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Numismatics, like any specialized field, has a language of its own. This glossary is a comprehensive list of terms and slang that you may encounter in your collecting pursuits. This list was compiled using several extraordinary reference works and the experience of our numismatists. 


Adjustment Marks
File marks made by the mint on a silver or gold planchet to correct its weight.
A mixture of two or more metals, e.g. the Sacagawea Dollar is comprised of an alloy of .770 copper, .120 zinc, .070 manganese, and .040 nickel.
Altered Surfaces
A designation given to coins which cannot be certified with a numeric grade due to any number of alterations to its surfaces after it left the mint. Such adjustments or alterations include CLEANING, lacquering, PUTTYING, TOOLING and ARTIFICIAL TONING. See also: BODY BAG.
Anvil Die
The DIE upon which a PLANCHET rests prior to striking.
ANA / American Numismatic Association
The main hobby organization and host of the industry's largest coin show each year. Individual membership cost is approximately $28 / year. Lot's of benefits to membership. For more information, contact them at http://www.money.org/ or call 1-800-367-9723.
The process of softening BLANKS and PLANCHETS, through heat, which enables the metal to flow more freely into the cavities of the DIE or HUB when struck. If the temperature and length of exposure to the heat are not correct in the annealing process, the design could be improperly struck up.

Usually refers to the wholesale asking price of a certain coin as published in The Coin Dealer Newsletter or other price directory (e.g. What's the GREYSHEET "ask" on this 1941-S Walking Half?).

A test undertaken to find the metallic content of a coin, INGOT or ORE sample.

Assay Office
An establishment or department of government that assures the content and quality of a coins ALLOY.

Assay Piece
A coin selected to be ASSAYED, or produced for an ASSAYER.

AT / Artificial Toning
Patina applied to the surface of a coin, either by chemical or physical means, for the purpose of hiding hairlines and other flaws or to resemble the natural oxidation process that can increas a coin's desirability. See also TONING.

AU / About Uncirculated
Just as the term suggests, it refers to a coin's condition - specifically, a coin which shows only very slight signs of wear or damage. In relation to the SHELDON scale, the AU designation corresponds to the numerical grades between 50-58.

As represented. Genuine. Made when and where the coin purports to have been made.



Bag Mark(s)
This term refers to the hits and ticks on coins which were caused by contact with other coins. 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.
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.
Barter Economy
An economic system in which wages and prices are measured in terms of commodities rather than coins and paper currency.Base Metal
A metal not classified as a PRECIOUS METAL (i.e. copper, zinc).
The process of polishing the surfaces of a DIE. The process 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.

Usually refers to the published wholesale value of a certain coin as published in the Coin Dealer Newsletter or other numismatic price directory (e.g. What's the GREYSHEET "bid" for a 1916-D MERC dime?). Otherwise, it could simply refer to a dealers offer to buy a certain coin (e.g. I would bid $2,200 for your proof BARBER quarter). Also used as an auction term; "I placed a bid on the Alabama commemorative in last night's auction.

An ALLOY of gold or silver with a predominant base metal, e.g. 75% copper and 25% silver. Usually applies to mixture of silver and copper in which copper predominates.

Any coin valued at 1/8 dollar. 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.


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.

Nickname for the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter, The weekly price publication which reports current sight-unseen BID & ASK prices for NGC and PCGS certified coins. See also: GREYSHEET

Body Bag
If a coin has active PVC corrosion, a plugged hole or fails the authenticity test, it will not be encapsulated by PCGS or NGC.  Rather it will be returned in a 2-inch square mylar fold-over coin flip otherwise known as a body bag.

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
Named after the Paris Stock Exchange, 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.

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

A) A block of 4,000 Federal Reserve Notes bound together by metal straps as shipped from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to the various Federal Reserve banks.
B) A group of 500 American silver EAGLES sealed in a "brick" as received from the U.S. Mint.

A PLANCHET which was struck while an un-ejected coin was still between the planchet and the DIE. The result was a mirrored (or INCUSE) image on the coin.

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 and shows a number of contact marks, spotted surfaces or breaks in the luster. Equivalent to a numerical grade of Mint State 60 to 62 on the SHELDON SCALE.

Bullion Coin
As opposed to a NUMISMATIC 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

Given a glossy surface by a buffing wheel. PROOF dies were usually burnished prior to STRIKING. A coin "burnished" after striking would be considered impaired.

Business Strike
A coin given only one STRIKE from a DIE and intended for general circulation and commercial use. Opposed to PROOFS.

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

Buy or Bid Sale
A mail-bid auction-style sale in which the bidder has the right to buy a coin at the published asking price at any time before the close of the sale or submit a bid lower than the asking price.



