Glossary

A

Alloy

In coin terms, a mixture of two or more metals mixed to create a new metallic substance with desirable qualities. A typical Australian coin alloy is cupro-nickel (copper and nickel) which, in colour, resembles silver.

aUnc

A coin grade just below Mint State or Uncirculated. aUnc is an abbreviation for either about Uncirculated or Almost Uncirculated.

Average Circulated

A term for the condition of a coin that has seen typical and expected circulation for its age.

B

Bag Mark

A mark or nick on a coin that is usually said to have been caused by coins clashing together in a “Mint Bag”. These marks are generally much more prominent on larger coins or coins with large empty fields in the design.

Base metal

A non-precious metal – not gold, platinum or silver. Common base metals used in Australian coinage include zinc, nickel and copper.

Bi-metallic

A coin with one type of metal in the centre with an outer ring of a different metal.

Blank

Also called a ‘planchet’ or ‘flan’, ‘Blank’ often refers to the polished metal disc before the coin design is struck.

Brilliant Uncirculated (BU)

A grade used to describe an Uncirculated or Mint State coin that shows particularly bright mint lustre.

Bronze

Metallic alloy made with copper and tin.

Bullion

Precious metals sold in the form of bars, ingots or coins where weight and purity are considered as the only valuation qualities.

C

Coin Alignment
Refers to the alignment of obverse and reverse when flipped around. Coin Alignment means that the top of the obverse and top of the reverse are at the same place on the coin. To view both designs right-side-up, one must rotate the coin on its vertical axis.

Collar

A minting term for the part of the coin die that holds the blank during the striking process.

Crown

A large coin, often struck in silver, measuring anywhere between 34mm to around 44mm in diameter. Many modern collector coins are struck to this size. Australia’s only circulating Crown coins were issued in 1937 and 1938.

D

Denticles

The tooth like design aspects found on the outer rim of some coin designs, for instance, the Australian pre-decimal Penny.

Designer

The artist or creator responsible for a coin’s design.

Denomination

The face value or legal tender amount assigned by government or sovereignty that defines a coin as a coin.

Die

The piece of minting equipment that holds the coin design (in reverse) used to stamp the blanks.

Die Crack

A fine line in relief on the design that is the result of a die cracking and then used to strike further coinage.

Dump

Together with the Holey Dollar, Australia’s oldest coin. Created when a Spanish Silver Dollar’s core was punched out – the centre piece was assigned a value of 15 pence and became known as the Dump.

E

Edge

The side of the coin often containing reeding but can be used for numbering or even lettering.

Effigy

An image or portrait of a person, often a reigning Monarch, pictured on one side of a coin – usually the obverse.

Electrum

An alloy of gold and silver, once used thousands of years ago in some of the world’s first coinage.

Engraver

Person who engraves coin or medallion’s design onto a die.

F

Face Value

A nominal financial amount struck onto a coin’s design assigned by government or sovereignty to declare legal tender status and trading value. Also referred to as denomination.

Field

Flat surface of a coin used for design. Often also refers to the unused clear space in a coin’s design.

Fineness

Purity of precious metal content expressed in terms of one thousand parts. 90% is expressed as .900 fine. The purest gold bullion coin is .99999 fine.

Fleur de coin (FDC)

A Term used to describe an exceptionally high quality coin. Often used in reference to a proof coin.

Frosting

A minting technique whereby the dies are manipulated to produce a frosted look to the design rather than the typical brilliant finish.

G

Gem

A prefix used in grading terms for a coin of exceptional quality – Gem Uncirculated, for instance.

Grade

A declaration of a coin’s overall condition, based on wear, eye appeal, and even colouration. In Australia, grading generally goes, from worst to best: Poor, Good, Very Good (VG), Fine, Very Fine (VF), Extremely Fine (EF), about Uncirculated (aUnc), Uncirculated (Unc), Brilliant Unc, Choice Unc, Gem Unc.

H

Hammered

A coin struck without machinery using a hammer and a manual dies. Traditionally, medieval British coins are referred to as Hammered Coins.

High Relief

A coin with higher than usual design points. Traditionally this style was used on Piedfort coins, or commemorative medallions whereby highly detailed and quality designs were desired.

Holey dollar

Australia’s oldest official coin. The Holey Dollar’s creation was ordered by the then Governor in 1813 to create currency that was not tradeable outside of the fledgling colonies in Australia. It was struck by punching a hole out of the centre of Spanish Silver Dollars thus creating two new coins – the Holey Dollar and the Dump.

I

Incuse

Often used to refer to lettering on a coin design, an element that is incuse is struck into the surface of the design rather than raised above it.

Ingot

Often rectangular in shape, an ingot is generally an amount of precious metal cast moulded into shape and then often stamped with purity and weight on the surface.

Inscription

Text or wording on a coin’s design.

Intrinsic Value

The value of a coin’s metallic content with no regard to face value or numismatic value.

J

Jeton

Tokens or medallic pieces produced in the Middle Ages across Europe. These pieces were often also used as Money substitutes in games of the era.

K

Karat

A measurement unit referring to the purity of gold. 24 Karat (24k) refers to a purity of 99.9% or higher. Gold Sovereigns were struck in 22k gold and are 91.67% pure.

Key Coin

A collector term for a coin within a series that possesses a higher value or scarcity than the others. In the Australian Commonwealth Penny series, for example, the key coin dates are 1925, 1930 and 1946.

