Coin Investing & Collecting Glossary

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Cameo

A proof or prooflike coin with exceptional contrast between the fields and the devices. On a cameo coin, the fields are mirror-like, while the devices give a frosty appearance.

Capital Gain/Loss

The profit or loss realized from the sale of a coin or other capital asset.

Carbon Spot

A dark discoloration on the surface of a coin. It is possible that this discoloration is caused by a planchet imperfection prior to striking, or in another case, it is considered to be caused by improper storage of the coins. Regardless of the cause, carbon spots are difficult, if not impossible, to remove without leaving pits in the coin’s surface. If they are large enough, carbon spots can significantly lower the grade and value of a coin. Reference is usually made to copper coins.

Cartwheel

Slang for a silver dollar.

Cent

U.S. copper coin (1793-present). One-hundredth of a dollar. First coin struck under the authority of the U.S. government. See Indian Head cent, Large cent, Lincoln cent.

Choice About Uncirculated

Barest evidence of light wear on only the highest points of the design; most mint luster still remains.

Choice Extremely Fine

Light overall wear shows on highest points of the coin, design details are very sharp, and some mint luster is evident.

Choice Uncirculated

An above average Uncirculated coin which may be brilliant or lightly toned and has very few contact marks on the surface or rim.

Choice Very Fine

Light even wear on the coin surface and highest parts of the design; lettering and major features are sharp.

Circulated

A coin passed from hand to hand in commerce and, therefore, showing signs of wear; a used coin. There are various degrees of wear. See text for the specifics of grading.

Clad

U.S. coinage issued since 1965, made of cupronickel.

Clad Marks

Impressions on a die, from another die, caused when the two dies impact without a planchet between them.

Clash Dies

Extraneous design detail that often appears on a die as a result of two dies coming together without a planchet between them during the minting process. Coins struck from such dies are said to be struck from clashed dies, or to have die clashes or clash marks. See Die, Die scratches.

Cleaned

When a coin has been cleaned with baking soda or other mild abrasives, it may take on a slightly washed-out look or have patches of hairline scratches.

Coin

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

Coin Gold

The alloy used to make gold coins; this alloy may differ from country to country or in different coins minted in the same country.

Coin Silver

The alloy used to make silver coins. When used as a designation on silver items in the United States, it must be .900 fine, with the deviations allowed by the U.S. Stamping Act.

Coin World

The largest weekly coin publication and by far the most influential coin newspaper or magazine. Published by Amos Press, P.O. Box 150, Sidney, Ohio 45365.

Colonials

Coins made for circulation in or by the various colonies before the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

Commemoratives (U.S.)

Coins that are issued by the U.S. government to celebrate important events in our nation’s history. They are extremely popular with collectors.

Common Date

Coins with dates that are easy to acquire, usually because they have high mintages.

Comptroller of the Currency

The official of the U.S. Department of the Treasury who regulates national banks and administers the issuance and redemption of Federal Reserve Notes (U.S. dollars).

Condition

The diagnostic features that describe a coin’s state of preservation.

Conservation Grade

A grade which gives “the benefit of the doubt” to the purchaser rather than to the seller.

Copy

A forgery. See Reproduction.

Corrosion

Damage which occurs on the surface of some coins, generally due to improper storage. Corrosion is caused when a chemical reaction, such as rust, actually eats into the metal.

Counterfeit

A forgery intended to deceive.

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