A term used to describe PROOF and PROOF-LIKE coins in which the DEVICES are in contrast to the FIELDS. This occurs when the fields are mirrored and reflective and the devices are frosted, which will give the appearance of a dark background (sometimes black background) behind a light or white central portrait or device.
Capped Die
A major DIE VARIETY created by over-punching a small "CC" MINTMARK over a larger "CC" mintmark on the reverse die used to produce some 1879 Carson-City Mint silver dollars.
Carbon Spot
A black discoloration on a coin which was on a PLANCHET prior to the ANNEALING process. The discoloration may have been caused by burnt wood or sawdust, charcoal particles or sulfides. Even the high temperature of the annealing furnaces often cannot rid the planchet of these particles. The term can also designate black carbonate spots created by minute droplets of saliva.
A term used to describe the coruscating LUSTER often seen on un-circulated white / brilliant coinage.
Made by pouring molten metal directly into a mold. It is an older method used in counterfeiting coins.
CCE / Certified Coin Exchange
The on-line / satellite trading exchange used by many dealers in high-quality coinage. Member-dealers can post SIGHT-UNSEEN or SIGHT-SEEN BIDS and ASKS for many certified coins.

Refers to the number of coins certified and graded in a specific grade by one (or more) of the grading services. See also: POPULATION,, CONDITION CENSUS.

Refers to a coin which has been authenticated and graded by one of the major grading and certification services. See also: NGC, PCGS, GRADE

Certified Coin Exchange

Chapman, Henry
One of the most influential coin dealers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Perhaps best known for urging an estimated quantity of 12 silver dollar PROOFS to be coined in 1921. These coins are generally considered to be superior to other so-called-proofs minted that same year. See also: ZERBE

Usually refers to a small, but noticeable cluster of TICKS on a coin. Sometimes the term is otherwise used to describe the vibratory movement of a DIE which produces minor double-striking. See also BAGMARKS, HITS

To recognize and buy a rare variety as a common coin from an unsuspecting (or uninformed) seller. See also: RIP

Choice BU
A term used to describe a nice, UN-CIRCULATED coin - perhaps the equivalent of a numerical grade of 62-64 on the SHELDON SCALE.

Chop Marks
Found primarily on American Trade dollars dated 1873-1878 and Japanese Yen dated 1870-1914 which were circulated throughout the Orient. Chinese businessmen, ever watchful for fakes, placed their sign or "chop" on any of these trade coins that passed muster. Numerous pieces are found with multiple chop marks on both sides.

Short for a Cincinnati Silver Commemorative Half Dollar (1936).

Term to describe coins with obvious signs of WEAR or damage due to being "circulated" in regular commerce or through mishandling.

Describing strip, BLANKS, PLANCHETS or coins whose metal is a core (usually copper), bonded to two outer layers (usually copper-nickel). Clad coins were not produced in the United States until authorized by the Coinage Act of 1965.

Clash Marks
Marks on the DIE caused during MINTING by dies striking each other without a PLANCHET between them. Each die impresses reversed portions of its design on the other.

Classic Rarity
There have always been certain "special" issues which over time, have proven themselves to be the most popular coins to the numismatic community. The issue date doesn't necessarily have to be the single most rare date in a series but is almost certainly scarce. For example, the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent or the 1934-S Peace dollar. See also: STOPPER, KEY DATE


A thick metal ring, into which the PLANCHET is deposited, used for making the REEDED or smooth cylindrical edge on a coin. The collar keeps the planchet from expanding freely when it is struck by the DIES.

Generic term for coins made in (or for) America prior to the Federal Mint beginning operations.

Short for Commemorative Coin

In relation to NUMISMATICS, this term is used to describe how dealers buy and sell the most common issues. The founders of PCGS and NGC envisioned creating a standard of GRADING which would be so accepted by the rare coin industry that certified coins could be traded SIGHT-UNSEEN much like a traditional "commodity" (i.e. gold, pork-bellies, etc.) is traded on an electronic exchange. See also: CCE

Common (Date)
Refers to the most populous issues in a series. For example, the 1881-S in MS65 is the most "common date" in the Morgan dollar series.

Condition Census
The five finest known examples of a particular date coin listed according to their condition. 

Copper Spots
Small red/orange areas of patina that occur on gold coins because of impurities in their alloy. Large, numerous and unattractive copper spots will cause the grade of a gold coin to be lowered, while small and unobtrusive spots are not usually considered when determining a coin's grade.

Unauthorized imitation of a coin, generally distinguishable from the genuine coin by differences in manufacturing methods. Specifically referred to as pieces falsely made to circulate as money. NUMISMATIC fakes, made to deceive dealers or collectors, are more accurately called forgeries.


1) Any foreign silver coin about the size of a silver dollar. 2) British name for a five- shillings coin.

A term for a coin (usually silver dollars) excessively WORN or damaged.

Refers to cleaning, enhancing or improving a coin's appearance through non-abrasive means and stabilizing its surfaces.

Paper circulating as money. Opposed to "hard money" which possesses an intrinsic value.



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.
Declared not to be legal tender or removed from circulation (i.e. TRADE dollars).Denomination
Face value of a coin.
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: STRIKED ie 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

Die Breaks
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.

Die Cracks
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.

Die Polish(ing)
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.

Die Trial
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.

In the Mint Act of 1792, this was the official name given to the federal coin of ten-cents or 1/10 dollar - later to be known as a dime.


A coin which has been altered through noticeable, unnatural means. See also; CLEANED, ALTERED, DONE, TOOLED or ARTIFICIALLY TONED.

Refers to a CLEANED or otherwise DOCTORED coin

Double Die
A die which was impressed twice from the HUB with a major or minor off-centering of the second impression. When this doubled die is used and area or the entire devices of one side of the coin appears doubled.