L

Legal Tender

Status given to coins or currency to allow them to be used as payment.

Legend

Wording on a coin, often referring directly to the text around a Monarch’s effigy or on the obverse side.

Lustre

A term used in grading that refers to the amount of brilliance a coin possesses; how it catches the light, for instance. Can also be used in reference to “mint Lustre”, meaning the amount of brilliance remaining from the original minting of a coin.

M

Master die

The die from which all further working dies are created.

Medal Alignment

Refers to the alignment of obverse and reverse when flipped around. Medal Alignment means that the top of the obverse and top of the reverse are at opposite ends of the coin. To view both designs right-side-up, one must rotate the coin on its horizontal axis.

Mintage

The number of actual coins struck or, in collector coin terms, the maximum number allowed to be struck.

Mint Mark

A letter or symbol added to a design to signify the location where a coin was struck. On Melbourne Mint sovereigns, for example, a small ‘M’ can be seen at the bottom of the design.

Mint Set

A set of Uncirculated quality coins issued by a mint to reflect the circulating currency designs for any given year.

Mint State (MS)

Another term for “Uncirculated” most often used in North America. This grading prefix ranges from MS-60 through MS-70.

Mule

A coin struck from two dies that were never intended to be used together. A famous Australian example is the 1916I Halfpenny – a coin struck in Calcutta, India, using English Halfpenny obverse dies together with Australian Halfpenny reverse dies.

N

NCLT

An abbreviation for Non-Circulating Legal Tender. In Modern coin terms, this refers to those coins struck by a mint purely for collectors that were never intended to enter into general circulation.

Numismatics

The study and collection of coins, medallions or other currency devices.

O

Obverse

On Australian coins, the “heads” side of a coin.

Overdate

A coin variety that results from the altering of a previous dated die to produce a new date. An Australian example is the 1922/21 Shilling overdate.

P

Pattern

A pattern represents an official test piece for a particular metal alloy or size – Melbourne Mint’s 1919-21 Square Kookaburra Patterns. Alternatively, unofficial Mints have often created ‘fantasy’ patterns to represent coin designs that “might have been” –circulating coins that might have been issued for Edward VIII, for instance.

Patina

A coins colouring due to exposure to the atmosphere. Patina is most impressive on copper coins where, in the right circumstances, it can leave a rainbow coloured hue to a coin’s surface.

Piedfort

A standard coin design struck on a thicker than normal blank. Traditionally this was done for presentation purposes only but, in modern times, this type of coin can also be issued for collectors.

Planchet

A metal disc used to strike designs onto in the creation of coins.

Privy

A small symbol used on the face of a coin to portray a ‘maker’s mark’ or, in modern coinage, this is often used to celebrate a special occasion or commemoration on a longstanding coin design.

Proclamation Coins

In Australia, this refers to coins proclaimed by Governor King in 1803 to have a higher value than face within the colony only. This was an early attempt to keep the circulating coins of the colony within the colony.

Proof

Traditionally, like printing proofs, Proof coins were struck to examine the success or failure of a design before executing the larger minting run. In modern times, the term Proof refers to a higher quality minting process that creates special coins for collectors.

Proof Set

Proof quality versions of circulating coin designs, issued by an official mint annually.

Q

Quarter

Widely adopted colloquial term for a 25c coin in North America.

R

Reeding

The grooved lines around the edge of a coin. Also known as a milled edge, evidence of this can be seen on an Australian 5c coin.

Relief

The part of a coin’s design that is raised above the surface of a coin. The opposite of incuse.

Reverse

On Australian coins, the “Tails” side of a coin.

Rim

The raised border around the circumference of a coin that protects the design and allows for the stacking of coins.

Round

A round precious metal piece, usually one ounce in weight and generally crown sized, that is created and sold for bullion value only.

S

Slab

A rectangular plastic case encapsulating a coin with a grading certification. Third Party Independent grading companies usually provide this type of secure packaging.

Sovereign

In coinage, a Sovereign is a British gold coin, circulating throughout the commonwealth with a nominal value of £1. The last sovereign issued for circulation was in 1932.

Spanish dollar

A large, crown-sized coin issued in Spain and its colonies from 1497 to 1864. With a face value of 8 Reales, this coin is the ‘Piece of Eight’ referred to in Pirate stories! Additionally, the Pillar design is often thought of as the origin of the symbol for a dollar ($).

Spot Price

The wholesale market price of one ounce of precious metal.

T

Token

A minted piece issued privately, and often for commercial trading purposes. An example might be a subway token.

Trade Dollar

A large silver coin, issued for the purposes of trading with foreign countries based on silver value.

Type

The basic design of a coin. Though the year date on a coin might change annually, the basic design type remains the same.

Type Set

A coin set comprised of each particular design type issued over a Monarch’s reign or other specific time period.

U

Uncirculated

Theoretically, a coin that has never circulated and thus retains all of its original Mint condition. For NCLT coins, Uncirculated (Unc) is used as a differential from proof quality coins.

Uniface

A coin struck with a design on one side only. In 1937, in Australia, due to the death of George V and subsequent abdication of Edward VIII, there exists only uniface patterns of several of the 1937 dated circulating coin designs. These are incredibly scarce.

Unique

Item of which only one is known to exist.

V

W

X

Y

Year Set

A date set of all circulating coins issued in any particular year.

 

Z

Zinc

An elemental metal (symbol Zn) that is added to Aluminium, Copper, and Tin to form an alloy often used in modern Australian coinage.