its peers.

Slide Marks
For many years, collectors used to store their coins in cardboard albums. To keep the coins in place - and at the same time visible, clear plastic slides covered the top and bottom holes. In order to remove a coin from the album, you had to slide the plastic cover across the face of the item. The friction of the plastic against the coin's DEVICES sometimes caused un-removable lines to appear. See Also: album friction

A slang term referring to a coin that technically would only grade AU-58 but gets marketed as an UNCIRCULATED piece. These can sometimes be uncirculated coins that have been CLEANED). This term can also be used to describe a coin that has the appearance of an uncirculated coin.

Slang for the octagonal and round fifty-dollar gold coins struck during the California gold rush. Allegedly, their name came from the fact that criminals used the two-and-one-half ounce coins wrapped in a handkerchief and slugged their victims on the head with this “weapon.” This could be a myth, as their massive size also could be construed to be a “slug” of gold. The 1915 Pan-Pac fifty-dollar commemorative issues are also referred to a slugs.

Acronym for Special Mint Sets issued by the US Mint between 1965-1967. During these years PROOF SETS were not issued but Mint Sets contained PROOF-LIKE coins.


Specimen/Specimen Strike

Term used to indicate special coins struck at the Mint from 1792-1816 that display many characteristics of the later Proof coinage. Prior to 1817, the minting equipment and technology was limited, so these coins do not have the “watery” surfaces of later Proofs nor the evenness of strike of the close collar Proofs. PCGS designates these coins SP.

Split Grade
Until the mid-1980's it was common practice to assign a separate grade to both the obverse and reverse of a coin. For example, if the front of a coin graded 65 but the reverse only graded 63 then it would be assigned a grade of 65/63.

Spot (price)
Refers to the current COMMODITY price for precious metals (i.e. Gold, Silver and Platinum) as determined (and published) by Chicago Board of Trade.


State Quarter

One of the 1999 and later Washington quarters struck with unique reverse designs for each state, issued in the order of admittance to the United States. (The order for the original 13 colonies was determined by the date which each state ratified the Constitution.)

Steam-powered press

A coining press driven by a steam-powered engine. This type of press, more powerful than its predecessors, was installed in the United States Mint in 1836, replacing the hand and horse-powered screw presses except for most Proof strikings and die hubbing.

Steel cents issued in 1943 due to copper being named a critical wartime metal.

A term applied to the experimental four-dollar gold coins struck by the U.S. Mint in 1879-1880. So named for the large star on the coins’ reverse.
These are very rare and expensive.

Before a collector-investor decides to pursue a particular series of coins, he will look for any potential issues / dates which might prevent him from making his collection complete. Those dates or issues See also; KEY DATE, CLASSIC RARITY

Term for the incuse polish lines on the die which result in raised lines on coins. These are usually fine, parallel lines though on some coins they are swirling, still others with criss-cross lines. Planchet striations are burnishing lines not struck away by the minting process and are incuse on the coins.

The process of impressing an image onto a PLANCHET during the minting process. The result is the level of detail that the coin eventually has. Different factors can affect the strike of a coin (worn or cracked dies, insufficient striking pressure). Strike makes up about 30% of the overall grade.

Struck thru
An error caused by a foreign object that got between the dies and the planchet when a coin was struck. A common Struck Thru error is a piece of wire that leaves an indentation that is usually mistaken for a scratch.



The entire obverse and reverse of a coin, although often used to mean just the field areas.

Surface Preservation

The grading term used to describe the quality level of the surfaces of a coin. This can vary by the amount and location of bagmarks, chatter, hairlines, or rub. Surface preservation makes up about 30% of the overall grade.

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