Double Eagle(s)
Refers to $20 gold pieces - usually pre-1907 Liberties. $10 gold coins are often referred to as EAGLES - making the $20 pieces "double."

Double Struck
A coin which was struck twice by at least one DIE during the striking process.

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."



A) $10 Gold pieces - usually pre-1907 issues. See also: DOUBLE EAGLES. B) Nickname for the gold, silver and platinum BULLION program of the United States Mint.EF / Extremely Fine
Also sometimes referred to as XF. A grade given to coins which show light traces of wear throughout but features are still sharp and well-defined. Traces of luster may also show. On the SHELDON SCALE, a grade of EF translates to a numerical grade between 40-45.Encapsulation
Refers to the grading service's practice of placing a certified coin in a sealed plastic holder. Once encapsulated, the coin is protected and bears the certified grade, guarantees, etc. before being returned to the submitter.
Engraving / Engraver
Term used in cutting or punching a design into a DIE or HUB during the minting process.
Environmental Damage
An alteration of the coin caused by exposure to a corrosive chemical, gas or substance which has pitted, abraded or altered the coins surface, but, unlike in CLEANING, unintentionally. Most environmentally damaged coins will not be ENCAPSULATED by the major grading services.
Refers to a coin which was minted not as it was intended due to some aberration during the minting process. The error may be the result of a PLANCHET, DIE or STRIKING abnormality.



Fab Five
The last five issues in the $20 Saint Gaudens series (1929, 1930-S, 1931, 1931-D & 1932) which are all extremely scarce and valuable. The term was made popular by noted $20 Saint collectors Jay Brahin & Steven Duckor.Face Value
Exchange value defined by some inscription on a coin (mark of value). For example, the "face value" of a Walking Liberty Half is fifty-cents. Could also refer to the nominal value based on a weight standard.Farthing
Coin passing as a 1/4 penny (1/48 shilling). Farthings stopped circulating in the American colonies after the Revolution.Feuchtwanger
Early-mid 1800's private coiner, Dr. Lewis Feuchtwanger, introduced and tried to convince Congress to adopt an ALLOY he concocted called "German silver" which was essentially a white alloy of copper, nickel, zinc, tin and antimony to replace or nation's silver coinage. Tokens of his coins are very collectible.Fiat Money
Economic term for that which circulates because a government decrees it - without any reference to convertibility into precious metal.FIDO
Old numismatic term for a MINT-ERROR. Specifically, it is an acronym for Freaks, Imperfections, Defects & Oddities.

The area of a coin in between the devices and/or lettering. The flat, open areas.

A grading term indicating moderate to considerable wear. Otherwise bold with overall pleasing appearance. On the SHELDON SCALE, it corresponds to a numerical grade between 10-15.

The amount of PRECIOUS METAL in an ALLOY. For example, the Morgan silver dollar is 900 Fine = 90% silver.

Usually Refers to a coin's luster and eye-appeal (i.e. "that blazing-white silver dollar sure has a lot of flash"). See also: LUSTER.

Refers to the clear, soft plastic holder most RAW coins are stored in.

Fraudulent imitation aimed at collector or dealers.

Fractional Coin
1) Spanish small silver coins reckoned in halves, quarters, eighths and sixteenths of a dollar which were LEGAL TENDER in the United States until 1857.
2) Federal coins of denominations between 3c and 50c.
3) Refers to the tiny California private gold coins minted in the 1870's.

Fractional Currency
Any circulating paper of denomination below $1. Prior to 1864, this was most often banknotes or SCRIP. Often refers to Federal notes of denomination between 3c and 50c issues between 1862-1876.

Refers to an item or items which hasn't been on the market for a very long time (if ever). Fresh coins tend to be worth more because they haven't been picked over yet.

Frosted Surfaces
A white texture produced on the surface of a coin during the minting process. It is usually most prevalent on the earliest coins off the working DIES. See also: LUSTER

FB / FSB / Full Bands
Refers to fully separated and distinct cross bands on the reverse devices of a Mercury dime. A MERC issue with the designation of "FB" (full bands) is worth substantially more than one without.

FBL / Full Bell Lines
Refers to the lower horizontal lines on the Liberty Bell of the Franklin half-dollars. Usually worth a premium if complete.

FH / Full Head
A grading designation given to Standing Liberty Quarters as an indication of strength of STRIKE. If Miss Liberty's full hairline, earhole and the leaves on her laurel-like headband are visible, the coin is declared a Full Head, and worth a substantial premium over specimens of average strike.

FS / Full Steps
Refers to the steps of Monticello on the reverse of the Jefferson nickel (1938-Present). Six steps should be visible if the coin is fully struck. 

Florida United Numismatists. Each January, this organization sponsors one of the industry's largest coin Shows in Orlando, Florida.



G / Good
A grading term used to describe well worn coins with main features clear and bold although rather flat. On the SHELDON scale this corresponds to a numerical grade of 4 to 6.Gem
Used in a generic sense to describe a high-quality coin. In a more specific definition, "gem" refers to a coin GRADING 65 on the SHELDON SCALE.Grade
A status or condition given to a coin based upon it's quality. See also: SHELDON SCALE, NGC, PCGSGrain
A unit of measurement equal to six hundred and forty-eight ten-thousandths (.0648) of a GRAM. Used in determining FINENESS of a coin.Gram
A metric unit of mass. A unit equal to three hundred and twenty-two ten thousandths (.0322) of a TROY ounce.Grease-Mark
Aberrations on a coin's surface, caused by oil or grease dropped onto a DIE during the minting process.

Any Federal Demand note of 1861 ($5, $10 & $20) with an "on demand" inscription - but missing the treasury seal. So called, as these were the first Treasury notes to use green ink on the back designs. Also refers to any LEGAL TENDER note of 1862 or 1863.

Refers to the Coin Dealer Newsletter, the weekly price publication for the rare coin industry. For subscription or other information, please contact them at (310) 515-7369 or at http://www.greysheet.com/.



Thin scratches on a coin, usually in the fields or across the devices which are caused by rough or careless cleaning, wiping or drying of a coin.
In the Mint Act of 1792, this was the official name given to the federal coin of ten-cents or 1/20 dollar - later to be known as a half dime.
Refers to $5 Gold pieces.
Maker's identification mark, comparable to a signature found on pewter, silver and gold utensils and jewelry. Occasionally found as counter-marks on coins, the most famous being Ephram Brasher's roman "E.B" in oval.
Hammer Die
The upper DIE which descends to STRIKE the PLANCHET in the coining chamber.
Hammer Price
Refers (metaphorically) to the auctioneer's gavel when he pounds the podium to conclude the bidding on a certain item. The Hammer Price does not include the typical buyer's commission or seller's fee. See also: JUICE

Hard Times Tokens
Tokens issued during the years 1832 to 1844 to fill the need for small denomination coins, created because of hoarding during economic collapse. Between 10 and 20 million Hard Times Tokens were struck with various political and commercial designs.

High Points
The area of deepest relief on a coin. That point which extends furthest out and is most prone to WEAR.

The designing of a DIE so as to create a deep, concave field upon the surface of a coin for maximum contrast with the DEVICES. It requires the use of increased pressure in STRIKING or sometime multiple strikes to attain the desired effect. The most notable coins struck in High-Relief are the 1907 SAINT and 1921 PEACE dollar.

Refers to the TICKS and other distracting marks caused by contact with other coins in a mint bag, etc. See also: CHATTER and BAG MARKS.

Working hubs are produced from the master DIES. The working hubs are then used to make many working dies. Hubs are never used for the actual minting or striking coins as they have a raised image.

The process of producing DIES from a hub. Dies have an INCUSE (depressed) image, while HUBS have a positive (raised) image. All part of the minting process.



ICG / Independent Coin Grading
Second tier third-party grading service.
ICTA / Industry Council for Tangible Assets
The government affairs and lobbying group for the rare coin and precious metal industry. For more information, visit them on-line at www.ictaonline.com
Design elements of a coin that are impressed rather than in raised RELIEF.
An oblong piece of cast metal, usually of gold or silver, with weight and FINENESS specified used in the production of coins.Inscription
Words, numerals or abbreviations on a coin - other than dates, mintmarks or engraver's signatures. See also: LEGEND, MOTTOIntaglio
Devices which are sunk below neighboring surfaces. See also: INCUSE

Intercept Shield
A newly introduced product which miraculously extracts impurities and other harmful chemicals away from coins. It helps in reducing (if not eliminating) unwanted TONING on coins. A full range of products are available - from individual FLIPS to albums to boxes. For more information visit on-line at www.interceptshield.com

Intrinsic Value
Refers to the value of just the weight and FINENESS of the PRECIOUS METAL contained in a coin. For example, a certain $20 issue may be worth $10,000+ while it's "intrinsic value" is roughly teh value of an ounce of gold.



J / Judd
J. Hewitt Judd, M.D. was a numismatic author who compiled the first edition of United States Pattern, Experimental and Trial Pieces in 1959. This guide, an extensive revision of Adams and Woodin's earlier work on patterns, became a standard reference for collectors, and most often pattern coins are referred to by Judd numbers, e.g. J-1550. See also: Patterns, Pollock, and Die Trial.
Refers to the buyer's commission paid in a public auction (normally 15%-17.5%). For example: "I paid $22,000 for the Lafayette dollar -- $20,000 plus the juice". See also: HAMMER PRICE, VIGtop


Key / Key Date 

Nearly every coin series has one or two issues which boast an extremely low MINTAGE and / or certified POPULATION which results in higher collector interest. For example, the 1916-D in the Mercury dime series or the 1911-D in the $2 1/2 Indian series. See also: STOPPER, CLASSIC RARITY

Name given to the Gold bullion coins produced by the Royal Australian Mint. These, along with the Canadian Mapleleafs are the purest gold coins in the world

King of Coins
Usually refers to the famed 1804 Silver dollar.

Knife Rim
A result of the minting process when a piece of extruding metal on the rim of a coin caused by metal forced between the DIE and COLLAR - usually because the collar has stretched slightly over time. Knife Rim coins were objectionable because the did not eject properly from the dies and did not stack properly. Also known as Wired-Edge.

Name given to the Platinum bullion coins produced by the Royal Australian Mint. These are the purest platinum coins produced in the world.

Name given to the bullion-gold coins produced by the South African Mint. This was the world's first, government-backed gold coin produced. 




A layer of metal on a coin which has split away from the other layers.

Legal Tender
In simplest terms money. Technically, it is whatever may be legally offered in payments of debts. If a creditor refuses "legal tender" then he cannot legally demand any other form of payment.

The inscription on a coin such as "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA."

Lettered Edge
Lettering around the edge (cylindrical surface) of a coin. Opposed to PLAIN EDGE or REEDED EDGE.

Short for "Liberty" (i.e. $10 & $20 Gold Liberties, or 19th century Seated Liberty coinage).


Lint Mark
A small, thin, irregular depression on a coin's surface - caused by a piece of lint adhering to the DIE or PLANCHET during STRIKING.

A magnifying glass.

The brilliance or shine on a metal. Luster is considered to be one of the four most important factors in appraising the value and GRADE of a coin. Alternate spelling: Lustre.



The bullion coin program from the Royal Canadian Mint. Each year, the Canadian Government authorizes the minting of Gold, Silver & Platinum coins bearing the portrait of Queen Elizabeth on the obverse and a Mapleleaf on the reverse in various denominations and fractional sizes. These are the purest bullion coins produced by any country or mint.
Master Dies
Part of the minting process. Used for making WORKING HUBS each of which in turn will be used to produce the WORKING DIES.
Matte (proof)
A coin struck by DIES which were specially treated to impart a textured or granular surface and finish to a coin.
A coin-like piece of metal made in honor of a person or event. Not authorized as LEGAL TENDER nor intended to circulate. Not made to a recognized weight or FINENESS.
Melt (value)
Refers to the value of a coin's metal content as determined by the current SPOT price of that metal. 
Short for Mercury-Head dimes minted in the United States between 1916 and 1945. See also: FB / FULL-BAND.

Metal Flow
A combination of heat and compression from the DIES, metal and presses that creates a melded appearance to a coin.

Micro D & S
Very small, even undersized mint marks. On larger denominations, such as the 1921-D and 1921-S Morgan Dollars, these errors occurred when a mint mark punch for a smaller denomination was used, i.e. a dime. The 1945 Micro-S Dime was created when a small S punch was used in error.

Struck on PLANCHETS cut from rolled strips. Often wrongly used to denote the REEDED EDGE of a coin

Minimum Bid
Refers to the lowest monetary value that will be accepted at an auction as a BID on a coin.

The total number of pieces of a specific date, type, denomination and mintmark originally struck for circulation (i.e. The original mintage of a 1938-D Walking Liberty half is 491,600).

A coin that is abnormal due to something which happened at the origin Mint during the minting process.

Designate where a coin was produced and is usually indicated by a small letter on the obverse or reverse of a coin. Coins minted in Philadelphia prior to 1980 do not carry a mintmark except WAR NICKELS. U.S. mint-marks are as follows:

      C = Charlotte, NC (1838-1861)
      D = Dalonaga (1838-1861)
      CC = Carson City (1870-1893)
      D = Denver (1906-Pres)
      O = New Orleans (1838-1909)
      P = Philadelphia (1793-Pres)
      S = San Francisco (1854-Pres)
    W = West Point (1984-Pres)

Mint-Sealed / Mint Sewn
Describes a bag of coins sealed at an official Mint.

Mint Sets
A set of coins issued the same year that has been especially assembled and issued directly from a Mint. These are uncirculated coins (BU) - as opposed to PROOFS

Term to describe a coin which shows no trace of WEAR. It refers to the condition of a coin as it left the issuing Mint. As opposed to PROOFS. See also: BU, SHELDON SCALE.

Morgan Dollars
US silver dollars issued between 1878-1921 named after their designer, GEORGE T. MORGAN.

Morgan, George T. (1845-1925)
Worked as an assistant engraver at the US Mint under Charles Barber until he succeeded him as Chief Engraver in 1917. Numerous PATTERN coins and medals were created by Morgan during his 48 year tenure at the Philadelphia Mint but he is best known for the silver dollars issued between 1878-1921 which still bear his name. See also: MORGAN DOLLARS.

The inscription on nearly all US coins issued after 1865, "In God We Trust." Can also be the inscription "E Pluribus Unum."

A coin struck from improperly matched DIES.



Net Grading
Refers to a compromising method of grading a coin. For example, if a particular silver dollar's OBVERSE grades MS65 but it's REVERSE only warrants a grade of MS63, then the dealer / grader might label the coin MS64. It may also refer to a coin which might otherwise grade MS65 but has been CLEANED so it is "net-graded" MS62.
Slang for new purchases. Dealers or collectors always looking for fresh deal at a coin show will often ask, "do you have any newps that I can see?"
NGC / Numismatic Guaranty Corporation
One of the major third-party certification services. Located in Florida. For more information, contact them at (973) 515-4000 or at www.ngccoin.com.
The art, study or collection of coins, tokens, medals, paper money and similar objects.
A person who is knowledgeable in the history and collecting of rare coins, tokens, medals, paper money and similar objects. A dealer in rare coins would be considered a professional numismatist.


The front of a coin (heads). As opposed to a coin's Reverse.
A) Term used to describe an odd roughness on the surface of a coin (as struck) resembling the skin of an orange. B) Used to describe the color on certain gold pieces.
A naturally occurring solid material from which metals are mined.
Original Roll / Bag
A roll or bag or UNCIRCULATED coins stored years ago, ideally in a MINT-SEWN sack. On silver coinage, most bags contained $1,000 face value. If the roll or bag is truly original, then the coins should display the same "look" - luster, strike, die variety and degree of bagmarks.
A coin in which one or more digits of the date were visibly changed in the DIE. Traces of the original digit can still be seen.


BULLION coins issued by the government of the People's Republic of China beginning in 1983.
Short for the Panama-Pacific Exposition Gold & Silver Commemorative coins which were all produced at the San Francisco Mint in 1915. See also: SLUG.
A name best known to numismatists from the reverse he designed that appears on a rare variety of the 1861 and 1861-S Double Eagles. Anthony C. Paquet, Assistant Engraver at the Mint (about 1858-1860) used a slimmer and taller letter style than his contemporaries.
A term usually used to describe lighter shades of TONING.
Refers to a proposed coin design which was never adopted. Patterns often come in other than the proposed metals. See also, JUDD.
PCGS / Professional Coin Grading Service
One of the major third-party authentication and grading service. Based in Southern California. For more information, contact them at (800) 447-8848 or via their web-site at: www.pcgs.com See also: SLAB, SIGHT-UNSEEN, GRADE.

Peace Dollar
Common name given to US silver dollars minted 1921-1935.

Although "provenance" is the more correct terminology, pedigree is used to describe previous ownership of a certain coin. The certification services will often recognize important numismatic collections by placing a pedigree on the certification holder to identify it as such. Coins bearing certain pedigrees often carry significant premiums in value. Some of the most popular and significant provenance are Bass, Childs, Eliasberg, Farouk, Garrett, Hawn, Norweb, Parmelee, Pittman, Shepherd and Starr.

Refers to the depressed surfaces of a damaged coin caused by various forms of abuse such as being buried in the ground for many years.

Pioneer Gold


Plain Edge
No lettering around the edge of a coin. See also: REEDED EDGE and LETTERED EDGE.

The blank metal disc with upset rims struck by DIES to create a coin.

To fill in a hole on a coin with metal. Occasionally, one will come across a coin which had a hole drilled in it to wear it on a chain. Some will try to repair the coin by "plugging" the hole.

PNG / Professional Numismatist Guild
An organization comprised mostly of dealers who adhere to a strict code of ethical and professional conduct. Applicants must be nominated and undergo a background check, financial audit and are subject to an acceptance vote by the existing members. Member-dealers must also submit to binding arbitration in the event of a dispute or complaint against them. For more information, you may contact them at (760) 728-1300 or via their web-site at www.pngdealers.com

Acronym for Price On Application; United Kingdom version of POR.

POLLOCK- or P- numbers refer to a recent and comprehensive revision of JUDD's major work on pattern and experimental coinage. Numbers are assigned in United States Patterns and Related Issues by Andrew W. Pollock III.

Poly Bag / Polyethylene
A soft plastic used to make FLIPS and small bags to hold raw coins. The bags are used to protect coins sent for certification in firmer PVC holders.

Pop / Population
Refers to the number of coins certified in a given grade by one or more of the major grading services (e.g. "The PCGS Pop on this 1875 Seated dime in proof-66 is only four" -- which means that the Population Report published by PCGS indicates that only four 1875 proof Seated dimes have been certified in a grade of 66). See also: CENSUS.

Acronym for Price On Request.

A rough surface on a coin caused by a planchet in poor condition. Also caused by burial or other prolonged contact with contaminants.

Precious Metal
Gold, Silver & Platinum. As opposed to BASE metal. See also: METAL STRATEGIC.

PQ / Premium Quality
Term given to coins which may be on the high-end of a certain grade. In other words, someone labeling a certain coin as MS-65 PQ is suggesting that the item is much nicer than an average piece in the same grade. Many dealers use this term too loosely when describing coins from their own inventory.

Presentation Piece
Coins minted with unusual care, often from new DIES on carefully selected, PROOFLIKE BLANKS. Intended for visiting dignitaries and other VIP's - mostly prior to 1817 when the Philadelphia Mint standardized its proofing process).

Private Mint / Issue
Any "coin" that is issued by a private mint - without the ratification by any government. Some have serial numbers or certain limited editions. Nearly all are made for collectors but have no real NUMISMATIC value.

Private Treaty Sale
A sale of an individual coin or a collection arranged between two parties by representative agents. The terms, including price and parties involved, are not disclosed. Sales of this type are used in the trade of classic rarities and to protect the identity of a collector.

PR / Proof
A specially made "specimen striking" of coinage made for presentation, souvenir, exhibition or numismatic purposes. A "proof" coin is usually distinguished by sharpness of STRIKE, high wire edge and brilliant mirror-like surfaces - as a result of more than one blow from a DIE. Pre-1968 proofs were minted only at the Philadelphia Mint except for a few very rare instances in which presentation pieces were struck at BRANCH MINTS. "Proof" refers to the method of manufacture and is not a condition. See also: MINT-STATE.

Most often used as a designation in the Morgan dollar series. Usually a characteristic of the first coins struck on newly polished DIES. A coin whose fields have a mirrored finish and sometimes frosty devices as well -- which sometimes causes a CAMEO effect.

Proof Set
An original "proof set" is one which has been specially packaged and sold directly by the Mint. Assembled proof sets contain similar coins bought individually.

An acronym for polyvinylchloride, a chemical which is found in many FLIPS. If a coin is kept in such a holder for a long period of time, PVC will produce a residue which will turn a coin's surfaces green.



Refers to $2 1/2 gold pieces.


Rarity Scale
Used to estimate the surviving POPULATION of a coin. Specically:
      R-8 Estimated 1-3 known (Unique or Nearly Unique)
      R-7 Estimated 4-12 known (Extremely Rare)
      R-6 Estimated 13-30 known (Very Rare)
      R-5 Estimated 31-75 known (Rare)
      R-4 Estimated 76-200 known (Very Scarce)
      R-3 Estimated 201-500 known (Scarce)
      R-2 Estimated 501-1,250 known (Uncommon)
                 R-1 Over 1,251 known (Common)

Refers to an non-CERTIFIED coin.

Spanish monetary unit = 1/8 Peso = 1 BIT = 12 1/2 cents.

Red Book
Refers to the popular reference book, A Guidebook To United States Coins, which lists all known U.S. coins along with photos, descriptions, original MINTAGES and general pricing information. Published by Whitman - an imprint of St. Martin's Press.

Reeded Edge
The minting of a coin using raised parallel lines along the outside edge of a coin. The primary purpose of a "reeded edge" was to show any signs of SHAVING or other tampering with the size and weight of a coin.

The vertical indentation around the edge of a coin (part of the minting process).

Degree to which the DEVICES on a coin protrude outward from the FIELDS. As a general practice, the higher the relief, the more blows from the HUB necessary to make a WORKING DIE - and the more blows necessary to bring up the design on the finished coin or medal. See also: HIGH RELIEF

Any coin struck after the original striking date or the date appearing on the coin.

A coin which has been toned through any artificial means.

The back of a coin (tails).

Rim Dig, Gouge or Nick
Various terms used to describe damage to the outer edge of a coin.

Slang term referring to coin acquired below the market price. 

Rolled Edge
A misnomer for the flattened or rounded rim of the 1907 Indian $10, caused by an adjustment to the die to control the metal flow and prevent KNIFE EDGES from occurring. Reportedly over 30,000 were struck, but all save 42 were melted, creating a rare and valuable variety. Other coins, including PROOF Lincoln Cents have "rolled edges" - they were struck from dies that controlled the metal flow around the collar. The only recognized "rolled edge" variety is the 1907 Indian $10.

Flattening metal IGNOTS to produce a long strip of proper thickness from which PLANCHETS will be cut during the minting process.

Roman Finish
Refers to that regularly found on PROOF gold coins minted in 1909 and 1910. These are much more mirrorlike than the MATTE finish but less so than brilliant proofs.

Acronym for Repunched Mintmark.

A small amount of WEAR on the HIGH POINTS that removes it from the UNCIRCULATED category. See also: WEAR, DEVICES.

Rusted Dies
DIES which have been damaged (pitted) through corrosion. The "rusted" areas of a die create raised bumps on the coin during the STRIKING process thus giving the coin a flat or dull appearance



Short for the U.S. $20 gold pieces minted between 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.
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.
Sealed Bid Sale
An auction-style selling of coins in which the bidder presents a closed envelop which contains his or her bids. The bids are not reviewed until after the sale has closed at a predetermined time. This highest bid wins.
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. See also: SAINTS, LIBS.

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

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: REEDED EDGE.

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).

      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.

Usually used in conjunction with a BID or offer to buy a certain coin(s) on the condition that the buyer can see (and approve) the actual coin before confirming the trade price. For example, you might hear a dealer say, "I'll pay $4,500 'sight-seen' or I'll bid $4,000 SIGHT-UNSEEN.

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

Silly Head
Another name for the 1839 Cent. See BOOBY HEAD

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

Refers to a coin which appears undervalued when compared to it's 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.

A slang term referring to a coin that objectively may only grade AU or even XF - but gets marketed as an UNCIRCULATED piece (particularly when the coin is CLEANED). The term is usually used in a negative sense as unscrupulous dealers will often overgrade their coins in order to reap a higher price.

Slang term for the round or octagonal California private issue $50 gold pieces from the 1851-1855 gold rush period. Also, occasionally used in conjunction with the $50 PAN-PAC's. The term is said to have been invented by minors who kept several of these heavy coins in a pouch and who, when accosted by a bully or thief, would "slug" him with the handy weapon!

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.

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.

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

Refers to the $4 PATTERN gold pieces minted (PROOF only) in 1879 and 1880. The name comes from the large star on the reverse (Latin translation). Quite scarce and very 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 are referred to as stoppers. See also: KEY DATE, CLASSIC RARITY.

Lines on the surfaces of a coin caused by defective PLANCHETS used during the minting process.

The process of impressing an image onto a PLANCHET during the minting process. Strike plays an important role in the GRADING of a coin.

Susan B's or Suzy-B's
Refers to the oft-maligned and unpopular Susan B. Anthony Dollars (minted 1979-1981 and again in 1999).



Tab Toning
The pattern of toning on silver commemoratives imparted by their original holder of issue. The area of the coin covered by the holder tones lightly or remains untoned, while the exposed area is darker. Premiums are paid for attractive tab toned commemoratives because of their originality. See Also: TONING.
Technical Grading
The type of grading which only relies on certain "technical merits" of a coin such as STRIKE and MARKS. As opposed to aesthetic merits such as LUSTER, TONING and overall eye-appeal. For example, a coin may be "technically" awesome but receive a more modest certified grade because the toning is just too dark and unattractive.
Teddy's Coin
Affectionate name for JUDD-1776 - the 1907 $20 Eagle. Considered my many to be the most desirable and valuable coin in numismatics. It is a gold coin the size of a $20 Saint with the design of a $10 Indian. One known to exist.
Territorial Gold
Also referred to as Pioneer Gold. Circulating gold pieces issued by various PRIVATE MINTERS during the mid 19th century. Such coins were mostly struck in Oregon, Utah and California.
(Rhymes with valor. "h" is silent) Generic term for any European silver-dollar-sized coin. More correctly, it is the name originally attributed to the earliest Bohemian (German) coins which were the approximate size of a silver dollar.
Thin Market
Term used to describe less-than-great market fundamentals (supply & demand) for a given coin. For example, most PATTERN coins are quite rare -- however, not very popular items to own. In other words, a "Thin Market" suggests very few interested buyers for a certain coin.

Three Legger
Name for the famous three-legged variety of Buffalo nickels minted in 1937 at the Denver Mint.

An older method of hiding a surface disorder by using one's thumb to place a film on the surface of a coin.


A medal that can be exchanged for goods or services at a particular venue, usually the issuer.

The film or coloring on the surface of a coin caused by a chemical reaction between the coin's metal and some other substance such as the sulfur from older cardboard books, FLIPS or envelopes. Rainbow-colored, original toning is often a desirable characteristic for a coin. See also: ARTIFICIAL TONING.

Term used in reference to the engraving of a coin, usually outside the Mint, in an effort to artificially enhance a coin's appearance and value. See also: BODY BAG, CLEANED, ALTERED SURFACES.

Trade Dollars
US silver dollars coined 1873-1885. Their size is .5 grams heavier than the traditional silver dollars of the era. They were intended for use in Oriental / Pacific Rim trade.

Another name for three-cent pieces stuck in silver (1851-1873).

Troy Ounce
A weight measurement used for coinage consisting of 20 pennyweights or 480 grains = 31.1 grams = 1/12 Troy pound. Term used primarily in BULLION coinage.

A major division of a design. For example, Seated Liberty quarters and Barber quarters represent two distinctly different Types of coins, just as Barber dimes are a different Type than Barber half-dollars. See also: VARIETY



UNC / Uncirculated
Generalized term that refers to a coin which shows no signs of circulated wear or mishandling. Un-circulated coins can still have lot's of MARKS and CHATTER - which is different from other detrimental aspects to a coin's surfaces and DEVICES.
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.
Upsetter / Upset Mill
The machine which forms the raised edge or rim of a coin.


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.
Short for Wanpanpiag. Native American money, strings of handmade shell beads which derive their value from the time required to make them. Wampum was actually considered LEGAL TENDER in the Massachusetts Bay colony after 1627.
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 minted between 1942-1945. During WWII, nickel (and copper) were designated as critical strategic metals. During this time. 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.
Wheel Mark
A small circular scratch on the surface of a coin caused by a coin counting machine. Wheel marks are considered damaged, and coins so marked cannot be ENCAPSULATED.

Whizzed / Whizzing
In the early 1970's, a technique was developed among dishonest dealers of burnishing their coins on a wire brush wheel. The practice simulated mint luster to the ignorant. "Whizzed" coins are not certifiable and very difficult to sell. See also: CLEANED, ALTERED, ARTIFICIAL.

Wire Edge
Misnomer for KNIFE RIM. Misnomer for the first prototype of the $10 gold pieces minted in 1907.

Working Die
A die actually used to strike the coins. The dies are produced from the WORKING HUBS.






Acronym for Young Numismatist


Zerbe Proof
Refers to specially made Morgan dollars minted in 1921 to appease Mr. Farran Zerbe from the ANA, who led a group of impatient numismatists awaiting the new 1921 PEACE dollars. Although classified by most numismatists as PROOFS, the existing specimens (estimated less than 200 known) are usually of poor quality with little CAMEO contrast or EYE-APPEAL. See also: CHAPMAN.


Commemorative Coins Of The United States by Q. David Bowers.
Bowers & Merena Galleries, Woleboro, New Hampshire 1991

Comprehensive U.S. Silver Dollar Encyclopedia by John Highfill.
Highfill Press, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma 1992

Morgan & Peace Dollar Textbook by Wayne Miller.
Adam Smith Publishing, Metaire, Louisiana

Morgan & Peace Silver Dollars by Leroy Van Allen & George Mallis.
FCI Press / Arco Publishing, New York 1981.

Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States by Q. David Bowers.
Bowers & Merena Galleries, Inc., Wolfeboro, New Hampshire 1993

United States Pattern, Experimental and Trial Pieces fifth edition by J. Hewitt Judd.
Western Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin 1974.

Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins by Walter Breen.
Doubleday / FCI Press, New York 1988

Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Proof Coins by Walter Breen.
FCI Press, New York 1977